SiliconANGLE Extracting the signal from the noise. Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:44:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Uber worth fighting for: Here’s 3 reasons for the protest Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:09:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Uber drivers protest in NYCUber Inc. may be pushing its way into new markets every day with its popular ride-sharing mobile app, but many of its drivers are not happy with the direction in which the San Francisco-based company is heading.

Uber drivers staged protests in several cities yesterday, including San Francisco, Santa Monica, New York City and London, echoing earlier protests staged in September.

Their complaints against Uber include lowered fares, a confusing tipping policy, and what some drivers called an “unfair” five-star rating system.

Lower Fares


What started in New York City as a temporary discount on fares for the summer later turned into a permanently lowered price this year. The company advertised its new fares as “cheaper than a New York taxi,” with fares averaging $2 lower than a standard taxi and as much as $6 lower than previous Uber prices.

In September, one Uber driver said he had been losing $200 a week since the fares were lowered. Another claimed that in addition to driving for Uber, he also had to work for competing driving companies, adding, “You can’t make a living working only for Uber.”

Confusing Tipping Policy


Uber claims that a 20 percent gratuity is included in the fare, but this only applies to its UberTAXI service, not its UberX, UberSUV, or UberBLACK programs. Drivers also complained that they only saw half of that 20 percent gratuity and were forbidden by the company from accepting any additional cash tips from customers, even if those customers insisted.

In December 2013, a federal judge ruled that Uber drivers had the right to sue the company for misleading customers with the tipping policy.

Unfair Rating System


Uber uses a five-star rating system for both drivers and customers, but drivers can be punished with lockout periods or other penalties for dropping below Uber’s 4.7 star standard. Joseph De Wolf Sandoval recalled a one-star review he received for being unwilling to speed or run a red light for a customer.

De Wolf Sandoval noted that while drivers are held to a high rating standard, passengers can still receive service even with only a one-star rating.

Discussing the recent protests, an Uber spokesperson said in a statement: “The group protesting today represents a fraction of all Uber partners; the reality is that thousands of partners are out driving on the platform right now.”

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Google boosts passwords with USB security key, no good for mobile Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:37:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> security lock code dataGoogle Inc. announced a new 2-step verification USB key yesterday that eliminates the need to memorize long, complicated passwords for Google services, while providing better security at the same time.

Google had already offered a 2-step verification process that required both a user password and a unique, time sensitive code that would be sent either by text, voice call, or a mobile app.

With the new USB key, however, users no longer need to enter an additional code. Instead, they simply insert the device into their computer and press a button to unlock a Google site.

In addition to making it easier to log in to tools like Google Docs, Gmail and Google Drive, the USB key also offers better protection against phishing by ensuring that the login site is an authentic Google website before attempting to access it. Google promises: “When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished.”

Two-step verification systems are becoming common as people’s online identities include more and more sensitive information. Even video games are starting to use authentication systems to protect user accounts. Blizzard, the game developer behind World of Warcraft and other popular online games, has the Authenticator, which uses either a key fob or a mobile app to generate a code to access their gaming accounts.

Google notes that the USB key won’t replace the standard password and code combination for all situations. Google said on their blog:

Security Key requires a USB port to work, so it’s not recommended for mobile-only users. [. . .] Security Key does not work on browsers other than Chrome.

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Microsoft/IBM alliance targets Amazon’s cloud dominance Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:27:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]> handshake deal partnership ma merger acquisition paint abstractMutual self-interest can drive even rivals to embrace each other, as IBM and Microsoft have done with a new alliance  that’s aimed at leveling the playing field against infrastructure-as-a-service kingpin Inc. and, to a lesser extent, each other.

The partnership has two primary components. Microsoft will make its core on-premise offerings available on IBM’s public cloud, which is built on the SoftLayer infrastructure IBM acquired for $2 billion last year and which it has been expanding aggressively ever since. Users will be able to purchase licenses for Windows Server and SQL Server running on SoftLayer directly through IBM. This adds an extra degree of convenience that is absolutely essential when the competition – Amazon – is already offering the same.

Even more significantly, IBM will bundle Microsoft’s .NET development framework – which powers practically all Windows applications in the enterprise – into Bluemix, a platform-as-a-service development stack it introduced in March. The integration opens up Bluemix to millions of .NET developers, giving Big Blue access to a massive new market. In exchange, IBM will add improved support for Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor, which has gained considerable ground on VMware Inc.’s market-leading vSphere in recent years.

