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Chrome gets sharp after dumping 30-year-old Windows technology

IDG News Service

Google last week said that it was finally ditching a 30-year-old technology to display fonts on Web pages in its Chrome browser for Windows.

In an announcement Thursday about some of the notable changes in Chrome for version 37, which reached Google’s Beta build channel earlier that day, a software engineer said the preview relied on Microsoft’s DirectWrite technology.

“Chrome 37 adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering even on high-DPI displays,” said Emil Eklund in a July 17 blog post.

Microsoft introduced the DirectWrite API with Windows 7, which shipped in the fall of 2009, and back-ported the technology to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) at the same time with what it called a Platform Update. Windows XP, the now-retired operating system — but one that still powers one-in-four personal computers worldwide — does not support DirectWrite.

Prior to the switch to DisplayWrite, Chrome used Microsoft’s Graphics Device Interface (GDI), which was a core component of Windows since the graphical user interface’s (GUI) debut in late 1985. Microsoft had been working on GDI for at least two years before that.

Chrome 36, the current version out of Google’s Stable build channel, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows.

Eklund said that DirectWrite had been a top user request for years: An entry in Chromium’s bug tracker — Chromium is the open-source project that feeds code to Chrome proper — about adding DirectWrite support to the browser was penned Oct. 22, 2009, the same day Windows 7 launched.

As far as a reason for the long stretch between that entry and DirectWrite support making it into Chrome, Eklund said, “The switch to DirectWrite … required extensive re-architecting and streamlining of Chrome’s font rendering engine.”

Much of that difficulty stemmed from the sandboxing — an anti-exploit and anti-crash technology — of Chrome’s rendering engine; it wasn’t until February of this year that developers reported on the bug tracker that they’d managed to get DirectWrite to work inside the sandbox.

Other browsers have long since adopted DirectWrite. Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, switched from GDI to DirectWrite with version 4, which debuted in March 2011. Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer (IE9) began using DirectWrite with IE9, which also shipped in March 2011.

DirectWrite was one of the reasons why Microsoft declined to add the then-powerhouse Windows XP to the list of supported editions for IE9, a move that made the company the first major browser developer to drop support for XP.

If all goes according to plan, DirectWrite support will reach the Stable edition of Chrome with version 37. Google does not hew to a set timetable to browser upgrades, as does Mozilla, but it typically rolls out a new version every six to eight weeks.

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Twitter and Facebook see a bright future for in-the-moment spending

IDG News Service

If you’re an impulse buyer trying to reform your ways, Facebook and Twitter are not on your side.

Both companies said Thursday they were working on new services to let their users either make purchases directly from their feeds or gain instant access to deals and promotions that can be redeemed in stores. It’s the latest display of competition heating up between the companies as they seek to add digital storefront real estate to their sites.

Why waste clicks getting to Amazon or eBay when you can have all your fun in between retweets or “likes”? Naturally, you might also retweet the advertiser’s promotion, which would make Twitter happy.

With Twitter, the technology comes courtesy of CardSpring, which Twittersaid it had acquired.

CardSpring lets software developers create offers inside their apps that users can add to their debit or credit cards. When the person makes a purchase in the store, the offer or discount is automatically applied.

The idea is that on Twitter, similar types of offers from businesses might appear in the stream. Twitter users could access the offers by providing their payment information to Twitter or some other processor. “We’re confident the CardSpring team and the technology they’ve built are a great fit with our philosophy regarding the best ways to bring in-the-moment commerce experiences to our users,” Twitter said in its announcement.

Twitter has already integrated some e-commerce functions to its site, such as by letting people add items to their Amazon carts by replying“#AmazonCart” to certain tweets. Twitter also has partnered with American Express to let card holders buy items by tweeting in a certain way. Those only work for users who synchronize their Twitter accounts with their Amazon or American Express accounts.

CardSpring’s technology could make for a more streamlined buying experience, maybe even one with a dedicated “buy” button. Previous reports have indicated Twitter might be looking in that direction.

