Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Apple App Store now giving paid apps for free

A recent survey by analytics company, App Annie, revealed that Apple has fallen behind Google's marketplace for Android platform in terms of app downloads in the past quarter. This is a significant development since the first quarter, when App Annie reported that the Android app store trailed Apple's marketplace by 10%.
And Apple may be beginning to feel the heat.
Beginning this week, the iPhone maker has begun providing a paid app for free every week.
This has begun with Color Zen, an app that usually costs $0.99, but will be free courtesy Apple till August 27.
The best part is that Apple has decided to make this a weekly feature, according to 9to5mac. This will not only include apps but also videos, games and other content that the company sells through its store.
A search for Color Zen on the App Store will show that it can still be downloaded after the required payment. However when you open the App Store and check out any store under the Stores tab, you will see a message from Apple saying "A game for you. On us."
When you hit download, you will be automatically taken to the Redeem section of the app store. Here, a redemption code is already put by Apple, which makes the app free.
Amazon, whose marketplace has all paid content, also follows the practice of giving away an app for free per week.
Many paid apps on Apple's app store are available free on Android. This new scheme may help Apple lure more iOS users to its store.  

‘More people in UK using Twitter to swap TV talk‘

Tweeting and texting while watching TV is supplanting the traditional water-cooler chat about the previous night's viewing among increasingly media-savvy Britons, the country's telecoms regulator has found. 

"Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we're having those conversations live while watching TV - using social media, text and instant messaging," James Thickett, director of research at regulator Ofcom, said. 

Just over half of adults own a smartphone and 24 per cent of households has a tablet computer, Ofcom said in its annual Communications Market Report. It said some 53 percent of consumers weekly use such devices in "media multi-tasking" - watching television while engaging with another form of media. 

In addition, 24 per cent of adults did "media-meshing" every week in 2012, which involves watching TV while using other media devices in a way that relates to a programme - for example, by talking about it on the phone, tweeting about it or using an app that engages directly with the programme. 

Andy Murray's Wimbledon tennis victory last month was a strikingexample of media-meshing, as 1.1 million people worldwide tweeted 2.6 million times with hashtags that related to the match, 80 per cent of which were sent from mobile devices. 

The increase in usage of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy has corresponded with a further drop in voice calls to the lowest point since Ofcom's predecessor Oftel began regulating telecoms in the 1980s. 

Text message usage has also fallen, with 54 per cent of adults saying they use texts to communicate daily, a drop of 5 percentage points from 2011. Many say they send fewer texts due to the availability of instant messaging services such as BlackBerry's Messenger, WhatsApp or Facebook. 

The report also said young people find it increasingly appropriate to communicate delicate news using text-based methods either online or by phone, as 16 per cent of 16-24 year-olds said they would end a relationship via text-based mediums.

Now, an app to help people with night blindness

Researchers in Pakistan have developed a smartphone app that keeps track of your location and distance walked from home or hotel and warns you when you are likely to be caught out after dark to help sufferers of the debilitating disease of night blindness. 

The app can also help travellers with the disease pinpoint hotels, should they find themselves too far from base to get home safely. 

Kamran Ahsan, Obaid Khan and Abdul Salam of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, in Karachi, explain how night blindness, nyctalopia, afflicts millions and may be present at birth as a genetic disease, arise in childhood through malnutrition or injury or be a symptom of numerous eye diseases. 

The smartphone app will allow sufferers to safely leave their home knowing that their phone is keeping track of their whereabouts and can calculate both the remaining daylight hours available and estimate how long it will take the person to reach their base before nightfall. 

The application is geo-aware and so knows the time of sunset around the world as well as having access to online mapping software which can offer the potentially vulnerable user with shortcuts back to their base. 

Moreover, it also has the added benefit of being able to locate nearby hotels should the user need to reach one before darkness falls. 

The researchers have had a positive response from sufferers of night blindness who recognise that the smart phone app would be a boon to their lives not only in their hometown but when they travel to other cities. 

The research is published in the International Journal Mobile Learning and Organisation.

Survey reveals why HR needs to go social

Human resource experts need to leverage the power of social media to recruit, collaborate and engage with future talent pool, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says in a report. 

According to SHRM's "Top 20 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media" the current lot of youngsters, Gen Y, is more social than ever and believes in both sharing experiences and learning from others' experiences through social media as they start their career. 

Social media would thus be useful for both head hunters as well as job seekers to source solutions in various specialized areas of HR by connecting with senior practitioners and thought leaders in the HR space. 

"To understand, influence and harness the potential of the younger generation, HR needs to leverage the power of social media to recruit, collaborate and engage with this future talent pool," SHRM India Operations CEO Achal Khanna said. 

Accordingly, SHRM looked at the influencers from learning and development, social media, talent management and leadership domains and captured their influence on Twitter. 

"The outcome is a fresh list of Indian mavens who are leading and influencing the conversations about HR on social media in 2013," Khanna said. 

Some of the experts identified in the report are Gautam Ghosh GM - HR Strategy & Projects, Philips India; Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer, Wipro Group; Anand Pillai, senior executive vice president & chief learning officer at Reliance Industries. 

Others include, Aadil Bandukwala, recruitment product consultant at LinkedIn; Vineet Nayar, vice chairman and joint managing director of HCL Technologies; NS Rajan, group executive council and group chief human resources officer, Tata Sons, the report said.

NASA’s cloud computing efforts “need strengthening”, says report

NASA’s roadmap towards utilising cloud computing needs a serious rethink, according to an official report from the space agency’s Office of Audits (OA).
In a 38-page report, the OA criticises NASA’s cloud strategy in terms of governance, risk management and security, concluding that “weaknesses...impeded the agency from fully realising the benefits of cloud computing and potentially placed at risk its information stored in the cloud.”
Currently, NASA spends about $10m of its annual IT budget on cloud services – a meagre sum given its overall budget is $1.5bn.
The agency appears to be reticent about going all-in for cloud however, predicting that with a legacy technology overhaul, “up to 40%” of its software could move to the cloud, adding that within five years, up to three quarters of new IT projects could be born in the cloud.
Regardless of the future, the report still damns the ...

