Saturday, July 14, 2012

Apple returns to environmental ratings list

NEW YORK (AP) â€" Apple Inc. said Friday that it is putting its products back on an environmental ratings registry, saying it made a mistake in removing them from the list.

The Cupertino, Calif., company said all of its eligible products are back on the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool registry, and says it looks forward to working with EPEAT, the nonprofit organization that runs the registry.

Apple told EPEAT that it was withdrawing its products from the list on June 29, and said it did not plan to submit its products for ratings in the future.

The list is considered an industry standard and it helps customers buy electronics that are environmentally friendly. Some municipalities also use it to guide their decisions in buying electronics.

In a letter posted on Apple's website, Bob Mansfield, its senior vice president of hardware engineering, said the company "heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed" the company had removed its products from the system.

"I recognize that this was a mistake," he wrote.

After Apple's previous announcement, the city of San Francisco said it would stop buying Apple computers.

Shares of Apple rose $7.66, or 1.3 percent, to $606.56 in afternoon trading.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yahoo investigating reported mass password breach

LONDON (AP) â€" Yahoo Inc. said Thursday it is investigating reports of a security breach that may have exposed nearly half a million users' email addresses and passwords.

The company said it was looking into "claims of a compromise of Yahoo! user IDs" but did not disclose the size of the reported breach or how it may have happened. Yahoo's Head of U.K. Consumer PR Caroline MacLeod-Smith said that she couldn't immediately provide any more detail on the breach "as we are still investigating it."

Technology news websites including CNET, Ars Technica, and Mashable cited hackers calling themselves the D33D Company as claiming responsibility for the attack, adding that data posted to the group's website carried more than 453,000 login credentials from an unidentified Yahoo subdomain.

The little-known group was quoted as saying that they had stolen the passwords using an SQL injection â€" the name given to a commonly-used attack in which hackers use rogue commands to extract data from vulnerable websites.

"We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call," the group was quoted as saying.

A Ukraine-registered website associated with D33D Company appeared to be unreachable Thursday; an email address and a phone number attributed to the site's registrant appeared to be invalid.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'Hulu for magazines' hits the iPad

(CNN) -- Back in April, a company called Next Issue Media launched its digital-magazine app. A joint venture of five big publishers -- Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp and TIME's owner, Time Inc. -- it bundled a bunch of famous publications into a single app with all-you-can-read pricing.

If nothing else, it was an intriguing idea. But at the time, it was only available for Android tablets running Android 3.0, and so my reaction was, in large part, "this'll get more interesting once it's on the iPad."

And now it is. Next Issue has released an iPad version of its app; the company recently briefed me on the new version and gave me early access to it.

Next Issue currently offers 39 titles, including many of the biggies from the founding publishers -- such as "Bon Appetit," "Car and Driver," "Esquire," "Fortune," "Golf," "The New Yorker," "People," "Popular Mechanics," "Sports Illustrated," "TIME," "Vogue" and "Wired" -- but not all of them. (For instance, Condé Nast's "Details" and Hearst's "Woman's Day" are MIA.) No publications from other companies, such as "Businessweek," "The Economist" and "National Geographic," are currently offered.

On the iPad, the app competes with Apple's Newsstand, a built-in iOS feature which features the same magazines with the same presentation (including multimedia extras such as video clips, and downsides such as lack of support for the new iPad's Retina display) Newsstand also has many more titles, plus newspapers. It can also download new issues in the background, a feature which Next Issue lacks. (Apple doesn't provide Next Issue, or any third-party app, with the ability to do such useful behind-the-scenes downloads.)

So why would you read magazines in Next Issue's app rather than Newsstand? Two reasons.

One is that Next Issue's app is, indeed, one app. Newsstand isn't an app -- instead, it's essentially a glorified folder that loosely aggregates individual magazine apps. Jumping between, say, "TIME," "The New Yorker" and "Popular Mechanics" involves hopping between three apps with three different user interfaces.

