Archive for November, 2011


BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has allowed apps Google’s Android operating system to run on its BlackBerry Playbook tablet thanks to an emulator. Now it seems to want to return the favor by offering its software to Android and Apple’s iOS users.

According to a story from Ars Technica, RIM is offering its device management software to both its major competitors. The company made the announcement today that it would make the software available to Android and iPhone owners, which would allow users to manage those devices alongside BlackBerry devices using the software.

The new software is called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and gives a lot of the same device management controls that BlackBerry customers enjoy (like remote phone locking and wiping and security features) to non-BlackBerry phones. It’s an acknowledgment on RIM’s part that it’s slowly losing its dominance in the field of business. While BlackBerry devices are still used heavily in enterprise, companies are also allowing employees to bring their own phones and use them.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion allows RIM to continue to support its devices among businesses, even if its users also have other devices. RIM is aiming to become the “de facto platform” for device management among enterprise users, according to Alan Panezic, VP of enterprise product management at RIM. So while BlackBerry devices might be losing their market share, RIM doesn’t intend to be forgotten: it may just have to change the way it does things.

RIM has its work cut out for it, though. Its BlackBerry devices still curry a lot of favor among the government and businesses, but it’s losing traction to the widespread popularity of Android, and Apple’s iPad is popping up more and more in business settings. It probably didn’t help that BlackBerry devices suffered a worldwide outage in October. But the popularity BlackBerry does enjoy, as Ars Technica points out, largely comes from its management capabilities. Now Android users are going to have access to those same capabilities, which could help RIM maintain some popularity, especially if those capabilities become as popular on other devices as they have been on BlackBerrys.

On the other hand, if RIM gives up the things that make its handsets unique – by allowing millions upon millions of Android users to have those same capabilities without buying a BlackBerry – it could very well have a huge negative impact on the BlackBerry. We’ll have to wait and see if RIM’s gamble pays off, but in the meantime, Android users are going to have access to some potentially cool new software.

RIM says it’ll be releasing BlackBerry Mobile Fusion in the first quarter of 2012.

Source: Appolicious

A computer with a wireless Internet connection hurts sperm, but not because the machine can heat up your lap, a new study suggests.

The findings showed that sperm cells collected in lab dishes and placed beneath a laptop with a wireless Internet connection for four hours had less motility and more DNA damage than sperm placed in another room, away from electronic devices but kept at the same temperature.

“It is well-known that increased temperature may decrease sperm quality, and the use of portable computers on the lap increases scrotal temperature,” the researchers wrote in their study.

But the findings suggested it wasn’t the temperature beneath the laptop that was affecting sperm; instead, the radiation from the laptop was slowing the swimmers, according to the study.

Laptops emit radiation

The researchers in Argentina and Virginia used semen samples from 29 healthy men, whose average age was 34. The laptop was set to download and upload information over the course of the experiment, so the wireless connection was actively being used. The temperature under the laptop was held constant at 77 degrees Fahrenheit by an air-conditioning system.

Wireless Internet connections use radio-frequency electromagnetic waves. When the researchers measured the radiation coming from a laptop wirelessly connected to the Internet, they found it was at least three times higher than an unconnected laptop, and seven to 15 times higher than radiation in a general setting, according to the study, though the levels varied over the course of the experiment, depending on the flow of information coming to or from the computer.

There was no difference between the sperm samples held under the laptop and those kept away from it in terms of the percentage of sperm that were dead at the end of the experiment, according to the study.

Still, sperm motility and having undamaged DNA are important for fertilizing an egg.

“We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the Internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

Why sperm cells are vulnerable

Sperm cells are different from other cells in the body — their DNA is highly condensed into a small area, the researchers noted. This could make them more vulnerable to the effects of such radiation.

It’s plausible that the magnetic and electromagnetic fields produced by the radio waves damage molecules in sperm called phospholipids, which are a needed to keep membranes within a sperm cell intact, the study researchers wrote.

It is not known whether all laptop computers might have the same effects as those seen in this study, nor is it known what other factors might heighten or lessen the damage, the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

“However, we cannot discard the possibility that damage to sperm is caused by the low radiation produced by the computer without Internet connection,” they wrote, and this possibility should be studied further.

The study was published online Nov. 23 in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Pass it on: Radiation from wireless internet connections might damage sperm cells.

Source: Yahoo! News

After some initial excitement for the new line of BlackBerry 7 smartphones and a strong launch–both unusual for RIM for the past year–sales are starting to sputter. That’s according to Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley, who said his checks indicate a slowing trend for BlackBerrys.

