Microsoft sees Bing searches as a chance to promote the Edge browser

Microsoft really, really wants you to try its new Edge browser for Windows 10—so much so that it’s urging Bing users to give it a go.

VentureBeat reported Friday that if you do a Bing search for the Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, Bing will helpfully note that “Microsoft recommends Microsoft Edge for Windows 10.” Because of course it would. When you click the “Learn more” button, you’ll get whisked away to a webpage extolling some of Edge’s features, such as its annotation tool, Cortana integration, and distraction-eliminating “Reading view.”

firefox bing windows 10
Searching for Firefox on Windows 10—using the Edge browser, no less.

As you might expect, the banner urging you to use Edge only appears on Windows PCs—searching for Chrome and Firefox on my Mac yielded no banner, but running the same search from a Windows 10 PC resulted in the black stripe above search results—even when searching from Edge.

Why this matters: Despite the hype and Windows 10’s fast start, Edge browser usage has tailed off since Microsoft launched its new OS back in late July. Microsoft isn’t the first to promote their browser in search engines, as MarketingLand points out: If you visit Google.com from a competing browser, you’ll be presented with a box that urges you to download Google Chrome. Still, given Edge’s place in the market, it does make Microsoft look a little desperate.

Using Wikipedia as PR is a problem, but our lack of a critical eye is worse

Using Wikipedia as PR is a problem, but our lack of a critical eye is worse
Wikipedia – it’s a work in progress. Credit: Lane Hartwell, CC BY-SA

If you heard that a group of people were creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia articles related to brands, firms and individuals, you could point out, correctly, that this is the entire point of Wikipedia. It is, after all, the “encyclopedia that anyone can edit”.

But a group has been creating and editing articles for money. Wikipedia administrators banned more than 300 suspect accounts involved, but those behind the ring are still unknown.

For most Wikipedians, the editors and experts who volunteer their time and effort to develop and maintain the world’s largest encyclopedia for free, this is completely unacceptable. However, what the group was doing was not illegal – although it is prohibited by Wikipedia’s policies – and as it’s extremely hard to detect it’s difficult to stamp out entirely.

Conflicts of interest in those editing articles has been part of Wikipedia from the beginning. In the early days, a few of the editors making the most contributions wanted a personal Wikipedia entry, at least as a reward for their contribution to the project. Of course most of these were promptly deleted by the rest of the community for not meeting the notability criteria.

As Wikipedia grew and became the number one source of free-to-access information about everything, so Wikipedia entries rose up search engines rankings. Being well-represented on Wikipedia became important for any nation, organisation, firm, political party, entrepreneur, musician, and even scientists. Wikipedians have strived to prohibit self-serving editing, due to theinherent bias that this would introduce. At the same time, “organised” problematic editing developed despite their best efforts.

The glossy sheen of public relations

The first time I learned of non-Wikipedians taking an organised approach to editing articles I was attending a lecture by an “online reputation manager” in 2012. I didn’t know of her, so I pulled up her Wikipedia entry.

It was readily apparent that the article was filled with only positive things. So I did a bit of research about the individual and edited the article to try and introduce a more neutral point of view: softened language, added references and [citation needed] tags where I couldn’t find reference material to back up an important statement.

Online reputation mangers and PR firms charge celebrities and “important” people to, among other things, groom Wikipedia pages and fool search engines to push less favourable search results further down the page when their name is searched for. And they get caught doing it, again and again and again.

Separating fact from fiction

It is not that paid-for or biased editing is so problematic in itself, but the value that many associate with the information found in Wikipedia entries. For example, in academia, professors with Wikipedia entries might be considered more important than those without. Our own research has shown that scholars with Wikipedia articles have no greater statistically significant scientific impact than those without. So do some appear on Wikipedia while others do not? The reason is clear: because many of those entries are written by themselves or their students or colleagues. It’s important that this aspect of Wikipedia should be communicated to those reading it, and remembered every single time you’re using it.

The arrival of [citation needed] tags is a good way to alert readers to the potential for statements to be unsafe, unsupported, or flat-out wrong. But these days Google has incorporated Wikipedia articles into its search results, so that an infobox at the right side of the results page will display the information – having first stripped such tags out, presenting it as referenced and reliable information.

