Take a look at your “Following” list on Twitter. You might find some brands or people showing up there, even if you don’t follow them. If so, that seems due to either a new change or a newly noticed change in how Twitter is doing placement for promoted accounts.
Credit to William Shatner who spotted this first — or if not first — has been the most vocal about it. He noted that MasterCard was showing up on the list of accounts he was following, even though he wasn’t actually following them.
As he tweeted:
.@jack @safety Why am I following MasterCard when I didn’t add them? I do not appreciate this. pic.twitter.com/k91D6vTaXZ
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) December 30, 2014
Shatner also noted that for “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson, who follows only one person, MasterCard was magically showing up as a second account being followed:
There’s been talk for a while that Microsoft was going to make some big changes to Internet Explorer in the Windows 10 time frame, making IE “Spartan” look and feel more like Chrome and Firefox.
It turns out that what’s actually happening is Microsoft is building a new browser, codenamed Spartan, which is not IE 12 — at least according to a couple of sources of mine.
Thomas Nigro, a Microsoft Student Partner lead and developer of the modern version of VLC, mentioned on Twitter earlier this month thathe heard Microsoft was building a brand-new browser. Nigro said he heard talk of this during a December episode of the LiveTile podcast.
However, if my sources are right, Spartan is not IE 12. Instead, Spartan is a new, light-weight browser Microsoft is building.
Windows 10 (at least the desktop version) will ship with both Spartan and IE 11, my sources say. IE 11 will be there for backward-compatibility’s sake. Spartan will be available for both desktop and mobile (phone/tablet) versions of Windows 10, sources say.
Spartan is just a codename at this point. My sources don’t know what Microsoft plans to call this new browser when it debuts. The IE team hinted during a Reddit Ask Me Anything earlier this year that the team had contemplated changing the name of IE to try to get users to realize the much more standards-compliant IE of today is very different from older, proprietary versions of IE.
Microsoft may show off Spartan on January 21 when the company reveals its next set of Windows 10 features. But my sources also aren’t sure if Spartan will be functional enough for inclusion in the Windows 10 January Technical Preview and mobile preview builds that are expected to be available to testers in early 2015. It may not show up in the test builds until some point later, they say.
Will Microsoft end up porting the Spartan browser to Android, iOS and/or any other non-Windows operating systems? I’m not sure. The IE team said a few months back that Microsoft had no plans to port IE to any non-Windows operating systems. But Spartan isn’t IE. And these days, Microsoft is porting much of its software and services to non-Windows variants. So I’d say there’s a chance that this could happen somewhere down the line ….
Millions of people woke up and unwrapped a shiny new device under the Christmas tree. As we have done in years past, Flurry examined these new device activations to understand what types of devices consumers are exchanging for the holidays, and with which types of apps they are filling them. Since the beginning of the mobile revolution, Christmas Day has seen the highest number of new device activations and app installs each year, and 2014 was no exception. Flurry examined data from the more than 600,000 apps we track to understand what was under the Christmas tree and which apps we downloaded as soon as the wrapping paper was taken off.
It’s clear that Santa is no longer into cookies – he prefers Apples. It was a banner Christmas for the Apple, the company that started the mobile revolution with the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. Seven years later, Apple accounted for 51% of the new device activations worldwide Flurry recognized in the week leading up to and including Christmas Day (December 19th – 25th). Samsung held the #2 position with 18% of new device activations, and Microsoft (Nokia) rounded out the top three with 5.8% share for mostly Lumia devices. After the top three manufacturers, the device market becomes increasingly fragmented with only Sony and LG commanding more than one percent share of new activations on Christmas Day. Up-and-comers Xiaomi, Huawei, and HTC all had less than one percent share on Christmas Day. One reason is surely their popularity in Asian markets where December 25th is not the biggest gift-giving day of the year.
To put this in perspective, for every Samsung devices that was activated, Apple activated 2.9 devices. For every Microsoft Lumia device activated, Apple activated 8.8 devices. While, the holidays in general and Christmas in particular are not the sole indicator of the smartphone market share and trends, it is safe to say that Apple’s newly released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have had a blockbuster holiday season, despite a lackluster holiday season for the consumer electronics industry.
