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Amendment was shot down that would have required warrants before police could peruse shared information for any evidence of hundreds of different crimes. A controversial data-sharing bill being debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives authorizes federal agencies to conduct warrantless searches of information they obtain from e-mail and Internet providers.
Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, proposed a one-sentence amendment (PDF) that would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies to secure a “warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment” before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Grayson complained this morning on Twitter that House Republicans “wouldn’t even allow debate on requiring a warrant before a search.”
That language has alarmed dozens of advocacy groups, including the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders, which sent a letter (PDF) to Congress last month opposing CISPA. It says: “CISPA’s information-sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like Internet records or the content of e-mails, to any agency in the government.” President Obama this week threatened to veto CISPA.
CISPA’s advocates say it’s needed to encourage companies to share more information with the federal government, and to a lesser extent among themselves, especially in the wake of an increasing number of successful and attempted intrusions. A “Myth v. Fact” paper (PDF) prepared by the House Intelligence committee says any claim that “this legislation creates a wide-ranging government surveillance program” is a myth. Unlike last year’s Stop Online Piracy Act outcry, in which Internet users and civil liberties groups allied with technology companies against Hollywood, no broad alliance exists this time. Companies including AT&T, Comcast, EMC, IBM, Intel, McAfee, Oracle, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon have instead signed on as CISPA supporters.
Because Grayson’s amendment was not permitted, CISPA will allow the federal government to compile a database of information shared by private companies and search that information for possible violations of hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal laws. Those include searching the database for “cybersecurity purposes,” for the “investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes,” for “child pornography” offenses, for “kidnapping,” for “serious threats to the physical safety of minors,” and any other crime related to protecting anyone from “serious bodily harm.”
Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat and former Internet entrepreneur, said the “serious bodily harm” language was vague enough to allow federal police agencies to go on fishing expeditions for electronic evidence. ”The government could use this information to investigate gun shows” and football games because of the threat of serious bodily harm if accidents occurred, Polis said. “What do these things even have to do with cybersecurity?… From football to gun show organizing, you’re really far afield.” That’s why the ACLU continues to oppose this bill, says Michelle Richardson, the group’s legislative counsel. Thanks to the amendments that were not permitted, Richardson says, “there’s a disconnect here between what they say is going to happen and what the legislation says.”
The company’s application describes the technology behind what it called in the patent filing “Virtual University,” but is now known as iTunes U. The technology behind Apple’s iTunes U, a repository of educational information for students and teachers, has been outed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
According to Patently Apple, which was first to discover the patent application today, the iPhone maker filed for a patent on the technology that powers iTunes U. Interestingly, the technology in the patent application is called Virtual University, but Apple ostensibly decided it wasn’t the right name for its service.
So, what does Apple’s application describe? The application describes a method by which instruction information is displayed within a graphical user interface. The technology also includes how students can use iTunes U for in-session or self-paced courses, and how users can sift through available courses and document information.
Apple’s iTunes U has been growing in leaps and bounds. Apple in February announced that it now has more than 2,500 public and thousands of private courses from over 1,200 universities and colleges, and 1,200 K-12 schools and districts. It’s also hit 1 billion downloads. Interestingly, Apple’s iTunes U application was filed on October 14, 2011. However, the service was actually announced on May 30, 2007.
Google’s online e-mail and file storage service are having some access problems, according to Google’s status page — and lots of frustrated users. Google Drive and Gmail are both experiencing service disruptions today. Google’s Apps Status Dashboard says that Google is investigating reports of issues with both services and will provide more information shortly. The issue seems to be sporadic. Web siteIsItDownRightNow says that its test of Google Drive passed without any errors, but numerous users have reported problems in the last few hours, including some of us here. Frustrated users have also taken to Twitter to complain that Gmail and Drive are both inaccessible.
This digital assistant app, popular in Spain, is rolling out in the U.S. today. The march toward a better, voice-controlled future continues, even with Siri, Google Voice Search and newer digital assistants, such as Donna, already on the scene. The latest entrant is Sherpa, a natural languageAndroid app that’s a top app in Spain and Latin America and today is rolling out in the U.S. — first for Android, eventually for iOS.