Twitter did not say Thursday that such a button was coming. “We’ll have more information on our commerce direction in the future,” the company said.

A “buy” button for Facebook is definitely on the horizon. The company isnow testing a service to let users buy retail items directly from their news feeds or from a business’ page. There are only a few small and medium-sized businesses participating now. Facebook identified only one: Modify Watches, which makes interchangeable watches that the company says are “dope.”

Naturally, these e-commerce services could help Facebook and Twitter’s bottom lines by attracting vendors that want to connect with potential customers.

One barrier to their success could be people’s willingness to share their payment information with Facebook or Twitter. Facebook, in its announcement, said it built its feature with privacy in mind and that no payment information would be shared with other advertisers. People can also select whether they want to save their payment information for future purchases, Facebook said.

World Tech Update- July 24, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Facebook reports huge sales, Apple patents a smart watch and a space robot gets some updates.

 

What businesses need to know about Touch ID and iOS 8

CITEworld

Apple introduced Touch ID along with the iPhone 5s and iOS 7 last fall. At launch, the technology was limited to two purposes – acting as a shortcut for a user’s passcode to unlock the device, and acting as an alternative to a user’s Apple ID and password when making purchases from Apple’s iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore.

With iOS 8, Apple is expanding the capabilities of Touch ID significantly by giving developers the APIs needed to use Touch ID as an authentication/authorization method in third-party apps. This is a powerful expansion of the technology, and one that could be applied to a wide range of different types of apps.

It’s easy to see the value of Touch ID in mobile commerce apps, as well as in mobile banking apps - PayPal was one of the first companies to express an interest in integrating Touch ID into its app and services. Password managers like 1Password from Agilebits are also prime uses for the technology. Apps that store confidential or sensitive information — like health and medical apps — can also benefit from integrating Touch ID.

Business and productivity apps, especially those designed to provide secure access to a company’s corporate resources and cloud services, are also areas where Touch ID could be implemented. That raises questions for IT leaders in many organizations to ask themselves:

  • Is it a good idea to build Touch ID into our internal apps?
  • Should we allow, encourage, or support Touch ID in apps from cloud storage and collaboration vendors?
  • Are there reasons to avoid Touch ID, either in enterprise or third-party apps?

Given that it seems almost certain that Apple will expand the well-received TouchID to any additional iOS devices launching later this year, these aren’t hypothetical questions. They’re questions that organizations will likely face as soon as Apple releases iOS 8 this fall.

Touch ID and the Secure Enclave

At a hardware level, Touch ID includes two primary components: Touch ID Sensor, the fingerprint scanner built into the device’s home button, and the Secure Enclave, a coprocessor that is integrated into Apple’s A7 chip. The Secure Enclave is connected to the Touch ID Sensor and is responsible for processing fingerprint scans. Each Secure Enclave has a unique identity (UID) provisioned during the A7′s fabrication process that cannot be accessed by other iOS components, and that is unknown even to Apple.

Touch ID is actually just one function of the Secure Enclave. Additional functions like cryptographic protection for data protection key management were identified in the iOS Security Guide that Apple released in February. Additional details were discussed during the Keychain and Authentication with Touch ID session at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last month, which can be streamedfrom Apple’s developer site (and a PDF of the presentation slides from the session is also available). Going forward, it seems clear that the Secure Enclave will be a key part of iOS security functions, beyond merely handling fingerprint identification.

It’s also worth mentioning that although the Touch ID Sensor is currently only available on the iPhone 5s, the additional functionality of the Secure Enclave is built into any iOS device with an A7 chip, which currently includes the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display in addition to the iPhone 5c, opening the door for more security features down the line.

Touch ID and a user’s passcode

Apple hasn’t envisioned Touch ID as a standalone biometric authentication system (or part of a multi-factor authentication solution). That means that it isn’t a replacement for a passcode. An iPhone 5s user must supply a passcode to enable Touch ID and once enabled, Touch ID is effectively a shortcut or pointer to a passcode.

