Tag Archives: Tech News

Report Suggests That Terrorists Are Using Google Earth and Street View to Plan Attacks

A new counter-terrorism document published by the British home secretary Theresa May has revealed how terrorist organizations like the Al-Qaida are exploiting the internet. According to the 123-page counter-terror report, last year, a special unit – called the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigades for Electronic Jihad, was established to attack computers.

Besides attempting to invade Facebook and spreading propaganda through websites, terrorists are now taking advantage of the internet to plan and co-ordinate attacks. Google Earth and Street View are two tools that were singled out by the report. Back in 2005, India’s then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had warned that Google Earth poses a security risk. Several other countries including South Korea and the Netherlands had also expressed concern. In fact, Indian security agencies believe that Google Earth was employed by the terrorists behind the shocking 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.

Google-Street-View

Street View is a relatively new addition to Google’s mapping tools, which provides highly detailed on-the-ground pictures of any location that has been mapped. It has already run into trouble the European Union and several countries including India, Australia, and Germany due to allegations of snooping and privacy violations. The latest revelations will probably strengthen the opposition against this controversial project.

Google+ Open For Everyone With a Google Account

For the past week or so you might have heard a lot about , it was launched on 28th June and opened for invites shortly thereafter.  However, for over a week, Google stopped accepting new users and also denied existing users from inviting new ones.

Google Plus Open For Everyone

If you have been mystified with Google’s new take at social networking, here is some Google news. Google+ is now officially open to anyone with a Google account. All you have to do is to go to https://plus.google.com and Sign in with your account and you will be in. Existing and new users will also be able to invite anyone they want to join the service. So no need to ask anyone for invites anymore and also can finally get rid of those spammy Google+ invites.

By the way, we have been using Google+ for over a week and you might want to read through our series of articles which will be helpful to you when it comes to using and understanding Google+.

Have fun with Google+.

Update: Looks like there is some glitch, but the signups have definitely opened up and so have the invites. Please sign in in next few hours to get in. This is very much apparent because earlier Google did not allow users to Sign In, also invites are definitely back on.

Major US ISPs Agree to a Six Strikes Plan for Copyright Violators

CopyrightMajor internet service providers in the US, including AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, have agreed to limit the services of repeat copyright offenders. Unsurprisingly, the agreement was welcomed by both RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Cary Sherman, the RIAA’s president, hailed the pact as groundbreakingclaimed that it ushers in a new day and a fresh approach to addressing the digital theft of copyrighted works.

The pact comes after RIAA and MPAA’s scaremongering tactics failed to have a significant effect on piracy. The new “Copyright Alert System” takes a more nuanced approach and focuses strongly on educating the subscribers. The process highlighted by the mitigation measures document is as follows:

First Infringement: An ISP, in response to a notice from a copyright holder, will send an alert to a subscriber notifying the subscriber that his/her account may have been misused for online content theft, that content theft is illegal and a violation of the published policies of the ISP, and that consequences could result from any such conduct.

Second Infringement: If the alleged content theft persists despite the receipt of the first alert, the subscriber may get a second similar alert that will underscore the educational messages, or the ISP may in its discretion proceed to the next alert.

Third Infringement: If the alleged content theft persists after educational alerts are sent, then an additional alert will be sent which will include a conspicuous mechanism (such as a click-through pop-up notice, landing page, or other mechanism) asking the subscriber to acknowledge receipt of the alert.

Fourth Infringement: If, after this alert asking for acknowledgment, the subscriber’s account again appears to have been used in connection with online content theft, the subscriber will be sent yet another alert that again will require the subscriber to acknowledge receipt.

Fifth Infringement: If, after these educational and acknowledgment alerts, the subscriber’s account still appears to be engaged in content theft, the ISP will send yet another alert. At this time, the ISP may take one of several steps, referred to as Mitigation Measuresreasonably calculated to stop future content theft. These Mitigation Measures may include, for example: temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures (as specified in published policies) that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter. ISPs are not required to impose any Mitigation Measure which would disable or be reasonably likely to disable the subscriber’s voice telephone service (including the ability to call 911), e-mail account, or any security or health service (such as home security or medical monitoring). The ISP may also waive the Mitigation Measure. Any and all steps an ISP may take will be specified by their published policies.

