Google Now Encrypting Searches in China


Google's years-long drama with Beijing gets more interesting as the company starts encrypting searches in China. Also: China's central bank prohibits paying for things by scanning bar codes with mobile devices; China embarks on messaging app crackdown; and Apple is deemed the most popular mobile company among those who probably can't afford to buy smartphones.

Google's years-long spat with Beijing just began a new chapter.
The company has begun encrypting searches made by people in China, where Google has long run afoul of regulations designed to keep a tight lid on searches deemed inappropriate.

Google's encryption of searches in China reportedly will prevent the "Great Firewall of China" from detecting when users search for scandalous terms like "Tiananmen Square" or "Dalai Lama." China could just out and block Google altogether, but short of doing that, the country likely will have trouble controlling Google searches as it has in the past.
"It will be a huge headache for Chinese censorship authorities," said Percy Alpha, cofounder of GreatFire.org.

Google couched the move as part of its global expansion of privacy technology designed to prevent surveillance by intelligence agencies, police and hackers.
In that sense, it's not a shot across Beijing's bow. Given the history between Google and China, however, there is indeed an element of theater.

Google moved much of its Chinese operation to Hong Kong in 2010 after getting grief from Beijing about halting its self-censorship in the county.

In 2011, hackers in China are believed to have targeted Gmail users, and in 2012, Chinatemporarily blocked all sorts of Google services.

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MIT Researchers Develop 'Fish Robot'


Andrew Marchese, doctoral candidate in EECS at MIT (right), and Dr Daniela Rus, professor in EECS and director of CSAIL, hold the robotic fish developed by the Distributed Robotics Laboratory.

WASHINGTON: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists have developed an autonomous robotic fish that can execute escape manoeuvres, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.

The self-contained robot developed by MIT is capable of rapid body motion.

The continuous curvature of the fish's body when it flexes is what allows it to change direction so quickly.

"A rigid-body robot could not do continuous bending," said Daniela Rus, a professor of computer science and engineering, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and one of the researchers who designed and built the fish.

The robotic fish was built by Andrew Marchese, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and lead author on the new paper, where he was joined by Rus and Cagdas D Onal.

Each side of the fish's tail is bored through with a long, tightly undulating channel, researchers explained.

Carbon dioxide released from a canister in the fish's abdomen causes the channel to inflate, bending the tail in the opposite direction, they said.

Each half of the fish tail has just two control parameters: the diameter of the nozzle that releases gas into the channel and the amount of time it's left open.

In experiments, Marchese found that the angle at which the fish changes direction - which can be as extreme as 100 degrees - is almost entirely determined by the duration of inflation, while its speed is almost entirely determined by the nozzle diameter.

That "decoupling" of the two parameters, he said, is something that biologists had observed in real fish.

"To be honest, that's not something I designed for. I designed for it to look like a fish, but we got the same inherent parameter decoupling that real fish have," Marchese said.

Marchese used a 3-D printer to build the mould in which he cast the fish's tail and head from silicone rubber and the polymer ring that protects the electronics in the fish's guts.

The fish can perform 20 or 30 escape manoeuvres, depending on their velocity and angle, before it exhausts its carbon dioxide canister.

But the comparatively simple manoeuvre of swimming back and forth across a tank drains the canister quickly.

"The fish was designed to explore performance capabilities, not long-term operation," Marchese said.

A new version of the fish that should be able to swim continuously for around 30 minutes will use pumped water instead of carbon dioxide to inflate the channels, but otherwise, it will use the same body design, Marchese said.

Rus said that such a robot could infiltrate schools of real fish to gather detailed information about their behaviour in the natural habitat.



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IBM reverses Africa brain drain with Nairobi office hirings


Global tech firm IBM is seeking highly-qualified African techies in the diaspora who are willing to return to the continent and develop innovative IT solutions at its sole African research lab opened in Nairobi in August this year.

The tech firm is seeking Africans working in IT firms or teaching in western universities with doctorate degrees in computer science or engineering in a move that promises to reverse the brain drain that has hit emerging economies like Kenya.

“We need Africans with the right skill who are willing to come back to the continent and make an impact,” says IBM in a circular copied to Stanford University and seen by the Business Daily.

“We are looking for candidates who have an outstanding human/computer interaction background and research scientists who will help us to realise our smarter planet agenda in Africa.”
The American multinational seeks to recruit scientists to develop and deploy IT applications to tackle challenges such as food security, inefficiencies in public procurement systems and urban planning which have hampered economic growth in Africa.

