Category: Software

Bloke builds his own open saucy self-driving car

A self-driving car does not have to cost you a fortune if you can get away from the car industry, according to a University of Nebraska student.

According to MIT Technology Review Brevan Jorgenson used open source software to convert his Honda Civic into a high tech self-driving car,

His homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars.

Jorgenson built the lot using plans and software downloaded from the internet, plus about $700 in parts.

He started his project after George Hotz of Comma.ai, a San Francisco startup that was developing a $999 device that could upgrade certain vehicles to steer themselves on the highway and follow stop-and-go traffic.

Hotz was forced to cancel plans to launch the product after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In November, he released the company’s hardware designs and software for free, saying he wanted to empower researchers and hobbyists.

The whole thing is powered by a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma’s now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car’s electronics, and a 3-D-printed case. Jorgenson got the case printed by an online service and soldered the board together himself.

Subsequent tests revealed that the Neo would inexplicably pull to the right sometimes, but a software update released by Comma quickly fixed that. Now fully working, the system is similar in capabilities to the initial version of Tesla’s AutoPilot.

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, says that federal and state laws probably don’t pose much of a barrier to those with a desire to upgrade their vehicle to share driving duties. NHTSA has authority over companies selling vehicles and systems used to modify them, but consumers have significant flexibility in making changes to their own vehicle, says Smith, who advises the US Department of Transportation on law and automation.

Nintendo’s CD refusal pays off

In the 1990s the former maker of playing cards  Nintendo faced much mock when it decided against using CDs on its Nintendo 64 system and stuck with expensive and (in comparison) lower-capacity cartridges.

Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, both used CDs and Nintendo’s choice lost a lot of loyal third-party supporters who went to the PlayStation.

Now retro collectors are saying that Nintendo’s stubbornness was actually far sighted because optical media is rotting away while the cartridges still go on.

The world is fast learning that even if you care for CDs they are useless after 30 years’ service because the chemicals used in the disc’s protective layers fail.

The CD’s  reflective layer, usually made of aluminium also starts to oxidise and the discs “bronze” over.

However, cartridges are traditionally quite robust – hence the fact that people are still happily playing Atari VCS and NES games on original hardware – so N64 games should continue to be playable for quite some time yet.

Gemalto teams up with Microsoft


Security outfit Gemalto i
s teaming up with Microsoft to release of its On Demand Connectivity and eSIM technology for Windows 10 devices.

Gemalto’s works with the release GSM Association (GSMA) new specifications and guidelines for remote SIM provisioning.

Based around a subscription system, Gemalto’s On-Demand Connectivity works with Windows 10 native eSIM support. It is designed to be remotely provisioned by mobile network operators with subscription information and is globally interoperable across all carriers, device makers and technology providers implementing the specification.

This technology will serve as the framework devices of all shapes and sizes use to connect to operator networks. The first wave of devices with this technology is expected to be available to consumers by Christmas.

Roanne Sones, General Manager, Strategy and Ecosystem for Windows and Devices, Microsoft said that eSIM technology remains an important investment for Microsoft as it looks to create even more mobile computing opportunities

“As a key component for the Always Connected Windows experience, we worked closely with Gemalto to develop a solution that meets the new GSMA guidelines.”

Rodrigo Serna, Senior Vice President of Mobile Services and IoT Americas at Gemalto said that Gemalto has created a complete range of subscription management software and services to manage the eSIM life cycle in mobile devices.

“We will continue to work closely with Microsoft and the GSMA to further these advances while protecting the security of end users, who rely on their mobile devices to make everyday life easier.”

Digital “Geneva Convention” is Smith’s dream

Software king of the world Microsoft has called for a digital Geneva Convention which would see tech companies remaining neutral if any country goes to war in cyberspace.

Microsoft president Brad Smith is alarmed at the rising tide of nationalism and said tech companies must declare themselves neutral when nations go up against nations in cyberspace.

Talking to the RSA computer security conference, Smith said cyberspace is the new battlefield and Tech must be committed to “100% defence and zero percent offense.”