Google: Half of Chinese urban people have smartphones

Nearly half of Chinese urban population have smartphones, according to a report released by internet search giant Google.

The 'Our Mobile Planet: China' report, compiled by Google and market research company IPSOS in the first quarter, surveyed 1,000 urban Internet users between the ages of 18 and 64 and found that 47 per cent of them have smartphones.

Smartphones have become an indispensable part of people's daily lives, as 69 per cent of respondents said they access the Internet on their smartphones every day and 38 per cent never leave home without the device, Chinese state run Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

About 60 per cent of smartphone users said they would rather abandon their TV sets instead of their smartphones, according to the report.

In the US , the ratio is 36 per cent, the report said. Smartphones have also become critical shopping tools, with 98 percent of respondents having used their phones to research about products and services.

Some 69 per cent of smartphone users have made purchases on their phones, compared to only 46 per cent in the US, according to the report.

The limited size of smartphone screens and safety concerns regarding the use of credit cards are major barriers in expanding mobile business, according to the report.

First look: Google's Moto X smartphone


In the four decades since Motorola first showed off a prototype of the world's first cellphone, the company has watched Apple, Samsung and other innovators surpass it in sales. With Google as its new owner, Motorola is introducing the Moto X, a phone notable for innovations in manufacturing, as part of an attempt to regain its stature.

Yes, there's plenty the Moto X offers in terms of software, including the ability to get directions, seek trivia answers or set the alarm without ever touching the phone. There's good hardware, too, including a body that's nearly as slim as the iPhone 5, but with the larger, 4.7-inch screen that is comparable to those found in rival Android phones.

But what's really special about the Moto X has nothing to do with making calls, checking Facebook or holding it in your hands. Rather, it breaks from the pack by allowing for a lot of customization. You can choose everything from the color of the power button to a personalized message on the back cover.

To make those special orders possible, Motorola is assembling the Moto X in Texas, making it the first smartphone to be put together in the U.S. Motorola promises to ship custom designs within four days, faster than it would be able to if the company had chosen to make the Moto X halfway around the world in Asia, as other phones typically are. (Phones for overseas markets will be made overseas.)

You can still buy the phone the traditional way, in black or white. Walk into a store, pay about $200, sign a two-year service agreement (or installment plan with T-Mobile), and off you go with a brand new phone.

But that's boring.

Just as Apple's colorful iMacs showed more than a decade ago that personal computers don't have to be beige or black, Motorola is moving away from traditional black and white. You're still limited to black or white as your front color, but you can choose any combination of 18 back cover colors and seven "accent" colors, which highlight the power button, volume control and the rim of the camera lens. There's more coming: Motorola is testing back covers made of wood, for instance, and it plans to let people vote on Facebook on future patterns, colors and designs.

You can choose a custom message for the back of the phone - with limits. I tried to enter profanity and trademarked names and was told, "We'd rather you not say that." You can use the space to display your email address, in case you lose the phone, for instance. In addition, you can choose one of 16 wallpapers in advance and enter your Google ID so your phone is all set up the first time you turn it on. You can select a different custom message to appear on your screen when you turn the phone on. You can even choose the color of your charger, white or black.

Choose carefully, as you won't be able to make changes after a 14-day return window. These aren't parts that you can simply pop out and swap.

With the exception of $50 more for a phone with 32 gigabytes of storage rather than 16 gigabytes, there's no cost for the customization. They will be available at about the same time the standard white and black phones come out in late August or early September. Wood back covers aren't expected until later in the year, however.

In the beginning, you can get custom versions only with AT&T as your service provider, but other carriers are coming. Standard versions will also be available through Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular at launch. You do the ordering through Motorola's Moto Maker website, which will cover service plan options with AT&T when you order the phone. If you walk into an AT&T store, you can pay for it there, just like a gift card, but you'll then have to visit the Moto Maker site and enter a scratch-off code.

So what does all this mean?

At first, I thought of it as a gimmick. But then I thought more about how phones are among our most personal possessions. Your phone contains your private thoughts in email, contact information for your loved ones and precious memories in the form of photos. So I can understand the desire to add a personal touch to the look of your phone, especially if you don't have to pay more. Keep in mind that your customizations might make the phone harder to resell when you're ready to trade up for a new model.

In many ways, it's similar to the way desktops and laptops have been sold. You can go to Dell's or Apple's website and order any number of configurations. The difference is those configurations typically have to do with the amount of storage, the speed of the processor, the size of the screen and the software that comes with the machine. With Moto X, you're getting the same storage choices that other phones offer, but all the other options are cosmetic.

Meanwhile, the Moto X advances hands-free phone use. Although hands-free options are available elsewhere to make a call or send a text, Moto X opens the door to the entire Web. It relies on Google Now, the virtual assistant that retrieves information when you speak into the phone. Normally, you press something to activate Google Now. That's how Siri works on iPhones as well. With Moto X, you simply say, "OK, Google Now."

That command is specific to your voice. I asked three colleagues to speak "OK, Google Now" into a phone I trained by repeating the phrase three times. The phone ignored my colleagues, but responded to me instantly once I spoke from the same distance. Sorry, pranksters: You won't be able use this feature to set 3 a.m. alarms on your friend's Moto X.

I was able to get the phone to recognize my command from about 10 feet away, as well as close by with an episode of "The Walking Dead" playing at full blast on a laptop inches away. But under those conditions, the service was more prone to make mistakes. For instance, the phone misheard a request for directions to Boston as "directions to fall."