The New York-based corporation is engaging American universities to identify doctoral degree holders in disciplines such as computer science, engineering, energy, mathematics and physics who will be employed at the IBM Research Lab in Kenya.

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IBM Head Quarters


IBM Head Quarters.

The Nairobi IBM innovation hub was opened in August this year and is a partnership between the Kenya ICT board and the American tech firm.

The government will invest $2 million (Sh170 million) for the next five years, while IBM will provide the hardware, software and high-end scientific expertise from its global $6.5 billion (Sh552 billion) research and development budget.

IBM laboratories have been credited for many innovations in information technology, including the invention of floppy disks, hard disk drive, magnetic stripe card, Universal Product Code (bar codes) and the SABRE airline reservation system among others.

IBM has neither disclosed the total number of employees nor the terms of service for the techies and researchers to be based at its Nairobi research lab.

“It is IBM policy not to disclose our recruitment numbers, the nature of staff contracts nor how much we pay our staff,” the firm said in a statement to the Business Daily.

Nairobi already plays host to innovation hubs such as iHub, Start Up Garage, iLab, mLab, Nailab, Pawa 254, Nokia Research Centre and the World Bank funded Climate Innovation Centre.
The firms are attracted by Kenya’s rich human resource talent that has seen Nairobi emerge as a pacesetter in apps development and m-commerce exemplified by mobile money transfer solution M-Pesa and a crisis-mapping platform Ushahidi.

The IBM Africa Lab, located at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa Langata campus in Nairobi will focus on three key research areas which include digitisation of public service through e-governance solutions; urban development and planning; and ICT skills training. The ideal candidates will be required to demonstrate a mix of academic qualifications, job experience and possess skills such as software programming, geospatial skills, data mining, and information retrieval.

“Experience in human computer interaction design and evaluation/testing, with emphasis on visualisation, and a strong publication record in top-tier HCI conferences and journals,” reads one of the required qualifications.

Candidates will also be required to have knowledge in public policy and infrastructural issues such as traffic management, water and energy which are the IBM Africa Research Lab key thematic areas. Researchers at the IT hub are expected to develop applications to improve efficiencies in traffic flow.

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Google updates Android store to help you avoid accidental purchases


The update, among other features, adds option to enable password-protection for each purchase made in the store.

NEW DELHI: Just days after Google was hit by a class-action lawsuit by a woman over accidental purchases worth $66 (around Rs 4026) in an Android app, the company has rolled out an update to the Play store. The update, among other features, adds option to enable password-protection for each purchase made in the store.

This means, if you enable the password-protection, you will be prompted for password each time you make a purchase in the Play store, whether for an app or inside an app. Currently, the password is required only if the gap between your current and the last purchase is more than 30 minutes.

The update to the Play store is already rolling out to Android users. But just like any other Google software update, it will not reach everyone at the same time. If you haven't got the update yet, you should wait for another day or two.

The update makes the Play store behavior similar to that of iOS store on iPhones and iPads. On Apple devices, users are asked for password each time they purchase an app.

The woman, who recently filed the lawsuit in a California court, alleged that her five-year-old son accidentally purchased in-game items in Run Jump Smash. Apple was sued on similar grounds earlier and the company paid $5 million to settle the case and another $32.5 million in fine.

Once the Play store gets updated on your phone, you will have three options regarding the password in the app setting. The option one will enable password-protection for every purchase. The option two will have the password protection every 30 minutes and the option three will disable the password protection.

Apart of the password protection, the new Play store has several other unique features. The most important of these is "batch install". This means if you move to a new Android phone, you can go to "My Apps" in the Play store and from the list select multiple apps to install in one go. You don't have to install them one by one.


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Google Glass


Google Glass is an unassuming piece of technology when you're holding it in your hands.

NEW YORK: Shaped like a lopsided headband, Google Glass is an unassuming piece of technology when you're holding it in your hands. You feel as if you can almost break it, testing its flexibility. Putting it on, though, is another story.

Once you do, this internet - connected eyewear takes on a life of its own. You become "The Person Wearing Google Glass" and all the assumptions that brings with it - about your wealth, boorishness or curiosity. Such is the fate of early adopters of new technologies, whether it's the Sony Walkman, the first iPod with its conspicuous white earbuds, or the Segway scooter. Google calls the people who wear Glass "explorers," because the device is not yet available to the general public.