A critical eye

Apart from self-editing that displays obvious bias, we know that Wikipedia, however amazing it is, has other shortcomings. Comparing Wikipedia’s different language versions to see the topics they find controversial reveals the attitudes and obsessions of writers from different nations. For example, English Wikipedia is obsessed with global warming, George W Bush and the World Wrestling Federation, the German language site by Croatia and Scientology, Spanish by Chile, and French by Ségolène Royal, homosexuality and UFOs. There are lots of edit wars behind the scenes, many of which are a lot of fuss about absolutely nothing.

It’s not that I’d suggest abandoning the use of Wikipedia, but a bit of caution and awareness in the reader of these potential flaws is required. And more so, it’s required by the many organisations, academics, journalists and services of all kind including Google itself that scrape or read Wikipedia unthinkingly assuming that it’s entirely correct.

Were everyone to approach Wikipedia with a little more of a critical eye, eventually the market for paid editing would weaken or dissolve.

Google’s “New” Search Icon Was Created in 2008 by Russian Designer

New logo shares similarities to Microsoft’s new logo and Apple’s iconic 90s logo; icon is joined by new Sans-Serif corporate logo

Hot on the heels of Google Inc.’s (GOOG) reorganization as Alphabet — a family of companies with a leaner, more focused new Google at its core — the maker of the world’s most used internet search and mobile operating system has undergone a major rebranding.  The push swaps out the previous icon and corporate logo for new minimalist successors.  Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the story is my discovery that Google’s new work is actually not so new!  Read on to find out what I mean…

I. Extreme Makeover Taps Secret Source

Here’s Google’s new icon:

Google logo

An interesting fact I haven’t seen widely reported is that Google’s new logo actually substantially similar to / is derived from a fan-made design created by Turbomilk-affiliated Russian designer Denis Kortunov several years ago.

Back in 2008 Kortunov — a vocal critic of Google’s mid-2008 icon refresh — was among a handful of designers to try their hand at a reimagining of Google’s icon.  The results were posted to Turbomilk.

It is immediately apparent that the logo above — Google’s new design — is a only minimally tweaked derivative of Kortunov’s second cut.   Interestingly the page for this session has disappeared (perhaps at Google’s request), but it’s still available in the Wayback Machine.

Denis Korunov

Part of the reason this may have been overlooked was that it was Kortunov’s final cut slight more skeuomorphic third attempt at the icon that was more widely publicized…

Google Turbomilk

…. but it was his abandoned second cut that best resonated with today’s minimalist design atmosphere.  And apparently it resonated with the designers at Google, as well.

Here’s a screenshot of his portion of the article in case the archived page somehow is taken down:

Now, mind you the two logos are not exactly the same.  But they’re strikingly similar enough that I would argue the Google logo is obviously derivative of Kortunov, or more aptly a refined version of it.  Here’s the relatively tiny tweaks that Google has made (which you might not even notice glacing at the two logos.

Google logo tweaks
I would argue visual evidence inarguably points to Google borrowing and making minor edits to Kortunov’s concept.

And that raises some big questions.  Has Google hired Kortunov?  Has it contracted him?  One would certainly hope so given that it directly adopted his redesigned icon.  Kortunov’s profile on LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) shows him as currently work as “Director of User Experience” at Moscow, Russia-based security firm Acronis.

Here’s some of the other designs from the post that weren’t accepted:

TurboMilk -- Google Logos
For now that’s all the information I have, but I’ve followed up with Kortunov and hopefully will have some sort of update shortly.

II. Product Sans is Introduced

Moving along, the icon is actually only one half of Google’s design refresh.  The other, perhaps more significant aspect is the refresh of the full wide corporate logo.  Since 1999, that logo has been tweaked and fiddled with (see further below), but the Serif font face and general letter spacing / shape / etc. remained untouched.

For those trying to recall what Serif vs. Sans-Serif means w.r.t. fonts, the rule of thumb is that Sans-Serif fonts lack the flourishes/notches — known as “serifs” or “filigrees” at the end on letter strokes.  Perhaps the best known Serif font is Times New Roman…

Times New Roman

Times New Roman is probably the best know Serif font. [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

… while the best-known Sans-Serif font is probably Helvetica, aging as it may be:

Helvetica font

I’ll discuss the old Serif font Google used in the old logo in more detail later on.  As for the new font, Fast Co. Design reveals that it’s called “Product Sans” and that it was designed in-house.  One key feature is that the font is much more scaleable than the Serif font that was previously used, which should help it render more attractively both n small screens (think smartphones) and very large ones (think TVs).