The App Industry continued with its tradition of witnessing the largest numbers of App Installs on Christmas Day. With a new device, we’re all likely to turn into install addicts. This year, and on Christmas Day in the US, Flurry tracked 2.5x the number of app installs as compared to an average day in the first three weeks of December. This is a remarkable number considering the maturity of the US market and the difficulty of getting recognized in crowded app stores. Perhaps unsurprisingly, games and messaging apps saw the highest increase in app installs on Christmas Day as we sought entertainment and connection with friends and family.
The Korean electronics conglomerate on Tuesday launched Milk VR, a service that will provide free 360-degree videos to anyone using a Gear VR virtual-reality headset, which launched as a limited “Innovator’s Edition” earlier this month. The content is expected to dribble out on a consistent basis in an effort to get people coming back to the service.
Samsung wants Milk VR to be a rebuttal to those skeptical about the amount of content available for the Gear VR. The videos will also serve as a model for future filmmakers or artists looking to take advantage of the virtual-reality medium, as well as build up an ecosystem and viewership for VR content. Milk VR also sits alongside the Milk Video and Milk Radio services, dragging Samsung deeper into the content game.
“Video is like the Wild West in VR,” said Nick DiCarlo, head of Samsung’s VR business, in an interview earlier this month. “There are so many ways to shoot immersive video. Milk VR can play a wide range of content.”
Samsung partnered with Facebook’s Oculus to create a mobile-powered virtual-reality headset, which was part of a large announcement that included a smartwatch and the Galaxy Note 4smartphone. The Gear VR went on sale on December 8 in the US, intended more for developers and artists looking to test the device, rather than a mainstream consumer device. The $199 headset requires a Galaxy Note 4, which acts as its brains, display and audio output.
DiCarlo said in the interview that he was looking at engagement, not unit sales, as his metric of success for Gear VR. He declined to say when he thought virtual reality would be embraced by the masses.
The company is looking at virtual reality as a potential growth engine at a time when one of its key traditional revenue sources — smartphones — has slowed down, taking with it a drop a profits. While Apple has maintained its leadership at the high end of the market with premium devices, Samsung’s ownGalaxy S5 hasn’t performed as strongly as its predecessors. At the same time, the company is seeing competitive pressure from upstart rivals such as Xiaomi, which offer lower-cost phones with comparable — or superior — specifications.
Samsung looks to be betting big on virtual-reality content. DiCarlo said the company is paying for the videos that will run on Milk VR.
The service will offer the videos through downloads and “adaptive streaming options.” It appears as an app that can be downloaded from the VR home screen
Grocery Delivery Startup Instacart Scores $220 Million Investment
December 30, 2014, 5:56 AM PST
Jason Del Rey By Jason Del Rey
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Instacart, the grocery delivery startup, disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it had closed a monster $210 million investment that a source says will increase to $220 million when all is said and done.
The investment is said to value the company at around $2 billion, a source previously told Re/code. The filing comes three weeks after Re/code reported the company was closing in on a big new investment led by Kleiner Perkins.
Just six months ago, Instacart was valued at about $400 million in a $44 million investment round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. But the San Francisco-based startup has grown rapidly this year — 2014 revenue will be north of $100 million, or 10 times more than it was in 2013, CEO Apoorva Mehta recently told the New York Times. The company lets customers order groceries online from local stores such as Whole Foods and Costco and have them delivered on the same day. Instacart plans to expand into categories other than groceries in 2015, Mehta has said.
The massive investment comes as urban residents are showing a renewed interest in same-day delivery of groceries, more than a decade after delivery companies like Webvan and Kozmo burst onto the scene and then collapsed. Instacart is also capitalizing on concerns among big grocery chains about Amazon expanding its grocery delivery business, and they are taking advantage of surging investor interest in the category. The size of the raise signals that Instacart is intent on building a standalone business rather than selling to a big company such as Amazon or Google. Either way, the $2 billion valuation means an acquisition offer would have to be higher than most potential suitors are willing to spend.
