Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Instagram launched a genuine messaging service

Instagram has just added a bunch of new instant messaging features to its mobile apps, making it easier to hold one-to-one conversations, share photos privately and keep track of group chats on the platform.
Instagram Direct launched back in December 2013, giving users the option to send photos privately, but up until now it's been fairly limited as a DM platform - users had to start conversations with a photo, for example, and could only reply with text rather than another picture.
Now both of those limitations have been dropped. What's more, it's now possible to share something straight from your feed into a private conversation, reducing the need for all those @mentions cluttering up the comments.

Pick up the thread

The newly added threaded conversations feature makes it easier to pick up chats where you left off, and Instagram obviously wants to tap into the success enjoyed by WhatsApp - both apps are owned by Facebook, of course.
"With these changes to Direct, it's easier to connect around the things you love," enthuses Instagram in the official blog post. "We hope it helps bring the community closer together than ever."
According to Instagram, around 85 million people (from a total userbase of 300 million) make use of Instagram Direct. The new upgrades available now on iOS and Android should see that figure climb further.

Three new phones, from an unlikely player

One of the world's leading home phone providers has just stepped into the mobile game, just like it's 1990, and has announced three new phones you can actually leave the house with.
German manufacturer Gigaset has launched a new series of smartphones in the form of the Gigaset ME, Gigaset ME Pure and Gigaset ME Pro.
The Gigaset ME and Gigaset ME Pure both feature 5-inch Full HD displays while the Gigaset ME Pro features a Full HD 5.5-inch display.

An unusual suspect

Both the ME and ME Pro are running Qualcomm's octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM while the ME Pure is running a Snapdragon 615 with 2GB of RAM.
All three phones run the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop software with new Type C USB ports included as well so you won't be struggling to fit your cable in again.
The ME and ME Pro both have 32GB of internal storage while the ME Pure is restricted to 16GB but luckily it supports up to 128GB of microSD storage to make up for it.
All the phones feature an impressive 8MP front facing camera whille the ME has a 16MP rear shooter, the ME Pure a 13MP sensor and the ME Pro comes with a huge 20MP sensor. All the phones feature 120-degree wide-angle lens as well as the ability to film 2K video.
The new phones are set for a European and China launch in "autumn 2015" so an official release date is not too clear just yet.
If you're tempted by these impressive sounding handsets from a surprising source, the ME Pure will set you back £249, the ME is £349 while the ME Pro costs £399.

ASUS 'World's Fastest WiFi'

If you wanted an insane looking router with an almost as-insane boast, then say hello to ASUS' new router. Touting it as the best for gaming, 4K streaming and smart home networking, the RT-AC5300 router will apparently give speeds that are 67 percent faster than first-gen, tri-band routers. It's calling it the world's fastest WiFi. ASUS is promising up to 1Gbps connections over 2.4GHz and up to 2.167Gbps on each of the two 5GHz bands -- that's a lot of data. Google just got a new router challenger.

Google's New Logo Looking A Little More 'playschool'

The more you see something, the more normal it becomes.Today, Google unveiled a new logo and branding. So far the public reaction is a mixed bag.
I’m sure that most of the people who spend time in Mountain View working for Google barely noticed its logo anymore. It was on T-shirts, buildings, computers, stickers and everything in between.
Of course, people don’t like change. But then the surprise wears off and what changed becomes the new normal. (This progression doesn’t include the whole Alphabet thing — that change hasn’t sunk in for me yet.)
Seeing Google’s new logo in the wild makes it seem a little more normal than when it’s in a blog post or a promotional video. A little more human if you will:
(photos via +Marvin Chow , +Mike Brzozowski  and +Antoine Naaman )
Having been through a logo change at an iconic Internet company — Yahoo — I can say that swapping these things out is quite an undertaking. Think of every single property that a company of this size has stamped its logo on. Luckily, Google swapped in a flatter version of its logo in 2013, so it had recently gone through this exercise.
It’s not easy, though. Every building, every app, every page, every piece of schwag, every blog has to get changed (and 5,000 things that I can’t think of at this moment). It’s not like Google woke up and said “hey, let’s change our logos today.” I bet there was a good 3-6 months of planning for this at least.
I mean, making sure to swap out the favicon is a huge deal when doing something like this.

When’s the last time that a Googler actually thought about its favicon? Wild.
This isn’t the end. We’ll be talking about this very topic again one day. The next time Google changes its logo, to be precise. Don’t tell all of the people who were involved in changing out the logo this time, though…they need a mini-vacation after this.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Good luck and goodbye, Ashley Madison.