In Next Issue, there's one consistent interface for browsing and managing issues. You can specify how many magazines you want to keep on your iPad at any one time, and it'll automatically delete old issues to make room for new ones. (You can always re-download old ones, or pin specific issues so they don't get nuked.) Some of the specifics of how you navigate particular titles vary a bit -- in "Vanity Fair," for instance, you tap on photos to see their captions -- but overall, it's a much more cohesive experience than Newsstand.

The fact that the app can't download new issues in the background turns out to be a downside, but not an overwhelming flaw. When you open an issue for the first time, it takes a few seconds to download an "index," then lets you start reading before the entire issue is downloaded. As long as the app is open, it continues to download content in the background.

Next Issue's second distinctive feature is its pricing. Just as in Newsstand, you can subscribe to individual titles, buy single issues and, if you're a print subscriber, get digital issues that you're entitled to receive. But you can also pay one flat fee for unlimited access to multiple magazines.

Actually, there are two flat fees: $9.99 a month gets you all 34 available titles with less-than-weekly frequency, from "All You" to "Wired." $14.99 a month gets you those, plus the five weeklies ("Entertainment Weekly," "People," "Sports Illustrated," "The New Yorker" and, ahem, "TIME"). You can "subscribe" to as many of the titles you pay for as you want, or sample individual issues. If an article is in a magazine that's among Next Media's offerings, there's no reason not to read it.

Whether those prices -- basically, either $120 a year or $180 a year -- are a bargain depends on your perspective, whether you'd be paying for digital magazines if Next Issue didn't exist and the percentage of its 39 titles which appeal to you. If you're actually paying for multiple digital magazines on an individual basis, it's not hard to meet or exceed the cost of Next Issue: "People" alone, for instance, is $110 a year, and "The New Yorker" is $60. Pooling your magazine monies into a Next Issue subscription could make sense pretty quickly, and would also get you access to additional magazines you'd either read not at all or as individual issues bought off either Apple's Newsstand or a real-world one.

If the digital magazines you're paying for aren't among Next Issue's 39 titles, the math quickly falls apart. (At least for now -- the company says it plans to add more titles, including ones from additional publishers.)

Of course, relatively few people are springing for multiple digital magazine subscriptions at all. If you do most of your reading on the web, where there's an infinite amount of great stuff available for free -- including some of the content in these magazines -- $120 is almost certainly going to sound pricey, and $180 only more so.

It's tempting to want Next Issue to be something that will make magazine lovers out of people who have drifted away from magazines, or never got into them in the first place. If it were radically cheaper -- for instance, if it matched Netflix and Hulu Plus's $7.99/month price -- it might.

With the current price points, though, I think that its real audience is people who are already voracious readers of big-name magazines in either dead-tree or digital form, or both. The iPad app will let these folks read a lot of them in one place, and might help them discover some great journalism in publications they'd otherwise ignore. For that reason, I'm glad it's here -- even if it's more likely to fill a niche than change the game, at least with the current pricing and title lineup.

(Additional full disclosure, just in case: "TIME" publisher Time Inc. is a partner in Next Issue Media.)

This article originally appeared on Next Issue's 'Hulu for magazines' hits the iPad

Source: Google to pay $22.5M fine in privacy case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â€" Google is poised to pay a $22.5 million fine to resolve allegations that it broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking millions of Web surfers who rely on Apple's Safari browser, according to a person familiar with settlement.

The person who spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday asked not to be identified because the fine has yet to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees online privacy issues in the U.S.

If approved by the FTC's five commissioners, the $22.5 million penalty would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a single company.

Even so, the fine won't cause Google Inc. much financial pain. With $49 billion in the bank, the Internet's search and advertising leader is expected to generate revenue this year of about $46 billion, which means the company should bring in enough money to cover the fine in slightly more than four hours.

But the circumstances surrounding the case may renew questions about the sincerity of Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto and raise doubts about the company's credibility as it grapples with broader regulatory investigations into whether it has been abusing its influential position on the Internet to stifle competition.

"We do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users," Google said in a statement Tuesday. The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., emphasized the tracking technology inserted into the Safari browser didn't collect any personal information.

Google will not acknowledge any wrongdoing under the proposed settlement, according to the person familiar with the terms.