This fall, 11-year-old Carson Wedding got to do something amazing: She went on her first field trip ― a day at Six Flags with the middle school band ― without the watchful eyes of her mom and dad.
Since being diagnosed three years ago of Type 1 diabetes, Carson’s parents have needed to stay close to help their daughter monitor her glucose levels and make the appropriate corrections: more water and rest if her blood sugar runs high, a juice or a snack if her blood sugar is low.
Carson’s dad, James Wedding, remembers the first few days after her diagnosis: “There were a bunch of tests and a bunch of drugs. You get dire warnings. ‘Be careful you don’t kill your kid. And good luck.’”
So mom and dad tagged along on field trips, and overnighters, and checked in multiple times daily with the school nurse. They also spent long afternoons at dance practice, helping Carson check her glucose levels during breaks.
An engineer by training, Wedding started looking for alternatives. “I work in technology,” he says. “So my first reaction is, ‘Where’s the download button? Why can’t I monitor this?’ I went from being shocked to being mad. I thought, ‘This is stupid. There’s got to be a better way.’”
Turns out there is a better way.
Wedding found Nightscout, a group of parents and people with Type 1 diabetes, using an open-source solution and the cloud to remotely and dynamically keep watch over glucose levels. They’ve figured out how to allow real-time access to glucose monitoring system Dexcom G4 CGM from Web browsers via smartphones, computers, tablets and the Pebble smartwatch running on Microsoft Azure.
This is how it works: A small sensor measures glucose levels just under the skin. The transmitter fastened on top of that sensor sends data wirelessly to the receiver that displays blood-sugar levels. To monitor from afar, a smartphone with Nightscout software downloads the data, transmits it to the cloud, then to your mobile device via a customized website.
The Weddings now monitor Carson’s glucose levels while she’s in school. They send a text to her Pebble watch if she needs to have a snack or take a rest. Carson says it was great to be able to go to Six Flags with her classmates – without her parents in tow. “It was nice to have that time with my friends. It was nice not to have to slow down, or have my parents nagging me about my blood sugar,” she says.
For Ali Mazaheri, that feeling of dread and fear of the unknown is still fresh. His son, Sam, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this summer. He remembers sitting in the hospital with his laptop, trying to make sense of what to do next.
“To rely on a 9-year-old to poke his finger every four hours is pretty scary. As parents, we are wondering when we’ll get the call that his levels are low,” Mazaheri says. “At night, you can’t sleep. As a parent, you have this nightmare, you wonder what’s going on with him.”
Now, with Nightscout, he and his wife, school nurse and Sam’s teacher can monitor Sam’s levels while he’s at school as well as while he’s asleep.
Mazaheri, a technology architect at the Microsoft Technology Center in Irvine, California, got introduced to the Nightscout team by his friend Ed Raskin, whose son, Max, also has Type 1 diabetes. Mazaheri brought Nightscout’s grassroots effort to the attention of Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella using company social network Yammer. Nadella was intrigued, and soon, with the help of Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group, and others from the Azure team, Mazaheri was able to secure 1,500 Azure passes, each with a $500 monthly credit for six months, so families can use the system without breaking the bank.
The passes allow families to try Nightscout on Azure, free. Without them, they have to pay for access to the cloud, or fork over hefty data fees to their mobile service providers. “This is huge,” James Wedding says. “Ali stepping in and offering this bandwidth from Microsoft changes a huge part of the support system.”
Microsoft’s assistance “has made it easy for us to try this out on a grassroots level,” adds Ben West, one of the early developers of Nightscout software. “Someone can sign up for an Azure website and launch our code on it. It works great.”
West, 33, who also has Type 1 diabetes, says using the cloud to manage his blood-sugar levels has changed the “fidelity” of his day-to-day experience, as well as the communication with his friends and caregivers.