Even in a quiet room, Google Now made a lot of mistakes responding to requests to call specific people. When I asked Google Now to "call Bob," it offered me "Emily," "Dave" and "Super" - for the superintendent of my apartment building, who's not named Bob.

I can see this feature being useful to motorists, but it's imperfect. And if you protect your phone with a PIN code, you'll need to type it in to unlock the phone, except to make a call. Motorola says it tried voice recognition for passwords, but couldn't get it to work properly.

There are two things that will work without entering your PIN: You can get a peek at text messages and other notifications by pressing the center of the screen for a second. If you want to respond or see more, then you'll need the PIN. You can also access your camera by twisting the phone like opening a doorknob. You can browse through shots you have just taken, but you'll need the PIN for older ones.

Speaking of the camera, Motorola did a good job of keeping it simple. With Samsung's Galaxy S4 and HTC's One, I've often hit the wrong buttons for gimmicky features I don't want. With the Moto X, you have to swipe the screen from the left to access the settings. That way, the buttons aren't there to hit accidently. To access your gallery of photos, you swipe from the right. Again, you won't be getting old images accidently and miss the chance to snap a new one.

The camera also lacks a shutter button. Instead, you tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo. Keep pressing on the screen, and the camera will take a series of shots in succession.

The screen measures 4.7 inches diagonally, which is larger than the iPhone 5's 4 inches and close to the 5 inches found on a few other leading phones. Held like a skyscraper, the phone is narrower than most leading Android phones. The edges are curved, but the middle is thickened more than the typical phone. That actually fits nicely in my hands, as the palm isn't flat when in a grip position. It's not heavy either, at 4.6 ounces.

Although Motorola has released other phones since Google bought the company in May 2012, the Moto X is the first to be designed under Google. It's an impressive offering that could make Motorola a contender in phones again.

5 tips for Gmail power users

Learn how to customize Gmail's new interface, quickly add events to your calendar, transfer money with one click and more

Think you're proficient with Gmail? Google is routinely adding and testing new features to help you be more productive and get the most out of the service.

Most recently, Google launched a complete redesign of the Gmail interface, replacing its one-column email view with multiple inboxes that sort your mail depending on whom it's from: your contacts, social networks or retailers.

From how to customize this new inbox to quickly transferring money, here's a look at five new Gmail features that will help you get work done.

1. Customize tour new inboxGmail's new interface, which is still rolling out to users, automatically sets you up with five inbox tabs: primary, social, promotions, updates and forums. If some of these are useless to you, you can easily remove them.

To customize the look of your new inbox, click the Settings button at the top right of your screen. Then, select "Configure inbox." On the form that pops up, uncheck the tabs you want to remove and click Save.

2. Add events to your calendar from GmailIf you use Gmail to coordinate events or meetings, adding them to your Google Calendar is now a lot easier.

Dates and times in emails sent to you are now underlined. Hover over one to preview your schedule and change the date, time or title of the event. Then click "Add to Calendar" to confirm and add it to your schedule. The entry in your calendar will include a link back to the original email to make referencing the details easier.

3. Transfer money from Google Wallet using GmailIf you need to reimburse a friend or add money to your kid's checking account, doing so is as easy as sending an email. This new feature is also still rolling out to users. You'll know you have it when a ($) button is added to the Gmail compose window.

To send money, compose a new email and click the "Attach money" button. On the form that appears, enter the amount you want to transfer and click send. Transactions are free if you send money from Google Wallet or directly from your bank account. A 2.9 percent fee per transaction is charged if you use a credit or debit card. Receiving money does not cost anything.

Recipients will receive an email confirmation and the funds will be available almost instantly. If you send money from a bank account, the transaction could take several days to clear, Google said.

4. Mute conversationsIf you're involved in a never-ending email thread that you've lost interest in, Gmail has one feature that will keep your inbox from filling up. "Mute conversations" is a feature that prevents the thread from reappearing in your inbox.

To mute a thread, select it by checking the box beside it. Then select the "Mute" option from the drop-down menu under "More." After you mute a conversation, the emails are removed from your inbox and archived. You can still see the conversation in the "All Mail" label, where you'll see a new label called "Muted."

To unmute a conversation, check the box and click "Move to Inbox."

5. Use Google Drive to send large filesSometimes email attachments can be too large to send the conventional way using Gmail. In this case, you can now use Google Drive to send big files. Google's cloud storage feature lets you insert and send files 400 times larger than the traditional attachment -- with a maximum file size of up to 10 GB.

To send a large email attachment, make sure you've uploaded it first to Google Drive. Then, click the Drive icon from the Compose window, and choose the file you want to send. Gmail will verify that your recipients have access to the file you've chosen. If they don't, Google will prompt you to change the sharing settings.

How to save money before taking the first step into the cloud

Cloud hosting can bring many benefits to both small and large businesses, but before you fly into the software sky, it’s always worth looking at the business case before any such move.
Application vendors will no doubt be shortly banging on your door with their options and proposals for hosting your current services in the cloud. Let’s stop to consider a few things before you sign away on any new hosting contacts.
The benefits
There are plenty of benefits for moving to cloud hosting for both your company and the software provider. These will help ease some of the management headache of running, maintaining and upgrading of applications. However, it’s always worth looking at what’s currently going on, how much it costs and what the anticipated savings may be.
Existing contracts
IT costs for the majority of businesses are significant; according to Gartner, IT cost reduction ...

Big data is healthcare’s biggest threat – and also its likely savior

Healthcare CIOs must feel ill some days. They are under pressure by boards of directors and governments to keep costs down, while the medical establishment and government simultaneously foist more requirements to collect, store and analyze ever-increasing volumes of data. It’s a headache that no amount of aspirin will fix.
Ironically, it may turn out that the CIOs’ latter problem can be a cure for the former. That is – given the right technology – insights gleaned from data soon will be the key to holding down healthcare expenditures while still improving patient care overall.

