Category Archives: Tech News

Apple Bans Rogue Developer: Confirms iTunes Fraud

Apple Apple has finally stepped in to put an end to the increasing incidents of fraudulent purchases in the iTunes App Store. Last week, we reported that someone called Thuat Nguyen was purchasing his own applications using hacked iTunes accounts. In fact, apps developed by Nguyen managed to claim 42 of the top 50 spots in the App Store rankings for the Books category.

Apple has now banned Thuat Nguyen and issued the following statement to Engadget:

The developer Thuat Nguyen and his apps were removed from the App Store for violating the developer Program License Agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns.

Developers do not receive any iTunes confidential customer data when an app is downloaded.

If your credit card or iTunes password is stolen and used on iTunes we recommend that you contact your financial institution and inquire about canceling the card and issuing a chargeback for any unauthorized transactions. We also recommend that you change your iTunes account password immediately. For more information on best practices for password security visit http://www.apple.com/support/itunes.

According to Clayton Morris, about four hundred iTunes accounts were compromised. Apple’s statement indicates that the hacking resulted out of callousness on the part of the user and not due some inherent vulnerability in iTunes. Nevertheless, Apple will be beefing up its security measures to make it harder for hacked accounts to be exploited.

Google Now Shows Flight Results in Search

It was just a few days ago that Google acquired ITA software. Keith Dsouza covered this news earlier stating,

Google just got into the travel industry by acquiring a Boston based company called ITA, which specializes in organizing airline data, flight times, availability and prices. With this acquisition Google might be looking to build a more robust and useful travel search engine where they could also possibly make more money through the medium.

It did not take long for his predictions to come true and within a week of the acquisition, Google has started showing flight results data in search.

To search for any flight for a day, you need to use the abbreviation for the airlines and the flight number. The result is shown as:

google-search-flight

This might be the first step to a series of changes that are yet to come. Google might start displaying and providing comparative analysis of airfares as well.

Update: This feature competes directly with Live.com Search for Flight Status.

Yahoo News Finally Switching to an Algorithm from Human Editors

Yahoo news is respected for the fact that it has human editors. News on Yahoo is always of higher quality and relevance. On the other hand, Google uses an algorithm to add content to its News service and as we know, the algorithm does not care much about the quality and relevance of the news.

This is the exact reason why Yahoo News has been acclaimed more often that Google News. However, the task of manually picking up news is tedious in itself and this is why Yahoo has finally decided to switch to an automated system for this tasks.

JEREMY W. PETERS at NY Times writes,

For as long as hot lead has been used to make metal type, the model for generating news has been top-down: editors determined what information was important and then shared it with the masses.

However, with the advent of technology that allows media companies to identify what kind of content readers want, that model is becoming inverted.

The new algorithm Yahoo will use will be based on search queries. People all over the Internet will monitor these search terms and send them to the editors when they are on a rise. Yahoo is using a considerable amount of crowdsourcing here to generate its news. The participation on users in this process will help make the content more appealing to readers. This makes for a perfect combination of human and computers aiming to achieve a unified goal.

NY Times calls this a “democratic style” of reporting news where the content is of the people, for the people and by the people. The idea looks promising on paper. However, how it fares against other news services cannot be predicted.

The Cost of Switching Over to SSL, How Hard Was it for Google?

Google has made some decisive changes to its services over the last few months. We have seen a redesigned Search, a redesigned YouTube, Google News, changes in Google Apps and the the addition of an Encrypted Search for enhanced security.

google-logo

Google has provided HTTPS access from a long time on Gmail now. However, the latest decision to add SSL on other services in future and providing a separate encrypted page maintains the mojo Google is enjoying with the head-start this year.

HTTPS is a SSL encrypted HTTP which provides security. However we have not seen it appear on mainstream websites yet. SSL security has been an issue for too long. Most websites do not provide it because it is expected to be something of a high standard and is believed to require powerful servers. On the contrary, the truth is that HTTPS is not at all as resource intensive on the server as it is believed to be.

A Chrome Engineer at Google, Adam Langley writes at the Imperial Violet stating,

all of our users use HTTPS to secure their email between their browsers and Google, all the time. In order to do this we had to deploy no additional machines and no special hardware. On our production frontend machines, SSL/TLS accounts for less than 1% of the CPU load, less than 10KB of memory per connection and less than 2% of network overhead. Many people believe that SSL takes a lot of CPU time and we hope the above numbers (public for the first time) will help to dispel that.