The FTC declined to comment Tuesday.

The proposed settlement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The FTC opened its investigation five months ago after a researcher at Stanford University published a study revealing that Google Inc. had overridden Safari safeguards that are supposed to prevent outside parties from monitoring Web surfing activity without a user's permission.

The tracking occurs through snippets of computer coding, known as "cookies," that help Internet services and advertisers target marketing pitches based on an analysis of the interests implied by a person's Web surfing activity.

Google immediately withdrew its intrusive technology from Safari after the manipulation was reported.

But the circumvention of Apple's built-in settings appeared to contradict a statement in Google's online help center assuring users of Safari on personal computers, iPhones and iPad that they didn't need to do anything more to ensure their online activities wouldn't be logged by Google.

The apparent contradiction between Google's words and actions became the focal point of the FTC investigation. That's because Google late last year had settled with the agency on another privacy case revolving around a now-defunct service, called Buzz, that exposed people's email contacts when it debuted in early 2010.

The uproar over Buzz culminated in Google signing a 20-year consent decree that, among other things, included a company pledge not to mislead consumers about its privacy practices.

Each violation of the decree is subject to a daily fine of $16,000. The penalty in the proposed settlement of the Safari case doesn't appear to be based on that formula, given that millions of people were using the browser for about four months between the time the Google signed the consent degree in October and the unauthorized tracking ceased in February.

By demanding that Google pay a record amount, the FTC may be trying to send a message that it intends to be more vigilant about privacy missteps as people conduct more of their lives online. The agency has been pushing Internet services and advertisers to voluntarily agree to refrain from tracking Web surfers' activities without prior permission, but those calls so far haven't been universally embraced.

Google's fine would surpass a nearly $19 million penalty that the FTC slapped on a telemarketer accused of duping people into believing they were donating to charities.

The FTC's contention that Google reneged on its vow to be more forthright about its privacy practices comes at a time when the company is immersed in other government probes around the world that threaten to have a bigger impact on its business.

Just last week, Google submitted a proposal aimed at satisfying European regulators who have been investigating whether the company is unfairly highlighting its own services in its Internet search results while burying links to rival sites. The details of Google's settlement offer haven't been revealed.

The FTC is also examining many of the same issues under scrutiny in the European probe. Although that case is a separate matter, it may have swayed Google's decision to settle the Safari privacy probe instead of defending its actions in court against the same agency in charge of the higher-stakes antitrust investigation.

Google has insisted its circumvention of Safari's anti-tracking tools was inadvertent. The company has traced the mistake to changes Apple Inc. made to Safari in 2010. Google engineers weren't aware of the Safari revision, resulting in the unintended tracking of Web surfers when the company only meant to make a minor tweak so people could press a button to show they liked an ad or Web page. The mix-up caused a conflict with the statement on Google's help page, according to Google.

"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy," Google said in its Tuesday statement.

Google initially sought to brush off another breach of privacy as a lapse of its internal controls, only to have regulators later present evidence that that company may have known more about the snooping than it divulged.

When Google revealed in that company cars dispatched to photograph neighborhood streets had collected emails, search requests and other personal information transmitted over Internet routers unprotected by passwords, the company blamed a rogue engineer who had written a snooping program. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission released a report that concluded the engineer had told a senior manager at Google and other company employees about the data-collecting software.

The FCC didn't find any evidence that Google broke the law, but fined the company $25,000 for obstructing its investigation.

The FTC's proposed fine in the Safari case was applauded by Consumer Watchdog, a frequent critic of Google's privacy practices.

The penalty "sends a strong message about the seriousness of Google's wanton and egregious privacy violation," said John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's privacy project.

An industry think tank, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, defended Google and warned the FTC's crackdown may discourage other companies from sharing more information about their privacy policies.

"Unfortunately the FTC's proposed settlement shows that the FTC is focusing its limited resources on penalizing companies for unintentional actions that do not result in any actual user harm rather than directing these resources at cases where users suffer real harm or companies intentionally tried to mislead users," Daniel Castro, an analyst for the group, wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

6 Konsep Ponsel Android Futuristik

Para desainer kerap menciptakan konsep ponsel yang sangat menarik. Salah satunya yang berbasis sistem operasi Android, OS yang saat ini tengah naik daun.