Sixth Infringement: If, after this latest alert, the subscriber’s account still appears to be engaged in content theft, the ISP will send yet another alert and will implement a Mitigation Measure as described above. We anticipate that very few subscribers, after repeated alerts, will persist (or allow others to persist) in the content theft.

Before any of the mitigation measures are imposed, the subscriber can request an independent review, which has a waivable $35 filing fee. The subscriber can also take up the matter in a court of law.

Crucially, this pact “does not, in any circumstance, require the ISP to terminate a subscriber account”. Neither does it create any formal legal procedures or new laws. Consequently, it also doesn’t protect subscribers from being directly sued by the right holders.

Google+ Banned in China

Google-PlusIt’s been barely two days since Google Plus was unveiled, but China has already decided that it has seen and heard enough. Even before most Chinese people have had the chance to get their hands on a Google+ invite, the Chinese Government has banned the Google’s new social network.

Google’s troubles with the Chinese Government are well known and documented. Last year, Google pulled out of China, after a very public war of words with the government. Google alleged that elements with the probable backing of the government had hacked into its services to access data belonging to human rights activists. It’s not clear exactly which aspect of Google Plus aggravated the Chinese, but both Great Firewall of China and Just Ping are confirming that Google Plus is inaccessible inside China.

Google Plus is a new social network that was recently unveiled, and has since been dubbed as a potential “Facebook Killer” by pundits. It attempts to offer the best blend of openness and privacy through its strong focus on Circles (groups). If you have just received an invite, don’t forget to check out our Google+ setup guide. If you are still waiting for an invite, take a look at our screenshot tour. Due to excessive demand, Google has stopped handing out any more invites, but you can drop your mail in the queue to be notified as and when more invites become available.

Find out More About Stuff You Love with Google’s WDYL

These days Google seems to be interested in gaining a foothold in pretty much anything and everything. The end result is that Google now has a bewilderingly diverse set of products and services. Not all of them are popular. In fact, most of them are relatively unknown, and every now and then, Google is forced to retire some of its less popular offerings.

TechCrunch has uncovered another new service from Google, which is nothing but a mashup of different Google products. WDYL, or What Do You Love, is a new search engine which presents a diverse set of information about any topic that you are interested in.

WDYL-What-Do-You-Love

Key in any topic, and WDYL will present you pictures (Picasa), videos (YouTube), news (Google News), books (Google Books), discussions (Google Groups), patents (Google Patent Search), trends (Google Trends), and more about that topic. As mentioned earlier, WDYL works better for topics and popular/vague queries. However, to be honest, WDYL doesn’t work very well for anything. It’s just a mashup of multiple Google APIs that lacks any semblance of intelligence. Disappointingly, Google WDYL doesn’t try to understand what you are searching for. It simply runs every query you enter through the different services and throws up the result without taking into consideration the context. In fact, sometimes the results are so bad that they are downright humorous. Here are some of my SFW picks.

  • Buy all kinds of Vulgar stuff(query: Vulgar)
  • Scour the earth for Intelligence(query: Intelligence)
  • Access Vulgar stuff on the web, faster with Chrome(query: Vulgar)

WDYL is a glorified advertisement of different Google services. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be an official Google Project. It is probably something a Googler whipped up in a day during his allotted 20% time, and Google allowed it to be publicly released as the concept behind WDYL is appealing and promising. Unfortunately, the execution is anything but. Go ahead and play with it. However, you are going to get bored pretty soon.