However, the downside with SSL is that it includes a considerable latency in connection. This research reveals that there is a latency of 3.5x on SSL handshakes, the method of initializing a connection to  server. Basically, using SSL connections slows down connection establishment to a server. So did Google just compromise speed for security? Definitely not.

Google is using several mechanisms to reduce this latency. See this excerpt from the post at Langley’s blog.

OpenSSL tends to allocate about 50KB of memory for each connection. We have patched OpenSSL to reduce this to about 5KB.

Moreover Google also caches most HTTPS requests which allows it to serve them faster in subsequent queries. Google claims that this resume behavior takes place 50% of the time. SSL has been optimized at its best at Google.

These facts prove that SSL is not as resource intensive as it is blamed to be. The fact of it being more expensive is just a commercial aspect and a business policy.

However, for services that are not being served through SSL, they can fall prey to critical attacks like these.

Lady Gaga Has More Fans Than Obama On Both Facebook and Twitter!

If you think President Obama has a huge following, think again. Lady Gaga beats Obama hands down, at least on Facebook. With 10.4 Million Facebook fans compared to the 9.7 Million for Obama, Lady Gaga’s Facebook page is a living proof of her ever growing popularity.

However, Facebook is not the only social media portal the singer has taken over. According to a social media analytics company Visible Measures, Lady Gaga is the only current music artist to reach 1 Billion views on YouTube. Some of her videos have individually reached hundreds of millions of views; for example video for her song Bad Romance currently has 238 Million views.  Not to forget, she also commands 4.7 Million followers on Twitter, again beating President Obama who just has 4.5 Million followers.

Lady Gaga’s fans on Facebook recently also organized a National Lady Gaga day that ended up having more than 100,000 attendees.With a pro-active social media marketing strategy, Lady Gaga has added millions of people to her fan following in no time. It is a great example of how cutting edge technology and real-time interaction with fans can help you even more than the traditional mediums of marketing.

[Via Mashable]

Forget Trident Gum, Would You Like To Be Paid In Tweets?

If the title doesn’t make much sense, you probably have not seen the latest Trident Gum commercial yet where people are happy to be paid in Trident Gum instead of money. Well, not sure how that’ll play out in the real world but somebody thought of a better idea. Why not pay and get paid in Tweets?

PayWithaTweet is a new web service that encourages transactions in tweets. As the service explains, sometimes a tweet can generate so much buzz about your product that it is worth more than the money you’ll get selling 1 unit of that product. This can be specially true if what you are selling is virtual like an article, a song, an e-book or any other creative thing where getting paid in tweets won’t cost you anything but instead work as a marketing strategy. To sell your stuff for tweets, you can use PayWithaTweet to generate a “Pay With a Tweet” button that will allow users to download your content once they have tweeted about it. Furthermore, you can specify the text of the tweet and include a short URL with it.

Pay With Tweets

For buyers, it wouldn’t hurt getting something for free if all you have to do is tweet about it. For sellers, it can be a really good tool to market your product for free and you always have the option to replace the “Pay With a Tweet” button with “Pay With $$$” button once you realize you have generated enough buzz about your product. As of yet, PayWithaTweet offers a very simple tool for a very powerful idea that can be developed into a more comprehensive marketing model over time. For example, if a business is able to filter out people who’s tweets would not help much, they would eliminate the risk of giving free products to people who won’t generate enough buzz. On the other hand, if you are a user with lots of followers and high Twitter reputation, you can get lots of free products like e-books, movie tickets and even gadgets and gizmos.

Twitter To Offer Shopping Deals Using @EarlyBird Account

TwitterRecently, Twitter has been experimenting with all sorts of strategies to monetize their network. It started with promoted tweets, followed by promoted trends and now it seems like Twitter is getting into the shopping deals business by offering early bird discounts. The @EarlyBird account was setup just a few days ago and has not seen any activity yet. However, it is not too hard to guess that Twitter will use the account to advertise shopping deals to millions of users who decide to follow the account.

