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Archive for May, 2012

Andromeda On Collision Course With the Milky Way

May 31st, 2012 05:20 admin View Comments

NASA

ananyo writes “From the Nature story: ‘The Andromeda galaxy will collide with the Milky Way about 4 billion years from now, astronomers announced today. Although the Sun and other stars will remain intact, the titanic tumult is likely to shove the Solar System to the outskirts of the merged galaxies. Researchers came to that conclusion after using the Hubble Space Telescope between 2002 and 2010 to painstakingly track the motion of Andromeda as it inched along the sky. Andromeda, roughly 770,000 parsecs (2.5 million light years) away, is the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way.’”

Source: Andromeda On Collision Course With the Milky Way

Fact Checking: Has Mobile Traffic Really Surpassed Desktop in India?

May 31st, 2012 05:39 admin View Comments

One of the most interesting statistics in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends presentation this week was about the Mobile Web. One slide stated that in India, the world’s second largest Internet market, the Mobile Web surpassed the Desktop Web during May 2012. A closer analysis reveals that a) mobile only passed desktop during weekends; and b) India’s mobile stats are vastly different from any other country’s. The global average is only 10% mobile traffic, so has India’s mobile traffic been miscounted?

The extraordinary graph above, from Meeker’s slides and sourced from web traffic monitoring company Statcounter, shows that mobile Internet traffic in India was almost zero in 2009 and the Desktop Internet close to 100%. Just three short years later, mobile traffic edged past desktop traffic. Or at least it did during parts of May 2012.

It turns out you can check these statistics for yourself, on the Statcounter Global Stats website. This shows that although mobile traffic may have surpassed desktop traffic in India on some days during May, on average desktop traffic was still slightly ahead: 51.29% desktop vs. 48.71% mobile.

The daily traffic graph for India in May reveals that mobile Internet overtook desktop only during the weekends. As a Statcounter representative put it, “mobile browsing peaks at weekends, while desktop browsing is more popular during the working week.”

Incidentally, while it’s a bit harder to spot the trend in the following graph, U.S. daily data also shows upward bumps every weekend. So the mobile = weekend trend appears to be a global one.

Why Are India’s Stats So Different To Other Countries?

The main mystery is why India’s mobile traffic statistics are so different from other countries, since the global mobile traffic average is only 10%.

In Japan, which has traditionally been ahead of the curve in mobile, traffic from mobile devices only accounts for 6.4% of its total traffic. In China, it’s 4.18%. In the entire continent of Africa, where mobile phone technology is widely used, it’s 12.96% (the trend line there has actually dipped in 2012, from a high of 19.17% in January). Meanwhile in the United States, the home of the world’s most popular smartphone operating systems iOS and Android, mobile traffic is 9.13% (see graph below).

Faulty Stats?

There has been some suggestion from within India that these statistics aren’t representative.

The argument is that Statcounter’s data is over-represented by mobile Internet early adopters in India. On its Twitter account, Statcounter responded that it tracks over 900 million page views from Indian IPs per month. While it admits that this is only a statistical sampling of total India traffic, Statcounter insists that it is “a large enough statistical sample [to] approximate the real population.”

What’s Behind The Mobile Growth in India?

While I think Statcounter’s data may be a little suspect, I do agree that 900 million is a significant enough sampling to show the trend. Which leads us to question what is behind that trend; and should we pay it much heed?

One answer is from another slide from Mary Meeker, which showed that 3G subscriptions in India grew by 841% over the past year. India now has 39 million 3G subscribers, up from 4 million a year ago. It should be noted that India still trails the U.S., which has 208 million 3G subscribers, by quite a margin. The difference is that India has a much lower market penetration for mobile than the U.S. (4% in India, 64% in the U.S.).

It’s also likely that mobile Internet is more cost efficient and convenient in many parts of India.

The bottom line is that India is still a very young market for mobile Internet. So readers in more mature mobile markets, like the U.S. and Japan, shouldn’t read too much into the India stats. One thing is for sure though, mobile traffic is increasing fast in most countries in the world. Of that statistic, there is no doubt.

Source: Fact Checking: Has Mobile Traffic Really Surpassed Desktop in India?