Healthcare under the knife (and the gun)

Our current medical predicament is happening at a time when governments everywhere are hampered in how they can respond. In Europe, some nations have been forced to make major cuts to healthcare. According to the OECD Health Data 2012 report, compared with the prior year, the Irish government slashed its healthcare budget by 7.6 percent; in Greece, lawmakers hacked a whopping 13 percent. Even relatively stable (and generous) nations, such as Demark and Norway, have trimmed government health spending.
In the United States, the Obama Administration has proposed $401 billion in budget reductions over 10 years to government-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Ailments affect industry, too

While cutting subsidies, governments also are putting the industry under the gun to gather and store more information, adding to the compliance burden of IT. For example, as part of a movement toward evidence-based medicine, the Affordable Healthcare Act in the U.S., (better known as Obamacare), created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which will gather data on as many as 12 million patients over long periods to determine which treatments are the most efficacious for a given ailment. It will unquestionably produce an enormous amount of data – with a corresponding burden for all involved to handle it all.
In addition to requirements from external authorities, CIOs also face daunting data demands from inside. For example, a standard EKG machine gathers about 1,000 data points per second. A two-dimensional mammogram requires 120 MB for each image, while a 3D MRI can hit 150 Mbytes and a 3D CT scan can top one gigabyte per image. All that information—both structured and unstructured data formats—must be stored and accessible for the life of the patient.
Looming close on the horizon is vast patient genomic data and its promise for personalized medicine. In short, there is a building tidal wave of data coming straight at an already ailing healthcare industry.

Prescription: More data in your diet

Yet, all this data may be the cure for the modern healthcare industry. In the United States, where healthcare already gobbles up 17.6 percent of the nation’s GDP, a recent McKinsey & Co. report suggests a shocking $600 billion is being misspent annually. The report suggests that a combination of data-driven, evidence-based medicine and modern tools to prod patients to lead healthier lives will go a long way to reducing those wasted billions of dollars, a process that’s already underway.
For example, Eric Topol, an eminent cardiologist, has been widely profiled as an enthusiastic practitioner of mobile-health initiatives. He says that judicious application of smartphones and software can save patients, insurers and governments enormous amounts of money.  In one interview he showed an app available now that can deliver the results of a standard echocardiogram for patients – resulting in the savings of approximately $800 per test. With millions of echocardiograms conducted each year, the projected savings are enormous.
M-health is already one of the healthiest parts of the booming smartphone app market. There are 97,000 m-health apps available today and the market is predictedto reach $26 billion in 2017.
What’s common about these simple, inexpensive smartphone tools is that massive amounts of data is collected on anonymized patients that can be analyzed to benefit others without having to embark on major research projects. Through evidence-based medicine, overall patient care is improved at far less cost.

A positive prognosis

I see four critical reasons to be optimistic that healthcare will get better, and soon, for individuals:
First, we are seeing a global shift from “cookbook style” diagnosis – where symptoms are treated by a recipe approach – to evidence-based medicine, which applies data-centric methods to both diagnose and offer treatment.
Second, there is a major effort industry-wide to collect as much medical data as possible, in any format, to analyze and accurately determine proper treatment for ailments.
Third, with smartphones in hand, patients themselves are being empowered and learning to monitor personal health data themselves. And often at a fraction of the cost of the past.
And finally, IT vendors have finally delivered a processor, networking, and database infrastructure that is capable of handling the data volumes and variety of information fast enough.
Together these factors should help usher the healthcare industry into a new era of efficiency that still offers far better outcomes for patients.
Irfan Khan is general manager for SAP Big Data. Follow him on Twitter @i_kHANA.
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Researcher builds botnet-powered distributed file storage system using JavaScript

The latest Web technologies can be used to build a secure and distributed file storage system by loading a piece of JavaScript code into users' Web browsers without them knowing, a researcher demonstrated Sunday at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas.
The botnet-type system is called HiveMind and was built by Sean T. Malone, a principal security consultant at penetration testing firm FusionX.
HiveMind uses technologies like HTML5 WebSockets and Web Storage that are also used by legitimate Web applications.
There are no malicious exploits being used, so there is nothing that can be patched to prevent it, Malone said. However, building the botnet by getting other people's browsers to load a piece of JavaScript code and storing data on their computers falls into a legally gray area, he said.
"This was a research project, not production software" he said. "I'm not a lawyer, so I don't intend to give anyone legal advice with this," he said, adding that everyone is responsible for what they decide do with the software he plans to release later this week.
The HiveMind JavaScript code can be distributed to browsers in several ways, including hosting the JavaScript code on legitimate or compromised websites or by distributing the code through an advertising network, which would place it on multiple websites.
For his research, Malone set up an anonymous Web proxy server that later got added to proxy lists and started being used by people. Every time someone used the proxy server to browse to a Web page, the server would inject the HiveMind JavaScript code into that page.
According to the researcher, his proxy server was getting connections from 20,000 unique IP addresses every ten minutes, which then became nodes in the botnet.
HiveMind has a C&C (command and control) server that uses a SQL database to keep a record of all files and the nodes -- browsers running the JavaScript code -- they're distributed on.
When a file is uploaded to the server, it is encrypted using the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with a password provided by the uploader. The encrypted file then gets split into multiple blocks and those blocks are distributed across different nodes.
Every file can have a different password, Malone said.
Because the botnet is highly dynamic, with nodes constantly disappearing when users close their browsers, every file block is distributed across multiple nodes to achieve redundancy.
The nodes constantly announce their presence and the list of blocks they have back to the server, so that a particular block can be redistributed to new nodes if the number of nodes storing it drops under a certain threshold.
After a file is uploaded, encrypted and distributed to the nodes, it is no longer kept on the server. Only a record of the nodes that contain its different blocks is stored, because this is necessary to rebuild the file, Malone said.
If a government agency were to seize the server and take it away, the block replication process would fail because the nodes would start going offline, which would make the file unrecoverable, Malone said. There are a few ways to recover the data, but it is very difficult and it involves seizing a large number of nodes or compromising the server while it's still online and coercing the owner to provide the passwords necessary to decrypt the files.
There is a way to provide "plausible deniability" for the owner and it involves initially seeding the server with a large number of dummy files that contain random data, but this functionality is not yet built into the system, Malone said.
The user can say that he created the system, but did not put any real data in it, even though he did also upload some real files along with the dummy ones.
Because the random data in the dummy files looks the same as the random data in encrypted files, when trying to recover a file there is no way to tell if the password supplied by the user was correct and a dummy was decrypted, or if the password was wrong, the researcher said.
In this way, the user can supply the wrong password for the files he knows are real and the other party would have no way to prove that the password was correct or incorrect.
While the legality of building such a botnet is questionable, this system could also be set up as a collaborative effort, where users volunteer their browsers themselves and are able to upload files to the system, Malone said. 

