Android Introduces in Apps Search

March 20, 2017

Android has announced a new search feature, this one specifically for documents and messages within your apps. With this feature, if you want to revisit that great idea you jotted down last Tuesday, you will (eventually) be able to search for it within Evernote using whatever keywords you can recall from your brilliant plan. The brief write-up at Ubergizmo, “Google Introduces ‘In Apps’ Search Feature to Android,” explains the new feature:

According to Google, ‘We use apps to call friends, send messages or listen to music. But sometimes, it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. Today, we’re introducing a new way for you to search for information in your apps on your Android phone. With this new search mode, called In Apps, you can quickly find content from installed apps.

Basically by searching under the ‘In Apps’ tab in the search bar on your Android phone, instead of trying to search the web, it will search within your apps itself. This will be ideal if you’re trying to bring up a particular message, or if you have saved a document and you’re unsure if you saved it in Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, in your email, and so on.

So far, In Apps only works with Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. However, Google plans to incorporate the feature into more apps, including Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep. I expect we will eventually see the feature integrated into nearly every Android app.

Cynthia Murrell, March 20, 2017

Big Data Requires More Than STEM Skills

March 13, 2017

It will require training Canada’s youth in design and the arts, as well as STEM subjects if that country is to excel in today’s big-data world. That is the advice of trio of academic researchers in that country, Patricio Davila, Sara Diamond, and Steve Szigeti,  who declare, “There’s No Big Data Without Intelligent Interface” at the Globe and Mail. The article begins by describing why data management is now a crucial part of success throughout society, then emphasizes that we need creative types to design intuitive user interfaces and effective analytics representations. The researchers explain:

Here’s the challenge: For humans, data are meaningless without curation, interpretation and representation. All the examples described above require elegant, meaningful and navigable sensory interfaces. Adjacent to the visual are emerging creative, applied and inclusive design practices in data “representation,” whether it’s data sculpture (such as 3-D printing, moulding and representation in all physical media of data), tangible computing (wearables or systems that manage data through tactile interfaces) or data sonification (yes, data can make beautiful music).

Infographics is the practice of displaying data, while data visualization or visual analytics refers to tools or systems that are interactive and allow users to upload their own data sets. In a world increasingly driven by data analysis, designers, digital media artists, and animators provide essential tools for users. These interpretive skills stand side by side with general literacy, numeracy, statistical analytics, computational skills and cognitive science.

We also learn about several specific projects undertaken by faculty members at OCAD University, where our three authors are involved in the school’s Visual Analytics Lab. For example, the iCity project addresses transportation network planning in cities, and the Care and Condition Monitor is a mobile app designed to help patients and their healthcare providers better work together in pursuit of treatment goals. The researchers conclude with an appeal to their nation’s colleges and universities to develop programs that incorporate data management, data numeracy, data analysis, and representational skills early and often. Good suggestion.

Cynthia Murrell, March 13, 2017

Take the Time for Alexa

March 6, 2017

In the new digital assistant line up, Alexa responds better than Cortana and Siri, because it can provide better and more intelligent services that the smartphone based app.  As an Amazon product, as with Amazon Web Services, developers can learn how to build apps and other products for Alexa.  The question is how to get started?  HeroTurko created a learning tutorial for interested Alexa developers and it can be checked out at, “Amazon Alexa Development From Beginner To Intermediate.”

Voice-based apps are a growing sector in the technology industry and will only get bigger as the demand for voice-controlled technology increases.  The tutorial is designed to teach developers how to design voice apps and then launch them on the Amazon Echo.  Building your Alexa skills is a necessary step, so the course says, to get an edge on the voice app market:

The biggest industries in technology are surrounded by AI, Bots, and Voice technology. Voice technology I believe will be the new 21st user interface that will not only understand basic commands, but will be so smart to understand anything you tell it. This is why Amazon is making a big bet with Alexa, which it plans to generate close to $11 billion dollars by 2020. They know something about Amazon Echo, which is why now is the best time to learn these skills before the mainstream starts developing applications. We all know the story about apps for the smartphones, this is the same thing.

This course contains over 50 lectures and 1.5 hrs of content. It’s designed for beginners to play with new platforms in the voice space. You’ll learn the tools needed to build the Alexa Skills, how Alexa Skills work, and publish a skill to Amazon’s Alexa store.

Learning how to use Alexa is the precursor to designing other voice app and will probably segway into NLP.  If you want to learn where the IT market is going beyond machine learning and artificial intelligence, this is one of the places to start.

Whitney Grace, March 6, 2017

Who Knew Hackers Have Their Own Search Engines?