UN Takeover of Internet Must Be Stopped, US Warns

May 31st, 2012 05:30 admin View Comments

The Internet

benfrog writes “In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle warned this morning that a United Nations summit in December will lead to a virtual takeover of the Internet if proposals from China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are adopted. Called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, the summit would consider proposals including “[using] international mandates to charge certain Web destinations on a ‘per-click’ basis to fund the build-out of broadband infrastructure across the globe” and allowing “”governments to monitor and restrict content or impose economic costs upon international data flows.” Concerns regarding the possible proposals were both aired at a congressional hearing this morning and drafted in a congressional resolution (pdf).”

Source: UN Takeover of Internet Must Be Stopped, US Warns

Apple Releases IOS Security Guide

May 31st, 2012 05:07 admin View Comments

IOS

Trailrunner7 writes in with a story about a iOS security guide released by Apple. “Apple has released a detailed security guide for its iOS operating system, an unprecedented move for a company known for not discussing the technical details of its products, let alone the security architecture. The document lays out the system architecture, data protection capabilities and network security features in iOS, most of which had been known before but hadn’t been publicly discussed by Apple. The iOS Security guide, released within the last week, represents Apple’s first real public documentation of the security architecture and feature set in iOS, the operating system that runs on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Security researchers have been doing there best to reverse engineer the operating system for several years and much of what’s in the new Apple guide has been discussed in presentations and talks by researchers. ‘Apple doesn’t really talk about their security mechanisms in detail. When they introduced ASLR, they didn’t tell anybody. They didn’t ever explain how codesigning worked,’ security researcher Charlie Miller said.”

Source: Apple Releases IOS Security Guide

Apple Releases IOS Security Guide

May 31st, 2012 05:07 admin View Comments

IOS

Trailrunner7 writes in with a story about a iOS security guide released by Apple. “Apple has released a detailed security guide for its iOS operating system, an unprecedented move for a company known for not discussing the technical details of its products, let alone the security architecture. The document lays out the system architecture, data protection capabilities and network security features in iOS, most of which had been known before but hadn’t been publicly discussed by Apple. The iOS Security guide, released within the last week, represents Apple’s first real public documentation of the security architecture and feature set in iOS, the operating system that runs on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Security researchers have been doing there best to reverse engineer the operating system for several years and much of what’s in the new Apple guide has been discussed in presentations and talks by researchers. ‘Apple doesn’t really talk about their security mechanisms in detail. When they introduced ASLR, they didn’t tell anybody. They didn’t ever explain how codesigning worked,’ security researcher Charlie Miller said.”

Source: Apple Releases IOS Security Guide

Windows 8 Release Preview Shows Improved Media Apps, Same Bipolar Interface

May 31st, 2012 05:01 admin View Comments

Microsoft may be listening to its customers, though the final preview edition of Windows 8 before the product ships this fall indicates that it turned its customers’ volume knob down to about two.

Today’s release, with its improvements to Start screen customizability, shows that Microsoft is at least slightly aware of users’ chief complaints about the two previous Windows 8 previews.  The big customizability option revealed today is a wider range of color scheme choices for the Start Screen.

Now, users may choose a variety of different colors for their Start Screen backgrounds, including brighter reds and oranges, pastels, and combinations of bright colors on grey or charcoal backgrounds.  That’s not exactly the tweaks that some early Windows 8 testers – admittedly, including this one – were hoping for.

But there are improvements, and they’re worth noting.  The previous Consumer Preview had difficulty logging in to some Microsoft Exchange servers.  For business users who keep their email, contacts, and calendars in Exchange, it’s this feature that could very well justify making Windows 8 more similar to Windows Phone 7.

Our freshly installed Release Preview on our test machine did not allow us to keep any of the existing settings we configured in the Consumer Preview, but that may have been just as well.  The Release Preview had a considerably easier time recognizing the existing Windows homegroup in our office.  Because of this, the revised versions of the Metro-style Music, Video, and Photos apps could more quickly connect with media that is not being stored in the cloud.  Connectivity with one’s own local media was, after all, the whole point of adding Libraries to Windows 7 in the first place.

