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Communications

Google's Project Loon Can Now Launch Up To 20 Balloons Per Day, Fly 10x Longer 112

Posted by timothy
from the first-they-said-you-were-crazy dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google [Thursday] shared an update from Project Loon, the company's initiative to bring high-speed Internet access to remote areas of the world via hot air balloons. Google says it now has the ability to launch up to 20 of these balloons per day. This is in part possible because the company has improved its autofill equipment to a point where it can fill a balloon in under five minutes. This is a major achievement, given that Google says filling a Project Loon balloon with enough air so that it is ready for flight is the equivalent of inflating 7,000 party balloons.
Android

Indian Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Snub Android One Phones 50

Posted by timothy
from the but-fellas-our-plans-changed dept.
oyenamit writes Online shopping in India is still in its infancy but is growing tremendously to reach the mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people. Invariably, the conflict between pure online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart and brick and mortar stores was bound to emerge. Unfortunately for Google's Android One, it has been on the receiving end of this friction. Leading brick and mortar retailers in India have refused to sell Android One handsets ever since the US company chose to launch its products exclusively online. The three Android One makers in India — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — launched their handsets exclusively online in mid-September. When sales did not meet their expectations, they decided to release their products via the brick and mortar store channel. However, smaller retailer and mom-n-pop shops have decided to show their displeasure at having being left out of the launch by deciding not to stock Android One. The Android One phones, announced at the most recent Google I/O, are Google's attempt to bring stock Android (as on Google's Nexus devices) to emerging markets, with competent but not high-end phones.
Mozilla

Mozilla's 2013 Report: Revenue Up 1% To $314M; 90% From Google 150

Posted by timothy
from the that's-money-alright dept.
An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released its annual financial report for 2013, and the numbers hint as to why the organization signed a five-year deal with Yahoo, announced by the duo on November 19. Revenue increased just 1 percent, and the organization's reliance on Google stayed flat at 90 percent. The total revenue for the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiaries in 2011 was $163 million, and it increased 90.2 percent to $311 million for 2012. Yet that growth all but disappeared last year, as the total revenue moved up less than 1 percent (0.995 percent to be more precise) to $311 million in 2013. 85 percent of Mozilla's revenue came from Google in 2011, and that figure increased to 90 percent in 2012. While the 90 percent number remained for 2013, it's still a massive proportion and shows Mozilla last year could not figure out a way to differentiate where its money comes from.
EU

The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google 301

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-get-on-that-don't-be-evil-stuff-quick dept.
An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."
Advertising

Google Launches Service To Replace Web Ads With Subscriptions 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-everyone-says-they-want-but-nobody-actually-wants dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation.

The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.
Games

The Man Who Made Tetris 35

Posted by samzenpus
from the fitting-it-in dept.
rossgneumann writes Life gets pretty chill after creating 'Tetris' and escaping the KGB. A quick web search for "Alexey Pajitnov" brings up pages of articles and interviews that fixate only on his seminal creation—a work that remains, far and away, the best selling video game of all time. But clearly, there's more to the man than just Tetris. Meeting Pajitnov himself led me to wonder about, well, everything else. What was the Tetris-less life of Alexey Pajitnov?
AI

Google Announces Image Recognition Advance 29

Posted by timothy
from the what-does-a-grue-look-like? dept.
Rambo Tribble writes Using machine learning techniques, Google claims to have produced software that can better produce natural-language descriptions of images. This has ramifications for uses such as better image search and for better describing the images for the blind. As the Google people put it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's the words that are the most useful ..."
Advertising

Apple Swaps "Get" Button For "Free" To Avoid Confusion Over In-App Purchases 102

Posted by timothy
from the for-the-low-low-price dept.
New submitter lazarus (2879) writes Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get." The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.
Science

CMI Director Alex King Talks About Rare Earth Supplies (Video 2) 11

Posted by Roblimo
from the the're-still-looking-for-unobtanium dept.
Yesterday we ran video #1 of 2 about the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) at the Iowa State Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. They have partners from other national laboratories, universities, and industry, too. Obviously there is more than enough information on this subject that Dr. King can easily fill two 15-minute videos, not to mention so many Google links that instead of trying to list all of them, we're giving you one link to Google using the search term "rare earths." Yes, we know Rare Earth would be a great name for a rock band. But the mineral rare earths are important in the manufacture of items ranging from strong magnets to touch screens and rechargeable batteries, so please watch the video(s) or at least read the transcript(s). (Alternate Video Link)
Google