Amazon Might Be Preparing to Enter India Soon

eCommercePluggd.In has uncovered compelling evidence that suggests that the American online ecommerce giant Amazon is preparing to expand to India soon. It has hired Madhu M from Landmark to head its book operations in India. It is also hiring people with earlier exposure to retails or online domain across all levels. Additionally, it is currently searching for a Manager for its Fulfillment Center.


Amazon hiring across all levels in Non-Tech, IIM,ISB good education MBA grade… earlier exposure to Retails or Online domain…Exposure de…less than a minute ago via LinkedIn Favorite Retweet Reply

Ecommerce in India is still in its infancy, but is experiencing rapid growth. If Amazon gets into the Indian market, it will face stiff competition from the likes of Flipkart and Infibeam. There is a good chance that Amazon might decide to acquire an already established player, instead of deciding to go in alone. In India, where most consumers are still wary about shopping online, reputation matters. Even more crucially, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) caps in India make it pretty much impossible for an US based entity like Amazon to launch a consumer-facing ecommerce venture in India, unless it wants to restrict itself to the six metros.

In the past we have seen eBay acquiring Baazee.com, and Groupon picking up SoSasta to enter the Indian market. Pluggd.In believes that a deal with Flipkart is off the table as the buyout price demanded by it was too high for Amazon. Earlier in the month, Flipkart raised $20 million from Tiger Global, which strongly suggests that it is planning on staying independent. Infibeam, which has been criticized in the past for ripping off Amazon’s products, website layout, and even logo, was also reported to be in talks with Amazon earlier, but that failed to yield any result.

Given the success and popularity of Amazon-like ecommerce services in India, it seems a no-brainer that Amazon itself will be interested in grabbing a piece of the pie. However, when and how it will do so remains to be seen.

Opera Software Loses Co-Founder Jon von Tetzchner

Opera Software lost its first co-founder, Geir Ivarsøy, in 2006 under tragic circumstances. Now, it has lost its other co-founder as Jon S. von Tetzchner has decided to quit the company.

Jon-Tetzchner“It is of course a choice that brings up a lot of emotions”, says von Tetzchner. “When we first started out, we were a few guys in a really small office – now we are spread all over the world, have over 740 employees and over 200 million users. I am very proud of what we have accomplished, and look forward to following the company closely also in the future.”

Opera began as a research project inside Telenor, the Norwegian telecom giant. In 1995, Tetzchner and Ivarsøy spun it off as an independent company, and established Opera Software. The first build of Opera (called MultiTorg) never saw the light of day, but Opera 2.1 was released in 1997.

Although, Opera is still a minor player in the desktop segment, it has made its presence felt through continuous innovation. Opera helped pioneer tabbed browsing, and was behind many popular features like search engine bar and speed dials. The company advocated strongly in favor of web standards and “One Web” before most others, and reaped the benefit of its vision by securing a dominant position in the mobile market.

After being the CEO of Opera for fifteen years, Tetzchner stepped down in January 2010, as Opera’s revenue slumped unexpectedly. Lars Boilesen took over the reins, and has since led Opera Software to record breaking highs by streamlining Opera’s operations and focusing on operator partnerships. Jon stayed on as a strategic advisor, and served as the public face of the company.

Boilesen bid farewell to Tetzchner with the following statement:

We had a lot of fun during these years, and to say that Jon has created a great company is an understatement. He has taught me and everyone working here a lot. He believed in, and pushed out innovation after innovation that we see our competitors constantly struggling with copying, making Opera a first mover in the technological development of web browsers as we know them today. We are very proud of Jon, and of course of the company. We are aiming at 500 million users by 2013, and we have a very positive flow right now.

Tetzchner will be staying with Opera Software till 30th of June. Although he didn’t divulge what his next project will be, we wish the man who created one of the most innovative and path breaking browsers all the best.

Update: TechCrunch has leaked an email sent by Tetzchner to Opera employees, in which he makes it clear that he is quitting due to differences with the board.