Smith called for a “digital Geneva Convention,” like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts.

The speech was echoed in a blog post on Microsoft’s site that went up yesterday.

The world’s governments need to pledge that “they will not engage in cyberattacks that target civilian infrastructure, whether it’s the electric grid or the political system,” Smith said.

The  digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.

Smith listed a string of increasingly threatening cross-border cyber incidents, beginning with the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 to thefts of intellectual property by China in 2015, ending with last year’s Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election.

“We suddenly find ourselves living in a world where nothing seems off limits to nation-state attacks,” Smith said.

Technology companies, not armies, are the first responders when cyber-attacks occur, he noted. But they cannot and must not, respond in kind, or aid governments in going on the offensive, Smith said.

Smith wants an autonomous organisation, something like the International Atomic Energy Agency that polices nuclear non-proliferation.

“Even in a world of growing nationalism, when it comes to cybersecurity the global tech sector needs to operate as a neutral Digital Switzerland,” Smith said.

“We will not aid in attacking customers anywhere. We need to retain the world’s trust.”

This would mean that tech companies should refuse to aid governments, even the government of the country they are based in, in attacking other nations. That could mean not building backdoors into programs sold in other countries and not taking part in work to create cyberweapons.

Apple’s App store is the kiss of death for sales

For a long-time, developers have been forced to bend over backwards to satisfy the fruity cargo-cult Apple’s controls so that they can be granted entry to its App store.

While developers admit that Apple is a nightmare to work for, the belief is that they can be sure of getting money back by being involved in the store.

However, developers are starting to question the wisdom of their Apple involvement and are discovering that pulling apps from Apple’s store do them no harm at all.

Techcrunch spoke to Dash creator Bogdan Popescu who thought he was in trouble when Apple pulled his Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100 day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn’t care which platform they were using.

More than 84 per cent of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license and Popescu found that he did not have to deal with Apple anymore. He had full control over his business and did not have any App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues.

Paul Kafasis tried something similar. When he pulled his Appl a year ago he found that the 50 per cent of sales which went through the App Store turned into direct sales through his website.

“It appears that nearly everyone who would have purchased Piezo via the Mac App Store opted to purchase directly once that was the only option,” he said.

It appears that the Mac App Store was not driving sales to developers it was driving sales away from our own site, and into the Mac App Store.

Maintaining the app for the app store is costly and much of his revenue went to paying the App Store a commission. Moving to a direct model was much better than trying to obey Apple’s channel rules.

Basically, developers are discovering that having more than one sales channel is also massively important.

Many developers are considering setting up a system where they exist on the App store but charge more for the product. Smarter customer will go to the website where they can get it cheaper, but the lazier types will effectively end up paying Apple’s tax.

Republicans are destroying their emails

tumblr_m3cujpo5xc1qz4ar6o1_500US republicans are trying to avoid their embarrassing emails being found by hackers or foreign powers by using an app that destroys them after they have been read.

The messaging app is an encrypted, self-destructing messaging app called Confide and apparently it has been downloaded by “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration”.

One operative told Axios that the app “provides some cover” for people in the party. He ties it to last year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to huge and damaging information dumps of DNC emails leading up to the 2016 election.

Confide makes it difficult to screenshot messages, because only a few words are shown at a time. That suggests that it’s useful not just for reducing paper trails, but for stopping insiders from leaking individual messages.

But the difficulty here is that it is probably illegal. As the Hillary Clinton scandal showed, messages have to be stored and monitored by government officials.

Encrypted message apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp apparently spiked in popularity after Trump’s election, and the Clinton campaign reportedly adopted Signal after the DNC hack was discovered.

Ironically the republicans say they want to clamp down on encryption and other similar security options so that they can spy on “terrorists.”

Dubai and IBM working on Blockchain

blockchainThe government of Dubai and Biggish Blue are launching a scheme using blockchain computing technology to process financial transactions and keep track of goods being shipped.

The initiative will provide real-time information about the state of goods and the status of their shipment to Dubai’s customs and trade agencies and companies involved in the trade process, IBM said.

