Google Chrome 21 Beta Introduces Native Support for Webcams and Gamepads

Google-ChromeGoogle has announced that Chrome 21 is ready for the beta channel. As always, the changelog isn’t spectacularly impressive, but there are a couple of new stuffs worth mentioning.

Google has been consistently pushing the boundaries of what a web browser can do. After enabling browsers to render sophisticated 3D graphics with the help of WebGL and Native Client, Google is aiming for plugin-less support for hardware peripherals like webcams and gamepads.

The first new feature in Chrome 21 is support for getUserMedia API that can be used to access the user’s webcam and mic without relying on any third-party plugins like Flash. Google is dubbing this as the first step towards “enabling high quality video and audio communication as part of WebRTC, a powerful new real-time communications standard for the open web platform”. Google currently has a few cool demoes to showcase what this piece of new technology can do. However, don’t expect it to gain prominence until other browser developers also move to support it. Opera 12 for desktop and mobile is the only other browser to support getUserMedia.

The other new feature is a JavaScript API called Gamepad. As the name suggests, this API allows browser-based games to directly access any standard gaming controller that is attached with the user’s system.

Both of these enhancements represent another step towards realizing Google’s dream of a fully featured browser based operating system.

In a separate announcement, Google also revealed that Chrome 22 onwards it will be dropping support for Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

[ Download Google Chrome 21 Beta ]

New Android Malware Targets China Mobile Subscribers

Android-MalwareSecurity has always been a problem in Android due to its open ecosystem. Not only are apps in the Play Store not pre-screened, but users can easily download apps from third-party markets with even less stringent security. While most of us are aware of only a handful of app repositories – like the Amazon AppStore – Chinese users are accustomed to using dozens of them. Now, security firm TrustGo is reporting that several of the popular Chinese app stores have been infected with a malware called Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android.

The MMarketPay malware is distributed through repackaged versions of popular apps like GoWeather. The Chinese app stores that have been identified to be affected are nDuoa, GFan, AppChina, LIQU, ANFONE, Soft.3g.cn, TalkPhone, 159.com, and AZ4SD. The app targets subscribers of China Mobile, which is the world’s largest mobile phone operator with more than 655 million subscribers. Total number of affected users is estimated to be in excess of 100 million.

Mobile Market is an Android app store offered by China Mobile to its subscribers. Its biggest draw is its mobile payment system. Users can purchase and download any app and video they like, and the amount will simply be added to their monthly bill. The workflow is as follows:

  • Customers login at M-Market website (http://mm.10086.cn/). Not login required, if customer is using CMWAP as Access Point.
  • M-Market will send a verification code to the customer via SMS, if he purchases paid apps or media.
  • Customers receive the verification code and input it in M-Market for verification.
  • Once the verification is completed, the market will download apps automatically. China Mobile will add this order to customers’ phone bill.

The MMarketPay malware bypasses China Mobile’s authentication system by changing the APN to CMWAP and intercepting the SMS. Once installed, it proceeds to order paid apps and purchase premium videos without letting the consumers know. Infected users are extremely likely to rake up huge bills without even being aware.

Cyanogen Team Highlights its Plans for Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)

Jelly Bean was announced last month at Google I/O 2012. However, it will probably be several months before most non-Google experience devices get a taste of Jelly Bean, if they at all receive the update. No wonder then that most Android users have been eagerly waiting to hear from the CyanogenMod team about their plans regarding the latest Android update.

CyanogenMod

Google is yet to release the source code for Jelly Bean, but team Cyanogen has already outlined their plans based on their general understanding of the changes. The next version of Cyanogen is going to be called CyanogenMod 10, and will be based on Jelly Bean. This is in keeping with Cyanogen’s tradition of giving a version number bump for every named release of Android. CyanogenMod Jelly Bean update is going to be called Cyanogen 10, since ‘J’ is the 10th letter of the English alphabet.

As of now, the focus of team Cyanogen remains the ICS powered CyanogenMod 9. Development of CyanogenMod 9 has been a fairly lengthy process due to the decision to rewrite Cyanogen components from scratch. However, considering that Android 4.1 isn’t as drastic a change from its predecessor as Android 4.0 was, CyanogenMod 10 should arrive significantly faster. Team Cyanogen expects most of CyanogenMod 9 code to “merge cleanly into JB, with minimal fuss”. Cyanogen team is also going to continue developing CyanogenMod 7 for devices that aren’t compatible with ICS.

The other good news is that if your device was officially supported in CyanogenMod 9, it will almost certainly receive CyanogenMod 10 with all of its buttery smoothness.

Microsoft Bets Big on Windows 8, Offers Upgrade for $40

If you have been looking forward to taking the new Windows 8 OS for a spin, then there is some good news for you. Microsoft has announced that all Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 users will be able to upgrade to the Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 in 131 markets. This enticing upgrade option will be available till January 31, 2013.

