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Gary Edwards

Two Microsofts: Mulling an alternate reality | ZDNet - 1 views

  • Judge Jackson had it right. And the Court of Appeals? Not so much
  • Judge Jackson is an American hero and news of his passing thumped me hard. His ruling against Microsoft and the subsequent overturn of that ruling resulted, IMHO, in two extraordinary directions that changed the world. Sure the what-if game is interesting, but the reality itself is stunning enough. Of course, Judge Jackson sought to break the monopoly. The US Court of Appeals overturn resulted in the monopoly remaining intact, but the Internet remaining free and open. Judge Jackson's breakup plan had a good shot at achieving both a breakup of the monopoly and, a free and open Internet. I admit though that at the time I did not favor the Judge's plan. And i actually did submit a proposal based on Microsoft having to both support the WiNE project, and, provide a complete port to WiNE to any software provider requesting a port. I wanted to break the monopolist's hold on the Windows Productivity Environment and the hundreds of millions of investment dollars and time that had been spent on application development forever trapped on that platform. For me, it was the productivity platform that had to be broken.
  • I assume the good Judge thought that separating the Windows OS from Microsoft Office / Applications would force the OS to open up the secret API's even as the OS continued to evolve. Maybe. But a full disclosure of the API's coupled with the community service "port to WiNE" requirement might have sped up the process. Incredibly, the "Undocumented Windows Secrets" industry continues to thrive, and the legendary Andrew Schulman's number is still at the top of Silicon Valley legal profession speed dials. http://goo.gl/0UGe8 Oh well. The Court of Appeals stopped the breakup, leaving the Windows Productivity Platform intact. Microsoft continues to own the "client" in "Client/Server" computing. Although Microsoft was temporarily stopped from leveraging their desktop monopoly to an iron fisted control and dominance of the Internet, I think what were watching today with the Cloud is Judge Jackson's worst nightmare. And mine too. A great transition is now underway, as businesses and enterprises begin the move from legacy client/server business systems and processes to a newly emerging Cloud Productivity Platform. In this great transition, Microsoft holds an inside straight. They have all the aces because they own the legacy desktop productivity platform, and can control the transition to the Cloud. No doubt this transition is going to happen. And it will severely disrupt and change Microsoft's profit formula. But if the Redmond reprobate can provide a "value added" transition of legacy business systems and processes, and direct these new systems to the Microsoft Cloud, the profits will be immense.
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  • Judge Jackson sought to break the ability of Microsoft to "leverage" their existing monopoly into the Internet and his plan was overturned and replaced by one based on judicial oversight. Microsoft got a slap on the wrist from the Court of Appeals, but were wailed on with lawsuits from the hundreds of parties injured by their rampant criminality. Some put the price of that criminality as high as $14 Billion in settlements. Plus, the shareholders forced Chairman Bill to resign. At the end of the day though, Chairman Bill was right. Keeping the monopoly intact was worth whatever penalty Microsoft was forced to pay. He knew that even the judicial over-site would end one day. Which it did. And now his company is ready to go for it all by leveraging and controlling the great productivity transition. No business wants to be hostage to a cold heart'd monopolist. But there is huge difference between a non-disruptive and cost effective, process-by-process value-added transition to a Cloud Productivity Platform, and, the very disruptive and costly "rip-out-and-replace" transition offered by Google, ZOHO, Box, SalesForce and other Cloud Productivity contenders. Microsoft, and only Microsoft, can offer the value-added transition path. If they get the Cloud even halfway right, they will own business productivity far into the future. Rest in Peace Judge Jackson. Your efforts were heroic and will be remembered as such. ~ge~
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    Comments on the latest SVN article mulling the effects of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's anti trust ruling and proposed break up of Microsoft. comment: "Chinese Wall" Ummm, there was a Chinese Wall between Microsoft Os and the MS Applciations layer. At least that's what Chairman Bill promised developers at a 1990 OS/2-Windows Conference I attended. It was a developers luncheon, hosted by Microsoft, with Chairman Bill speaking to about 40 developers with applications designed to run on the then soon to be released Windows 3.0. In his remarks, the Chairman described his vision of commoditizing the personal computer market through an open hardware-reference platform on the one side of the Windows OS, and provisioning an open application developers layer on the other using open and totally transparent API's. Of course the question came up concerning the obvious advantage Microsoft applications would have. Chairman Bill answered the question by describing the Chinese Wall that existed between Microsoft's OS and Apps develop departments. He promised that OS API's would be developed privately and separate from the Apps department, and publicly disclosed to ALL developers at the same time. Oh yeah. There was lots of anti IBM - evil empire stuff too :) Of course we now know this was a line of crap. Microsoft Apps was discovered to have been using undocumented and secret Window API's. http://goo.gl/0UGe8. Microsoft Apps had a distinct advantage over the competition, and eventually the entire Windows Productivity Platform became dependent on the MSOffice core. The company I worked for back then, Pyramid Data, had the first Contact Management application for Windows; PowerLeads. Every Friday night we would release bug fixes and improvements using Wildcat BBS. By Monday morning we would be slammed with calls from users complaining that they had downloaded the Friday night patch, and now some other application would not load or function properly. Eventually we tracked th
Gary Edwards