Dubai registered $176 billion of non-oil trade in the first half of 2016, has cemented itself as one of the largest re-export centres for goods flowing between Asia and the Middle East and Africa.

IBM said it was also working with companies including du, a United Arab Emirates-based telecommunications firm, Dubai’s largest bank Emirates NBD, Spanish lender Banco Santander, Dubai-based logistics firm Aramex and an unidentified airline on the scheme.

Blockchain works as an electronic transaction processing and record keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification.

Proponents think it could make transactions faster and safer, and have a wide range of applications.

The Dubai deal follows a plan announced in February 2016 by the government there to become a f blockchain centre.

IBM said the two banks taking part in the project would use blockchain for trade finance transactions involved in the scheme.

Firefox abandons old Netscape APIs

Red-Panda-pik-2-10alwllAfter years of active service, the big cheeses at the Mozzarella Foundation have pulled the plug on some old bit of code which was first used in the Netscape browser.

When Firefox first appeared, it ran on the Netscape Plugins API infrastructure which has now got so old it makes the Spinning Jenny look cutting edge. From March,

Mozilla will kill off all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash.

This means good-bye to Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs.

Once these plugins once were the backbone of the world wide wibble but now they have been replaced by standalone Web APIs and alternative. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be killed off in ESR 53.

A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

Office 365 subscriptions stall

 

Microsoft campusSoftware King of the world Microsoft said subscriptions to the productivity software had reached nearly 25 million but additions were down 62 percent compared to the year before.

This seems to indicate that Microsoft is finding it difficult to get new sign ups for the subscription based office service.

Satya Nadella touted revenue increases for the Office products aimed at consumers — which include Office 365 — and of the latter said that the company had, “continued to see an increase in … subscriber base.”

But in a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft pegged the number of consumer Office 365 subscriptions in the December quarter at 24.9 million, an increase of 900,000 from the September quarter and 4.3 million more than a year earlier.

Microsoft’s Office 365 started with “Home Premium” — was a five-user deal that cost $100 annually or $10 monthly. Fifteen months later, Microsoft unveiled a one-user subscription called “Personal” for $70 a year or $7 a month. Since then, Microsoft shortened the original subscription’s name to just “Home;” prices have not changed.

Vole has always wanted to shift much of its software business model toward recurring payments rather than one-time purchases of “perpetual” licences.

During the last nine months Office 365 grew by about 900,000 subscribers, the smallest quarterly increase since early 2014. Before that subscribers were signing up at rates two to three times larger per quarter.

Subscriber additions peaked in the first quarter of 2015, at 3.2 million, followed by 3 million in the third quarter, providing a foundation for a record 11.4 million new subscribers during the year.

After Q4 2015, however, the trailing 12-month numbers fell, a decline fuelled by the plateau of 0.9 million each quarter from the second onward. That resulted in a gain of just 4.3 million subscribers throughout 2016, a reduction of 62 percent from the year before.

It does not really mean much to Vole’s bottom line. In fact, revenue from the consumer side of Office with the perpetual licenses sold at retail — was up 22 percent in the December quarter. But it does indicate that there is a pain threshold in the subscriber model. It seems that most people who want Office 365 using this model have it already.

 

Vivaldi lashes out at Vole for making Edge on all four seasons

vivaldiA Vivaldi boss has lashed out at Microsoft over its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge.

Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the “actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives”.

He is particularly miffed at Windows 10’s continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge.

Von Tetzchner said that that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.

Each time Windows 10 upgrades, it changes the default browser to Edge. When a new browser is installed it also leads to restoring Edge as the default option.

Microsoft has also made it complicated for a non-technical user to bring their old default browser back.

“Our goal as technology companies should be to provide great software to our users. At the same time, we should accept that some users prefer software created by other companies. It is our responsibility to be fair to the users, and this is what should drive the technology industry forward. Stripping users of their ability to choose or forcefully limiting their options stalls progress. Focusing on building great products is what should drive us to excel,” he wrote.