Microsoft’s sweeping new upgrade offer is unprecedented in more ways than one. Not only is it remarkably cheap, but it also covers outdated systems like Vista and XP. Microsoft is taking a leaf out of Apple’s book by keeping the upgrade price fairly low. However, it would be wrong to construe Microsoft’s offering as a defensive response to Apple.

The Redmond giant’s decision to offer Windows 8 upgrades to users of decade old operating systems like Windows XP at an extremely alluring price illustrates exactly how much it is betting on the new OS. Windows 8 is the most significant Windows release since Windows 95. While it doesn’t quite break free from the legacy of Windows, it does provide a roadmap to the future.

windows-8-upgrade

One of the biggest draws of Windows 8 – at least as far as consumers are concerned – is its Metro UI, which requires an entirely new breed of applications. None of the millions of existing Windows applications will function inside the Metro UI. Thus, in some ways, Metro nullifies the biggest strength of Windows – its ecosystem. While desktops and laptops will come with a traditional desktop shell that will be capable of running legacy applications, in Microsoft’s eyes, Metro is clearly the future of Windows.

In order for Metro to succeed, Microsoft needs to attract hundreds of thousands of developers. And, in order to attract developers, Microsoft needs to ensure quick adoption of Windows 8. If Windows 8 also receives a lukewarm response like Vista, Microsoft will find itself in hot water. This is exactly why Microsoft is making it really simple and cheap to upgrade to Windows 8, and this time around it’s taking along even users of its old operating systems.

It’s not just Microsoft’s domination in the desktop segment that is at stake here. While Metro is optional in desktops and laptops, it will be the only supported mode in most tablets. If Microsoft wants to offer Apple a run for its money, Windows 8’s quick adoption again becomes imperative.

Windows 8 will also have something to say about Microsoft’s future in the mobile arena. Windows Phone 8 will be running a full-fledged Windows core. This will make porting Windows 8 metro applications to WP8 fairly straightforward. If Microsoft succeeds in kick-starting the Windows 8 ecosystem, Windows Phone ecosystem will also benefit from it.

Given what’s at stake here, the decision to offer existing Windows users a strong incentive to upgrade to Windows 8 looks like a no-brainer. Over the years, Microsoft’s biggest competition has always been its own offerings – Windows 7’s biggest competitor is Windows XP, and not Mac or Linux. With Windows 8 trying to break free from legacy of Windows, Microsoft just can’t afford to have a repeat of the Windows Vista debacle.

Microsoft Acquires Yammer for $1.2 Billion

YammerYammer, which is pretty much Facebook for enterprises, has been acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion in cash. Yammer was launched towards the end of 2008, and currently has more than 5 million users including employees at 85 percent of the Fortune 500. “When we started Yammer four years ago, we set out to do something big,” David Sacks, Yammer founder and CEO, said. “We had a vision for how social networking could change the way we work. Joining Microsoft will accelerate that vision and give us access to the technologies, expertise and resources we’ll need to scale and innovate.”

Microsoft will be folding Yammer into the Office division, where it will bolster Microsoft’s current enterprise offerings. The Redmond giant expects Yammer to complement existing products like SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Skype. “The acquisition of Yammer underscores our commitment to deliver technology that businesses need and people love,” said Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft. “Yammer adds a best-in-class enterprise social networking service to Microsoft’s growing portfolio of complementary cloud services.”

Yammer will continue to be developed as an independent service, but Microsoft will leverage its existing products to boost Yammer’s adaption. Going forward, Microsoft’s biggest challenge will be monetizing Yammer. The enterprise social network operates on a freemium model, with four fifth of the current users accessing its services for free.

Samsung Expects to Sell 10 Million Galaxy S3 Units by Next Month

The Galaxy S3 is selling like hot cakes, but you probably already knew that. Even as most other Android manufacturers are struggling to eke out a profit, Samsung is raking in the dough. Now the Korean giant has come out, and revealed that it expects to sell as many as 10 million units by the end of July.

It’s worth nothing that Samsung typically labels units shipped to retailers as units sold, so the actual number of units purchased by customers will be lower. However, given that the S3 has been more or less flying off the shelves, the difference shouldn’t be huge.

Samsung-Galaxy-S3

In any case, it’s clear that the S3 is living up to the hype, and Samsung has another blockbuster in its hands. If anything, the new Galaxy flagship cements Samsung’s position as the leading Android handset manufacturer. The S3 is not the best looking smartphone, nor does it have the most exquisite finish; however, none of that clearly matters for most consumers. They are more than willing to sacrifice on looks to get their hands on what is undoubtedly the best performing smartphone till date. The S3 is yet to be released in the US, but it should be available with various carriers by the end of this week.