Office For iPad Adds Another Reason To Go Office 365 - Forbes - 0 views

  • As much as naysayers like to proclaim Office is dying, people still overwhelmingly use it at home and at work. Office is supported at virtually every organization. Our survey of Forrester clients at the end of last year showed strong strides by Google Docs with 13% of firms using it.* However, the caveat is companies that have gone Google are using Docs to complement Office with collaboration features and mobile support, not to replace it.
  • Keep in mind that out of the 20% of information workers in North America and Europe that use a tablet for work, 60% of them use some office productivity software on it.*
  • Office for iPad supports simultaneous co-editing, track changes, and most importantly file fidelity so your Office documents render the same way on all devices.
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  • The most limitations are in Excel, which doesn’t support macros, and which shows, but does not let you create new pivot tables. It will apply existing, but not let you define new conditional formatting. The Word app will render, but not let you create new SmartArt. This follows a similar paradigm to the web apps.
  • Unlike some approaches to accessing Office on the iPad, these apps let you work on content offline.
  • Yes, because editing using Office for iPad — like the smartphone apps for iOS — is only available to Office 365 subscribers. Viewing, however, is free, including the ability to present using the PowerPoint app. Our survey of Forrester clients at the end of last year showed 14% were using Office 365. Most information workers — even those with iPads — won’t yet be able to edit documents on their tablets.
Gary Edwards

Meet OX Text, a collaborative, non-destructive alternative to Google Docs - Tech News and Analysis - 0 views

  • The German software-as-a-service firm Open-Xchange, which provides apps that telcos and other service providers can bundle with their connectivity or hosting products, is adding a cloud-based office productivity toolset called OX Documents to its OX App Suite lineup. Open-Xchange has around 70 million users through its contracts with roughly 80 providers such as 1&1 Internet and Strato. Its OX App Suite takes the form of a virtual desktop of sorts, that lets users centralize their email and file storage accounts and view all sorts of documents through a unified portal. However, as of an early April release it will also include OX Text, a non-destructive, collaborative document editor that rivals Google Docs, and that has an interesting heritage of its own.
  • The team that created the HTML5- and JavaScript-based OX Text includes some of the core developers behind OpenOffice, the free alternative to Microsoft Office that passed from Sun Microsystems to Oracle before morphing into LibreOffice. The German developers we’re talking about hived off the project before LibreOffice happened, and ended up getting hired by Open-Xchange. “To them it was a once in a lifetime event, because we allowed them to start from scratch,” Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told me. “We said we wanted a fresh office productivity suite that runs inside the browser. In terms of the architecture and principles for the product, we wanted to make it fully round-trip capable, meaning whatever file format we run into needs to be retained.”
  • This is an extremely handy formatting and version control feature. Changes made to a document in OX Text get pushed through to Open-Xchange’s backend, where a changelog is maintained. “Power” Word features such as Smart Art or Charts, which are not necessarily supported by other productivity suites, are replaced with placeholders during editing and are there, as before, when the edited document is eventually downloaded. As the OX Text blurb says, “OX Text never damages your valuable work even if it does not understand it”.
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  • “[This avoids] the big disadvantage of anything other than Microsoft Office,” Laguna said. “If you use OpenOffice with a .docx file, the whole document is converted, creating artefacts, then you convert it back. That’s one of the major reasons not everyone is using OpenOffice, and the same is true for Google Apps.” OX Text will be available as an extension to OX App Suite, which also includes calendaring and other productivity tools. However, it will also come out as a standalone product under both commercial licenses – effectively support-based subscriptions for Open-Xchange’s service provider customers – and open-source licenses, namely the GNU General Public License 2 and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License, which will allow free personal, non-commercial use. You can find a demo of App Suite, including the OX Text functionality, here, and there’s a video too:
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Awful New App Lets You Rate and Review Actual Human Beings | Alternet - 0 views