March 3, 2017

Hackers tend to the flock to the Internet’s underbelly, the Dark Web, and it remains inaccessible unless you have a Tor browser.  According to the AIRS Association, hacker search engines are a lot easier to access than you think, read about it in “5 Hacker-Friendly Search Engines You Must Use.”  The best-known hacker-friendly search engine is Shodan, which can search for Internet connected devices.  While Shodan can search computers, smartphones, and tablets the results also include traffic lights, license plate readers, and anything with an Internet connection.  The biggest problem, however, is that most of these devices do not have any security:

The main reason that Shodan is considered hacker-friendly is because of the amount and type of information it reveals (like banner information, connection types, etc.). While it is possible to find similar information on a search engine like Google, you would have to know the right search terms to use, and they aren’t all laid out for you.

Other than Shodan some of the other scary search engines are ZoomEye, I2P, PunkSPIDER, and Censys.  These search engines range in the amount of data they share as well as their intended purpose, but they all reveal Internet connected devices.  Beginners can use these search engines, but it takes a little more than technical know how to get results displayed.  One needs to figure out how to use them before you even enter the first search result, because basic keyword will not get you far.

Hacker search engines are a good tool to use to find security breaches in your personal network or Web site.  What will prevent most people from using them is the lack of experience, but with only a small amount of learning these search engines in the wrong hands are dangerous.

Whitney Grace, March 3, 2017

Mobile App Usage on the Rise from 34% of Consumer Time in 2013 to 50% in 2016

February 24, 2017

Bad news, Google. The article titled Smartphone Apps Now Account for Half the Time Americans Spend Online on TechCrunch reveals that mobile applications are still on the rise. Throw in tablet apps and the total almost hits 60%. Google is already working to maintain relevancy with its In Apps feature for Androids, which searches inside apps themselves. The article explains,

This shift towards apps is exactly why Google has been working to integrate the “web of apps” into its search engine, and to make surfacing the information hidden in apps something its Google Search app is capable of handling.  Our app usage has grown not only because of the ubiquity of smartphones, but also other factors – like faster speeds provided by 4G LTE networks, and smartphones with larger screens that make sitting at a desktop less of a necessity.

What apps are taking up the most of our time? Just the ones you would expect, such as Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, and Google Maps. But Pokemon Go is the little app that could, edging out Snapchat and Pinterest in the ranking of the top 15 mobile apps. According to a report from Senor Tower, Pokemon Go has gone beyond 180 million daily downloads. The growth of consumer time spent on apps is expected to keep growing, but comScore reassuringly states that desktops will also remain a key part of consumer’s lives for many years to come.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2017

 

Chinese Censorship Agency Declares All News Online Must Be Verified

January 12, 2017

The heavy hand of Chinese censorship has just gotten heavier. The South China Morning Post reports, “All News Stories Must Be Verified, China’s Internet Censor Decrees as it Tightens Grip on Online Media.” The censorship agency now warns websites not to publish news without “proper verification.” Of course, to hear the government tell it, they just wants to cut down on fake news and false information. Reporter Choi Chi-yuk  writes:

The instruction, issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China, came only a few days after Xu Lin, formerly the deputy head of the organisation, replaced his boss, Lu Wei, as the top gatekeeper of Chinese internet affairs. Xu is regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters.

The cyberspace watchdog said online media could not report any news taken from social media websites without approval. ‘All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals [and the social media chat websites] Weibo or WeChat,’ Xinhua reported the directive as saying. ‘It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,’ it said.

We’re told the central agency has directed regional offices to aggressively monitor content and “severely” punish those who post what they consider false news. They also insist that sources be named within posts. Apparently, several popular news portals have been rebuked under the policy, including Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com.

Cynthia Murrell, January 12, 2017

Dark Web Offers Tools for Vengeance to Disgruntled Workers

January 10, 2017

It seems the dark web is now making it easier for disgruntled employees to take their revenge to the next level, we learn from the KrebsOnSecurity article, “Rise of Darknet Stokes Fear of the Insider.” The article cites Gartner analyst Avivah Litan; she reports a steep increase in calls from clients concerned about vindictive employees, current or former, who might expose sensitive information on the dark web.  Not surprisingly, companies with a lot of intellectual property at stake are already working with law-enforcement or private security firms to guard against the threat.