It is a really good strategy given the fact that it will not be in users face like an annoying banner or pop-up ad. However, it is also  important  that Twitter uses a good strategical placement to highlight the account so users can know about it. Companies would love the extra marketing channel and users won’t mind it since it would be totally opt-in. While it won’t be a Woot or Groupon killer, this latest effort by Twitter should work well since it would be more useful and relevant to users than either of the previous methods.  A good example of this strategy in action is Dell. Using its various accounts on Twitter to publish deals, Dell has generated $6.5 Million in revenue from users who were directed to Dell’s website through these Twitter accounts.

What do you think about the chances of @EarlyBird being a successful monetization strategy? Would you follow the account?

Woot Takes Potshot At Apple’s Letter On iPhone 4 Antenna Issues

Woot the daily deal website which was recently acquired by Amazon, have already started to show some on Amazon’s hate for Apple. Today’s Woot deal is for a TiVo HD XL DVR which is selling for $179.99 has some nice love for Apple.

Woot Amazon Apple Potshot

Woot’s description of the TiVo player is where they take a huge potshot at Apple’s recent open letter on Antenna issues, read it below in it’s entirety.

Dear Wooters:

The TiVo HDXL 150 Hour THX Certified DVR has been the most successful product in the history of the world. Ever. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but we think it’s pretty keen. So we were surprised when we read reports of problems our customers were having with the device, and we immediately began investigating them. Well, not immediately. We waited an hour after eating lunch. We didn’t want to cramp up, you know.

We have discovered the cause of these dramatic issues, and it is both simple and surprising in a way that makes us very disappointed with you all.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that some of you were holding the TiVo HDXL up to your head as if it were a smartphone of some kind. This is, well, not how you use the product at all, actually. Mostly, it’s used for things like recording up to 150 hours of HD television and movies and playback withTHX-certified home theater sound. We didn’t really think we had to explain that to folks, but I guess you guys needed a little more clarity. Weird.

To fix this, we have adopted the view of a very powerful, black turtleneck-clad CEO to best formulate a response that should assist in your use of the TiVo HDXL 150 Hour THX Certified DVR: Just don’t hold it that way.

In fact, don’t hold it at all. Put it on a shelf and connect it to your HDTV and other components. Use the included backlit TiVo remote to access your recorded shows from the comfort of your couch. DO NOT attempt to use this remote as a smartphone. Seriously.

Thank you for your patience and support.

The best part of the potshot is that it actually links to Apple’s Open letter about the Antenna issues. So if Amazon upping the game here and taking an indirect potshot on Apple just like Nokia and Motorola have done recently?

(Woot via Gear Diary)

WordPress Plugins Downloaded Over 100 Million Times

Looks like it is another month of milestones, yesterday Firefox crossed 2 billion add-on downloads and today it was the turn of WordPress to cross over 100 million plugin downloads.

wordpress_logo

In an announcement on the official WordPress blog, the dev team have released some statistics which state that 10,000+ plugins in the WordPress repository have been downloaded over 100 million times. In addition to that, WordPress 3.0 has also been downloaded over 3 million times.

WordPress 3.0 Thelonious passed 3 million downloads yesterday, and today the plugin directory followed suit with a milestone of its own: 100 million downloads.

Just like , WordPress plugins too have been a very integral part of the popularity of WordPress. WordPress has a huge community of developers and contributors who have made this possible and there is definitely more in store with the latest version of WordPress taking a CMS approach.

I am also proud to say that my WordPress plugins have been downloaded around 400,000 times which is definitely a great number. I am very sure that other contributions and plugin developers will be proud of their achievements too.

Google Voice Desktop Application Leaked

Looks like Google Voice might be trying to take over Skype on the desktop in the future. In a video that aired on TechCrunch today, Mike Arrington got hold of the Google Voice Desktop application using which he could make and receive calls.

Google Voice Desktop

The calls were of pretty high quality and did were made using the inbuilt speaker and microphone on the computer. The Google Voice Desktop app has a definitive edge over the Skype application because it is attached to your actual phone number. If this app is released it will make it really easy for users to make phone calls from their desktop just like Skype and will definitely make Google Voice one of the best innovations ever.

Google Voice is now available to all US users without having to wait for an invite. Hopefully we should also see this app being released soon. Till then watch a video below of the Google Voice Desktop application in action. (RSS readers, click here to view the video)

(via TechCrunch)