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    "Imagine all your worst ideas poured into an app and you've basically got it. By Kali Holloway / AlterNet September 30, 2015 "
Paul Merrell

Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community | Security & Privacy - CNET News - 0 views

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr's co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, "Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, 'No.'" The mistrust runs deep. "Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs," said Marlinspike, "How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?" Where does security innovation go next? The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn't mine you for personal data.
  • Wickr's Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn't store user data. "[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there's no way," she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users' texts or metadata. "Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they're going to use [your data] correctly," Sell said, "Do you trust that they're going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?" To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don't currently provide it. Calling it "social networks 2.0," she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer's privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy. Abine's recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn't have access to its own users' data.
  • The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. "They've been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls," he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google. Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship. "I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world," such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic. It's hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. "I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that's going to be the future."
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  • Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. "If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to," he said. But, he cautioned, "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service." Soghoian added, "The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money." This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.
  • Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they've been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see "lots of resignations and maybe publicly," he said. "It wouldn't hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory." Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon's 21st anniversary. "As hackers, we don't have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that's something that we can focus our energy on," he said.
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    NSA as the cause of the next major disruption in the social networking service industry?  Grief ahead for Google? Note the point made that: "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service" where the encryption/decryption takes place on the client side. 
Gary Edwards

Box extends its enterprise playbook, but users are still at the center | CITEworld - 0 views

  • The 47,000 developers making almost two billion API calls to the Box platform per month are a good start, Levie says, but Box needs to go further and do more to customize its platform to help push this user-centric, everything-everywhere-always model at larger and larger enterprises. 
  • Box for Industries is comprised of three parts: A Box-tailored core service offering, a selection of partner apps, and the implementation services to combine the two of those into something that ideally can be used by any enterprise in any vertical. 
  • Box is announcing solutions for three specific industries: Retail, healthcare, and media/entertainment. For retail, that includes vendor collaboration (helping vendors work with manufacturers and distributors), digital asset management, and retail store enablement.
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  • Ted Blosser, senior vice president of Box Platform, also took the stage to show off how managing digital assets benefit from a just-announced metadata template capability that lets you pre-define custom fields so a store's back-office can flag, say, a new jacket as "blue" or "red." Those metadata tags can be pushed to a custom app running on a retail associate's iPad, so you can sort by color, line, or inventory level. Metadata plus Box Workflows equals a powerful content platform for retail that keeps people in sync with their content across geographies and devices, or so the company is hoping. 
  • It's the same collaboration model that cloud storage vendors have been pushing, but customized for very specific verticals, which is exactly the sales pitch that Box wants you to come away with. And developers must be cheering -- Box is going to help them sell their apps to previously inaccessible markets. 
  • More on the standard enterprise side, the so-named Box + Office 365 (previewed a few months back) currently only supports the Windows desktop versions of the productivity suite, but Levie promises web and Mac integrations are on the way. It's pretty basic, but potentially handy for the enterprises that Box supports.
  • The crux of the Office 365 announcement is that people expect that their data will follow them from device to device and from app to app. If people want their Box files and storage in Jive, Box needs to support Jive. And if enterprises are using Microsoft Office 365 to work with their documents -- and they are -- then Box needs to support that too. It's easier than it used to be, Levie says, thanks to Satya Nadella's push for a more open Microsoft. 
  • "We are quite confident that this is the kind of future they're building towards," Levie says -- but just in case, he urged BoxWorks attendees to tweet at Nadella and encourage him to help Box speed development along. 
  • Box SVP of Enterprise Annie Pearl came on stage to discuss how Box Workflow can be used to improve the ways people work with their content in the real world of business. It's worth noting that Box had a workflow tool previously, but it was relatively primitive and seems to have only existed to tick the box -- it didn't really go beyond assigning tasks and soliciting approvals.
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    This will be very interesting. Looks like Box is betting their future on the success of integrating Microsoft Office 365 into the Box Productivity Cloud Service. Which competes directly with the Microsoft Office 365 - OneDrive Cloud Productivity Platform. Honestly, I don't see how this can ever work out for Box. Microsoft has them ripe for the plucking. And they have pulled it off on the eve of Box's expected IPO. "Box CEO Aaron Levie may not be able to talk about the cloud storage and collaboration company's forthcoming IPO, but he still took the stage at the company's biggest BoxWorks conference yet, with 5,000 attendees. Featured Resource Presented by Citrix Systems 10 essential elements for a secure enterprise mobility strategy Best practices for protecting sensitive business information while making people productive from LEARN MORE Levie discussed the future of the business and make some announcements -- including the beta of a Box integration with the Windows version of Microsoft Office 365; the introduction of Box Workflow, a tool coming in 2015 for creating repeatable workflows on the platform; and the unveiling of Box for Industries, an initiative to tailor Box solutions for specific industry use-cases. And if that wasn't enough, Box also announced a partnership with service firm Accenture to push the platform in large enterprises. The unifying factor for the announcements made at BoxWorks, Levie said, is that users expect their data to follow them everywhere, at home and at work. That means that Box has to think about enterprise from the user outwards, putting them at the center of the appified universe -- in effect, building an ecosystem of tools that support the things employees already use."
Gary Edwards