Microsoft will also add several IBM solutions to the Azure lineup. The list includes a sizable portion – but not all – of the solutions that Big Blue has already made available for Amazon Web Services, including WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ and DB2 database software. The offerings will be available to customers of the infrastructure-as-a-service platform on a pay-per-use basis alongside IBM Pure Application Service for extending on-premise applications running on IBM gear into the public cloud.

Amazon is not giving up its edge so easily, however. The retail giant is countering the partnership with the launch of a hosted directory service that allows customers to import existing profiles from their on-premise repositories, the majority of which are powered by Microsoft software, for a fixed rate. The tool also enables admins to set up brand new directories in the cloud that Amazon says provide most of the functionality available in its rival’s offering, most notably group-based policy enforcement and single sign-on.

Photo credit: AK Rockefeller via photopin cc
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These Kinect apps now available for Windows 8 and 8.1 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:56:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Kinect-Adapter-KitMicrosoft Corp. has just come up with a new fixture for Windows 8 and 8.1, reiterating the software giant’s desire to unify its platforms. Xbox One owners with a Kinect will now be able to connect to their PC or tablet with a new adapter, for what we think is the pretty lean price of $49.99. What’s more, developers can now use the Widows Store to release Kinect apps using the Widows software development kit 2.0.

Scott Evans, the partner director of program management in Microsoft’s Operating System Group, explained that Microsoft’s Xbox One sensor goes for $149.99, while Kinect for Windows is $199.99. This means consumers can now have the Xbox One with the adapter for the same price as the Kinect for Windows sensor. Evans goes on to say that the new development is “super-accessible” from a consumer’s point of view, and that connecting the Xbox One to your PC using the new adapter, will be “seamless”.

The adapter won’t make it possible for Xbox One users to play games on their PCs. However, Microsoft is allowing developers to deploy Kinect-enabled Windows apps in the Windows Store. Alex Kipman of Microsoft wrote about the new development in a blog post yesterday:

“This was a frequent request from the community and we are delighted to enable you to bring more personal computing experiences that feature gesture control, body tracking, and object recognition to Windows customers around the world. Access to the Windows Store opens a whole new marketplace for business and consumer experiences.”

Already available in the Windows Store are the following Kinect for Windows apps:

• YAKiT: An app from Seattle startup Freak n’ Genius that allows people without design expertise to animate 2D or 3D characters in real time.
• Nayi Disha: Series of interactive apps for early childhood education that gets kids up on their feet and learning through movement.
• 3D Builder: An app that enables anyone to scan a person or object, turn it into a 3D model, and create a 3D print of that model.

Image via Microsoft
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Ubuntu Server 14.10 adds new features for OpenStack & containers Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:22 +0000 Continue reading ]]> logo-ubuntu_st_no®-black_orange-hexCanonical has just shipped Utopic Unicorn, the latest version of its Ubuntu Server operating system. And while it isn’t quite the Promised Land of operating systems that the name suggests (there are no unicorns either), it does come with support for Docker containers, the latest iteration of OpenStack, and a bunch of other refreshed features aimed at hyperscale deployments.

The IT world is crazy about containers these days, and Ubuntu 14.10 is happy to follow the crowd with support for Docker v1.2, as well as LXC containers, embedded inside. With previous editions of Ubuntu Server, containers could only be created by sysadmins with root access. But now LXC containers are getting a new user-level controller, which means users can do so too. This means that developers will be able to launch as many containers as they wish to test different tiers of code in their apps.

Ubuntu Server 14.10 also comes with Juno update of OpenStack, which itself was released just last week. Key components like Cinder, Ceilometer, Glance, Heat, Horizon, Nova and Swift have all been refreshed, while the new OpenStack setup includes options for installing Hadoop and Apache Spark on virtual machines running atop OpenStack. Juno also offers more granular policy controls for object storage as well as support for network function virtualization (NFV), which was introduced to satisfy the telecommunications industry.

Also on the management front, Ubuntu’s Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) tool to help run Ubuntu on bare metal servers has been updated to version 1.7. Now, it’s not only capable of deploying Ubuntu Server instances, but also instances of CentOS 6.X, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3, and Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2.

Pivotal Lab’s Cloud Foundry software has also been integrated into Ubuntu Server 14.10. While its still just a beta feature, users can deploy and scale Cloud Foundry on Ubuntu using its orchestration tool Juju. Juju Charms define applications as services, and the Cloud Foundry charm allows users to deploy a Cloud Foundry PaaS on cloud infrastructure or on bare-metal servers using MAAS.