The value that Touch ID offers is that it boasts the benefits of a complex passcode without the hassle of typing it dozens or hundreds of times a day – it makes a complex passcode easier to use.

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Combining the Flexibility of Public-Cloud Apps with the Security of Private-Cloud Data White Paper

CITEworld

Cloud applications are a priority for every business – the technology is flexible, easy-to-use, and offers compelling economic benefits to the enterprise. The challenge is that cloud applications increase the potential for corporate data to leak, raising compliance and security concerns for IT. A primary security concern facing organizations moving to the cloud is how to secure and control access to data saved in cloud applications.

This white paper explores technologies that combine the flexibility of public cloud apps like Salesforce and Box, with the security and compliance of a private cloud. When deployed as part of an end-to-end data protection program, such an approach can provide the same security and assurances as can be achieved with premises-based applications.

Comprehensive Data Protection in the Cloud

In today’s business, IT may no longer own or manage the apps, the devices, or the underlying network infrastructure, yet is still responsible for securing sensitive corporate data. While cloud application vendors secure their infrastructure, the security of the data remains the responsibility of the customer using the application. A comprehensive approach to data security in cloud environments covers the full lifecycle of data in an organization—in the cloud, on the device, and at the point of access.

•In the Cloud—Most cloud apps don’t encrypt data-at-rest, and those that do encrypt manage the keys themselves. For organizations in regulated industries and/or with sensitive data stored in these apps, the ability to maintain confidentiality of corporate data remains unsolved.

•At Access—Cloud apps provide limited access control, data leakage prevention, and visibility when compared with applications hosted on premises. This makes it difficult to control who, what, where, and when employees access cloud applications.

•On the Device—Since cloud applications can be accessed from any device, anywhere, a comprehensive security solution should include protection for cloud application data on client devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Click here to view the full white paper

 

US social media usage evolves

Warc

Social media usage in the US is changing as a result of trends including the growth of “lean-forward” behaviour, greater concerns for privacy and the rise of niche sites based around personal interests.

Kevin Moeller and Heather O’Shea of UM, the media agency network, discussed these themes in their paper, Cracking the social code: Aligning consumers’ need states to marketing objectives, published as part of the Experiential Learning series of articles from the ARF’s Audience Measurement 9.0 conference.

Their research drew on data from 4,000 active web users in America, and found there was a “progressive shift from lean-back to lean-forward behaviour” on social media, fuelled by smartphone usage and exemplified by multiscreening.

Working simultaneously with this increase in activity, however, is a heightened emphasis on privacy, and precisely which information should be available for anyone to view.

Two-thirds of UM’s American panel were worried about their “online persona” being public versus only one-third who were unconcerned – a negative imbalance that represents a “sea change” in perspectives on this topic.

“While this may seem like a disconnect from the very idea of a social network, it proves there are nuances in what consumers believe is publicly fair game compared to what they actively would like to share,” Moeller and O’Shea suggest.

Another indicator that user habits are becoming more nuanced is the uptake of newer or smaller social networks reflecting specific passions and interests.

Examples of niche platforms include deviantART, a site for art lovers, Ravelry, a community for crocheting enthusiasts, and Medium, an offering from the founders of Twitter that hosts longer-form content.

“While Facebook remains the main internet presence for audiences to connect with one another, niche social networks are becoming a driving force in the growth of the social sphere,” say Moeller and O’Shea.

Given that UM’s figures indicate that the creation of new social media profiles has effectively “stalled” even as usage grows, the major mainstream players may soon move to acquire their smaller counterparts.

“This could be the beginning of the ‘Profile Wars’ in which a battle for new sign-ups ensues with larger networks increasingly buying out niche cousins,” say Moeller and O’Shea.

Report: Samsung and Google Butt Heads Over Smartwatches

Mashable

Are Google and Samsung fighting over Tizen’s role in wearables? According to a new report, the answer is yes.

According to The Information, Google CEO Larry Page met with Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley. The purpose of the meeting? To discuss Samsung’s plans for wearables.

