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FIDO Pursues Vision of a Password-Free World
December 17, 2014
A group of some 150 companies last week moved closer to eliminating the bane of many an online user: the ubiquitous password. The FIDO Alliance, which counts among its members Microsoft, PayPal, Google, Bank of America, Visa and MasterCard, released version 1.0 of its open specifications for strong authentication on the Internet without the use of passwords.
Google's Cardboard VR Kit Is Really No Joke
December 17, 2014
Google last week announced an updated app for its minimalist Cardboard virtual-reality viewer, as well as software development kits for both Android and the Unity game engine. It also published new building specifications for those interested in making their own Cardboard viewers and announced that it's hiring more people to work on the project, with five new positions now open.
Disappointed iPod Plaintiffs: Jurors Didn't Weigh the Right Questions
December 17, 2014
After a 10-year knock-down drag-out battle, Apple on Tuesday prevailed in a class-action lawsuit over its use of digital rights management technology on iPods purchased between Sept. 1, 2006 and March 31, 2009. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd -- one of the "most feared litigation firms" in the U.S. -- brought the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Skype Begins Dismantling the Language Barrier
December 16, 2014
Microsoft on Monday announced the first phase of its Skype Translator preview program, which initially will facilitate conversations between English and Spanish speakers. It will convert spoken words both ways. It also will translate instant messages in 40 languages. Translations occur in near-real time. Participants must run Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Technical Preview on a desktop or tablet.
Sony Sends News Outlets a Stern but Toothless Warning
December 16, 2014
On behalf of Sony Pictures Entertainment, high-powered attorney David Boies has sent a letter to several news outlets demanding that they refrain from publishing stories based on material hackers recently stole from the company and that they destroy the pilfered data. The letter to the news organizations claims the stolen information is "protected under U.S. and foreign legal doctrines."
Viber Eases Into Casual Gaming
December 16, 2014
Viber on Monday announced the launch of Viber Games, the latest expansion in its app development. This is the third such expansion for the company in as many months, following the launch of Mobile Video Calls and Viber Public Chats. Viber partnered with social game developers to create gaming experiences featuring Viber characters and exclusive content.
Good, Bad and Ugly 'Pirate Bays' Spring Up in Torrent World
December 15, 2014
The torrent world is in turmoil following last week's shutdown of The Pirate Bay in a police raid. Other torrent sites have seen traffic spikes, while Pirate Bay clones -- set up both by file-sharing activists and cyberscamsters -- are emerging. Meanwhile, authorities around the world appear to be playing a game of whack-a-mole. There have been indications The Pirate Bay may stage a comeback.
Sony May Have Succumbed to DDoS Temptation
December 15, 2014
Sony reportedly has used Amazon Web Services to launch distributed denial of service attacks on sites carrying files stolen from its network. Those attacks apparently involved "hundreds of computers" in Tokyo and Singapore. Amazon reportedly issued a statement denying the claim, but the language it used was vague: "The activity being reported is not currently happening on AWS."
Gadget Ogling: Wireless Lights, Sunny Wearables and Flashy Smartphones
December 13, 2014
Welcome, dear readers, to another installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the best and worst in just-announced gizmos. On the docket this time around are wireless Christmas lights, solar-charging jackets, a speed-reading wearable and much more. The Aura Wirelessly Powered Christmas Lights aren't attached to long power cords designed to snake along, around and through the tree branches.
Iowa to Lead Digital Driver's License Movement
December 12, 2014
Iowa plans to issue digital drivers' licenses in the form of a smartphone app by next year, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, said earlier this week at a public state agency budget hearing. The digital license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops, as well as by security officers who screen travelers at Iowa's airports.
For Sync 3, Ford Picks BlackBerry, Kicks Microsoft to the Curb
December 12, 2014
Ford Motor on Thursday introduced Sync 3, its new communications and entertainment system. It is faster, more intuitive and easier to use than MyFord Touch, the company said. Sync 3 offers conversational voice recognition technology with enhanced response to driver commands, along with a smartphone-style touchscreen and graphical user interface. Sync 3 will roll out in new vehicles next year.
2014's Top Google Play Picks: Fitness, Netflix, Frozen and More
December 12, 2014
Health and fitness was the fastest-growing category of apps on Google Play this year, according to a report Google published on Thursday. MyFitnessPal was the most-downloaded app within that category, while Duolingo led the education category. Facebook was top among social apps named in the report, which listed the most popular apps, games, movies, music, news and books in 2014 on Google Play.