It’s likely sales have been blunted by the release of the iPhone 4S, as well as the lower price of the legacy iPhone 4 and 3GS models as well. The coming release of the Galaxy Nexus and phones running on the recently unveiled Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is expected to provide additional pressure, while Nokia may take some shine off RIM’s growth overseas, Walkley said.

“We anticipate increasing competition across all tiers of RIM’s products in 2012,” he said in a research note sent to clients today.

RIM had hoped for its upgraded BlackBerry 7 operating system to inject some life back into the company’s prospects and get it back on track as it migrates to a slicker next-generation platform. With that platform, BBX, expected to be delayed until the middle of next year, it’s more important than ever for its current BlackBerry 7 phones to have a strong showing.

A RIM representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

But aside from the flagship Bold 9900 smartphone, which has generally received favorable reviews, its other BlackBerry smartphones haven’t sold so well. RIM was suffering from weaker sales to consumers at Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel, as sales were dominated by the iPhone and Android devices, Walkley said. Even the Bold has lost its momentum following the launch of the iPhone 4S and subsequent price cuts to the older models, he added.

Overseas, Walkley said he was more bullish on Nokia’s prospects as it prepares to roll out its first Windows Phone devices in a few European markets. He expects Nokia to make more of a run in emerging markets where RIM has seen recent strength, which could cut into RIM’s growth. He added that RIM’s lower-tier BlackBerry devices that had been popular are slowing considerably in the face of new Nokia phones and sub-$200 Android smartphones showing up in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Nokia, meanwhile, is seeing more interest in its Asha series of phones in markets such as India and Indonesia, he added.

The troubled PlayBook

Walkley was also bearish on the prospects of the PlayBook, saying he only expects “soft sales” of the device. The PlayBook has been heavily discounted in recent weeks, with Black Friday specials pulling the price down to $200, but sales have still been anemic. The missing core features of the device–e-mail access, messenger services, and calendar–won’t arrive until an update next year. Walkley dropped his fiscal 2012 estimate for unit sales to 900,000 from 1.5 million units. In total, RIM has only sold 700,000 units to its retail partners through the August quarter, an extremely disappointing number.

The competition is only going to get worse with the $199 Kindle Fire out and Ice Cream Sandwich-powered tablets hitting the market in the coming months.

All of this bodes poorly for RIM, which has a rough year. Even its traditional stronghold of enterprise customers is vulnerable. A recent study by iPass found more corporate users on an iPhone than a BlackBerry. IPass was quick to note that the change in market share may be more due to the extreme growth of iOS, as opposed to RIM losing customers.

But it can’t be good if iPhone is beating RIM at its own game.

Source: CNET

Google promised, and Google delivered: the source code to Google Android 4.0.1, codenamed “Ice Cream Sandwich,” has been released to the open source community. And as a nice side bonus, the code now available encompasses the complete source code history tree, which includes the never-before-open Android Honeycomb family of releases.

I’m not a developer, so I’ll defer to Google Android Open-Source Project software engineer Jean-Baptiste M. “JBQ” Queru’s post to the Android Building mailing list for details:

This is actually the source code for version 4.0.1 of Android, which is the specific version that will ship on the Galaxy Nexus, the first Android 4.0 device. In the source tree, you will find a device build target named “full_maguro” that you can use to build a system image for Galaxy Nexus. Build configurations for other devices will come later.

Later in the same post, he writes:

 

This release includes the full history of the Android source code tree, which naturally includes all the source code for the Honeycomb releases. However, since Honeycomb was a little incomplete, we want everyone to focus on Ice Cream Sandwich. So, we haven’t created any tags that correspond to the Honeycomb releases (even though the changes are present in the history.)

This is a very cool thing for Google to do – I stand by my opinion that Google had been misrepresenting the openness of the Android operating system to everybody up to and including the US Senate, but this goes a long way towards realigning perception with reality.

But on the other hand, it seems pretty transparent that they only did it for fear that Google’s rushed Motorola Mobility buy coupled with the closed Google Android 3.0 release tree would intensify the scrutiny on the search giant at a time when it can’t afford much more of the legal spotlight.

There’s no point looking a gift horse in the mouth, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Android hacker community puts together with Ice Cream Sandwich as its new foundation.

Download it here.

 

 

Source: Googling Google

Today sees Dropbox release a security update that plugs up a serious security vulnerability in the client software.