If you felt bad for the folks who work at “discreet encounter” site Ashley Madison, don’t. They’re just fine, apparently. According to this lovely press release, the company behind Ashley Madison, Avid Life Media, has had “hundreds of thousands of morons who want their info stolen people sign up for the service” since the hack heard round the world.
Tons of conversations and stories swirled about famous people who used the site, but hey…who are we to judge? They’re doing swimmingly!
Recently, the company announced that its CEO had stepped down, citing a mutual agreement.
Before today’s announcement, the company said: “We are actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members’ privacy by criminals.” It apparently took a break to tell us how great it is (and of course not a signal asking to be hacked again):
Recent media reports predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison are greatly exaggerated. The company continues its day-to-day operations even as it deals with the theft of its private data by criminal hackers. Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing. This past week alone, hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for the Ashley Madison platform – including 87,596 women.
That’s right, the site hasn’t just seen “hundreds of thousands” of new users signing up, some of them are actually women. Not fake women, mind you. Real ones who like to talk, according to Avid Life Media. Really. They said that women sent “more than 2.8 million messages within our platform” last week.
Well ain’t that grand. The hack is the best thing to ever happen to the site. Hopefully this means we can stop covering it now and giving them free promotion. I seriously never want to see that damn “shhh” homepage ever again.

Monday, 31 August 2015

India Slams Google Search

In Europe, Google stands accused of favoring its own products and services when providing search results to users. Now, India has joined in, with the country's Competition Commission accusing the company of abusing its dominant position in the search market. A report by the Economic Times says that a coterie of other firms have poured anti-Google sentiment into official ears, including from Microsoft and Flipkart. The latter claiming that its position in the ranks seems to get higher the more advertising it buys from the engine. It's not the first time that Indian regulators have jabbed angry fingers towards the firm, accusing it of dodgy dealing when it came to AdWords sales in 2012.
As with the EU's investigation, the company is believed to be pushing its own products ahead of those actually wanted (or needed) by users. In one example, this means that CNBC's India-based investment site MoneyControl will get second-billing to Google Finance, even if the former is more popular. The company now has 10 days to answer the charges, and public hearings will kick off shortly afterward, although it has already protested its innocence. If the commission finds that Google is at fault, it'll be able to fine the firm up to 10 percent of the company's income -- and if Europe follows suit, it's going to mean some painful weeks for Alphabet's accountants.
[Image Credit: MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images]

A Gold-Plated Version Of LG Watch Urbane Smartwatch

Android fans wanting a touch of gold with their smartwatch — a la the Apple Watch — may be interested to learn of a fancy pants version of LG’s Watch Urbane.
Priced at just $1,200, the LG Watch Urbane Luxe is a limited edition timepiece produced by LG and jeweler Reeds. It will be showcased at the IFA electronics show in Berlin this week and is available for pre-order on Reeds’ site now, though the actual product — the 500 of them being made — won’t ship until October.
Beyond the standard LG Urbane, which is probably one of the nicest looking Android smartwatches to date, Reeds has added 23-karat gold plating and an alligator leather strap. If that didn’t get your fancy, there’s a bespoke deployment clasp and “each LG Watch Urbane Luxe is individually numbered and presented in a piano gloss lacquered case with a signed certificate of authenticity.”
We can think of plenty of things more deserving of our $1,200, but maybe there are 500 people who will go for this. I’m personally a much bigger fan of LG’s new rollable keyboard, which is also being unveiled this week in Germany this week and will be a lot, lot cheaper. (Not to mention, infinitely more useful.)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Noel Biderman has left Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media with immediate effect.

The founder and chief executive of the Ashley Madison infidelity dating website, Noel Biderman, has stepped down.
A statement released by the firm said his departure was "in the best interest of the company".
The senior management team will take over leadership until a new chief executive is appointed, it added.
Details of more than 33m accounts were stolen from the website, which offers people the chance to have an affair.

"We are actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members' privacy by criminals. We will continue to provide access to our unique platforms for our worldwide members," the firm's statement said.

"We are actively co-operating with international law enforcement in an effort to bring those responsible for the theft of proprietary member and business information to justice."

Canadian parent company Avid Life Media, which owns the site, has offered a reward of C$500,000 (£240,000) for information about the Ashley Madison hackers.
The leaked data, stolen by a group calling itself Impact Team, also included 200,000 emails belonging to Noel Biderman.
Norwegian security researcher Per Thorsheim confirmed to the BBC that they appeared genuine.
"I saw one email or two emails and I could verify the sender, the recipient, the domains and everything so it has to be an email from the CEO's mailbox," he said.
"There's no doubt about that."