Managing his diabetes manually was also isolating, West explains “You have to pull out a meter, prick your finger. You’re doing something no one else is doing. But with Nightscout, watching your wrist is a natural action.” And with the cloud, others have the ability to also watch his levels. ”They can look at the same view of the problem that I’m looking at. It sounds trite, but it’s not insignificant,” he adds.
It’s estimated that more there are more than 3 million kids in the U.S. living the Type 1 diabetes, with roughly 30,000 new diagnoses of the disease every year. The majority of Nightscout members either have Type 1 diabetes or are parents of a child who does.
Amongst the growing Nightscout community, there are a lot of stories about freedom, West says: first time taking a walk with grandpa, first time away from home, first sleepover.
“I once hooked up this 11-year-old [on Nightscout]. The numbers flashed on the screen, and his eyes lit up because he realized immediately what this meant: No more ‘What’s your number?’ This becomes the dominant discussion in the household,” West says. “It contorts relationships between kids and parents. This is freedom from that.”
Carson is dancing as Clara, a lead role in the “The Nutcracker” ballet, at Taylor Dance Center outside of Dallas, Texas, this Christmas. She says having Nightscout means she can attend rehearsals on her own and correct her glucose levels as needed, in real time. It will also make performances smoother, too, she says. “Ten minutes before I go onstage I can see where my levels are at. I think it will be a lot easier for everyone.”
For James Wedding it’s about giving his daughter the ability to be an 11-year-old.
“If you come at this from a position of fear, you live in fear,” he says. “I don’t do this out of fear. I did this because I want my kid to be a kid.”
Check with your doctor to see if Nightscout is right for you. Don’t make any changes to your treatment plan without first consulting with your doctor.
When Christmas approaches, the spies of the Five Eyes intelligence services can look forward to a break from the arduous daily work of spying. In addition to their usual job — attempting to crack encryption all around the world — they play a game called the “Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz,” which involves solving challenging numerical and alphabetical puzzles. The proud winners of the competition are awarded “Kryptos” mugs.
Encryption — the use of mathematics to protect communications from spying — is used for electronic transactions of all types, by governments, firms and private users alike. But a look into the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that not all encryption technologies live up to what they promise.
One example is the encryption featured in Skype, a program used by some 300 million users to conduct Internet video chat that is touted as secure. It isn’t really. “Sustained Skype collection began in Feb 2011,” reads a National Security Agency (NSA) training document from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Less than half a year later, in the fall, the code crackers declared their mission accomplished. Since then, data from Skype has been accessible to the NSA’s snoops. Software giant Microsoft, which acquired Skype in 2011, said in a statement: “We will not provide governments with direct or unfettered access to customer data or encryption keys.” The NSA had been monitoring Skype even before that, but since February 2011, the service has been under order from the secret US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to not only supply information to the NSA but also to make itself accessible as a source of data for the agency.
The “sustained Skype collection” is a further step taken by the authority in the arms race between intelligence agencies seeking to deny users of their privacy and those wanting to ensure they are protected. There have also been some victories for privacy, with certain encryption systems proving to be so robust they have been tried and true standards for more than 20 years.
For the NSA, encrypted communication — or what all other Internet users would call secure communication — is “a threat”. In one internal training document viewed by SPIEGEL, an NSA employee asks: “Did you know that ubiquitous encryption on the Internet is a major threat to NSA’s ability to prosecute digital-network intelligence (DNI) traffic or defeat adversary malware?”
Snipped from NSA document: Encryption considered a “threat”
The Snowden documents reveal the encryption programs the NSA has succeeded in cracking, but, importantly, also the ones that are still likely to be secure. Although the documents are around two years old, experts consider it unlikely the agency’s digital spies have made much progress in cracking these technologies. “Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on,” Snowden said in June 2013, after fleeing to Hong Kong.