Prior to this update, all a third party needed to do to gain access to someone’s Dropbox account was to copy the Dropbox configuration files from one PC to another. These configuration files could be copied directly from the PC or extracted from a system backup. Once in possession of these files, the third-party had total access to the Dropbox account even if the user changed their password. The only way to revoke access was to unlink the rogue system from the account using the account setting page over on the Dropbox website.

Dropbox version 1.2.48 fixes this serious vulnerability. However, because the client software can take several weeks to auto update, you have to carry out the procedure manually.

If you’re a Dropbox user I strongly urge you to install this update immediately!

Source: ZDNet

Summary: Now that Flash has had its day in the sun, the PlayBook may now have a chance to quietly sail off into the deathly sunset.

Research in Motion plans to continue supporting Adobe Flash, days after it emerged that the platform was not only on its last legs, but that it was to be taken round the back of the stable and beaten over the head with a rusty spade.

In a statement on the company’s corporate blog, the BlackBerry maker said:

“Earlier today, Adobe announced plans to stop investing in Flash® for mobile browsing, and focus more efforts on HTML5. As an Adobe source code licensee, we will continue to work on and release our own implementations, and are looking forward to including Flash 11.1 for the BlackBerry PlayBook.”

At roughly 10am this morning, a collective face-palm slapping sound was heard across the United States and Canada.

It is as though the BlackBerry maker is purposefully trying to continually do things to deliberately lower its stock price. I’m serious; is this some game show that I’m not aware of, where contenders win a vacation to the Bahamas if they successfully cripple their company within the space of a year?

The PlayBook has hardly been the most popular tablet the market has seen in recent years. In fact, come Christmas, I would place money that out of the ‘major players’, including Samsung, Motorola, and obviously Apple, that Research in Motion’s tablet will still come bottom of the pile.

But to continue to support an already dead platform on a dying tablet is like throwing salt in the wound of an already squashed slug.

It’s not the best analogy I should have come out with, but you get the idea.

Granted, the PlayBook does support HTML5, at least giving the tablet a break from a major software update that would be necessary to effectively replace the world’s most used web plug-in. It saves on a lot of headaches down the line, which from the perspective of future proofing was not a far off move.

The Ontario-based company will have the ability to continue to develop Flash on its own moving forward, keeping a ‘healthy’ following of developers interested and supported — that is, if you considered the aforementioned slug analogy to be healthy.

The PlayBook never really stood a chance, stood in line like the nerdy, glasses-wearing kid next to its prom-queen older sister. Even when the PlayBook had a chance to shine, in its secure emailing client that emulated the BlackBerry enterprise encryption, the tablet launched without it. In effect, its most favourable feature was left behind its launch.

But the linchpin to the PlayBook has always been its less than desirable advertising.

Nearly all of the company’s advertising and marketing efforts have been on the fact the PlayBook, unlike the iPad, as the supreme competitor to all other tablets on the market, will support Flash-based content. Though it still will, and Flash will not suddenly drop off the edge of the planet in the next few months, the BlackBerry maker is going to have to think of a brand new marketing strategy.

At least now Research in Motion can advertise the PlayBook as something it should have been marketed as a long way back: “The most expensive paperweight you never needed in the first place”.

Source: ZDNet

Latest Update: Adobe confirmed it will cease Flash development on mobile devices in a press release published Wednesday morning.

In an abrupt about-face in its mobile software strategy, Adobe will soon cease developing its Flash Player plug-in for mobile browsers, according to an e-mail sent to Adobe partners on Tuesday evening.

And with that e-mail flash, Adobe has signaled that it knows, as Steve Jobs predicted, the end of the Flash era on the web is coming soon.

The e-mail, obtained and first reported on by ZDNet, says that Adobe will no longer continue to “adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations,” instead focusing on alternative application packaging programs and the HTML5 protocol.

“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores,” the quoted e-mail says.

In the past, Adobe has released software tools for mobile developers that create a single platform programmers can use to make applications that work across three major mobile platforms: Android, iOS and the BlackBerry OS. While it’s seemingly easier than learning all of the native languages for each operating system, some developers have claimed a loss in app performance when coding in a non-native language that then gets translated into other languages.

The move indicates a massive backpedaling on Adobe’s part, a company who championed its Flash platform in the face of years of naysaying about its use on mobile devices. Despite Flash’s near ubiquity across desktop PCs, many in the greater computing industry, including, famously, Apple Computer, have denounced the platform as fundamentally unstable on mobile browsers, and an intense battery drain. In effect, Flash’s drawbacks outweigh the benefits on mobile devices.