Google Scaleable font

After more or less a decade and a half with the same logo that has changed.  Here’s the new look.  Note the new font, revised spacing, and relatively resizing of the individual letters….

Google Logo redesign

…  basically the only thing that was left unchanged from the old design was the color scheme, but even that was made brighter.  So you could argue this is a near-complete redesign.

And here’s the new logo in all its glory, with the old logo animated in, as well, for comparison’s sake:

Google Doodle


Note, this change also modifies the icon used in the browser tab like so:
Google Icon
The Verge with seeming sarcasm commented on Microsoft’s 2012 rebranding — which employed the designs of Paula Scher of Pentagram — “The Windows logo is evolving backwards.”

For Google the same is somewhat true in spirit.  While it may not have legacy designs of its own from the 80s and early 90s to tap (it didn’t exist back then) Google — like its rivals — is embarking on a bold return to minimalism, a style that dominated much of the branding of the late 80s and early 90s.  Yes, Google too is arguably “evolving backwards” and some would say that’s awesome. – See more at: http://www.dailytech.com/Exclusive+Googles+New+Search+Icon+Was+Created+in+2008+by+Russian+Designer/article37480.htm#sthash.kq6soC7U.dpuf

Google Does Not Run Shady Domain, Study Authors Say

google_employee_ap.jpg

Clicking on a Web address ending in .zip will not endanger users, the authors of a study that put .zip at the top of a list of “shady Web neighbourhoods” said on Friday.

Google, which owns the top-level domain (TLD) .zip challenged the study after it was published on Tuesday.

.zip is one of more than 1,000 new TLDs that have cropped up since a liberalisation of Web addresses in the past two years, adding to the familiar .com, .org and .gov.

The study published by enterprise security company Blue Coat this week highlighted the dangers of the explosion in domains, saying some of them could trick users to download malware or lead to other undesirable outcomes.

It said .zip was the most dangerous new TLD, ahead of .review, .country and .kim.

However, Blue Coat said on Friday .zip only appeared at the top of its list because 100 percent of Web requests using that TLD do not go to a legitimate website, since there are not yet any domains ending in .zip,

Google has not yet registered any domains to .zip apart from nic.zip, which belongs to Google Registry and is a pre-launch TLD.

.zip is also the name of a type of file extension, and Blue Coat said that if .zip appeared in the address line of a Web browser it could be a sign that a device is performing a task the user is unaware of, or may not want it to.

“We have nothing against Google, we don’t mean to imply that they’re running a shady operation. This is just all about the unintended consequences of having .zip as a TLD,” Hugh Thompson, Blue Coat’s Chief Technology Officer, told Reuters.

Microsoft, US face off again over emails stored in Ireland

man in suit holding virtual email letter
A dispute between Microsoft and the U.S. government over turning over emails stored in a data center in Ireland comes up for oral arguments in an appeals court in New York on Wednesday.

Microsoft holds that an outcome against it could affect the trust of its cloud customers abroad as well as affect relationships between the U.S. and other governments which have their own data protection and privacy laws.

Customers outside the U.S. would be concerned about extra-territorial access to their user information, the company has said. A decision against Microsoft could also establish a norm that could allow foreign governments to reach into computers in the U.S. of companies over which they assert jurisdiction, to seize the private correspondence of U.S. citizens.

The U.S. government has a warrant for access to emails held by Microsoft of a person involved in an investigation, but the company holds that nowhere did the U.S. Congress say that the Electronics Communications Privacy Act “should reach private emails stored on providers’ computers in foreign countries.”

It prefers that the government use “mutual legal assistance” treaties it has in place with other countries including Ireland. In an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief filed in December in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Ireland said it “would be pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible, a request under the treaty, should one be made.”

A number of technology companies, civil rights groups and computer scientists have filed briefs supporting Microsoft.

In a recent filing in the Second Circuit court, Microsoft said “Congress can and should grapple with the question whether, and when, law enforcement should be able to compel providers like Microsoft to help it seize customer emails stored in foreign countries.”

“We hope the U.S. government will work with Congress and with other governments to reform the laws, rather than simply seek to reinterpret them, which risks happening in this case,” Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a post in April.

Lower courts have disagreed with Microsoft’s point of view. U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV of the of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had in April last year refused to quash a warrant that authorized the search and seizure of information linked with a specified Web-based email account stored at Microsoft’s premises.

Microsoft complied with the search warrant by providing non-content information held on its U.S. servers but filed to quash the warrant after it concluded that the account was hosted in Dublin and the content was also stored there.