Dear All,

It is with a heavy heart that I send this message. Next week will be my
last at Opera. It has become clear that The Board, Management and I do not
share the same values and we do not have the same opinions on how to keep
evolving Opera. As a result I have come to an agreement with the Board to
end my time at Opera. I feel the Board and Management is more quarterly
focused than me. I have always worked to build the company for the future.
I believe the foundation we have is very solid to build further upon.

I do believe strongly in Opera as a company, and in all of you working
here. Our products actually make a difference for a lot of people in the
world, and I wish you all the best of luck moving forward. I will be
following the company closely and rooting for you all.

Yours truly,
Jon.

YouTube Begins Rolling Out Sleek New Video Player

In the past few years, YouTube has come of age. It went mainstream, paired up with the entertainment industry, and even found ways to generate revenue. Since acquiring YouTube, Google has packed it to the brim with handy features like interactive transcripts and leanback mode. However, one area where it hasn’t made much progress is visual appearance. Google has tweaked the video player a number of times in the past, with the most recent update adding HD image previews and providing a logoless embed option. In spite of that, YouTube’s player is still probably amongst the ugliest.

The good news is that Google has finally decided to go for a complete redesign, and is rolling out a new video player to select users. The new video player ditches white completely in favor of a sleek black skin. The roll out began a short while back, and doesn’t seem to be restricted to any specific region.

YouTube-Skin

Have you received the new video player? What is your take on the new YouTube player skin? Don’t forget to share your opinion with us.

Google Celebrates Summer Solstice with Specially Designed Doodles by Japanese Artist

For folks living in the northern hemisphere, today is summer solstice, or the day with the longest period of daylight. At the same time, folks in the southern hemisphere will be experiencing winter solstice, or the shortest period of daylight in the year.

To mark both these events, Google commissioned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to create special Google doodles. Murakami is an extremely popular and prolific artist who made it to Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2008. The doodles created by Murakami are (somewhat misleadingly) titled “First Day of Summer” and “First Day of Winter”, and are being displayed by Google across the world. Which of the two you end up getting served depends on the Google Search country-level domain that you are using. For example, Google Search India and France are displaying the summer solstice doodle, while Google Search Brazil and South Africa are serving the winter solstice variant.

Google-Doodle-First-Day-of-Summer
First Day of Summer
Google-Doodle-First-Day-of-Winter
First Day of Winter

Google first changed its logo to commemorate the Burning Man Festival of 1998. It was simply done by Page and Brin to notify users of their absence in case the servers crashed. Since then, Google has changed its logo to mark a wide range of events of varying significance. Their doodles have evolved from being static images to being impressive animations and interactive objects, and have become a medium for both making social statements and expressing creativity. Check out our archives for a collection of some of the best Google doodles.

ICANN Changes Internet’s Domain Name System, Allows Brands to Register Their Own TLD

ICANN, the non-profit organization tasked with the responsibility of managing the top-level domain name space, has voted overwhelmingly in favor of opening up top-level domains to established private or public organizations.

The right most label in a domain name, such as .com and .edu, is referred to as the top-level domain (TLD). Currently, there are 22 TLDs, along with about 250 country level domains. Under the new plan, any established organization that wishes to get its own TLD can do so for a sum of $185,000. Applications for the same will be accepted between 12 January 2012 and 12 April 2012.

“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration”. ICANN believes that the new TLD system will enable organizations to change the way they brand their online presence. “ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind,” said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

Opening up of TLD will enable organizations to come up with shorter and more meaningful domain names. However, what it will also do is add a bewildering amount of complexity. Most of the users land on webpages through search engines and other websites; however, a significant number of them still rely on memory to directly key in the URL. Now users will have to memorize dozens of different TLDs along with the domain names. Moreover, most organizations will almost be compelled to get their own TLD due to their basic instinct to protect their brand name. Millions and billions of dollars will be spent by organizations on something that doesn’t really seem to be necessary. Only the future will tell if the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) succeed in actually helping organizations or not. However, one thing is for certain. It will definitely help the domain name registrars and ICANN.

gTLD
Infographic via CircleID