Flash became a dominant desktop platform by allowing developers to code interactive games, create animated advertisements and deliver video to any browser that had the plugin installed, without having to take into account the particulars of any given browser. However, with the development of Javascript, CSS, and HTML5, which has native support for video, many web developers are turning away from Flash, which can be a resource hog even on the most advanced browsers.

Apple made its biggest waves in the case against Flash in April of last year, when Steve Jobs penned a 1,500-word screed against the controversial platform, describing it as a technology of the past. Jobs and Apple disliked the platform so intensely, it has since been barred from use on all iOS devices.

Despite attempts to breathe life into Flash on other mobile devices — namely, Android and BlackBerry OS — Adobe has failed to deliver a consistently stable version of the platform on a smartphone or tablet. In WIRED’s testing of the BlackBerry PlayBook in April, Flash use caused the browser to crash on a consistent basis. And when Flash was supposed to come to tablets with Motorola’s Xoom, Adobe was only able to provide an highly unstable Beta version of Flash to ship with the flagship Android device.

“Adobe has lost so much credibility with the community that I’m hoping they are bought by someone else that can bring some stability and eventually some credibility back to the Flash Platform,” wrote software developer Dan Florio in a blog post on Wednesday morning.

The drastic reversal in Adobe’s mobile plans comes in the wake of the company cutting 750 jobs on Tuesday, a move prompted by what Adobe labeled “corporate restructuring.”

An Adobe representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Wired

A software flaw in Apple Inc’s iPhones and iPads may allow hackers to build apps that secretly install programs to steal data, send text messages or destroy information, according to an expert on Apple device security.

Charlie Miller, a researcher with Accuvant Labs who identified the problem, built a prototype malicious program to test the flaw. He said Apple’s App Store failed to identify the malicious program, which made it past the security vetting process.

There is as yet no evidence that hackers have exploited the vulnerability in Apple’s iOS software. But Miller said his test demonstrated that there could be real malware in the App Store.

“Until now you could just download everything from the App Store and not worry about it being malicious. Now you have no idea what an app might do,” Miller said.

Miller said he proved his theory by building a stock-market monitoring tool, InstaStock, that was programed to connect to his server once downloaded, and to then download whatever program he wants.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Miller, who in 2009 identified a bug in the iPhone text-messaging system that allowed attackers to gain remote control over the devices, said that he had contacted the company about the vulnerability.

“They are in the process of fixing it,” he said.

Miller is scheduled to present his detailed research at the SyScan ’11 security conference in Taiwan next week.

 

 

Source: Reuters

Get Safe Online says that there has been an increase in smartphone malware as the market has grown.

Criminals are typically creating Trojan copies of reputable apps and tricking users into installing them.

Once on the phone, the app can secretly generate cash for criminals through premium rate text messages.

Get Safe Online, a joint initiative between the government, police and industry, said it was concerned that users of smartphones, such as Android devices, were not taking steps to protect their devices.

Get Safe Online said fraudsters are designing apps which generate cash secretly in the background without the owner realising until their monthly bill.

A typical scam involves an app designed to send texts to premium rate services without the user knowing.

Apps can appear to be bona fide software or sometimes masquerade as stripped down free versions of well-known games.

Rik Ferguson, a hacking researcher with internet security firm Trend Micro, said: “This type of malware is capable of sending a steady stream of text messages to premium rate numbers – in some instances we’ve seen one being sent every minute.

“With costs of up to £6 per message, this can be extremely lucrative. The user won’t know this is taking place, even if they happen to be using the device at the same time, as the activity takes place within the device’s back-end infrastructure.”

Online banking

Another major security firm, Symantec, recently warned in its annual threat assessment that Android phones were at risk and that it had found at least six varieties of malicious software.

Minister for Cyber Security Francis Maude said: “More and more people are using their smartphone to transmit personal and financial information over the internet, whether it’s for online banking, shopping or social networking.

“Research from Get Safe Online shows that 17% of smartphone users now use their phone for money matters and this doesn’t escape the notice of criminals.”

Tony Neate, head of Get Safe Online, urged people to check their phone’s security.

“Mobile phones are very personal. I have talked to people who are never more than a yard away from their mobile phone. Because of that attachment, they start to think that they are in a way invincible.

“It’s the end user that picks up the tab – it’s your phone that incurs the costs. Whether you have pay-as-you-go or a monthly account, that money is going to come from the account and go to the criminal.”

Source: BBC News