Google Maps Crunches Data, Tells You When To Drive On Thanksgiving 61

Posted by timothy
from the could-have-told-you-that-for-free dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Whatever your plans for Thanksgiving, Google can offer some advice: try to avoid driving anywhere the day before. Analysts from the search-engine giant's Google Maps division crunched traffic data from 21 U.S. cities over the past two years and found that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is by far the worst traffic day that week, with some notable exceptions. (In Honolulu, Providence, and San Francisco, the worst traffic is always on Saturday; in Boston, it's Tuesday.) Unfortunately, Wednesday is often the only available travel day for many Americans—but Google thinks they can beat the worst of the traffic if they leave before 2 P.M. or after 7 P.M. on that day. Traffic on Thanksgiving itself is also light, according to the data. When it comes to driving back home, Sunday beats Saturday from a traffic perspective. According to Google Maps' aggregated trends, Americans also seek out "ham shop," "pie shop," and "liquor store" on the day before Thanksgiving, as they rush to secure last-minute items.
Power

Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust 215

Posted by timothy
from the systems-have-momentum-and-context dept.
the_newsbeagle writes In 2007, Google boldly declared a new initiative to invent a green energy technology that produced cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants. Sure, energy researchers had been hammering at this task for decades, but Google hoped to figure it out in a few years. They didn't. Instead, Google admitted defeat and shut down the project in 2011. In a admirable twist, however, two of the project's engineers then dedicated themselves to learning from the project's failure. What did it mean that one of the world's most ambitious and capable innovation companies couldn't invent a cheap renewable energy tech?
Communications

WhatsApp To Offer End-to-End Encryption 93

Posted by timothy
from the trend-worth-extending dept.
L-One-L-One (173461) writes In a surprise move, nine months after being bought by Facebook, WhatsApp has begun rolling out end-to-end encryption for its users. With true end-to-end encryption data becomes unaccessible to admins of WhatsApp or law enforcement authorities. This new feature first proposed on Android only has been developed in cooperation with Open Whisper Systems, based on TextSecure. With hundreds of million users, WhatsApp becomes by far the largest secure messaging application. FBI Director James Comey might not be pleased. Do you have a current favorite for encrypted online chat?
The Almighty Buck

Blowing On Money To Tell If It Is Counterfeit 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the huff-and-puff dept.
HughPickens.com writes Scientific American reports that simply breathing on money could soon reveal if it's the real deal or counterfeit thanks to a photonic crystal ink developed by Ling Bai and Zhongze Gu and colleagues at Southeast University in Nanjing, China that can produce unique color changing patterns on surfaces with an inkjet printer system which would be extremely hard for fraudsters to reproduce. The ink mimics the way Tmesisternus isabellae – a species of longhorn beetle – reversibly switches its color from gold to red according to the humidity in its environment. The color shift is caused by the adsorption of water vapor in their hardened front wings, which alters the thickness and average refractive index of their multilayered scales. To emulate this, the team made their photonic crystal ink using mesoporous silica nanoparticles, which have a large surface area and strong vapor adsorption capabilities that can be precisely controlled. The complicated and reversible multicolor shifts of mesoporous CPC patterns are favorable for immediate recognition by naked eyes but hard to copy. "We think the ink's multiple security features may be useful for antifraud applications," says Bai, "however we think the technology could be more useful for fabricating multiple functional sensor arrays, which we are now working towards."
Yahoo!

Firefox Signs Five-Year Deal With Yahoo, Drops Google as Default Search Engine 382

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-couple dept.
mpicpp writes with news that Yahoo will soon become the default search engine in Firefox. Google's 10-year run as Firefox's default search engine is over. Yahoo wants more search traffic, and a deal with Mozilla will bring it. In a major departure for both Mozilla and Yahoo, Firefox's default search engine is switching from Google to Yahoo in the United States. "I'm thrilled to announce that we've entered into a five-year partnership with Mozilla to make Yahoo the default search experience on Firefox across mobile and desktop," Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer said in a blog post Wednesday. "This is the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years." The change will come to Firefox users in the US in December, and later Yahoo will bring that new "clean, modern and immersive search experience" to all Yahoo search users. In another part of the deal, Yahoo will support the Do Not Track technology for Firefox users, meaning that it will respect users' preferences not to be tracked for advertising purposes. With millions of users who perform about 100 billion searches a year, Firefox is a major source of the search traffic that's Google's bread and butter. Some of those searches produce search ads, and Mozilla has been funded primarily from a portion of that revenue that Google shares. In 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, that search revenue brought in the lion's share of Mozilla's $311 million in revenue.
Hardware