Evidently, the meeting wasn’t a success. The report reveals Page was unhappy to hear that Samsung still plans to focus most of its wearable efforts on its own Tizen operating system rather than giving more support to Android Wear.

Although Samsung has made a smartwatch that runs Android Wear — the Gear Live — the bulk of its smartwatch efforts are focused on Tizen.

Google and Samsung have a decidedly complicated relationship. Samsung is the most successful Android OEM by a large margin. As a result, Samsung wants to be able to differentiate and customize its experience. Sometimes, however, things go too far. In January, Samsung agreed totone down the extent to which it customizes Android’s user interface. Still, that hasn’t stopped Samsung from creating its own app store and doing its part to maintain the Galaxy branding.

With wearables, the situation becomes even more complex, because Samsung is essentially selling two competing devices. The Gear 2 smartwatch runs Samsung’s own software and works only with Galaxy smartphones. The Gear Live, on the other hand, has to follow Google’s rules and will work with any Android 4.3 or higher device — even if it’s made by someone other than Samsung.

The wearable market — especially the smartwatch part of it — is still new enough to allow Samsung to support both platforms. Assuming the smartwatch truly does go mainstream, however, Samsung may have to choose a platform and commit to it. For Google, the question then becomes, what does it need to do to keep its most important partner committed, without ceding control of its platform.

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Events can help media companies balance uneven revenue streams

INMA

When we discuss the direction of the news media industry revenue streams on either a macro or micro level, two predominant revenue streams head to the top of the charts. Traditional print still is king at most news media companies, with online/mobile building momentum in most corners of the globe.

While both of those are and will remain critical to our long-term survival, let me offer a potential third leg of that three-legged revenue stool we all seek: events.

News media companies have dabbled in the events arena for quite some time, but with limited success because they often focus on events not destined to create any significant financial windfall. Cooking shows, for example. Or community events such as runs, concerts, and so forth, which are great for local support and exposure, but offer little in the way of significant financial return.

The return on investment falls far short of what the industry has grown to expect from print and even online ventures. And so the full value and revenue potential of event sponsorship for media companies has become clouded and jaded.

But there is money to be made from events, when handled the right way.

Most event experts say two of the largest expenses are the cost of a venue, and event marketing — two areas media companies excel in. They are well-positioned to pull off their own events and eliminate much of the traditional cost associated with these events, due to their expertise in the above key areas.

Marathons and half-marathons as well as triathlons have been known to make tens of thousands of dollars in profits. Concerts and motivational speakers can do the same. Home shows, garden shows, outdoor shows, fishing or golf tournaments — all still can rake in dollars in a big way.

Bear in mind, every one of these events that enters your market without your involvement does, in fact, impact your bottom line. They can extract valuable dollars from potential advertisers, customers, etc. All of those dollars will no longer be circulating throughout your community.

Factor in the compounding value of a dollar either entering or leaving your community and the impact is significant. For every dollar that leaves your community, you can compound that into five or six dollars subtracted from the community.

You can bet some of those are out of your revenue streams.

Much like a stool that needs three or four legs upon which to stand in a balanced fashion, media companies need more than two revenue legs on which to balance their long-term survival.

Embracing events can add a third leg to the revenue mix (or stool) with little risk and a great upside. You don’t need to hire all new staff; you can dabble in the event arena with the employees you currently have and see how the operation goes.

The key with events, just as with print and/or online and mobile, is to have someone passionate about growing that segment of the balance sheet. It won’t happen by itself. It doesn’t take a whole team of passionate employees. All you need is one employee who is motivated financially and the magic begins.

You won’t be alone. Other media companies are starting to find the magic of events — and turning it into significant revenues in short order.

One in ten digital ads is fake

Warc

More than one in ten ad impressions is fraudulent, but fraud rates vary widely between verticals and reflect their media buying preferences, according to a new report.

The Q2 2014 Media Quality Report from Integral Ad Science, the digital advertising intelligence business, was based on information from the ad tech companies, exchanges and agencies it works with. It found that, overall, 11.5% of ad impressions were fraudulent.