Tor Project: Stop using Windows, disable JavaScript to protect your anonymity - PCWorld

The Tor Project is advising that people stop using Windows after the discovery of a startling vulnerability in Firefox that undermined the main advantages of the privacy-centered anonymity tool.
The zero-day vulnerability allowed as-yet-unknown interlopers to use a malicious piece of JavaScript to collect crucial identifying information on computers visiting some websites using The Onion Router (TOR) network.
"Really, switching away from Windows is probably a good security move for many reasons," according to a security advisory posted Monday by The Tor Project.
The Tor Project's reasoning comes from the characteristics of the malicious JavaScript that exploited the zero-day vulnerability. The script was written to target Windows computers running Firefox 17 ESR (Extended Support Release), a version of the browser customized to view websites using TOR.
People using Linux and OS X were not affected, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be targeted in the future. "This wasn't the first Firefox vulnerability, nor will it be the last," The Tor Project warned.
The JavaScript was likely planted on certain websites that the attacker wanted to see who came to visit. The script collected the hostname and MAC (Media Access Control) address of a person's computer and sent it to a remote computer, the exact kind of data that Tor users hope to avoid revealing while surfing the Internet.
"This exploit doesn't look like general purpose malware; it looks targeted specifically to unmask Tor Browser Bundle users without actually installing any backdoors on their host," said Vlad Tsyrklevich, a security researcher who analyzed the code, in an email. He published an analysis on his website.
The Tor Project also advised users to turn off JavaScript by clicking the blue "S" by the green onion within the Tor browser.
"Disabling JavaScript will reduce your vulnerability to other attacks like this one, but disabling JavaScript will make some websites not work like you expect," Tor wrote. "A future version of Tor Browser Bundle will have an easier interface for letting you configure your JavaScript settings."
The vulnerability was patched by Mozilla in later versions of Firefox, but some people may still be using the older versions of the Tor Browser Bundle. The bundle's browser, based on Firefox, is designed to protect your anonymity while surfing the web, and is specially configured to visit TOR sites, which have URLs that look like "http://idnxcnkne4qt76tg.onion/."
[Read: Review: Tor Browser Bundle lets you browse in anonymity]
Requests to websites on Tor take a circuitous route through a network of servers around the world designed to obscure a computer's IP address and other networking information that makes it easier to link a computer to a user.
Several Tor Browser Bundle versions were fixed over a four-day period starting June 26. Although the Browser Bundle will automatically check for a new version, it is possible that some users didn't upgrade, which could have put them at risk.
"It's reasonable to conclude that the attacker now has a list of vulnerable Tor users who visited those hidden services," The Tor Project wrote.
Although unconfirmed, computer security experts have theorized the malware may have been used by law enforcement to collect information on people who browsed certain Tor websites supported by a company called Freedom Hosting.
That hosting company is believed to be connected to a 28-year-old man, Eric Eoin Marques. He is being held by Irish authorities pending an extradition request from the U.S. on charges of distributing and promoting child pornography, according to the Irish publication the Independent.
In response to a query about the case, the FBI said Monday that someone had been arrested as part of an investigation, but did not identify the person.

Does it matter which charger I use?

Recently, news about two people getting electrocuted by counterfeit iPhone chargers made its way to the internet. Though Apple has officially started a programme to exchange fake chargers with genuiune ones (for a cost), many still prefer to use such third-party adapters to charge not only their smartphones and tablets, but also their laptops and other gadgets. 

But is it safe to use third party chargers (fake or branded) on a regular basis? Here's what you need to keep in mind... 

Make sure the plugs are right 

The first thing you really need to consider when you're grabbing a charger is the most obvious: if the connector fits. That means the plug on the end of the charger actually fits into your gadget properly. 

For something like a cell phone, this is usually a USB cable (of which various sizes exist), unless it's an Apple device with a special 30-pin or Lightning connector. Older phones might have a cylindrical connector. Likewise, laptops have all kinds of connectors, and many of them are proprietary to the manufacturer. In some cases, you'll need to order a special charger just for your device. 

What all this means is that if you have a charger that fits into your gadget, you're on the right track, but you're not done yet. It's time to look at the technical details. 

When voltage, amperage and wattage matters 

After you've figured out that you can actually connect the charger to your gadget, you need to figure out if doing so will make it explode or not. This means checking the voltage, amperage, and wattage on your charger to make sure it'll work with your device. 

On most chargers, you'll find the voltage listed somewhere on the power brick. Voltage is what pulls energy into the device. If the voltage is too high, you might end up shorting out your devices because you'll overload the circuits. 

For mobile phones and other mobile devices like the Kindle that charge with USB, the voltage is typically 5V. A laptop charger might be as high as 14V or 15V. You can usually find the voltage your device needs on the device itself, on the battery, or if all else fails, on the manufacturer's web site. You'll almost always find the voltage supplied by your charger on the charger itself. You want the the voltage on your device to match the voltage provided by the charger. 

