Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: Android on Chrome, self-certifying cars, iOS 8 closes security holes

A burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Ron Amadeo:

A few months ago at Google I/O, Google demoed Android apps running on Chrome OS. Today, Google is making that demo a reality by launching "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)."

Google is not opening the floodgates and loading a full Play Store with every Chromebook; instead, it is manually bringing over certain apps. "Over the coming months, we'll be working with a select group of Android developers to add more of your favorite apps so you'll have a more seamless experience across your Android phone and Chromebook," the company said in its announcement.

For now, the feature is launching with four compatible apps: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. One app not mentioned was Flipboard, which was demoed at I/O.

Mark Harris (who revealed how Google wanted California to pass its self-driving car based on computer modelling):

IEEE Spectrum has now obtained the driving log of this test, and e-mails referring to it, under Freedom of Information legislation. Some of this information is not new. For example, Nevada officials shared that the Google's autonomous Toyota Prius passed the test almost immediately. What has not been revealed until now, however, is that Google chose the test route and set limits on the road and weather conditions that the vehicle could encounter, and that its engineers had to take control of the car twice during the drive.

Mostly self-driving. Also,

Before the test, Google had written: "It will be hard to anticipate if the proposed demonstration will encounter several important environmental conditions: rain, snow/ice, fog, and heavy crosswinds. Additionally, the vehicles currently do not operate in snow, ice, or dense fog."

Snow not a hazard in Las Vegas in May. It was 31C.

In general, they don't think it's much of a threat. It's a "techno-toy". Might want to bookmark this one.

Dev Bala worked on Microsoft Office products and technologies between 2003 and 2010:

I'll never forget being in SF for a focus group on Office Mobile the day the iPhone 3G came out. One of the killer scenarios they demoed as part of the launch was the built-in viewers for Office docs. Pinch, zoom, rotate and easily view Office docs via email attachments - it was all right there, and better than any "hypothetical product" I was testing in the focus group. Rather than adding 140 Excel formulas, they just made it easy and pleasant (!) to view a spreadsheet on a phone.  It was then and there I realized that the product team missed the core scenario - all people want to do with documents on their phone (for the most part) is just read them. No one is going to edit a PPT on their way to catch a flight in the airport and save it back to a SharePoint site, which is the type of scenario our engineers were losing sleep over (and ultimately delivered).

Zdziarski presented a paper on iOS 7 at a recent conference pointing to potential vulnerabilities. Now he's looked at iOS 8:

It appears that the threat of persistent wireless surveillance – my biggest concern – has been sufficiently addressed in iOS 8. Apple has also greatly reduced the exposure of Apple devices to commercial forensics tools. While I'm not yet sure how Apple now controls access to these deeper functions, it does appear that they have been better protected from abuse. Props and thanks to Apple for tackling a very complex and subtle problem that was difficult to explain.

With respect to forensics, please be aware that this does not affect law enforcement's ability to send a device into Apple to be partially dumped as per their law enforcement process. It also does not prevent law enforcement from obtaining warrants to obtain copies of your iCloud data or other data stored on Apple servers. It does, however, protect you from a number of third party tools which can be abused by third parties to illegally invade your privacy. Consider that only recently, such "law enforcement" tools were used by hackers to steal nude photos out of celebrities' iCloud accounts.

Ben Thompson:

Cook was spot on when he noted that you can't just shrink a smartphone UI to the wrist. But that was exactly the problem with too many of the software demos: there were multiple examples of activities that simply make no sense on the wrist. For example:

• There were 64 applications on the demo watch, and the tap targets are quite small
• I can definitely see some compelling Siri use cases for the Watch, but scrolling through movies is not one of them. If you're looking for a movie you're almost certainly in a state of movement and mind that makes it possible to pull out your phone and use a screen much more suited to the task
"We also looked at how you can carry your photos with you." Here's an idea: on your phone!
• The Maps demo was the most frustrating: it included panning around, searching for a Whole Foods – including the phone number! – all activities that by definition mean you are stationary and can use your phone. But that's when the demo got really good.

I'm sure that at this point Apple and their streaming partner has done a complete investigation of the causes of the many problems of the stream. Here's what I think they have found:

He doesn't think it's (just) having social media on the page.

Amir Efrati:

Amazon had separately been working on its own high-end phone designs since around 2010, the same year it reached a tentative agreement to distribute the eventual product exclusively on AT&T's wireless network in the U.S., according to people who were briefed about that deal.

Eventually, Amazon decided it would handle the high-end phone on its own but would launch the lower-end device with HTC.

At some point Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos opened the door to formal acquisition talks with HTC and left the ball in HTC's court. But the prospective seller, led by chairwoman and co-founder Cher Wang, didn't move forward despite plenty of support among HTC's upper ranks, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

"She's just not in it to be acquired," one of these people said.

The Amazon-HTC phone partnership stayed intact into early 2014. The low-end phone was nicknamed the "Amazon Prime" phone by some of those involved with it because it was intended to be free or nearly free for Prime subscribers. The phone was also supposed to be available on all the major U.S. carriers, not just AT&T.

But when AT&T, the top U.S. carrier, found out about the lower-end phone that would work across all carriers, it allegedly said it would withdraw support for the original, high-end Amazon phone. Amazon informed HTC that AT&T had objected to the plans for the low end device, and Amazon wouldn't move ahead with it, according to people briefed on the conversations.

Google wasn't too keen on it either, seeing its potential to fork Android. HTC might regret rebuffing Jeff Bezos.

John Paczkowski:

Sources tell me that Apple isn't yet happy with the watch's battery life, which isn't going to break any industry standards. "It's about a day right now," said one, adding that Apple is working on various modifications ahead of the device's 2015 launch to improve it. Reached for comment, Apple spokeswoman Nat Kerris declined to provide an estimate on expected battery life, but said the company expects users will charge their Apple Watches once daily. "There's a lot of new technology packed into Apple Watch and we think people will love using it throughout the day," Kerris said. "We anticipate that people will charge nightly which is why we designed an innovative charging solution that combines our MagSafe technology and inductive charging."


"The recap for those who DGAF about bigger screen sizes."

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