How, exactly, is the dark web making worker retaliation easier than ever before? Writer Brian Krebs explains:

Noam Jolles, a senior intelligence expert at Diskin Advanced Technologies, studies darknet communities. I interviewed her last year in ‘Bidding for Breaches,’ a story about a secretive darknet forum called Enigma where members could be hired to launch targeted phishing attacks at companies. Some Enigma members routinely solicited bids regarding names of people at targeted corporations that could serve as insiders, as well as lists of people who might be susceptible to being recruited or extorted.

Jolles said the proliferation of darkweb communities like Enigma has lowered the barriers to entry for insiders, and provided even the least sophisticated would-be insiders with ample opportunities to betray their employer’s trust.

I’m not sure everyone is aware of how simple and practical this phenomena looks from adversary eyes and how far it is from the notion of an insider as a sophisticated disgruntled employee,’ Jolles said. ‘The damage from the insider is not necessarily due to his position, but rather to the sophistication of the threat actors that put their hands on him.

According to research by Verizon, few vengeful employees turn out to have been in management positions. Most are workers lower on the totem pole who had to be given access to sensitive information to perform their jobs. The Verizon report cheerfully advises, “At the end of the day, keep up a healthy level of suspicion toward all employees.” What fun.

See the article for more about this threat, and how organizations might go about protecting themselves.

Cynthia Murrell, January 10, 2017

Google May Erase Line Between History and Real Time

December 30, 2016

Do you remember where you were or what you searched the first time you used Google? This investors.com author does and shares the story about that, in addition to the story about what may be the last time he used Google. The article entitled Google Makes An ‘Historic’ Mistake reports on the demise of a search feature on mobile. Users may no longer search published dates in a custom range. It was accessed by clicking “Search tools” followed by “Any time”. The article provides Google’s explanation for the elimination of this feature,

On a product forum page where it made this announcement, Google says:

After much thought and consideration, Google has decided to retire the Search Custom Date Range Tool on mobile. Today we are starting to gradually unlaunch this feature for all users, as we believe we can create a better experience by focusing on more highly-utilized search features that work seamlessly across both mobile and desktop. Please note that this will still be available on desktop, and all other date restriction tools (e.g., “Past hour,” “Past 24 hours,” “Past week,” “Past month,” “Past year”) will remain on mobile.  

The author critiques Google, saying this move force users back to the dying desktop for this feature no longer prioritized on mobile. The point appears to be missed in this critique. The feature was not heavily utilized. With the influx of real-time data, who needs history — who needs time limits? Certainly not a Google mobile search user.

Megan Feil, December 30, 2016

How the Future of Mobile Looks Like the past of TV for Advertising

December 15, 2016

The article titled How Mobile Today Is Like TV Six Decades Ago on The Atlantic explores the radical changes in advertising in the last five years. The era of advertising through newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio is effectively over, replaced by digital advertising, which is almost exclusively mobile. That mobile content is split between Facebook and Google. Those two giants account for half of all digital media advertising. The article explains what this means for news,

For newspapers, magazines, and websites, there are several paths forward. First, billionaires can rescue media organizations from the stormy seas of the mobile Internet and fund journalism that the ad market won’t support. Second, companies like Facebook may determine that it is in their own interest to preserve some news and entertainment publishers, and they will directly pay media companies, the same way cable companies pay carriage to television channels.

The article also considers a return to the subscription model, or companies shifting to event and marketing strategies for revenue. But any company that tries to ignore the seismic shifts in the news landscape is in for an abrupt and painful shock. The article preaches an optimistic approach based in the history of TV. News is here to stay, but how it is paid for and what the advertising looks like is going to change.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 15, 2016

Tor Phone to Take on Google

December 13, 2016

Tor users have nil or very limited options to surf Underground Web anonymously as Android-powered phones still manage to scrape user data. The Tor Project intends to beat Google at its own game with Tor-enabled smartphone.

An article that appeared on arsTechnica and titled Tor Phone Is Antidote to Google “Hostility” Over Android, Says Developer, says:

The prototype is meant to show a possible direction for Tor on mobile. We are trying to demonstrate that it is possible to build a phone that respects user choice and freedom, vastly reduces vulnerability surface, and sets a direction for the ecosystem with respect to how to meet the needs of high-security users.

The phone is powered by custom-made CopperHead OS and can be run only on Google Nexus or Pixel hardware phones. Of course due to high technicalities involved, it is recommended only for Linux geeks.

For voice calls, according to the article:

To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal.

Google’s Android is an Open Source platform that OEMs can customize. This creates multiple security threats enabling hackers and snoopers to create backdoors. CopperHead OS, on the other hand, plugs these security holes with verified boot and also stops Google Play Store from overriding native apps. Seems the days of mobile Tor are finally here.

Vishal Ingole, December  13, 2016

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