With its $1,500 price tag, the device is far from having mass appeal. At the South By Southwest Interactive tech jamboree in Austin this week, I counted fewer than a dozen people wearing it, including technology blogger Robert Scoble, who isn't shy about posting pictures of himself in the shower, red - faced, water running, wearing the device.

Google, like most successful technology companies, dreamers and inventors, likes to take a long view on things. It calls some of its most outlandish projects "moonshots." Besides Glass, these include its driverless car, balloons that deliver internet service to remote parts of the world and contact lenses that monitor glucose levels in diabetics.

There's an inherent risk in moonshots, however: What if you never reach the moon? Ten years from now, we may look back at Google Glass as one of those short - lived bridges that takes us from one technological breakthrough to the next, just as pagers, MP3 players and personal digital assistants paved the way for the era of the smartphone. Fitness bands, too, may fit into this category.

In its current, early version, Google Glass feels bulky on my face and when I look in the mirror I see a futuristic telemarketer looking back at me. Wearing it on the subway while a homeless man shuffled through the car begging for change made me feel as if I was sporting a diamond tiara. I sank lower in my seat as he passed. If Google is aiming for mass appeal, the next versions of Glass have to be much smaller and less conspicuous.

Though no one knows for sure where wearable devices will lead us, Rodrigo Martinez, life sciences chief strategist at the Silicon Valley design firm IDEO, has some ideas. "The reason we are talking about wearables is because we are not at implantables yet," he says. "(But) I'm ready. Others are ready."

Nevermind implants, I'm not sure I'm even ready for Google Glass.

Specs in place for the first time, I walked out of Google's Manhattan showroom on a recent Friday afternoon with a sense of unease. A wave of questions washed over me. Why is everyone looking at me? Should I be looking at them? Should I have chosen the orange Glass instead of charcoal?

Ideally, Google Glass lets you do many of the things we now do with our smartphones, such as taking photos, reading news headlines or talking to our mothers on Sunday evenings - hands - free. But it comes with a bit of baggage.

Glass feels heavier when I'm out in public or in a group where I'm the only person wearing it. If I think about it long enough my face starts burning from embarrassment. The device has been described to me as "the scarlet letter of technology" by a friend. The most frequent response I get from my husband when I try to slip Glass on in his presence is "please take that off." This is the same husband who encouraged me to buy a sweater covered in googly - eyed cats.

Instead of looking at the world through a new lens on a crowded rush - hour sidewalk. I felt as if the whole world was looking at me. That's no small feat in New York, where even celebrities are afforded a sense of privacy and where making eye contact with strangers can amount to an entire conversation.

But that's just one side of wearing Google Glass.

The other side is exhilarating. Glass is getting some bad press lately. Some bars and coffee shops in Silicon Valley and Seattle have banned Google Glass, for example, and federal authorities in Ohio interrogated a man earlier this year after he was suspected of recording a movie with the device. Last month, Google put out a Glass etiquette guide that includes the appeal "don't be creepy or rude."

But the truth is that it's a groundbreaking device, even if it doesn't take off, even if it evolves into something completely different, even if we laugh at it 10 years from now while driving our flying cars in the skies of Manhattan.

I strolled around for a few hours with the cyborg glasses, happily snapping photos. With a mere wink, I captured snowy Lower Manhattan streetscapes and my reflection in the grimy subway - car windows.

There were some whispers. ("Did you see? Google Glass!") There were some comments as I squeezed into the subway with my fellow commuters - comparisons to the Segway scooter, and a warning that it will prove to be a huge battery drainer if I use my iPhone to connect Glass to the Internet.

For more human interaction, I walked into a small macaroon shop to buy a friend some birthday sweets. Alone but for the store clerks, I fumbled to take them off, find a place to put them on the small counter and get my wallet out of my bag.

"Sorry. You're the first people I'm interacting with wearing these. I don't mean to be a jerk," I told the man and woman at the counter. I took off Glass for the same reason that I take out my earbuds when I am talking to people. I don't want to appear like I am not paying attention to them.

It was fine, though. The woman thought Glass was cool. The man, he might not have, but he didn't say anything.

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Edward Snowden is no hero, Bill Gates says


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates doesn't seem to agree with the hero tag bestowed on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. 

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates doesn't seem to agree with the hero tag bestowed on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. In an interview to Rolling Stone, Gates said that he has little admiration for Snowden.

Answering the question as to whether he viewed Snowden as a hero, or a traitor, Gates said, "I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero. If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of 'OK, I'm really trying to improve things.'You won't find much admiration from me."