Zoho Blogs » Firefox 3.1 & Google Chrome: Javascript Wins, Flash/Silverlight Lose - 0 views

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    ZOHO Speaks about Chrome: "The biggest losers in Google's announcement are not really competing browsers, but competing rich client engines like Flash and Silverlight. As Javascript advances rapidly, it inevitably encroaches on the territory currently held by Flash. Native browser video is likely the last nail in the coffin - and Google needs native browser based video for its own YouTube, so we can be confident Google Chrome and Firefox will both have native video support, with Javascript-accessible VOM (video object model) APIs for web applications to manipuate video. As for Silverlight, let me just say that if Silverlight is the future of web computing, companies like us might as well find another line of work - and I suspect Google and Yahoo probably see it the same way too. More speculatively, I believe we will witness the emergence of Javascript as the dominant language of computing, as it sweeps the client side and starts encroaching on the server. The server landscape today is split between "enterprise" platforms like Java and .NET on the one side (we ourselves are in the Java camp on the server side), and "scripting" languages like PHP, Python, Ruby on the other, with Javascript firmly entrenched on the client. Languages like Ruby promise tremendous dynamism and flexibility to the developer, but their relatively weak execution environments have held them back. It is telling that both Java and .NET come with state of the art just-in-time compilers, while none of the major scripting languages do......" Interestingly, ZOHO already has a prototype running on Chrome! Solves tons of performance problems for them, as well as givign them an on-line / off-line story (Gears). The success of Chrome depends on Chrome "killer apps"; Not browser surfing features! And we already have a number of killer apps that will immediately take advantage of Chrome: gMail, gReader, gMaps and Google Docs! ZOHO will no doubt use Chrome to put themselves squarely i
Gary Edwards

PhoneGap : JavaScript IDE for iPhone, Android, Blackberry - 0 views

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    Also see post from Savio Rodgriguez. PhoneGap is funded by a grant from MIT. Open source. "PhoneGaps lets developers wrap web applications inside a native application using WebKit, making development easier for those who aren't familiar with Objective-C and Cocoa. In fact, the framework even includes a tool for easily doing this type of "native web app" packaging. And if a native web app wrapper sounds like it would be right up your alley, you can download PhoneGap for free and give it a whirl."
Gary Edwards

Apple and Facebook Flash Forward to Computer Memory of the Future | Enterprise | WIRED - 1 views

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    Great story that is at the center of a new cloud computing platform. I met David Flynn back when he was first demonstrating the Realmsys flash card. Extraordinary stuff. He was using the technology to open a secure Linux computing window on an operating Windows XP system. The card opened up a secure data socket, connecting to any Internet Server or Data Server, and running applications on that data - while running Windows and Windows apps in the background. Incredible mesh of Linux, streaming data, and legacy Windows apps. Everytime I find these tech pieces explaining Fusion-io though, I can't help but think that David Flynn is one of the most decent, kind and truly deserving of success people that I have ever met. excerpt: "Apple is spending mountains of money on a new breed of hardware device from a company called Fusion-io. As a public company, Fusion-io is required to disclose information about customers that account for an usually large portion of its revenue, and with its latest annual report, the Salt Lake City outfit reveals that in 2012, at least 25 percent of its revenue - $89.8 million - came from Apple. That's just one figure, from just one company. But it serves as a sign post, showing you where the modern data center is headed. 'There's now a blurring between the storage world and the memory world. People have been enlightened by Fusion-io.' - Gary Gentry Inside a data center like the one Apple operates in Maiden, North Carolina, you'll find thousands of computer servers. Fusion-io makes a slim card that slots inside these machines, and it's packed with hundreds of gigabytes of flash memory, the same stuff that holds all the software and the data on your smartphone. You can think of this card as a much-needed replacement for the good old-fashioned hard disk that typically sits inside a server. Much like a hard disk, it stores information. But it doesn't have any moving parts, which means it's generally more reliable. It c
Gary Edwards