Like Siri, Sherpa attempts to help organize your life and preform task when you ask the app questions or give it commands. It’s the brainchild of Xabier Uribe-Etxebarria, who’s based in Bilbao, Spain, and has been working on natural language and semantic technology for more than a decade. ”My vision was to build interface to our digital life,” Uribe-Etxebarria told me. “For everything to be done through Sherpa. We haven’t done that yet. But compared with other, we’re way better. We’re beyond Siri.”
That will be up to users to decide. Sherpa, which also has offices in Redwood City, Calif., has partnered with a number of companies and draws on a number of sources, such as PayPal, Themoviedb.org,Lastminute.com, Wikipedia and LinkedIn. The idea is to limit the dependency on search engines so Sherpa can deliver up specific answers instead of a list of links.
Sherpa works in both English and Spanish, and the technology learns over time, says Uribe-Etxebarria, so it should get better at interpreting what you’re asking for. It does some nifty things. You can ask it to show your mentions on Twitter, and it does. You can post directly to Facebook by talking. You can tell it to pay someone $10 through PayPal and complete the transaction. You can ask to hear a Rihanna song, and Sherpa begins to stream the music via a partnership with a European company that has the rights to 4 million tracks.
Organizations are setting up sites useful for tracking down friends and family, donating blood, or finding out the latest news after the Boston Marathon tragedy. People in the Boston area, and those close to people possibly affected by today’s explosions there, are understandably worried about their ability to find or communicate with each other. As a result, a number of organizations have created resources to help. This is a collection of several of them.
Tracking friends and family
For those trying to track down people they worry might have been victims of the explosions, there are at least two people finders. First is one set up by Google, and a second comes from the Red Cross. A third service is a list of runners who checked in after completing the Boston Marathon. The explosions occurred at the race’s finish line.
Many people in the Boston area also are wondering where they can donate blood. Boston’s Mass General hospital has a donation center. But the eastern Massachusetts Red Cross, which was originally accepting donations, has now asked the public to schedule future donations after getting more than it could handle.
The Boston Globe also has set up a special page on its Web site where it is aggregating news and public commentary about today’s tragedy.
Law enforcement asking for photos and videos
Meantime, police and other law enforcement officials likely have an unprecedented amount of potential evidence they can use in their investigation into what happened today and who is responsible. The Boston Police Department is asking the public for any video of the race’s finish line. It’s likely that the number of people shooting photos and videos of the race’s end means that a wealth of evidence could be available to law enforcement.
Places for runners to stay
Meanwhile, those who came into town for the marathon and who now have no place to stay have at least a couple of options. First, the Boston Globe has put together a Google doc where people can offer up rooms to those in town for the marathon who need a place to stay.
Live police and fire department scanners
And those wishing to listen in on live scanners from the Boss
Google releases its policies for third-party Google Glass developers. In the fine print: they can’t display ads or charge for the software. Google, which relies on advertising for some 95 percent of its revenue, doesn’t want ads on its hotly anticipated Google Glass eyewear. The blanket prohibition came in the fine print of a policy made public this evening, which says “Glassware” developers may not “serve or include any advertisements” and they “may not charge” users to download apps for the device.
Today’s announcement, which coincided with news that Google Glass Explorer Edition prototypes were about to ship, indicates that the Mountain View company is proceeding carefully, even slowly, when allowing third-party developers access to the head mounted display’s full capabilities. It also means that developers won’t have an obvious way of making money from their apps. ”We know a lot of you are eager to learn more about it, and I have some great news,” Google developer programs engineer Jenny Murphy wrote in a post on Google+ this evening. “Today we’re releasing the API documentation and a bunch of example code, so even though the API is in a limited developer preview, you can start dreaming with us.”
Google has taken a different approach than other platforms have, including Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and even Android: instead of encouraging native code that tends to be faster and more flexible, that approach is not permitted. The new Google Mirror API suggests that the intelligence behind Glassware will, at least for now, reside on third party servers and communicate with the eyewear through encrypted links, much like Web apps do today.