The digitization of society in the past several decades has been accompanied by the broad deployment of cryptography, which is no longer the exclusive realm of secret agents. Whether a person is conducting online banking, Internet shopping or making a phone call, almost every Internet connection today is encrypted in some way. The entire realm of cloud computing — that is of outsourcing computing tasks to data centers somewhere else, possibly even on the other side of the globe — relies heavily on cryptographic security systems. Internet activists even hold crypto parties where they teach people who are interested in communicating securely and privately how to encrypt their data.
German officials suggest “consistent encryption”
In Germany, concern about the need for strong encryption goes right up to the highest levels of the government. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet now communicate using phones incorporating strong encryption. The government has also encouraged members of the German public to take steps to protect their own communication. Michael Hange, the president of the Federal Office for Information Security, has stated: “We suggest cryptography — that is, consistent encryption.”
It’s a suggestion unlikely to please some intelligence agencies. After all, the Five Eyes alliance — the secret services of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States — pursue a clear goal: removing the encryption of others on the Internet wherever possible. In 2013, the NSA had a budget of more than $10 billion. According to the US intelligence budget for 2013, the money allocated for the NSA department called Cryptanalysis and Exploitation Services (CES) alone was $34.3 million.
Last year, the Guardian, New York Times andProPublicareported on the contents of a 2010 presentation on the NSA’s BULLRUN decryption program, but left out many specific vulnerabilities. The presentation states that, “for the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” and “vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.” Decryption, it turns out, works retroactively – once a system is broken, the agencies can look back in time in their databases and read stuff they could not read before.
The number of Internet users concerned about privacy online has risen dramatically since the first Snowden revelations. But people who consciously use strong end-to-end encryption to protect their data still represent a minority of the Internet-using population. There are a number of reasons for this: Some believe encryption is too complicated to use. Or they think the intelligence agency experts are already so many steps ahead of them that they can crack any encryption program.
Still Safe from the NSA
This isn’t true. As one document from the Snowden archive shows, the NSA had been unsuccessful in attempts to decrypt several communications protocols, at least as of 2012. An NSA presentation for a conference that took place that year lists the encryption programs the
Americans failed to crack. In the process, the NSA cryptologists divided their targets into five levels corresponding to the degree of the difficulty of the attack and the outcome, ranging from “trivial” to “catastrophic.”
Monitoring a document’s path through the Internet is classified as “trivial.” Recording Facebook chats is considered a “minor” task, while the level of difficulty involved in decrypting emails sent through Moscow-based Internet service provider “mail.ru” is considered “moderate.” Still, all three of those classifications don’t appear to pose any significant problems for the NSA.
Things first become troublesome at the fourth level. The presentation states that the NSA encounters “major” problems in its attempts to decrypt messages sent through heavily encrypted email service providers like Zoho or in monitoring users of the Tor network*, which was developed for surfing the web anonymously. Tor, otherwise known as The Onion Router, is free and open source software that allows users to surf the web through a network of more than 6,000 linked volunteer computers. The software automatically encrypts data in a way that ensures that no single computer in the network has all of a user’s information. For surveillance experts, it becomes very difficult to trace the whereabouts of a person who visits a particular website or to attack a specific person while they are using Tor to surf the Web.
The NSA also has “major” problems with Truecrypt, a program for encrypting files on computers. Truecrypt’s developers stopped their work on the program last May, prompting speculation about pressures from government agencies. A protocol called Off-the-Record (OTR) for encrypting instant messaging in an end-to-end encryption process also seems to cause the NSA major problems. Both are programs whose source code can be viewed, modified, shared and used by anyone. Experts agree it is far more difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate open source software programs than many of the closed systems developed by companies like Apple and Microsoft. Since anyone can view free and open source software, it becomes difficult to insert secret back doors without it being noticed. Transcripts of intercepted chats using OTR encryption handed over to the intelligence agency by a partner in Prism — an NSA program that accesses data from at least nine American internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple — show that the NSA’s efforts appear to have been thwarted in these cases: “No decrypt available for this OTR message.” This shows that OTR at least sometimes makes communications impossible to read for the NSA.