Likewise, amperage is just as important. Amps are the current that's supplied to your device. Think of it like a river, and the amperage is how wide that river is. Amps are usually listed on your power supply as something like, 2.7A or 1A. This regulates how much power flows through from the power supply to your device. The amperage listed on your power supply needs to match or exceed the amperage required by your device. 

You will also often find wattage on your power brick, and that makes a difference as well, but it's not dangerous if your wattage doesn't match. Watts are supplied "on demand" to the battery that's being charged, so even if you're over the device's limit, it doesn't cause problems. 

For example, an iPad charger puts out 10W, whereas an iPhone charger puts out 5W. You can charge an iPhone with an iPad charger just fine, because the iPhone's battery will only take in 5W, even though the charger can supply 10W. A laptop will typically call for watts between 45 and 100. Not all chargers will list the watts, but if the amps and voltage match you're usually in the clear. 

As Popular Mechanics points out, there's a bit more to picking the right charger, but for most of us voltage, amps, and watts all we need to consider. As Extremetech points out, if you're using a USB charger it doesn't really matter because they're almost all the same, but it's still worth double-checking to make sure you're in the clear. 

When to stay away from knockoffs 

Chargers can be expensive for no good reason, but you're better off sticking with official chargers or off brand chargers as opposed to knockoffs. 

The reason is that counterfeit and off brand chargers are poorly made, and that means they put your device (and your house) at risk. Many ignore safety standards completely, but they also just don't charge your devices that well because they don't push the amount of power they're supposed to. This means you're spending more time with these devices plugged in, which causes a larger risk to your safety, as well as your device. 

That's about it. If you pick the right charger, your devices will charge as quickly as they're supposed and your house won't burn down. 

Kaspersky Anti Virus & Internet Security 2014 launched in India

Russian antivirus company Kaspersky today launched the latest version of its anti-virus cum internet security package, The Kaspersky Anti Virus 2014 & Kaspersky Internet Security 2014 in India.
The new version includes the company's signature ZETA Shield Antivirus technology and is designed to protect users' critical information such as personal data and financial transactions.

The package includes various virus detection options such as Safe Money technology, Automatic Exploit Prevention, Anti-blocker technology, and Trusted Application Mode.

While the ZETA Shield technology offers in depth scan of files and applications, the Automatic Exploit Prevention scans the user's computer for malware known as 'exploits' that show up as authentic software programmes.

Kaspersky also stated that the Automatic Exploit Prevention monitors end-user programmes like Java and Adobe Reader that often spew exploits.

While both the softwares come for a one year validity period, their pricings have been varied from the usage of one PC to three PCs.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2014 is priced at Rs 899 for one PC and Rs 1400 for three PCs. Kaspersky Antivirus 2014 is available for Rs 599 for one PC and Rs 1199 for three PCs.

Beware! FBI maybe snooping on you

By now people are aware of their respective government's surveillance programs to tackle terrorism, but sources have now thrown light on the capabilities of US federal agencies which can turn even the most personal of devices into a governmental tool for snooping. 

According to the Fox News, sources have revealed that the federal agents use hacking tools including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links-techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals. 

One former US official said that the FBI develops some tools which allows it to remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google's Android software to record conversations and can also do the same to laptops without the users' knowledge. 

A formal official in FBI's cyber division said that the agency hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things. 

The report added a former official saying that the agency typically uses hacking in cases involving organized crime, child pornography or counterterrorism.

Dell CEO ups ante in buyout battle for PC maker

Just when it looked as if he might be vanquished, Dell CEO Michael Dell has regained the advantage in the lengthy battle to buy the slumping personal computer maker that he founded nearly 30 years ago. He did it by persuading the company's board to accept a slightly better offer that adds a one-time dividend in exchange for a pivotal change in how shareholders will vote on the deal. 

The latest twist in the six-month saga emerged Friday shortly before Dell was scheduled to hold a shareholder vote on the company's proposed sale to Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners for $24.4 billion, or $13.65 per share. 

Michael Dell wants to further diversify a company that has had trouble adapting to the growing use of smartphones and tablet computers over the desktops and laptops that Dell Inc. makes. He believes he has a better chance of turning the company around in the long term if it is in private hands, away from the quarter-to-quarter scrutiny of Wall Street. 

But the deal to buy out the company appeared destined to fail at that price, which had been skewered as a rip-off by a throng of rebellious shareholders led by billionaire Carl Icahn and a long-time company shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management. The vote had already been delayed twice as Michael Dell's group tried to rally support. 

In a Friday statement, Icahn said "the war regarding Dell is far from over." He vowed to keep fighting Michael Dell's takeover attempt. 

Last week, Michael Dell and Silver Lake submitted a higher bid of $24.6 billion, or $13.75 per share, but conditioned that on the company's board revising the voting rules to make passage easier. The board rejected that. 

Faced with almost certain defeat on the lower bid price, Michael Dell and Silver Lake struck a new agreement Friday that further sweetens the bid. The new offer was enough to get the board to reconsider and grant the buyers' request for a crucial revision in the voting rules. 

Friday's offer will probably be enough to gain support from major mutual funds who hold Dell's stock, as well as recent investors "who are ready to take their dollars and move on," said University of Michigan law and business professor Erik Gordon, who has been following the buyout efforts. 

In a sign that investors are confident the deal will get done, Dell's stock climbed 70 cents, or more than 5%, to $13.65 in afternoon trading Friday. 

Dell called Friday's meeting to order and quickly adjourned it without a vote. With the third postponement, the vote is now scheduled for September 12 - five weeks before the company's regular, annual shareholder meeting on October 17. 