Microsoft Office whips Google Docs: It's finally game over | Computerworld Blogs - 0 views

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    "If there was ever any doubt about whether Microsoft or Google would win the war of office suites, there should be no longer. Within the last several weeks, Microsoft has pulled so far ahead that it's game over. Here's why. When it comes to which suite is more fully featured, there's never been any real debate: Microsoft Office wins hands down. Whether you're creating entire presentations, creating complicated word-processing documents, or even doing something as simple as handling text attributes, Office is a far better tool. Until the last few weeks, Google Docs had one significant advantage over Microsoft Office: It's available for Android and the iPad as well as PCs because it's Web-based. The same wasn't the case for Office. So if you wanted to use an office suite on all your mobile devices, Google Docs was the way to go. Google Docs lost that advantage when Microsoft released Office for the iPad. There's not yet a native version for Android tablets, but Microsoft is working on that, telling GeekWire, "Let me tell you conclusively: Yes, we are also building Android native applications for tablets for Word, Excel and PowerPoint." Google Docs is still superior to Office's Web-based version, but that's far less important than it used to be. There's no need to go with a Web-based office suite if a superior suite is available as a native lets all platforms, mobile or otherwise. And Office's collaboration capabilities are quite considerable now. Of course, there's always the question of price. Google Docs is free. Microsoft Office isn't. But at $100 a year for up to five devices, or $70 a year for two, no one will be going broke paying for Microsoft Office. It's worth paying that relatively small price for a much better office suite. Google Docs won't die. It'll be around as second fiddle for a long time. But that's what it will always remain: a second fiddle to the better Microsoft Office."
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    Google acquired "Writely", a small company in Portola Valley that pioneered document editing in a browser. Writely was perhaps the first cloud computing editor to go beyond simple HTML; eventually crafting some really cool CSS-JavaScript-JSON document layout and editing methods. But it can't edit native MSOffice documents. It converts them. There are more than a few problems with the Google Docs approach to editing advanced "compound" documents, but two stick out and are certain to give pause to anyone making the great transition from local workgroup computing, to the highly mobile, always connected, cloud computing. The first problem certain to become a show stopper is that Google converts documents to their native on-line format for editing and collaboration. And then they convert back. To many this isn't a problem. But if the document is part of a workflow or business process, conversion is a killer. There is an old saw affectionately known as "Reuters Law", dating back to the ODF-OXML document wars, that emphatically states; "Conversion breaks documents." The breakage includes both the visual layout of the document, and, the "compound" aspects and data connections that are internal to the document. Think of this way. A business document that is part of a legacy Windows Workgroup workflow is opened up in gDocs. Google converts the document for editing purposes. The data and the workflow internals that bind the document to the local business system are broken on conversion. The look of the document is also visually shredded as the gDocs layout engine is applied. For all practical purposes, no matter what magic editing and collaboration value is added, a broken document means a broken business process. Let me say that again, with the emphasis of having witnessed this first hand during the year long ODF transition trials the Commonwealth of Massachusetts conducted in 2005 and 2006. The business process broke every time a conversion was conducted "on a busines
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

MaruOS claims to turn your Android phone into a Linux desktop - Liliputing - 0 views

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    [... Now there's a new player in this space: MaruOS is a custom build of Android designed to let you interact with Android apps on your phone's screen. But connect a display, keyboard, and mouse and you can run Debian Linux. ...]
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    [... Now there's a new player in this space: MaruOS is a custom build of Android designed to let you interact with Android apps on your phone's screen. But connect a display, keyboard, and mouse and you can run Debian Linux. ...]
Paul Merrell

Digital Web Magazine - HTML5, XHTML2, and the Future of the Web - 0 views

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    The browser-centric view of why HTML5 is better than XHTML2. Notice that the entire discussion does not address the need for interoperable data exchange between different web applications, let alone for their interaction with more traditional desktop or mobile device editors. HTML5 is enormously under-specified for data exchange among anything but web browsers. As only one small example, neither HTML5 nor CSS Selectors have a specified standard element for footnotes and footnote calls, let alone attributes for their numbering style, formatting, and location. And even if CSS Selectors included such elements and attributes, CSS lives in web site page templates, not in the web app editors for site content that use HTML forms. Easy pickings for Microsoft and its proprietary stack that does interoperably integrate the desktop, servers, devices, and the Web.
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Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just Security - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for security and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue security risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Paul Merrell