This quick connectivity gives the updated Start screen a bit more life.  More like what was originally advertised last September, the Photos tile rotates with photos in your library, the Mail tile shows the subject line of the most recent item received, and the People app tile rotates the faces of people to whom you frequently send mail.  Ironically, with earlier previews, these tiles would only “come alive” for us when we kept Exchange out of the mix, and when we took Windows 8 out of the homegroup.  With the Release Preview, these beta bugs appear to have been fixed.

Also checked off Microsoft’s to-do list was a reminder to make error messages associated with apps sound something less like an edict of condemnation.  Although one of Windows 8′s prominent “charms” (functional icons pulled up from the right side of the screen) is called “Share,” few Metro-style apps and no Desktop apps have been endowed with the ability to share data with other people or other apps in the network (beyond the typical Clipboard).  In a previous article, for example, I showed how an attempt by a well-meaning though ill-informed user (portrayed by myself, of course) to share data with someone appearing inside the People app was met by the anti-prophecy, “People can’t share.”

That message has since been edited to read, “This app can’t share.”  Elsewhere, other Windows 8 apps that lack the ability to share greet their users with more friendly-sounding messages.  This doesn’t change the fundamental fact, however, that despite the undeniable prominence of a “charm” that conveys a message of sharing all-around, this feature remains a singular link to a concentration of dead-ends.

There remain two modes of operation for applications in Windows 8: the as-yet-unnamed Metro-style world of “apps,” and the conventional Desktop.  Previously, I showed how this dualism leads to the confusing existence of two taskbars: one on the Desktop, and one tucked inside the left side of the screen for Metro apps.  Running apps in the Consumer Preview were represented by thumbnails of the apps’ screens – which, in many cases, didn’t accurately convey their own identities.

Now in the Release Preview, we can see that these thumbnails have now been adorned by titles, making it far easier to recall which Metro apps are running.  From here – just as with applications on the Desktop taskbar – you can right-click a thumbnail (assuming you’re using a mouse, which I’ve recently been told is old fashioned) and from the popup menu, select Close to make that app exit.  You could do this with the Consumer Preview too, but some thumbnails didn’t make it easy for you to know which app you would be exiting.  And when a Metro app hung, as a few did in our tests, exiting this way didn’t seem to work; only the Task Manager could help us there.  The Task Manager, by the way, is a Desktop app, meaning you have to switch to the Desktop to manage Metro.  We’ve only had the Release Preview running for a few hours, and have yet to experience a “hung” Metro app, so we don’t know yet whether this behavior persists.

As we mentioned earlier today, the Windows 8 Release Preview is being offered by Microsoft as an upgrade only.  Thus, if you try to run it from Windows 7 (or Vista), it will begin assessing your existing Windows installation for an upgrade candidate.  Since the Release Preview is a release candidate, we don’t recommend you do this.  If you’ve never installed the Consumer Preview or the first Developer Preview, then although this may seem difficult, and you don’t have access to the Consumer Preview, then we recommend that you install Windows 7 on a separate partition of a different drive (one connected by SATA), and then immediately upgrade it to the Release Preview.  It’s an extra headache, for sure, but it only lasts an hour, which is true of most reality shows anyway.

One very noteworthy addition we saw to the Windows 8 Store (which has a few dozen more items for download now) is the prominent addition of Box.net as a featured app. Windows SkyDrive already comes pre-installed on the Desktop, and is used by default by the Photo app for sharing photos through a cloud-based service. But Box is adding features to its system enabling users of tablets, including iPads, to read and even edit Microsoft Office documents. So the availability of Box as a Metro app not only is a step in the right direction for multi-device users, but a show of graciousness by Microsoft towards one of its more important competitors in the cloud storage field.

Microsoft also made available its Release Candidate for what is now being called (no surprise) Visual Studio 2012, and we’ll let you know more about how it works soon.

Source: Windows 8 Release Preview Shows Improved Media Apps, Same Bipolar Interface

Judge Sides With Google Over Oracle: APIs Were “Fair Use”

May 31st, 2012 05:57 admin View Comments

Oracle has been dealt a final blow in its court case over the use of Java in Android. U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed Oracle’s copyright infringement claim, bringing to an end a dramatic court case that saw Google win in nearly every single important aspect. Oracle has said it will appeal.