Icahn is suing in Delaware court to force the company to hold the annual meeting on the same day as the vote on the deal. Icahn wants to oust Dell's board and pursue a complex alternative plan that he says would be worth at least $15.50 per share. In his statement, Icahn blasted the current board for "putting its thumb on the scales in favor of Dell's offer." 

The new arrangement with Michael Dell and Silver Lake pegs the sale price at $13.75 per share, the same offered last week, but stockholders will also receive a special dividend of 13 cents per share under the new arrangement. That would cost about $230 million, based on Dell's outstanding stock of 1.76 billion shares. 

Friday's announcement didn't disclose whether the special dividend will be drawn from Dell's bank account or be paid by Michael Dell, whose fortune is estimated at $15 billion by Forbes magazine. 

Michael Dell and Silver Lake also are guaranteeing that existing shareholders will receive the company's regularly scheduled dividend of 8 cents per share for the fiscal third quarter, which ends in November. It was something that hadn't been a certainty if the deal closed before then. That dividend guarantee will distribute about $140 million more to shareholders, including about $20 million owed to Michael Dell as the company's largest shareholder. 

Dell had nearly $11 billion in cash as of May 3. 

Although the new deal improves Michael Dell's chances, Icahn could still complicate things, particularly if he can gain a court ruling that forces Dell to hold its annual meeting on Sept. 12 at the same time as the vote on the deal. That would give Icahn a chance to overthrow Dell's board, but there isn't any indication that he has enough votes to pull off the mutiny. 

Icahn, who has a long history of challenging the decisions of corporate boards and management, sounded unbowed Friday. 

"We are not satisfied," he said in a statement. "We believe that an increase of a mere 13 cents is an insult to shareholders. And promising shareholders an additional 8-cent dividend that we were already entitled to, and pretending that it is some sort of gift, is a further slap in the face." 

Michael Dell is contributing about $4.5 billion in cash and stock toward the purchase price, according to regulatory filings. The rest of the money is coming from Silver Lake and lenders, including a $2 billion loan from longtime partner Microsoft, the maker of the Windows operating system that powers most of Dell's PCs. 

In exchange for ensuring shareholders will receive the extra money, Michael Dell and Silver Lake received a key concession. Dell's board agreed that the deal can go through as long as it gains support from a majority of votes cast, excluding Michael Dell's nearly 16% stake in the company. The original bid required a majority of all outstanding stock excluding Michael Dell's stake, a provision that meant that abstentions counted as a part of the opposition. Last week, Michael Dell estimated that about 27% of the shares eligible to vote hadn't submitted ballots leading up to the previously scheduled meetings on the deal. Those would have been counted as "no" had the vote been formally recorded. 

Dell's board also changed the voting eligibility. All shareholders holding company stock as of August 13 can cast ballots. Before, the cutoff date was June 3. The change creates a new pool of voters, including many investors who bought the stock in the past few months and stand to profit from the sweetened offer. 

Long-time shareholders, though, won't be as fortunate because they bought their stock during better times for Dell. The shares have plunged by more than 40% since Michael Dell returned for a second stint as CEO in 2007, largely because the company has had trouble adapting to a technological shift that has caused PC sales to fall as more people use smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet and handle other common computing tasks. 

Michael Dell is also betting that the company can bounce back, but he doesn't want to try to do it while the stock is being traded publicly. He foresees the company going through a painful transition likely to lower its earnings for several years, something that will be easier to endure if Dell doesn't have to cater to Wall Street's fixation on short-term results. If the proposed buyout goes through, the company will become privately held for the first time in 25 years. 

The latest deal came about a week after Michael Dell described the $13.75 per share offer as his "best and final" proposal. Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said Michael Dell's willingness to take things a step further shows how badly he wants a chance to revive the company. 

"It's his name on the sign, a part of his legacy," Moorhead said. "So, he is going to put everything he has on the table to take control."

Android phone lost? Google will help you locate it

Google on Friday announced that it would offer a service to locate or securely wipe a lostAndroid phone by the end of this month. The service will be available to all Android phones running Android 2.2 or newer versions of the OS.
The service will be called Android Device Manager and will be available for free. Apple and Microsoft offer similar services for iPhones and Windows Phones, respectively. Several security apps also offer similar feature for Android phones though the implementation is not as robust as it is on iPhone.
In a post on the official Google blog, Benjamin Poiesz, an Android project manager, wrote: "Android Device Manager can help (you) ... keep your deviceĆ¢€”and the data you store insideĆ¢€”safe and secure."
Android Device Manager will allow users to make their misplaced phone ring at its loudest volume even if it is in silent mode. Users will be able to do this through Android Device Manager website though Google said that it would also offer an Android app for the service at a later date.
This feature will come handy if you had misplaced your phone under a sofa or bed.
In case you have lost your phone outside your house you will be able to see the device on a map if it is switched on and follow it in real-time. It may help you recover the phone. But in case it can't be recovered, Android Device Manager will allow users to wipe it securely so that the private data doesn't fall in wrong hands.
"While losing your phone can be stressful, Android Device Manager can help you keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands. If your phone can't be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device," wrote Poiesz. 

Microsoft Surface Pro gets price cut, following hefty Surface RT slash

Microsoft Surface Pro gets price cut, following hefty Surface RT slash

Microsoft has confirmed the price of it's Surface Pro laptop/tablet hybrid has been cut by around 10 per cent in several territories around the world, until August 29.
The highly-rated Windows 8 device is $100 (around £60, AU$112) cheaper in the United States and Canada, while the RRP has also been trimmed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan has also been reduced.
The price cut, which appears to be temporary for the time being, applies to the 64GB and 128GB models.
So far it doesn't appear the price cut will be applied to other regions, including the UK and Australia. However, the device has only been on sale in many of these regions since May.