Verizon Injecting Perma-Cookies to Track Mobile Customers, Bypassing Privacy Controls | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • Verizon users might want to start looking for another provider. In an effort to better serve advertisers, Verizon Wireless has been silently modifying its users' web traffic on its network to inject a cookie-like tracker. This tracker, included in an HTTP header called X-UIDH, is sent to every unencrypted website a Verizon customer visits from a mobile device. It allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors' web browsing habits without their consent.Verizon apparently created this mechanism to expand their advertising programs, but it has privacy implications far beyond those programs. Indeed, while we're concerned about Verizon's own use of the header, we're even more worried about what it allows others to find out about Verizon users. The X-UIDH header effectively reinvents the cookie, but does so in a way that is shockingly insecure and dangerous to your privacy. Worse still, Verizon doesn't let users turn off this "feature." In fact, it functions even if you use a private browsing mode or clear your cookies. You can test whether the header is injected in your traffic by visiting lessonslearned.org/sniff or amibeingtracked.com over a cell data connection.How X-UIDH Works, and Why It's a Problem
  • To compound the problem, the header also affects more than just web browsers. Mobile apps that send HTTP requests will also have the header inserted. This means that users' behavior in apps can be correlated with their behavior on the web, which would be difficult or impossible without the header. Verizon describes this as a key benefit of using their system. But Verizon bypasses the 'Limit Ad Tracking' settings in iOS and Android that are specifically intended to limit abuse of unique identifiers by mobile apps.
  • Because the header is injected at the network level, Verizon can add it to anyone using their towers, even those who aren't Verizon customers.
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  • We're also concerned that Verizon's failure to permit its users to opt out of X-UIDH may be a violation of the federal law that requires phone companies to maintain the confidentiality of their customers' data. Only two months ago, the wireline sector of Verizon's business was hit with a $7.4 million fine by the Federal Communications Commission after it was caught using its "customers' personal information for thousands of marketing campaigns without even giving them the choice to opt out." With this header, it looks like Verizon lets its customers opt out of the marketing side of the program, but not from the disclosure of their browsing habits.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies - 1 views

  • On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me. At both the Republican and Democratic conventions, Microsoft sponsored event spaces for the news outlet Politico. Politico, in turn, hosted a series of Microsoft-sponsored discussions about the use of data technology in political campaigns. And throughout Politico’s spaces in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, Microsoft advertised an array of products from “Microsoft Cognitive Services,” its artificial intelligence and cloud computing division. At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights,” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face — an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.
  • “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API — a component of Realtime Crowd Insights — applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces and return emotional profiles for each one. In a November blog post, Microsoft said that the emotional analysis could detect “anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, neutral, sadness or surprise.” Microsoft’s sales representatives told me that political campaigns could use the technology to measure the emotional impact of different talking points — and political scientists could use it to study crowd response at rallies.
  • Facial recognition technology — the identification of faces by name — is already widely used in secret by law enforcement, sports stadiums, retail stores, and even churches, despite being of questionable legality. As early as 2002, facial recognition technology was used at the Super Bowl to cross-reference the 100,000 attendees to a database of the faces of known criminals. The technology is controversial enough that in 2013, Google tried to ban the use of facial recognition apps in its Google glass system. But “Realtime Crowd Insights” is not true facial recognition — it could not identify me by name, only as “b2ff.” It did, however, store enough data on each face that it could continuously identify it with the same serial number, even hours later. The display demonstrated that capability by distinguishing between the number of total faces it had seen, and the number of unique serial numbers. Photo: Alex Emmons
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  • Instead, “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an example of facial characterization technology — where computers analyze faces without necessarily identifying them. Facial characterization has many positive applications — it has been tested in the classroom, as a tool for spotting struggling students, and Microsoft has boasted that the tool will even help blind people read the faces around them. But facial characterization can also be used to assemble and store large profiles of information on individuals, even anonymously.
  • Alvaro Bedoya, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on privacy and facial recognition, has hailed that code of conduct as evidence that Microsoft is trying to do the right thing. But he pointed out that it leaves a number of questions unanswered — as illustrated in Cleveland and Philadelphia. “It’s interesting that the app being shown at the convention ‘remembered’ the faces of the people who walked by. That would seem to suggest that their faces were being stored and processed without the consent that Microsoft’s policy requires,” Bedoya said. “You have to wonder: What happened to the face templates of the people who walked by that booth? Were they deleted? Or are they still in the system?” Microsoft officials declined to comment on exactly what information is collected on each face and what data is retained or stored, instead referring me to their privacy policy, which does not address the question. Bedoya also pointed out that Microsoft’s marketing did not seem to match the consent policy. “It’s difficult to envision how companies will obtain consent from people in large crowds or rallies.”
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    But nobody is saying that the output of this technology can't be combined with the output of facial recognition technology to let them monitor you individually AND track your emotions. Fortunately, others are fighting back with knowledge and tech to block facial recognition. http://goo.gl/JMQM2W
Gary Edwards