The ruling over whether Google violated the structure, sequence and organization (SSO) of 37 copyrighted APIs fell to the hands of Judge Alsup after the jury came to an impasse during the copyright phase of the trial. The jury was asked to determine several questions concerning whether Google had copied code copyrighted by Oracle after it had acquired the Java programming language when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010. The jury did not return a complete verdict, ruling that Google had copied the SSO of the 37 APIs but could not decide whether or not that was considered fair use. 

When viewed as a whole, Oracle lost every significant aspect of the case. The jury found that Google had not infringed on any of Oracle’s patents and was innocent on copyright violations except for nine lines of specific code out of the 15 million lines that constitute the Android mobile operating system. Oracle, which was rumored to be seeking billions of dollars from Google, will now likely only be awarded between $150,000 and $300,000 in statutory copyright damages. 

“The court’s decision upholds the principle that open and interoperable computer languages form an essential basis for software development. It’s a good day for collaboration and innovation,” Google said in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times

Oracle’s stance on the ruling is profound. While many have viewed the database company’s efforts as a pure money grab, Oracle is trying to present itself and the Java community as victims of what it implies is unabashed theft by Google. As a programming language, Java was created by Sun Microsystems in the 1990s as a way to “write once, run every” and designed to supersede the closed system created by Microsoft Windows. Oracle alleges that Google has violated the promise of Java and betrayed the entire development ecosystem that relies on the code. 

“Oracle is committed to the protection of Java as both a valuable development platform and a valuable intellectual property asset. It will vigorously pursue an appeal of this decision in order to maintain that protection and to continue to support the broader Java community of over 9 million developers and countless law abiding enterprises. Google’s implementation of the accused APIs is not a free pass, since a license has always been required for an implementation of the Java Specification,” Oracle stated in am email to technology publication The Verge. “And the court’s reliance on ‘interoperability’ ignores the undisputed fact that Google deliberately eliminated interoperability between Android and all other Java platforms. Google’s implementation intentionally fragmented Java and broke the “write once, run anywhere” promise. This ruling, if permitted to stand, would undermine the protection for innovation and invention in the United States and make it far more difficult to defend intellectual property rights against companies anywhere in the world that simply takes them as their own.”

While Google’s victory in the case is a big win for the company and its Android platform, the legal proceedings are by no means over. Oracle’s eventual appeal will have legs based on both Judge Alsup’s ruling on the fair use aspect and the jury’s split decision over the most important copyright issues. 

 

Source: Judge Sides With Google Over Oracle: APIs Were “Fair Use”

Ask Slashdot: What Type of Asset Would You Not Virtualize?

May 31st, 2012 05:03 admin View Comments

Virtualization

An anonymous reader writes “With IT and Data Center consolidation seemingly happening everywhere our small shop is about to receive a corporate mandate to follow suit and preferably accomplish this via virtualization. I’ve had success with virtualizing low load web servers and other assets but the larger project does intimidate me a little. So I’m wondering: Are there server types, applications and/or assets that I should be hesitant virtualizing today? Are there drawbacks that get glossed over in the rush to consolidate all assets?”

Source: Ask Slashdot: What Type of Asset Would You Not Virtualize?

Judge Rules API’s Can Not Be Copyrighted

May 31st, 2012 05:15 admin View Comments

Google

Asmodae writes “Judge Alsup in the Google vs Oracle case has finally issued his ruling on the issue of whether or not API’s can be copyrighted. That ruling is resounding no. In some fairly clear language the judge says:’a utilitarian and functional set of symbols, each to carry out a pre-assigned function… Duplication of the command structure is necessary for interoperability.’”

Source: Judge Rules API’s Can Not Be Copyrighted

Can Machine Learning Replace Focus Groups?

May 31st, 2012 05:40 admin View Comments

Programming

itwbennett writes “In a blog post, Steve Hanov explains how 20 lines of code can outperform A/B testing. Using an example from one of his own sites, Hanov reports a green button outperformed orange and white buttons. Why don’t people use this method? Because most don’t understand or trust machine learning algorithms, mainstream tools don’t support it, and maybe because bad design will sometimes win.”

Source: Can Machine Learning Replace Focus Groups?

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