The Surface Pro price cut follows a significant trim of the Surface RT model around the world last month, with Microsoft bidding to cut its losses on the largely unpopular slate.
Company CEO Steve Ballmer admitted Microsoft had overstated the appetite for the Surface RT and built too many, amid reports the company took a $900m hit on the project.
Microsoft confirmed its Surface Pro price cut was inspired by the success of the Surface RT "promotions."
"We've been seeing great worldwide success with Surface RT pricing and keyboard-cover promotions over the past several months and are proud to offer Surface Pro at more affordable prices starting today."
The Surface Pro overall was a much more well-received device, critically and commercially, so the price cuts may not be around for long.
  • Now, who's ready for a Microsoft Surface Pro 2?

In Depth: 10 best free music players: the top Windows music apps around

In Depth: 10 best free music players: the top Windows music apps around

Although Windows Media Player has been reinvented numerous times, it's still a frustrating app to use. And in Windows 8, the basic music player just doesn't have enough features to keep us tuned.
So we thought it would be a great idea to round up the best of the rest - the greatest alternatives for music playing and editing on your PC. Here's the list.

1. Get sorted with iTunes

It might be an Apple product, but we'd be remiss to not talk about iTunes. It does it all: it's a music player, a media browser and organiser, and a tool to help set up your iPod, iPhone and iPad.
The iTunes Store helps you to discover and buy new music, too. The latest version has a new stripped-down look, with a simpler, cleaner interface. Most of the key playback options can be controlled from the Mini Player, creating and managing playlists is easier than before, and the store works more like it does on iPhones and iPads, which makes a lot of sense.
iTunes is all about Apple devices of course, and it does its best to get you into the store (you can't get album art until you're logged into an account, for instance).

2. Move it with Musiczen

If your music folder has got into a real mess, with MP3s scattered everywhere, then getting them properly organised can seem like a real challenge - until you run MusicZen. Point the program at your chaotic folder and it will scan all your MP3s automatically, reading their tags, then copying (or moving) them to new folders based on the artist, album, song title and more.
The program is incredibly simple, so you'll have your MP3s reordered in no time. If you've been amassing a collection of tunes over the years, MusicZen is essential.

3. Find songs on YouTube

There are plenty of YouTube search tools around, but MP3jam is a little different from most; instead of helping you access videos more easily, this program is all about music. Just enter a search term - an artist, song name or album title - and it'll quickly return any results, some of which even have album art.
Considering how many artists are forthcoming about uploading their newest tracks to Youtube these days (and considering the number of exclusive remixes you'll find on there), this is invaluable. Each song title has a 'Play' button, allowing you to stream it from the web.

4. The classic player

With 16 years of development under its belt, it's no surprise that Winamp - which can only be described as a classic in software terms - is one of the most capable music players around. The program supports more than 60 audio and video formats.
It can quickly scan your PC for audio files (or import your iTunes library), then organise your music in many different ways. You can create playlists, update and edit your MP3 tags, read more about your favourite artists, and access thousands of free audio and video channels.

5. Import and organise

iTunes is a great choice if you want to work with iOS devices, but if you have an Android phone or tablet - or you're just looking for a better way to organise your ever-expanding music collection - then it could be time to give MediaMonkey a try instead.
The program quickly imports even the largest music libraries, and can then automatically rename your MP3s, moving them into a logical folder structure, fixing tags and notifying you of any duplicates.
There are lots of playlist options, and the core player offers lots of features and can be extended with a huge range of effects. If you want to share your music, it's easy to sync with Apple or Android (and other) devices, or UPnP/DNLA compatible devices such as TVs, Blu-ray players and more.

6. Rename your tracks

Advanced Renamer is a powerful tool for renaming, copying or moving files. If your MP3 library is a mess, then it can give your files new names based on audio tags, change the case of a file name, add or remove text, change a file's attributes or timestamps, and even copy or move MP3s to new locations based on their tags (a specific folder for that artist or album, for example). It's one of the most useful tools if you're serious about keeping your music collection in check.

7. Keep it simple

If other MP3 organisers and players seem too bulky and complicated, you might prefer Foobar2000. Just like other music management tools, this program helps you build and organise your music library, create playlists and sort out your tags. The interface is very configurable, and its excellent music player supports lots of formats, gapless playback, gain to level out volume across tracks and more.
Despite all this, Foobar2000 requires only 7MB of hard drive space, and can even be installed in 'portable' mode, so it won't touch your Registry or install any extra components that might clutter your hard drive. It also has a refreshingly simple interface.

8. Quick conversion

Just as its name suggests, Freemake Audio Converter is an excellent tool for converting audio files into a more useful format. If you have a portable music player or smartphone that can't play some of your tunes, Freemake could well be the answer to your musical prayers.
Freemake includes support for writing most formats, including MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, M4A and OGG files. Various audio settings (bitrate, sample rate, channels) are there to help you get the best compromise between sound quality and file size, so you can even use it to shrink your files down to fit onto a smaller player.

9. Record and edit

Audacity is a capable and feature-packed audio editor, but is still relatively straightforward to use. Import an MP3 file and you'll see the usual waveform-type display. It's easy to zoom in and select the area you need, and then you can cut or delete it, or perhaps copy or paste it elsewhere.
If you need more power, the Effects menu reveals 40 options, including change pitch, equalisation, normalise and more. It's great for making your own music or podcasts.

10. Play almost anything

If you're looking for a player that's simple and easy to use, but also has some power when you need it, then why not grab a copy of VLC Media Player. You can use the program as a very simple on-demand player. Select one MP3 or an entire album and it'll begin playing, and you can reduce the interface to just a single toolbar and some album art, allowing you to enjoy your music without cluttering your desktop and distracting you.
Despite its simplicity, the program works with just about every media type, including MP3 files, video, CDs and more. There's simple media library management, playlist creation and tag editing. Its graphic equaliser, compressor and spatialiser help deliver great sound, the interface is extremely configurable, and plug-ins add more power when you really need it. What more could you want?
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