Di atas kertas, konsep tersebut terlihat mengagumkan. Hanya saja, sebagian konsep tampaknya masih butuh waktu cukup lama untuk benar-benar dibuat, apalagi dipasarkan. Karena teknologinya pun mungkin belum ada.

Berikut beberapa konsep ponsel Android yang terlihat futuristik dan keren
1. Flip

Konsep ponsel ini dirancang oleh desainer bernama Kristian Ulrich Larsen. Keren memang. Flip dikonsep punya tiga buah layar yang menjalankan sistem operasi Android. Tiga buah layar tersebut dirancang fleksibel.

Maka ketika direntangkan, bisa difungsikan seperti tablet karena layarnya menjadi luas. Ada keyboard yang tersembunyi di salah satu panel belakangnya. Meski kelihatannya sukar diwujudkan, konsep Flip ini dinilai lumayan bagus.

2. Sekilas
  Smartphone bernama Glance ini sengaja didesain bagi mereka yang senang menggunakan jeans ketat. Di bagian ujungnya, ada bagian menonjol dengan atasnya berupa layar.

Nah, layar di bagian tersebut bisa menampilkan notifikasi email, telepon, sms dan sebagainya. Jadi, pengguna tidak perlu repot mengeluarkan ponsel dari saku jeans yang sempit untuk sekadar tahu siapa yang menghubungi. Cukup melihat dari layar yang menyembul tersebut.

3. Nexus Telepon
  Tim desain di Ciccarese Design coba mengadirkan konsep ponsel Google Nexus. Hasilnya adalah sebuah ponsel yang sangat tipis dengan layar lebar dan sistem operasi Android Ice Cream Sandwich yang sudah dikustomisasi.

Layarnya memang lebar sampai tepian ponsel agak tidak terlihat. Apakah Google berminat mengadopsi desain seperti ini?

4. BoPhone
  Konsep ponsel BoPhone coba mendesain ponsel Samsung dengan desain langsing. Dipadukan dengan teknologi audio mantap dari produsen kenamaan, Bang & Olufsen.

Handset tersebut juga dibekali dengan perangkat speaker khusus dari Bang & Olufsen yang berdesain cantik dan suara nendang. Tentunya, semua ini masih sebatas konsep.

5. Surga Galaxy
  Samsung diketahui sedang mengembangkan teknologi layar Amoled fleksibel. Tim desain dari Yanko Design mencoba membuat konsep desain Galaxy Heaven ini atau yang juga disebut sebagai Galaxy Skin.

Konsep desain ini memang keren di mana ponsel bisa ditekuk-tekuk dengan mudah tanpa mengalami kerusakan. Apakah akan segera diwujudkan?

 6. Aston Martin CTP002
  Konsep ponsel transparan ala produsen mobil kenamaan Aston Martin ini memang terlihat cukup mengagumkan. Begitu difungsikan, dapat beroperasi seperti ponsel Android pada umumnya di mana menu-menu langsung tampil di layarnya.

Agaknya, ponsel semacam ini masih butuh waktu sangat lama untuk diwujudkan. Jadi untuk sementara cukup menikmati konsep gambarnya terlebih dahulu.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BlackBerry marketing head undeterred by share loss

NEW YORK (AP) â€" The new marketing chief for BlackBerry smartphones isn't dejected by perceptions that his products look ancient next to iPhones and Android devices.

Frank Boulben is four weeks into his job as chief marketing officer for Research in Motion Ltd. He promises to impress people when phones running the company's new BlackBerry 10 software are released in early 2013, at least a year later than analysts had expected.

He told The Associated Press in a Monday interview that RIM will tout features that current devices lack. That includes better ways to run multiple programs at once.

But touting new features is just part of the challenge. BlackBerry devices will be handicapped because, compared with rivals, they have fewer games, utilities and other apps available to extend the phones' functionality.