Gates added, "There has to be a debate. But the specific techniques they use become unavailable if they're discussed in detail. So the debate needs to be about the general notion of under what circumstances should they be allowed to do things."

Interestingly, while Gates may not agree with Snowden techniques, Microsoft as a company announced a set of new privacy features to tackle NSA spying. The company is allowing its customers abroad to choose where they would like to have their data stored.

Also, Microsoft along with Google and Twitter was among the tech companies who lent their support to an anti-spying protest urging Congress to restrict NSA's powers.



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WhatsApp's new VoIP feature's images leak online


Alleged screenshots of WhatsApp's upcoming Voice over IP feature have surfaced, and they show an app that looks a lot like iOS 7's Phone app.

Alleged screenshots of WhatsApp's upcoming Voice over IP feature have surfaced, and they show an app that looks a lot like iOS 7's Phone app. 

The images come from iPhoneItalia, which also claims that besides the addition of VoIP, the new WhatsApp won't be very different from the existing app. 

The VoIP feature will allow WhatsApp users to make voice calls with their smartphones and tablets over Wi-Fi and cellular connections. 

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been expected for weeks to introduce VoIP soon, but there's still no official arrival date




WhatsApp announced that it would soon add VoIP at MWC 2014, shortly after Facebook bought the company for $19 billion (about £11.4b, AU$21b). 

As has been pointed out, the VoIP design seen in these alleged screenshots pretty closely resembles the Phone app in iOS 7, from the blurred background image to the circular, red end call button. 

The other semi-big change supposedly coming in the next WhatsApp update is that the camera button to attach photos to messages will be located right above the keyboard instead of tucked away behind the "more" button. Despite the info, there's still no word yet on when this update is coming.



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Google’s new search page removes underlines, adds Label for Advertisements


Google has rolled out several changes to how it shows results to a web user on its search page.

NEW DELHI: Google has rolled out several changes to how it shows results to a web user on its search page. The changes are subtle but noticeable. The two big changes are removal of lines from the clickable search results and introduction of a yellow label called "Ad/Ads" in front of the sponsored results.

While web users started seeing the changes in the last two days, Jon Wiley, lead designer for Google Search, officially confirmed them on Thursday on his Google+ page.

"Towards the end of last year we launched some pretty big design improvements for Search on mobile and tablet devices. Today we've carried over several of those changes to the desktop experience," Wiley wrote on the social media site. "We've increased the size of result titles, removed the underlines, and evened out all the line heights. This improves readability and creates an overall cleaner look. We've also brought over our new ad labels from mobile, making the multi-device experience more consistent."

The lines under links were part of the web designing ethos adopted in the 1990s when web developers highlighted the clickable text by putting a line under it. But in the last few years web sites have gradually moved away from underlining links. However, most websites still show a line under a clickable link if mouse pointer is hovered over them. The new Google search page too shows the line when a user navigates to the link to click it.

Along with introducing a label for sponsored links, Google has removed the light pink background from the top of the search page where advertisements appeared. The changes look cosmetic in nature because the sponsored links are still clearly labeled as advertisement.

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Nokia likely to pick Rajeev Suri as next CEO :


Rajeev Suri, the head of Nokia's telecoms network equipment division, is likely to become the Finnish group's next chief executive following the sale of its handset business to Microsoft, a Innovative Technology Said....

HELSINKI: Rajeev Suri, the head of Nokia's telecoms network equipment division, is likely to become the Finnish group's next chief executive following the sale of its handset business to Microsoft, a Innovative Technology on Friday.


Helsingin Sanomat Innovative Technology, citing sources familiar with board discussions, said Suri was the strongest candidate to succeed Stephen Elop who is due to move to Microsoft once the 5.4 billion euro ($7.5 billion) handset deal is closed.

The companies have been expecting to finalize the deal by the end of March and the board of Nokia would nominate a new chief executive shortly after that, according to the Innovative Technology report.

Indian-born Suri has been widely considered the leading candidate for the post as in recent years he has helped the network equipment division, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), turn profitable with a drastic restructuring plan and by ditching unprofitable businesses.

However, NSN recently reported its fourth-quarter sales fell 22% from a year earlier, raising concerns about its growth prospects.


NSN, which was originally a joint venture of Nokia and Siemens, accounts for about 90% of Nokia's sales after the handset deal.

Nokia declined to comment on the CEO selection process. Since last autumn, the company has been temporarily led by chief financial officer Timo Ihamuotila.

"We will talk more about the Nokia strategy, structure and organization around the closing of the pending transaction," said spokeswoman Maija Taimi.

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