That should reduce the likelihood of crashes, malware, and unexpected battery drain from buggy software — at the expense of limiting developers’ ability to take full advantage of Glass. Voice input, for instance, is not currently accessible to developers. User interaction with Glassware is limited, and more advanced hardware features like real-time image recognition that would lead to augmented reality applications are also not accessible. (So much for the makers of Adblock Plus’ jest about the Glassware they want to build.)
The documentation does say that Glassware will be able to share “photos taken by the built-in camera,” display images, and with permission access the user’s current location. Google representatives did not immediately respond to queries about allowing advertising or creating a Glassware store. It’s possible, of course, that advertisements from third-party developers or Google itself will eventually appear on the eyewear. Project Glass lead Babak Parviz left open that possibility in an interview in the January issue of IEEE Spectrum. “At the moment, there are no plans for advertising on this device,” he said. Also released today are the tech specs for Google Glass: a 5 megapixel camera, a bone conduction transducer for audio, Bluetooth, WiFi, and 12 GB of usable memory. Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved in this project.
The Windows Blue operating system update is likely to be named “Windows 8.1″ when it arrives this summer, according to sources. Microsoft officials supposedly have decided on the final name for Windows Blue. The final decision, one of my sources told me, is that it will be Windows 8.1. The client version of Blue, codenamed Windows Blue, is a refresh of Windows 8. It is expected to be released to manufacturing around August of this year. As I’ve blogged a few times, Microsoft is planning to position Blue as part of the Windows 8 wave, not as Windows 9.
On Twitter this morning Roman L. (a k a @AngelWZR) posted a screen shot of what appears to be a build of Windows Blue that postdates the one that leaked a week ago. The week-ago Blue build was 9364; the new one is 9375. It is labeled in AngelWZR’s screen shot as “Windows 8.1 Pro.” ”Well maybe that’s not an April Fools’ joke,” AngelWZR tweeted. My Blue source said that the top-level branding will be “Windows 8″ when Microsoft releases the 8.1 update — similar to the way that Microsoft’s Windows Phone officials talked about the “Mango” (Windows Phone 7.5) release as part of the Windows Phone 7 family.
My tipster also says that Microsoft plans to refer to the Blue update for Windows RT as “Windows RT 8.1.” There’s no word as to what, if anything, Microsoft plans to charge existing Windows 8 and Windows RT customers for Blue. Microsoft executives like Windows Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller have said repeatedly that Microsoft envisions Windows 8 as something more than a one-season wonder. Reller has said the companyconsiders Windows 8 a product “of multiple selling seasons.” So it makes sense that Blue would be christened Windows 8.X, not Windows 9.
If it pans out that Microsoft has, indeed, opted for Blue to be named 8.1 — rather than 8.5 or 8.7 — I wouldn’t be surprised to see the expected next couple of annual Windows client refreshes to also have an 8.X name when they roll out over the next few years. Microsoft officials are not commenting about Blue, beyond acknowledging that the code namerefers to the next wave of products from the company. This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline “Microsoft’s Windows Blue looks to be named Windows 8.1.”
Google’s mobile OS scooped up more half of U.S. smartphone sales from mid-November through mid-February, says research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Android has grabbed the lead over iOS in the battle for U.S. smartphone buyers, according to a report out yesterday from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. From mid-November through mid-February, Android increased its share of U.S. smartphone sales to 51.2 percent, up from 45 percent during the same three-month period in 2012. Over the same time, Apple’s iOS dropped to second place as its share of U.S. sales fell to 43.5 percent from 47 percent.
Much of the surge in Android can be attributed to Apple arch-rival Samsung. Prices drops on Samsung phones in the last half of 2012 prompted many smartphone and feature phone users to upgrade to a Samsung device, Kantar said. Overall, many people who opted for a Samsung phone last year gravitated toward one of the company’s flagship devices. Among those who purchased a Samsung phone in the last year, 52 percent chose a Galaxy S3, 21 percent a Galaxy S2, and 5 percent a Galaxy Note 2. Samsung buyers cited the cost of the phone and the carrier brand as key drivers for their purchase.
“Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Samsung smartphone, 19 percent had previously owned a Samsung feature phone, 15 percent owned an HTC smartphone, 14 percent owned an LG featurephone, 10 percent owned a Samsung smartphone, and 9 percent owned a BlackBerry,” Kantar analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said in a statement. “It’s apparent that Samsung is successful at capturing users from across the competitor set and not just gaining from their own loyalists, (albeit loyalty towards Samsung has also grown).”
What of the rest of the smartphone world? Microsoft’s Windows Phone saw an increase in sales share, jumping to 4.1 percent from 2.7 percent a year earlier. Beyond Android, Windows Phone was the only platform to see its share of sales increase, according to the report. BlackBerry continued to see its sales fall, accounting for 0.7 percent of sales — down from 3.6 percent in 2012. Nokia’s Symbian was stuck in last place among the top five, ekeing out just 0.1 percent of U.S. sales from its 0.5 percent a year earlier. Kantar derived its data from more than 240,000 interviews of mobile phone users. The report focused on actual sales rather than market share.
Dell is revealing a decidedly pessimistic view of its future in an SEC filing stating its reasons for going private. Dell painted a somewhat bleak depiction of its prospects in a recent SEC filing. In a 274-page filing on Friday, the PC maker indicated market and product challenges on several fronts. In the filing, Dell makes a case for accepting a $24.4 billion offer to go private so it can be in a better position to deal with the myriad challenges facing the company.
Those included “the deteriorating outlook for the PC market as a result of, among other things, smartphones and tablets cannibalizing PC sales,” according to the filing. The SEC filing also cited “the uncertain adoption of the Windows 8 operating system” at several meetings, including one in December 2012. Brian Gladden, the chief financial officer, noted “adverse developments, coupled with generally weakening demand in the global PC market and lower PC margin rates” at a meeting in September 2012.
The filing also cites a presentation made by Michael Dell in December of 2012 to the Board “in which he expressed his conviction that a going private transaction was the best course for the Company and its unaffiliated stockholders.” Among the reasons were:
Investing in the PC and tablet business. Mr. Dell stated his belief that such initiatives, if undertaken as a public company, would be poorly received by the stock market because they would reduce near-term profitability, raise operating expenses and capital expenditures, and involve significant risk. Mr. Dell stated his view that a going private transaction was in the best interests of the Company’s unaffiliated stockholders because…they would receive a portion of the potential upside from these initiatives in the form of a premium for their shares without bearing the risk and uncertainties related to executing such initiatives.
In an elaborate ruse, the world’s most popular video site announces it’s been nothing but a contest site this whole time and says it’s going dark for the next decade. The best April Fool’s pranks are absurd but also have a kernel of believability at their core just big enough to reel people in. While the notion that YouTube has been a 8-year-long contest and Google is finally choosing a winner and shutting the site down tonight is pretty hard to swallow on its face, Google did shock many people by announcing the shutdown of Google Reader recently. Perhaps Larry and Sergey are beginning to go all Howard Hughes on us?
That’s how the below video just put out by YouTube operates. The basic premise is that YouTube has been nothing but a contest to find the best video, and the 8-year-long submission period is finally closing tonight. As YouTube’s “competition director” Tim Liston — a person who appears to be as fictional as his title — tells us, YouTube will go dark for a decade to give thousands of judges 10 years to go through all the uploaded videos and declare one winner, which will be the only video on the site when YouTube relaunches in 2023.
What’s even more hilarious in the video than the basic gag behind it is some great cameos by YouTube celebrities like Matt Harding, iJustine, the (now much older) kids from “Charlie Bit My Finger” and that “Evolution of Dance” guy. ”I encourage everybody to watch as many videos as possible before YouTube deletes everything tonight,” Antoine Dodson warns. Check the whole thing below, and hope along with me that this isn’t the only April Fool’s gag Google is pulling. Announcing the resurrection of Google Reader could be part of the joke, right? Right?