25 Passwords and ATM PINs You Should Never Use

With password breaches happening left and right, no one is really safe. The only real security measure you can take is to ensure that you don’t use the same password on any two websites. There are tools like LastPass and Keepass that make this a relatively hassle free affair. Yet, a surprisingly large number of netizens insist on sticking to the same password for all websites. Even worse, a massive number of users seem to be still using passwords like “password”.

Based on data compiled by Mark Burnett from a sample of over 6 million passwords, ESSET has published a list of 25 most commonly used passwords. Here’s the list:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. 1234
  5. qwerty
  6. 12345
  7. dragon
  8. pussy
  9. baseball
  10. football
  11. letmein
  12. monkey
  13. 696969
  14. abc123
  15. mustang
  16. michael
  17. shadow
  18. master
  19. jennifer
  20. 111111
  21. 2000
  22. jordan
  23. superman
  24. harley
  25. 1234567

most-common-passwords

If your password is in the list, please punch yourself in the face and go ahead and change your password right now. You are a walking talking security disaster waiting to happen.

ESSET has also published a list of most popular debit/credit card pins. Here’s the list, and once again, if your pin is in the list, then it’s probably a damn good idea to change your pin.

  1. 1234
  2. 0000
  3. 2580
  4. 1111
  5. 5555
  6. 5683
  7. 0852
  8. 2222
  9. 1212
  10. 1998
  11. 6969
  12. 1379
  13. 1997
  14. 2468
  15. 9999
  16. 7777
  17. 1996
  18. 2011
  19. 3333
  20. 1999
  21. 8888
  22. 1995
  23. 2525
  24. 1590
  25. 1235

Google CEO Larry Page Loses His Voice Due to Unknown Illness

Google’s Chief Executive Offer Larry Page is apparently not doing so well. The Google co-founder skipped an annual meeting last week, and will all be missing in action during Google I/O. Google has confirmed that Page has lost his voice, but refused to go into the specifics.

Larry-PageIn an email memo, Larry Page assured employees that “there is nothing seriously wrong with me” and that he would “continue to run the company”. Last year, Page replaced Eric Schmidt as the CEO. The latter had been brought in as the CEO in 2001 to take care of management activities.

Schmidt informed shareholders that “Larry will continue to run the company, he’s running all the strategic business decisions and all that”. However, Page will be out of action for at least a month, and will not participate in Google’s second-quarter earnings conference call.

Although Google’s stock didn’t suffer from any knee-jerk reaction to Page’s illness, Google will undoubtedly face some tough questions over the coming weeks. Apple’s secretive handling of Steve Jobs’ health issues were widely criticized, and as a public company Google will be under pressure to provide more information pertaining to Page’s ailment.

Chrome Tries to Slim Down by Unloading Inactive Extensions from Memory

Google-ChromeWhen Google released Chrome browser, it promised a bloat-free and light-weight browsing experience. However, over the years, Chrome has put on a fair amount of weight. I still wouldn’t call it bloated, but I have consistently found Chrome to be the most demanding of all the browsers that I use. One of the major contributors to Chrome’s overhead is extensions. Now, Google is trying to do something about it.

Google has announced a new feature called “Event Pages” that will enable extension developers to put their Chrome extensions on a diet. All current generation Chrome extensions continue running in the background, even if they aren’t being actively used. Event Pages will allow developers to create extensions that will automatically be unloaded from the memory, if the user is not interacting with it.

Chrome has always been resource hungry due to its architecture. All plug-ins, extensions, and tabs have their own process. This means that on the whole Chrome require mores CPU cycles and memory than other browsers. Modern day computers do have sufficient memory to handle a browser, even a resource hungry one. Still, it’s still heartening to see Chrome developers trying to keep the extension overhead under control, as Chrome will also have to run on devices like the Chromebook.

This feature is currently available in the Chrome Dev Channel, and will be incorporated in Chrome Beta and Stable channels over the summer.

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut with Expanded Ending Releasing Next Week

Bioware has revealed more details about Extended Cut, which is its next free DLC for Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 was pulverized by fans for providing an ending that was ambiguous, unsatisfactory, and linear. The choices that the player made over the course of the three games seemed to have little impact on the ending that primarily relied on Deus ex Machina. Extended Cut attempts to fix several of the problems highlighted with the original ending.

Mass-Effect-3-Extended-Cut

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will be a 1.9 GB DLC that will expand upon the events at the end of Mass Effect 3 through additional dialogues and cut-scenes. Bioware promises that it will deliver the sense of closure that players have been seeking. It will reveal what the future holds, and show the impact that the player’s decisions had on that future.

The Extended Cut DLC will be released on June 26 for PlayStation 3 customers in North America. Gamers in rest of the world, including PC and Xbox 360 gamers, will get it on July 4. In order to experience the new content present in the Extended Cut, players will have to load a save game from before the attack on the Cerberus Base and play through to the end of the game.