Technology and retail companies suffered from the largest amount of fraud, 17% and 14% respectively, while consumer packaged goods (6%) and telecoms (6%) were least affected. The report suggested the difference was attributable to the ways in which the various verticals bought media.

Those with lower fraud rates were more likely to buy directly from publishers, where just 3.5% of impressions were fake. Higher fraud rates were evident on exchanges (16.5%) and ad networks (10.5%).

“Certainly the direct-response-type advertisers or verticals will look to leverage as much scale as they can,” David Hahn, Integral’s SVP of product, told Ad Exchanger. “That introduces some of the additional risks you might not find if you’re doing smaller scale campaigns purely on publisher direct.”

Other verticals afflicted with higher rates of fraud included automotive (12%), fashion (12%) and education (11.5%).

A mid-range group was comprised of entertainment (8%), pharmaceuticals (9%), insurance (10%), travel 11% and finance (11%). Others at the lower end included quick-service restaurants (6.5%) and energy (7.5%).

As well as fraud, Integral looked at related issues such as viewability and brand safety. Once again buying direct from publishers yielded the best results: more than half (55.5%) of inventory purchased this way was regarded as viewable, while ad networks (45.9%) and exchanges (45.3%) performed less well.

Similarly, buying direct was more likely to produce brand-safe inventory. Just 6.2% of inventory here was classified with a moderate to very high risk, far less than exchanges (9.6%) and ad networks (10.1%).

The report had found no significant change in brand safety levels, but said risky impressions most often landed on adult content (41.8%), reflecting the sheer volume of such material on the web and the traffic it receives.

Sites about drugs (17%), hate speech (13.9%) and illegal downloads (13.4%) were also flagged as high-risk locations.

Surface survives Microsoft cuts, but tablet strategy remains muddled

IDG News Service

As Microsoft announced its largest layoffs in its 39-year history — while saying it would press forward with its in-house Surface — analysts contended that the firm still hasn’t clearly stated its tablet strategy.

Earlier today, Microsoft said it would cut up to 18,000 jobs, or 14% of its work force, with the bulk of those layoffs coming from streamlining efforts after acquiring much of phone-maker Nokia.

The layoffs begin immediately, but as many as 5,000 will be left on tenterhooks for up to a year before knowing whether their jobs are safe.

Along with the layoffs, Microsoft also signaled an end to its experiment with Android, which powered the Nokia X series of smartphones. Nokia had kicked off the line prior to the deal’s completion.

“We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a message to employees.

Surface, the tablet-one-moment-notebook-the-next hardware that Microsoft debuted two years ago, will survive, the company made clear.

“With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams,” wrote Stephen Elop, the head of Microsoft’s device division, in a separate, much longer email to workers.

Nor, apparently, has Microsoft’s Surface strategy changed.

“More broadly across the Devices team, we will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings [and] devices, and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models,” Elop said.

While some on Wall Street have urged Microsoft to dump the Surface — and the Xbox for that matter — to focus on more profitable services and software, industry analysts contacted by Computerworld today weren’t surprised that the tablet/notebook survived the cuts.

“I’m not surprised that Microsoft is keeping Surface,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email today. “While it doesn’t fit 100% with ‘mobility and cloud,’ it’s close enough to keep it as it supports them driving their expanded definition of productivity by tying hardware, software and services.”

Others agreed.

“No, I didn’t think that they’d dump it,” echoed Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. research firm that focuses on the moves of nearby Microsoft. “Some people thought Microsoft would use this opportunity to ax the Surface, but it’s a big long-term bet for them. And the Surface Pro 3 sure seems to be a lot more popular than the earlier models.”

Microsoft started selling the third-generation Surface Pro 3 – an Intel processor-powered device that runs Windows 8.1 — last month, and will finish rolling out the line in two weeks. The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799, but costs $929 with a keyboard, a necessary add-on to fit the notebook replacement role that Microsoft markets.

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