Admittedly Ubuntu 14.10 has a fairly minimal new feature list, but that’s a reflection of what Canonical is trying to achieve. Whereas it once used to focus on making Ubuntu the most user-friendly operating system around, these days Canonical seems more interested in marketing it as the best OS for running other kinds of open-source software efficiently and easily. That’s why there’s so much focus on orchestration tools like Juju, and it also explains why Canonical offers OpenStack training courses to familiarize people with using Ubuntu as a foundation for their OpenStack clouds.

It might not be so exciting for adherents of a free software utopia, but it’s just the kind of thing that organizations looking to run open-source apps on a low-cost platform might like.

Ubuntu Server 14.10 is available for download now, while a more detailed look at the new specs and features can be found here.

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With Fabric, Twitter wants to be developers’ new best friend Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:15:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> twitter fabricAt Flight on October 22, their first developer conference in four years, Twitter announced an app development platform called Fabric. Twitter is aiming to become the first stop for developers wanting to build or improve their mobile app. They will also be hoping to get back into the good graces of the app developers after their 2012 decision to tighten rules around apps that plug into the social-media service.

The tools available in Fabric will make it easier for developers to build apps, but Twitter will also be hoping to open up additional revenue streams. Developers will get the free tools and in exchange will hopefully be inclined to provide Twitter with a spot within their app, thus allowing Twitter to grow its ad presence across the more than 2 million apps found in Apple and Google.

Fabric is made up of three kits that will address some of the most universal challenges facing app developers. These are stability, distribution, and revenue and identity.

The Crashlytics kit will allow developers to track any app crashes, analyse app usage and beta distribution. Crashytics is able to detect a crash quickly and isolate the root cause of the crash down to the exact line of code. Developers spend less time on debugging and more time developing apps.

The Twitter kit includes three new products, Native Tweet embeds, Tweet composer, and Sign in with Twitter. Native Tweet embeds will allow developers to embed tweets into an app with a few simple lines of code. Tweet composer will allow app users to instantly share important moments in an app (game score, fitness milestone, etc.) to their Twitter followers.

Also forming part of the Twitter Kit is Digits, which will allow app users to sign-in using their phone number. No longer will users be required to sign in using Facebook, Twitter or be required to remember complex passwords.

The MoPub Kit is all about revenue, and how developers can integrate advertising into their apps. MoPub will support all major ad formats, including video, banners, and native ads.

Twitter is not alone in its aim to expand beyond its origins. Last year, Facebook bought app development service Parse. Since then they have launched App Links, which helps apps talk to each other.

Fabric will be available to developers in the next few weeks, with Digits available immediately in 216 countries and in 28 languages.

photo credit: @Twitter via photopin cc
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Microsoft promises enterprise-grade security features for Windows 10 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:00:32 +0000 Continue reading ]]> small__189771701Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to entice enterprises to adopt its up-and-coming Windows 10 operating system with a range of new security features that will be built into the final release.

The plans were discussed in a lengthy blog post by Jim Alkove from the Microsoft Windows enterprise program management team. Alkove said Microsoft is particularly worried about the rise in enterprise security breaches seen around the world and is determined to make Windows 10 much more resistant to attackers. More than 500 million credit card accounts have been compromised due to security breaches this year alone.

“In a couple of recent cases, hackers infiltrated Fortune 500 companies using stolen usernames and passwords, which gave them access to point-of-sale systems and the credit card data being processed with them,” wrote Alkove.

Microsoft is fighting back with three new security features. The first is a multi-factor authentication option that enables companies to choose between using standard passwords only, or a combination of password and PIN, or password and biometric authentication. Two-factor access controls significantly raise the barriers to entry. Another option is to use a mobile device in the second stage of the process by connecting the device to a PC via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth prior to login.

Up next is a data separation solution built-in to Windows 10 that does the job of keeping corporate and personal data apart from one another on the same machine. This feature, which debuted in the first preview build of Windows 10, also provides for all corporate apps, content, files and emails to be encrypted automatically by default. Windows Phone users will also be able to access protected documents via their smartphones.

The third security enhancement is the introduction of a signing service provided by Microsoft that whitelists trusted apps to protect against threats like malware. According to Alkove, “Access to the signing service will be controlled using a vetting process similar to how we control ISV publishing access to the Windows Store and the devices themselves will be locked down by the OEM.”

This should help to protect Windows 10 devices from unauthorized access, as IT security teams will be able to designate which apps can be installed on which devices.

