Codebreaker - Most Commented


Facebook’s mobile facelift

It was about six months ago when Facebook introduced an updated version of its app for iPhones and iPads promising faster speeds and a more enjoyable experience. Here’s the first sentence in a press release from Big Face yesterday: “Today we're announcing an update to the Facebook app for iPhone and iPad that makes keeping up with friends faster and easier.” So what gives? Well, according to Facebook, it was busy ramping up its mobile site across all platforms (it’s not an ALL-iPhone world, you know), and in doing so, it wrote code for the site in HTML5. The app looks pretty much like it did before yesterday’s update, but there’s a brand new engine under the hood. Engineers at Facebook rewrote the entire app in Objective-C, which is Apple’s code of choice.

From the Guardian:

The move, says Facebook's Jonathan Dann, "signals a shift in how Facebook is building mobile products, with a focus on digging deep into individual platforms". The blog post hints that versions written specifically for Android and other mobile platforms are on the way.

Previously, Facebook’s strategy had been to invent cool, new things for the site, then figure out how to roll them out on mobile platforms later. But there’s huge pressure for the company to make money on the mobile playing field, so to that end, the company has begun chanting a “mobile first” mantra.

From the New York Times:

Developing mobile products has been made a priority, they said in recent interviews, and every team inside the company has been reorganized with the goal of inserting mobile into its DNA.

Aug 24, 2012

Amazon to launch new Kindle Fire on Sept. 6

Amazon has announced a September 6th event in Seattle and the consensus seems to be that we’ll see at least one new version of the Kindle Fire. Tons of rumors floating around but among them are a larger, 10-inch screen and a front facing camera.

It’s also very possible that there are multiple new Kindles and Kindle Fires announced here.

From CNET:

Another thing to look out for is whether Amazon, as rumored, will attempt to subsidize the cost of the new Kindle Fire with an ad-supported Special Offers version. It could also leave the existing Fire on the market and lower its price to $149 and offer two different step-up models, one for $199 and one for $249.

The timing, of course, bears noting as it happens less than a week before Apple’s September 12th announcement of the new iPhone and, apparently, the iPad Mini. Everyone’s getting ready for the holiday season. Santa is expected to be at both events as an observer although schematics of all the new devices have already been faxed to the elves.

Aug 24, 2012

An Apple vs. Samsung case is decided (in South Korea)

A jury may be deliberating in San Jose trying to decide if Samsung copied Apple’s designs and infringed on patents, but in South Korea, at least, a decision has been made. The outcome is for both sides to pay up.

From Reuters:

The judge ordered Samsung to immediately stop selling 10 products, including the Galaxy S II, and also banned sales of four Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.
The court ruled that Apple infringed on two of Samsung's wireless technology patents and was ordered to pay Samsung 40 million won ($35,400). Samsung was fined 25 million won [$22,000] for violating one patent relating to so-called bouncing-back function used when scrolling electronic documents.

To be clear this means Apple owes Samsung $13,400, or roughly what Tim Cook’s cat coughed up during breakfast this morning. Is this what you guys are fighting for - 13,400 bucks? The stakes are drastically higher in U.S. case, but there’s the possibility for a similar outcome since Samsung is countersuing Apple. Ultimately, the ruling won’t impact what’s currently on the market either.

Aug 24, 2012

You too can fly a military drone

The New York State Fair opens today and, besides fried food on a stick, visitors will get the chance to take a turn at drone warfare. The fairgrounds in Syracuse are only a few miles away from the Hancock Field National Guard base, where the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing controls drone missions in Afghanistan. Dvids writes:

The interactive cockpit will allow fair viewers to get some idea of what it is like to be a pilot providing air support to American and allied troops on the ground halfway around the world.
The wing will also display a 1/6th size scale model of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft the unit flies, as well as models of the bombs carried by the aircraft.

Although important, the drone simulator will likely be no match for the NASCAR simulator, also run by the National Guard (go #88 - Dale Earnhardt Jr!).
Other less popular simulators I’d like to see:
1. Sleeping in a dark hole mole simulator
2. “I Love Lucy” simulator (complete with bon bon assembly line and that guy that says “yyyyyyeeees”
3. Snagglepuss simulator, which is kind of lame - it’s a door set off to the left of a stage that you just exit through.

Aug 23, 2012

AT&T offers FaceTime defense

AT&T’s Senior VP for Regulatory Affairs Bob Quinn took to the company’s blog yesterday to offer a defense of the company’s decision to block the use of Apple’s FaceTime app unless users are on a shared data plan. That has led to several charges of violating the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

From the Washington Post:

“The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones,” Bob Quinn wrote. “Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephone services.”

A lot of people suspect that the real reason AT&T is being difficult about this is that FaceTime competes with regular phone calls, which is how AT&T makes some money.

Wired says, regarding Quinn’s defense, baloney:

But the rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to prevent carriers from blocking access to applications and websites over mobile connections are crystal clear: Mobile broadband providers cannot “block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.”
Nowhere in the rules will you find a mention of the term “preloaded.” And nor will you find it in the rest of the FCC’s nearly 200-page official order that accompanied and explained the agency’s rationale for adopting these rules. This is simply a distinction that AT&T is inventing, hoping that the FCC lets it poke another loophole in the already weak wireless Net Neutrality protections.

Now we have to see how much the FCC and AT&T’s customers care about pursuing this.

Aug 23, 2012

Someone made a washable keyboard! Yay for common sense!