Things become “catastrophic” for the NSA at level five – when, for example, a subject uses a combination of Tor, another anonymization service, the instant messaging system CSpace and a system for Internet telephony (voice over IP) called ZRTP. This type of combination results in a “near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence,” the NSA document states.
ZRTP, which is used to securely encrypt conversations and text chats on mobile phones, is used in free and open source programs like RedPhone and Signal. “It’s satisfying to know that the NSA considers encrypted communication from our apps to be truly opaque,” says RedPhone developer Moxie Marlinspike.
Too Robust for Fort Meade
Also, the “Z” in ZRTP stands for one of its developers, Phil Zimmermann, the same man who created Pretty Good Privacy, which is still the most common encryption program for emails and documents in use today. PGP is more than 20 years old, but apparently it remains too robust for the NSA spies to crack. “No decrypt available for this PGP encrypted message,” a further document viewed by SPIEGEL states of emails the NSA obtained from Yahoo.
Phil Zimmermann wrote PGP in 1991. The American nuclear weapons freeze activist wanted to create an encryption program that would enable him to securely exchange information with other like-minded individuals. His system quickly became very popular among dissidents around the world. Given its use outside the United States, the US government launched an investigation into Zimmermann during the 1990s for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act. Prosecutors argued that making encryption software of such complexity available abroad was illegal. Zimmermann responded by publishing the source code as a book, an act that was constitutionally protected as free speech.
PGP continues to be developed and various versions are available today. The most widely used is GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG), a program developed by German programmer Werner Koch. One document shows that the Five Eyes intelligence services sometimes use PGP themselves. The fact is that hackers obsessed with privacy and the US authorities have a lot more in common than one might initially believe. The Tor Project*, was originally developed with the support of the US Naval Research Laboratory.
(Reuters) – Apple Inc has pushed out its first-ever automated security update to Macintosh computers to help defend against newly identified bugs that security researchers have warned could enable hackers to gain remote control of machines.
The company pushed out the software on Monday to fix critical security vulnerabilities in a component of its OS X operating system called the network time protocol, or NTP, according to Apple spokesman Bill Evans.NTP is used for synchronizing clocks on computer systems.
The bugs were made public in security bulletins on Friday by the Department of Homeland Security and the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute. Carnegie Mellon identified dozens of technology companies, including Apple, whose products might be vulnerable.
When Apple has released previous security patches, it has done so through its regular software update system, which typically requires user intervention.
The company decided to deliver the NTP bug fixes with its technology for automatically pushing out security updates, which Apple introduced two years ago but had never previously used, because it wanted to protect customers as quickly as possible due to the severity of the vulnerabilities, Evans said.
“The update is seamless,” he said. “It doesn’t even require a restart.”
Apple does not know of any cases where vulnerable Mac computers were targeted by hackers looking to exploit the bugs, he added.
Occasionally, satellite TV owners will need to perform a hard reset to their receivers. In the event of a software glitch, a power outage or some other interruption in service, the owner may be required to reset the receiver box and re-acquire the satellite signal. In addition to resetting the receiver, if you are experiencing signal loss, check and make sure there are no obstructions to the dish, such as leaves, snow or debris.
Check the TV and make sure the channel is set to 3 or 4 for the primary TV set, or channel 60 for the UHF (secondary) set, if the receiver is a “dual-mode” device.
Check all connections on the back of the receiver. Make sure all cabled connections are tightened and all plugs are securely plugged in.
Check for a key card loaded in the card slot on the receiver. If you have a key card, slowly and carefully remove the key card. Leave the card out for at least 30 seconds, and then re-insert the card.
Unplug the main power cord from the back of the receiver. Wait at least 30 seconds and then plug the power cord back into the receiver.
Press the “Power” button on the front of the receiver to power on the device. Allow the receiver several minutes to acquire a signal and download any additional updates. The receiver is reset.
Tips & Warnings
Do not reposition your satellite dish. Even a small movement may cause loss of signal.
Strong winds and rain may interfere with the satellite signal. If you reset your receiver and still have issues, wait until the weather passes to attempt to acquire a signal.