If the territorial restrictions on conventional warrants applied to warrants issued under section 2703 (a) of the Stored Communications Act, a part of the ECPA, the burden on the Government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded, the magistrate judge wrote in his order. The Act covers required disclosure of wire or electronic communications in electronic storage.

While the company held that courts in the U.S. are not authorized to issue warrants for extraterritorial search and seizure, Judge Francis held that a warrant under the Stored Communications Act, was “a hybrid: part search warrant and part subpoena.” It is executed like a subpoena in that it is served on the Internet service provider who is required to provide the information from its servers wherever located, and does not involve government officials entering the premises, he noted.

Judge Loretta Preska of the District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected Microsoft’s appeal of the ruling, and the company thereafter appealed to the Second Circuit.

Chrome 45 Will Automatically Reduce Memory Usage For Unused Tabs

Chrome

Anyone who has used a web browser for extensive periods of time and opened plenty of tabs at the same time, will already know how system memory resources can be sucked up by the bowser, resulting in slow and laggy responsiveness over time.

Google has this week announced that their new Chrome 45 browser includes improvements and enhancements that will provide more efficient web browsing and clear the memory on and used tabs. Watch the video below to see a comparison between an older version of Chrome and Chrome 45.

Chrome 45 will now automatically detect when a web page isn’t busy and will aggressively cleanup old and new’s memory. Google explains a little more:

In practice we found that this reduced website memory usage by 10% on average, but the effect is even more dramatic on complex web apps. With Gmail, for example, we can free up nearly a quarter of the memory used by the tab.

We’ve also made changes to Chrome to improve power usage. A new setting introduced in June will auto-pause Flash content that’s not central to a website. Our testing has shown that turning on this setting makes your battery last up to 15% longer depending on your operating system, so over the next few weeks we’ll begin turning on this feature by default for all users

 

For more details on the new improvements you can expect to enjoy using Chrome 45 jump over to the official Google Chrome blog for full details.

Google launches new ‘fun fact’ trick to keep you entertained

google fun facts
Is the longest train not the delayed one you’re stuck on during your 40 minute commute that has now taken over two hours because the doors just won’t close? Photograph: Screengrab

Bored at work today? Need to boost your trivia knowledge now that all the kids are back in school? Try Googling “fun facts” or “I’m feeling curious”.

Google’s latest trick aims to entertain and amaze, if random facts push your buttons. A new dynamic box appears below a search for “fun fact”, “fun facts” or “I’m feeling curious” showing tidbits like “Do crocodiles cry?”, which apparently some reptiles do.

reptile fact

The more curious can keep hitting the button labelled “ask another question” to generate seemingly endless random facts.

For instance, did you know it’s called the silver screen because it used to be silver?

cinema fact

Or that the apple came from central Asia?

apple fact

How many steps in a mile? Google tells us it’s 2,000 (though it’s about 1,600 for me).

miles of steps

And, no, Sputnik 1 isn’t still up there in orbit, although what Sputnik’s got to do with Tony Banks I’ll never

sputnik

The fact box only seems to appear for queries in English, although perhaps we have yet to hit on the correct French phrase for “I’m feeling curious” as “je suis curieux sentiment” just gave me a standard search – and the Swedish translation “jag är nyfiken” brought up the famous-for-its-nudity art house film I Am Curious (Yellow).

Each curio is pulled directly from other sites, just like Google does with other elements of its built-in encyclopaedia called Knowledge Graph or with new snippets.

The validity of the trivia remains to be seen, but Google provides a link to the site whence it came so you can at least check it out. Probably safe to trust National Geographic on crocodiles, but remember 88.2% of statistics are made up.

Pioneer harnessing laserdisc tech for low-cost LIDAR

Pioneer LIDARPIONEER
Using know-how gained by making laserdiscs of yesteryear, Pioneer is developing a 3D LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor that could be a fraction of the cost of current systems.

The company sees technology related to optical pickups once used in laserdisc players, which it made for 30 years until 2009, as key to a compact LIDAR system that could cost less than ¥10,000 (US$83) by 2025.

With some LIDAR sensors now costing tens of thousands of dollars, that would speed the spread of autonomous vehicles such as self-driving passenger cars and smart golf carts that could be used as a shared public transportation system. Such robotic cars use LIDAR to navigate and avoid obstacles.