CMI Director Alex King Talks About Rare Earth Supplies (Video) 27

Posted by Roblimo
from the we're-talking-about-minerals-not-the-band dept.
CMI in this context is the Critical Materials Institute at the Iowa State Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. They have partners from other national laboratories, universities, and industry, too. Rare earths, while not necessarily as rare as the word "rare" implies, are hard to mine, separate, and use. They are often found in parts per million quantities, so it takes supercomputers to suss out which deposits are worth going after. This is what Dr. King and his coworkers spend their time doing; finding concentrations of rare earths that can be mined and refined profitably.

On November 3 we asked you for questions to put to Dr. King. Timothy incorporated some of those questions into the conversation in this video -- and tomorrow's video too, since we broke this into two parts because, while the subject matter may be fascinating, we are supposed to hold video lengths down to around 10 minutes, and in this case we still ended up with two videos close to 15 minutes each. And this stuff is important enough that instead of lining up a list of links, we are giving you one link to Google using the search term "rare earths." Yes, we know Rare Earth would be a great name for a rock band. But the mineral rare earths are important in the manufacture of items from strong magnets to touch screens and rechargeable batteries. (Alternate Video Link)
Cloud

Microsoft Azure Outage Across the Globe 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-you-should-call-it-office364 dept.
hawkinspeter writes: The BBC reports that overnight an outage of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform took down many third-party sites that rely on it, in addition to disrupting Microsoft's own products. Office 365 and Xbox Live services were affected.

This happened at a particularly inopportune time, as Microsoft has recently been pushing its Azure services in an effort to catch up with other providers such as Amazon, IBM, and Google. Just a couple of hours previously, Microsoft had screened an Azure advert in the UK during the Scotland v. England soccer match."
(Most services are back online. As of this writing, Application Insights is still struggling, and Europe is having problems with hosted VMs.)
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 428

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Chrome

Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-over-the-hill dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google today released Chrome 39 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The biggest addition in this release is 64-bit support for OS X, which first arrived in Chrome 38 beta. Unlike on Windows, where 32-bit and 64-bit versions will both continue to be available (users currently have to opt-in to use the 64-bit release), Chrome for Mac is now only available in 64-bit. There are also a number of security fixes and developer features. Here's the full changelog.
Android

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop Update Performance Explored 57

Posted by timothy
from the stats-and-figures dept.
MojoKid writes Last week, NVIDIA offered information regarding its Android Lollipop update for the SHIELD Tablet and also revealed a new game bundle for it. This week, NVIDIA gave members of the press early access to the Lollipop update and it will also be rolling out to the general public sometime later today. Some of the changes are subtle, but others are more significant and definitely give the tablet a different look and feel over the original Android KitKat release. Android Lollipop introduces a new "material design" that further flattens out the look of the OS. Google seems to have taken a more minimalist approach as everything from the keyboard to the settings menus have been cleaned up considerably. Many parts of the interface don't have any markings except for the absolute necessities. While the OS definitely feels more fluid and responsive, the default look isn't always better, depending on your personal view. The app tray for example has a plain, white background which looks kind of jarring if you've using a colorful background. And finding the proper touch points for things like a settings menu or clearing notifications isn't always clear. Performance-wise, NVIDIA's Shield Tablet showed significantly better performance on Lollipop for general compute tasks in benchmarks like Mobile XPRT but lagged behind Kit Kat in graphics performance slightly, which could be attributed to driver optimization.
Google

Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech 137

Posted by timothy
from the hey-man-it's-what-we-feel-about-those-results dept.
wabrandsma writes with this news from Ars Technica: The regulation of Google's search results has come up from time to time over the past decade, and although the idea has gained some traction in Europe (most recently with "right to be forgotten" laws), courts and regulatory bodies in the U.S. have generally agreed that Google's search results are considered free speech. That consensus was upheld last Thursday, when a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Google's right to order its search results as it sees fit.

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