Mr Biderman, a former sports lawyer, launched the website in 2001.
He said at the time that he wanted to offer the same opportunities for both women and men seeking extra-marital encounters.
However some of the journalists and security experts who have trawled through the leaked data say there appear to be many more male profiles than female ones.
The site's name was made up of the two most popular names for baby girls in the US at the time - Ashley and Madison.
Parent company Avid Life Media also owns other match-making websites including Cougar Life, Established Men, and The Big and the Beautiful.
Prior to the hack, the firm had announced plans to list publicly in London later this year, with the aim of raising up to $200m (£134m).
At the time Christoph Kramer, Ashley Madison's director of international relations, said Europe had "a more laissez-faire attitude" towards the sector.

Maybe soon there will be a generation of children who has no space at all.

I’m not sure we’ve gone a week without a new story about Windows 10 invading our privacy, and this week is no exception. Earlier this week, The Independent Noticed that Windows 10 will automatically send parents detailed logs of their childrens’ Internet activity by default if they open up a family account on the computer.
There’s no warning for either the children or the parents that this is happening, which raises some very serious questions about Microsoft’s right to decide what information parents have access to.
Now, it’s worth saying up front that there are certain things that parents might want or need to know about their children, especially if their search terms indicate that they might be depressed or interested in something potentially dangerous that could be explained more thoroughly and with better context in a face-to-face conversation.
That said, it should be up to the individual families whether or not they have the ability to see every online search and webpage the children are visiting. Some commenters have pointed out that as awful of a place as the Internet can be, it also contains a wealth of information for children who might want to learn something without approaching their parents.
Of course, you can turn the feature off, but others have questioned whether or not Microsoft is still collecting the data and just not sending it to the parents. Once again, Microsoft is alarming Windows 10 users with its total lack of transparency.

Now You Can Make Your Facebook Look Better

Anytime Facebook changes, most people clamor and scream about how it's time to leave the social media site once and for all. But now a Google Chrome extension might actually bring the change you want to see on Facebook.
The new flat-design extension attempts to refocus Facebook on content you care about, without other features like "Recent posts" and "Trending." Rof Tentik, a developer and UI designer, chose a flat design because it includes these main features: a page becomes easier to load, and the design can easily work on a variety of screens without looking too playful.
Also in this version of Facebook, the colors are bolder, the font is entirely Trebuchet, you see more white space, and it includes a sticky left-side menu showing everything about you, like photos, notifications, and groups.
You can also toggle on and off the extension at the top-left corner, so you're not always stuck with this design if you change your mind. Try it out — you might end up liking Facebook a lot more this way.

Will Chrome block obnoxious Flash ads?

Back in June, Google shared the good news that the Chrome browser would soon be smart enough to "intelligently pause content that aren't central to the webpage" that you're visiting. It's a welcome change that should help to continue marginalizing the annoyance of Flash. Fortunately, that blessed new feature is ready for prime time. On the Google+ page for the company's AdWords advertising program, Google said that a Chrome update coming on September 1st would make Flash-blocking the default state for users.
Google's recommending that its advertisers switch over to HTML5 ads to avoid them being blocked, but for the rest of us, this only comes as good news. Blocking Flash content that you don't want to see should hopefully make for a better browsing experience and also increase your computer's battery life. Chrome has always been a bit of a battery hog, especially when you compare it to Safari on a Mac, but we're hoping this change evens the playing field a bit. It's worth noting that you can manually activate this feature now: go into the Chrome settings, select "Show advanced settings," then select the content settings for "Privacy" and then select "Detect and run important plugin content."
[Image credit: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images]

A last roll of the smartphone dice?

Despite just having a sliver of market share to its name, BlackBerry isn't done yet with the smartphone market yet, and the company evidently thinks that Android is the way to solve its platform's crippling lack of modern-day apps.
Enter the BlackBerry Venice, an Android-powered phone with a QWERTY keyboard that we've been hearing rumours of for some time. There's been no confirmation from BlackBerry yet but there's a growing pile of clues that the handset is indeed on the way.
And you can add to that pile a new batch of photos leaked by Vietnamese website They show the front and back of the new slider device and leave little to the imagination.

Back in business?

Specs-wise we're probably looking at a 1.8GHz hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor paired with 3GB of RAM. A 5.4-inch QHD screen will feature apparently accompanied by a microSD slot for adding extra storage.
If the latest version of Android isn't enough to tempt punters, this could be the last BlackBerry smartphone you see - CEO John Chen went on record this weekend to say that if BlackBerry can't make money from mobiles then it will get out of the business.
"There is a timeline; I won't tell you when," he said. "If you really want to play in the bigger market, you are going to have to be cross-platform. You are going to have to have partners; otherwise you go away."