With small LIDAR units mounted on the four corners of a car, for instance, the system could gather data for road outline maps, including features such as lane markings and crosswalks. It would also gather information to create detailed 3D point cloud maps of the area around the vehicle.

The system would detect objects dozens of meters ahead, measure their distance and width and identify them based on their shape.

Pioneer, which makes GPS navigation systems, is working on getting the LIDAR to automatically produce high-precision digital maps while using a minimum of data compared to the amount used for standard maps for car navigation.

There are similarities in manufacturing techniques for optical pickups and LIDAR systems, a Pioneer spokesman said, adding the company is using its know-how in signal processing, chip development and optical module manufacturing for the LIDAR technology.

Pioneer has created test units of its LIDAR system and will examine them in vehicle trials, with commercialization for business-use vehicles in 2017 and private passenger cars around 2018.

The sensors could be useful to companies such as Google that are developing self-driving cars, and need low-cost LIDAR to make them commercially viable. Google has previously experimented with robot cars equipped with $80,000 Velodyne roof-mounted LIDAR systems.

Samsung launches next-gen SmartThings smart home hub

smartthings3
Samsung-owned SmartThings has finally launched its new home hub along with new sensors and a new video monitoring capability.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is available now in the U.S. and on Sept. 10 in the U.K. The hub costs $99 with sensors ranging from $30 to $55. There are now more than 200 compatible devices.

The hub and connected sensors can be used to control the lights, thermostats and doors, and warn about things such as water leaks. It works with ZigBee and Z-Wave radios.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub has been redesigned to solve some of the reliability issues the predecessors suffered from. The redesign makes it possible to handle some tasks locally, meaning it can operate without an Internet connection.

Hardware improvements include a more powerful processor and a battery backup that lasts up to 10 hours in case of a power outage.

smartthings hub

The processor will power a new video monitoring capability, which first will be available as a beta version.

Part of this expanded video push is the Smart Home Monitor service. It lets users watch over and protect their home from anywhere in the world, according to Alex Hawkinson, CEO and founder of SmartThings.

“You’ll get a text, alert or video notification if there is smoke or anything else happens in your home. So you can act before it turns into a disaster,” Hawkinson said.

A buffering feature lets the recording to start prior to the triggering event so users can see what caused the incident.

smartthings app

Samsung also showed a revamped SmartThings app. Users can now directly organize and control devices by room, and customize actions to occur automatically based on preset routines, according to Samsung.

The development of the hub hasn’t always been easy. SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung in August last year, said in March it needed more time and had to push the launch of the hub from the second to the third quarter.

But the hub and the sensors are now available for purchase on shop.smartthings.com and Samsung.com and will be rolling out on Amazon.com and retail stores across the U.S. In the U.K the products will be available at select Currys PC World stores and online at Samsung.com. Next year they will become available in more European countries, as well.

HP Reportedly Seeking to Sell Cyber-Security Unit TippingPoint

Hewlett-Packard Co is exploring a sale of computer network security solutions unit TippingPoint ahead of a corporate split later this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Private equity firms have expressed interest in TippingPoint, the people said this week. The unit could be valued at between $200 million to $300 million (roughly Rs. 1,325 crores to Rs. 1,987 crores), the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. A spokesman for HP declined to comment.

HP is reviewing all parts of its business to find assets that may not fit into the separate companies ahead of a planned corporate breakup in November.

HP plans to split into two publicly listed companies, one focussed on enterprise technology, software and services and one focussed on slower-growing computer and printer businesses.

“HP has been vocal about looking to sell assets that they consider non-core, and that they are not through that process yet,” said Brean Capital analyst Ananda Baruah.

TippingPoint, which makes hardware for companies’ firewalls that protect their networks, competes in a crowded space against companies such as Palo Alto Networks Inc . Its technology is not a key part of HP’s broader security strategy, which is focussed on more sophisticated, faster-growing areas such as encryption.

Earlier this year, HP bought an encryption company Voltage Security, which helps customers protect their data.

Other security assets that HP is focussed on include ArcSight, which monitors and analyses corporate networks for breaches, as well as Fortify, which provides application security.

HP acquired TippingPoint as part of its $2.7 billion (roughly Rs. 17,892 crores) acquisition of 3Com Corporation in 2010. In May, HP sold a controlling stake in its China-based data networking business H3C Technologies, another unit of 3com, to China’s Tsinghua Unigroup for $2.3 billion (roughly Rs. 15,241 crores).