Flash Wars: Adobe Fights for AIR with the Open Screen Project [Part 3 of 3] | AppleInsider - 0 views

  • Two areas where Flash can offer real value is in displaying and packaging video on the web, and in serving as a Java replacement for developing applets. Here's a look at how Adobe is working to defend its strengths in the face of competition, and how its efforts to open the Flash specification in the Open Screen Project play into these efforts.
  • proprietary FLV video container format
  • more advanced and open H.264 video codec
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  • Apple's ability to disrupt the status quo in video playback is evident in its deal with Google to vend YouTube videos to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple TV as straight H.264 rather than Google's existing mix of a Flash-based player and its archaic GVI file format based upon AVI.
  • As Apple's hardware-based H.264 playback in mobile devices begins to define how to reach affluent customers with content, Flash will increasingly lose any allure on the PC desktop as well, as developers won't want to target PCs and mobiles using two different systems.
  • Adobe seems to be hoping that nobody notices these problems and that its vigilant marketing efforts can entrance the public into thinking that a drawing app extended into an animation tool and then retrofitted into a monstrous hack of a development platform is a superior technology basis for building web apps compared to the use of modern open standards created expressly to promote true interoperability by design rather than retroactively.
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    Part two of the Prince McClean Adobe-Flash history. Excellent history involves Adobe SVG, Microsoft VmL-XAML-Silverlight, Apple WebKit, Sun (Java) as they battle for dominance over web applications and the future of the Web itself.
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Paul Merrell

Microsoft debuts early test version of Oxite open source blogging engine | Open Source | ZDNet.com - 0 views

  • WordPress has more competition to be. Microsoft’s Codeplex team has developed an open source blogging engine that can support simple blogs and large web sites such as its own MIX Online.
  • “Oxite was developed carefully and painstakingly to be a great blogging platform, or a starting point for your own web site project with CMS needs,” according to Microsoft.com.
  • Oxite offers support for multiple blogs per site.  ”Oxite includes the ability to create and edit an arbitrary set of pages on your site. Want an ‘about’ page? You got it. Need a special page about your dogs, with sub-pages for each of those special animals? Yep, no worries,” Microsoft continues. “The ability to add pages as a child of another page is all built in. The web-based editing and creation interface lets you put whatever HTML you want onto your pages, and the built-in authentication system means that only you will be able to edit them.
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    The ability to create child pages of a parent page is something I haven't seen before in a blogging app. There are a ton of CMS that offer such features, but blogs have been an exception.
Paul Merrell

NSA Spying Inspires ProtonMail 'End-to-End' Encrypted Email Service | NDTV Gadgets - 0 views