And of course it was Logitech that made it. Not to praise that company unduly or anything, it’s just that it’s a logical thing to have done, right? Your keyboard gets your grubby fingers whacking on it all day, maybe you’ve had a muffin or some chips while typing, maybe a little bit of coffee spills. Because you’re a HUMAN BEING, you know?

From PCMag:

Designed to stand up to the stresses that lay lesser keyboards low, the Logitech Washable Keyboard K310 can be submerged in up to 11 inches of water, washed with soap and water, and otherwise soaked and splashed. Though it is hand washable, you'll want to keep it out of the dishwasher, because while the keyboard can be safely submerged, the USB cable isn't waterproofed. The back of the keyboard has holes for draining off liquid and convenient air drying.
The keyboard is also dust resistant, and a brush attached to the keyboard lets you easily sweep off crumbs and dust. Beyond being easy to clean, the Washable Keyboard K310 should hold up under heavy use—each key is rated to last up to five million keystrokes.

It sells for $39.99 and now I can only hope that Logitech can make a laptop or a smartphone. Get on it, you heroes.

Aug 23, 2012

Google mapping the Arctic

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about Google Maps providing all sorts of details about Antarctica and the various South Pole expeditions that went down there. Presumably there was something about how people don’t fall off the end of the world from being upside down.

Now, Google is trying to get a grip on what’s going on in the far North. Google’s Street View team is in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada and they’re riding around on a tricycle on purpose.

From the CBC:

Karen Tuxen-Bettman, the project leader, said they will use a tricycle equipped with seven cameras pointing in different directions and pedal the hamlet’s dirt roads.
"As the biker pedals along it snaps images periodically and when taken together it forms a 360 degree panorama or a bubble," she said.
"This tricycle has never been above the 60th degree parallel. It's very unique bringing this equipment to the Arctic."

Residents aren’t super stressed about Google spying on their home internet connections:

This is the first time the service has come to Nunavut, where internet access is only available via satellite instead of a fibre optic link. There is no 3G or 4G service in the territory.
The territory's telecommunications infrastructure is also somewhat vulnerable.
Last year, a technical problem with Telesat's Anik F2 satellite cut off long-distance phone service and internet service to all of Nunavut and some communities in the Northwest Territories and Yukon for 12 hours. Planes were also grounded in Nunavut as weather information could not be communicated between communities.

Aug 23, 2012

Verizon will support a Nokia Windows 8 Phone

“Hooray!” say the 11 or so people who might buy one.

Yeah, it’s not exactly the ballyhoo we heard when Verizon announced it would support the iPhone but if you’re Microsoft and trying to get the Windows Phone in the game, you’ll take what you can get. Big Red says it will offer a Nokia phone running the mobile version of Windows 8 this year. The operating system is officially on the street starting in late October.

It’s a bit of back-to-the-drawing-board for Microsoft and Verizon, says Bloomberg:

Verizon released its only current Windows Phone, the Trophy from HTC Corp., more than a year ago, and it hasn’t been a top seller. Microsoft and Verizon also stumbled with the 2010 release of the Kin phone, which was scrapped after less than two months in Verizon stores. While that experience strained relations, the companies have made strides in improving the partnership since then, the person said.

Also, who is that person? Another “person with knowledge of the matter” who goes on and on about how this will all work. There’s going to be a Nokia-Microsoft press event on September 5th.

Here’s the part I love:

While Verizon isn’t expected to be part of that event, the carrier intends to roll out a Nokia phone later, said the person, who asked not to be named because the plans are private.

Not private ENOUGH, mind you, to stop person with knowledge of the matter from prattling on and on.

Aug 23, 2012

Google’s building a privacy “red team”

Whether you believe that Google’s privacy efforts are sincere or a ruse, you have to believe that “Red Team” is a pretty awesome distinction. Google has begun recruiting Red Team Squadron (I kind of embellished that name) with this advertisement:

Top candidates will have an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of modern web browsers and computer networks, enjoy analyzing software designs and implementations from both a privacy and security perspective, and will be recognized experts at discovering and prioritizing subtle, unusual, and emergent security flaws.

Google isn’t the first company to put together a department like this but it will be timely for Google since the company is always the target of investigations and various charges that it tramples privacy in the rush to index all world information. And any publicity about its efforts, even from the smart-alecky Marketplace Tech Report, is publicity it wants so that it can show it’s trying.
Personally, I just hope that all members of this team get red jumpsuits.

Aug 23, 2012

Test drive an iPad at the airport

Terminal D, and soon terminal C, at New York’s La Guardia Airport has recently been remodeled. How? Think iPads. Lots of iPads. OTG Management, the company that runs all the concessions at the airport sprung for the $15 million dollar facelift, which gives travelers access to what looks like rows of cozy library tables and chairs, each with its own iPad. Just punch in your flight number for access to a tablet. In addition to getting flight status updates, you can order food and drinks to be delivered to your seat (see where OTG comes in now?).

From the Wall Street Journal:

OTG Chief Executive Rick Blatstein says he saw boarding-gate areas as an untapped sea of potential customers—lots of people sitting around, unhappy, with money to spend. "You look at people in gate-hold areas and it looks like they are waiting for a root canal.''

When the remodeling project for terminal C finishes up, OTG says there will be 2,000 iPads in rotation. the company has plans for a similar projects in Minneapolis and Toronto, adding 2,500 tablets to each. Somebody needs to do a follow up story in a year, when all the iPads have seen the abuse of millions of greasy finger swipes.

Aug 23, 2012



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