According to Alkove, this is just the beginning. His team will have much more to share on the security side as Windows 10’s development progresses. The operating system won’t become generally available until mid 2015 at the earliest, which means Microsoft has some time to iron out the kinks.

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Skyscanner buys Distinction, says the future of travel booking is in mobile Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:45:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> skyscannerSkyscanner, a veteran in the travel search market, has acquired Distinction a mobile app development company based in Budapest. The 30-strong team of web developers and designers will continue to be based in Budapest and will form Skyscanner’s new mobile hub. The acquisition sees Skyscanner bringing mobile app development in-house. Distinction recently received 1st place in the Rising Star category in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, Central Europe report 2014.

Skyscanner and Distinction have an existing working relationship that dates back to 2011. A couple of years back, Distinction helped build Skyscanner’s Window’s 8 flight search. More recently in August the two companies worked together to develop Skyscanner’s iOS and Android hotel app.

Skyscanner has received more than 30 million downloads for its various apps, which are available in more than 30 languages.

Skyscanner’s Co-founder and CEO, commented “The future of online travel booking is undoubtedly mobile. More and more of travellers’ plans are made on the move and that is accelerating fast.

The team at Distinction, led by Bálint Orosz and Akos Kapui, are some of the best app developers that I’ve ever come across. In working closely with them on the design of our hotel app, we saw how focused they were on the user experience. They have built a fantastic company with a great culture and, as part of our combined team, will focus on creating the mobile travel assistant that future travellers will need.”

In August, Skyscanner announced that it was creating 250 new jobs as it looks to boost its international growth over the next 12 months. In June, Skyscanner bought Chinese travel search start-up Youbibi. Skyscanner received an investment from Sequoia Capital in October 2013. The amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed; however, it came at an astounding valuation of Skyscanner of $800 million.

photo credit: Mark Wheadon via photopin cc
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Google launches ‘Inbox’ –and it looks like the future of email Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:30:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Google InboxThis could be the future of email. Google Inc. have announced on their official Gmail Blog the launch of a new email app called ‘Inbox’. The search giant invigorated webmail with the launch of Gmail back in 2004, and now they’re doing it all again with Inbox. From the official blog post: “Inbox is by the same people who brought you Gmail, but it’s not Gmail: it’s a completely different type of inbox, designed to focus on what really matters”.

Google Inbox is a free mobile app, currently only available by invitation, that promises to organize that over-crowded inbox of yours.

Some of the app’s features include ‘Bundles’, which will take all similar messages, group them together and automatically highlight important information such as flight itineraries. Users can also customize it accordingly.

The ‘Highlights’ feature brings important emails front and center. The app will even pull in information from the web that it deems useful, like tracking information for a package.

Users can also set ‘Reminders’ that will obviously remind them about various tasks. In addition there is ‘Assists’ which works with reminders to provide additional information (like attaching a map to a restaurant reservation confirmation email or real-time statuses on a flight). The Snooze feature will allow you to dismiss them temporarily.  The integration of Google Now into the app lets you set your own reminders that will appear at a specific time, or when you are in a specific place.

Google’s Material Design, the visual design set to debut with Lollipop, comes across strongly in Inbox.

Currently the app is available by invitation only, however you can receive an invite by emailing Inbox will run on Android, iOS and the web. It is said that a tablet version and support for other browsers is currently being worked on.

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Lufthansa quits computers, outsources IT operations to IBM Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:15:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> small__5880472625Who says IT outsourcing is dead? IBM just bagged its biggest new customer of the year in the form of German flagship air carrier Lufthansa AG. The airline agreed to sell its IT services division to IBM, which will run it on a contract basis for at least the next seven years.

The deal follows Lufthansa’s decision to break up its Lufthansa Systems subsidiary, which has three separate divisions for Infrastructure, Airline Solutions and Industry Solutions. The infrastructure division will be sold, while the other two will remain with Lufthansa but operate as independent companies.

Lufthansa said it will be able to focus on doing what it does best – flying airplanes – while reducing its IT costs by about 70 million euros ($88.6 million) annually.  The deal is subject to “final negotiations”, but is likely to be concluded soon.

Outsourcing its IT operations to IBM “will directly improve our cost base and allows access to the latest IT technologies, which we will use to continue digitizing our business processes in order to increase efficiency and customer focus,” said Lufthansa’s chief financial officer Simone Menne. “This will also give the employees of the infrastructure division clear job prospects and enable them to participate in future technological developments,” Menne said.

The majority of Lufthansa Systems Infrastructure’s 1,400-strong workforce will transfer to IBM as part of the deal, the companies added.

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