Amazon Cries Foul Over FAA's Drone License Stalling
December 12, 2014
The FAA this week gave five licenses to four companies for UAS operations -- that is, flying drones. The drones will be used in aerial surveying, construction site monitoring, and inspecting oil rig flare stacks. The news led Amazon to launch a media blitz about its attempts to get a license and to renew threats to take more of its drone testing outside of the U.S.
No Respite for Sony
December 12, 2014
Since the hacker group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" announced its attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment late last month, things have gone downhill for the company. After confidential documents were leaked to the Internet over several days, a denouement of sorts was reached last week, when a security company examining the stolen data discovered nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers.
No News Is Google Spain News
December 11, 2014
Google on Thursday said it will close Google News in Spain, as of Dec. 16. That's in reaction to a new law that will take effect in Spain in January. The law requires all Spanish publications to charge content aggregators for publishing any part of their content. Spain's new law is "a perverse policy," said Ronald Gruia, director of emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan.
Plundered Pirate Bay May Be Back in Business
December 11, 2014
The Pirate Bay, which was closed down following a raid by Swedish police on Tuesday, appears to have found safe haven on a Costa Rican domain. The site, which gained notoriety for hosting pirated movies and music files, has been raided repeatedly by the Swedish police. Its founders have been arrested and convicted of copyright infringement, and two are currently behind bars.
Samsung, Apple Kick Off Round Eleventy in Patent Fight
December 10, 2014
Apple and Samsung last week squared off again in court over their long-running patent dispute. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard Samsung's appeal of the $930 million in damages a district court awarded to Apple for patent infringement, following a trial in 2012 and a retrial in 2013. "Samsung never wanted this fight," said Fosspatents' Florian Mueller.
NSA's Auroragold Mining Operation
December 10, 2014
The United States National Security Agency, which is known for monitoring landline, Web and cellphone communications worldwide, reportedly also targets wireless carriers. Documents released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden show the NSA has monitored more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators worldwide since 2010.
No One Has Privacy Now, Thanks to Super Cookies
December 10, 2014
Does anyone really think that we have any privacy? Probably not. Between GPS tracking and our favorite app, most of us gave up on privacy long ago. Some privacy advocates claim that cell carriers have not been transparent about what personal data they have been gathering and using, although we now know that in order to use a cellular device, we must agree to give it away.
Samsung Offers Cool Gear VR Headset but Content Is MIA
December 09, 2014
Samsung on Monday began offering what may best be described as the "alpha version" of its Gear VR headset, developed by Oculus, in the U.S. This Gear VR Innovator Edition works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and is priced at $200. The headset comes with sample gaming and experiential content such as the dungeon exploration adventure HeroBound and the space shooter Anshar Wars.
Hackers Derail Sony's PlayStation Network
December 09, 2014
Still reeling from a cyberintrusion that exposed massive amounts of personnel data from its entertainment division on the Internet, Sony was attacked again over the weekend. This time, hackers disrupted the company's PlayStation Network. However, unlike the foray against Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is still under investigation, the company quickly recovered.
Uber Lurches Down Rocky Road
December 08, 2014
An Uber driver in New Delhi has been arrested on charges of raping his passenger, prompting authorities there to ban the service from operating within city limits. Meanwhile, the Netherlands' Commercial Appeals Court has issued a preliminary judgment that Uber must stop working with drivers who lack a taxi license but charge passengers fares for rides.
Video Gamers Recall 'Father' Ralph Baer's Extraordinary Legacy
December 08, 2014
Ralph H. Baer, the father of the home video game, died Saturday at 92. Baer invented the Odyssey video game system and co-invented the electronic game Simon. While working as a military contractor for Sanders Associates in the '60s, Baer began to explore the possibility of creating a video game system that could be played on the television. The result of his work was the "Brown Box."
Google Sets Its Sights on the Under-12 Set
December 08, 2014
Google soon will begin targeting kids 12 and under with tailored versions of its products, likely including its search functionality, along with offerings such as YouTube and Chrome. The company is pushing to change make its products fun and safe for children, Pavni Diwanji, Google vice president of engineering, said last week. The new initiative reportedly will begin next year.

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