  • ne new email service promising "end-to-end" encryption launched on Friday, and others are being developed while major services such as Google Gmail and Yahoo Mail have stepped up security measures.A major catalyst for email encryption were revelations about widespread online surveillance in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor."A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort," said Jason Stockman, a co-developer of ProtonMail, a new encrypted email service which launched Friday with collaboration of scientists from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the European research lab CERN.Stockman said ProtonMail aims to be as user-friendly as the major commercial services, but with extra security, and with its servers located in Switzerland to make it more difficult for US law enforcement to access.
  • "Our vision is to make encryption and privacy mainstream by making it easy to use," Stockman told AFP. "There's no installation. Everything happens behind the scenes automatically."Even though email encryption using special codes or keys, a system known as PGP, has been around for two decades, "it was so complicated," and did not gain widespread adoption, Stockman said.After testing over the past few months, ProtonMail went public Friday using a "freemium" model a basic account will be free with some added features for a paid account.
  • As our users from China, Iran, Russia, and other countries around the world have shown us in the past months, ProtonMail is an important tool for freedom of speech and we are happy to finally be able to provide this to the whole world," the company said in a blog post.Google and Yahoo recently announced efforts to encrypt their email communications, but some specialists say the effort falls short."These big companies don't want to encrypt your stuff because they spy on you, too," said Bruce Schneier, a well-known cryptographer and author who is chief technology officer for CO3 Systems."Hopefully, the NSA debate is creating incentives for people to build more encryption."Stockman said that with services like Gmail, even if data is encrypted, "they have the key right next to it if you have the key and lock next to each other, so it's pretty much useless."
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  • By locating in Switzerland, ProtonMail hopes to avoid the legal woes of services like Lavabit widely believed to be used by Snowden which shut down rather than hand over data to the US government, and which now faces a contempt of court order.Even if a Swiss court ordered data to be turned over, Stockman said, "we would hand over piles of encrypted data. We don't have a key. We never see the password."
  • Lavabit founder Ladar Levison meanwhile hopes to launch a new service with other developers in a coalition known as the "Dark Mail Alliance."Levison told AFP he hopes to have a new encrypted email system in testing within a few months and widely available later this year."The goal is to make it ubiquitous, so people don't have to turn it on," he said.But he added that the technical hurdles are formidable, because the more user-friendly the system becomes, "the more susceptible it is to a sophisticated attacker with fake or spoofed key information."Levison said he hopes Dark Mail will become a new open standard that can be adopted by other email services.
  • on Callas, a cryptographer who developed the PGP standard and later co-founded the secure communications firm Silent Circle, cited challenges in making a system that is both secure and ubiquitous."If you are a bank you have to have an email system that complies with banking regulations," Callas told AFP, which could allow, for example, certain emails to be subject to regulatory or court review."Many of the services on the Internet started with zero security. We want to start with a system that is totally secure and let people dial it down."The new email system would complement Silent Circle's existing secure messaging system and encrypted mobile phone, which was launched earlier this year."If we start competing for customers on the basis of maximum privacy, that's good for everybody," Callas said.
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    They're already so swamped that you have to reserve your user name and wait for an invite. They say they have to add servers. Web site is at https://protonmail.ch/ "ProtonMail works on all devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It's as simple as visiting our site and logging in. There are no plugins or lets install - simply use your favorite web browser." "ProtonMail works on all devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Paul Merrell

Verizon Will Now Let Users Kill Previously Indestructible Tracking Code - ProPublica - 0 views

  • Verizon says it will soon offer customers a way to opt out from having their smartphone and tablet browsing tracked via a hidden un-killable tracking identifier. The decision came after a ProPublica article revealed that an online advertiser, Turn, was exploiting the Verizon identifier to respawn tracking cookies that users had deleted. Two days after the article appeared, Turn said it would suspend the practice of creating so-called "zombie cookies" that couldn't be deleted. But Verizon couldn't assure users that other companies might not also exploit the number - which was transmitted automatically to any website or app a user visited from a Verizon-enabled device - to build dossiers about people's behavior on their mobile devices. Verizon subsequently updated its website to note Turn's decision and declared that it would "work with other partners to ensure that their use of [the undeletable tracking number] is consistent with the purposes we intended." Previously, its website had stated: "It is unlikely that sites and ad entities will attempt to build customer profiles.
  • However, policing the hundreds of companies in the online tracking business was likely to be a difficult task for Verizon. And so, on Monday, Verizon followed in the footsteps of AT&T, which had already declared in November that it would stop inserting the hidden undeletable number in its users' Web traffic. In a statement emailed to reporters on Friday, Verizon said, "We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon." Previously, users who opted out from Verizon's program were told that information about their demographics and Web browsing behavior would no longer be shared with advertisers, but that the tracking number would still be attached to their traffic. For more coverage, read ProPublica's previous reporting on Verizon's indestructible tracking and how one company used the tool to create zombie cookies.
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    Good for Pro Publica!
Gary Edwards

Keep an Open Eye » Silverlight Full Court Press - 0 views

  • Remember the crucial test for an RIA is will the app run offline and online on every platform its used on. Like Microsoft’s current support for HTML/CSS/DOM standards, Redmond is the most seriously deficient of RIA providers as well. Beginning to sound like a broken record ? Well lets see exactly what Redmond is promoting. What Developers Should be Demanding of Redmond Steve Apiki has written a piece on Nine Silverlight 2 Features Not to Be Missed. Here is what Web 2.0 developers should be demanding of Microsoft before they even consider Silverlight
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    very important discussion on RiA and the standards implementation of HTML-CSS-DOM-JavaScript technologies. Excellent!
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