Twenty Five years of Linux and still going strong

Happy Birthday Linux!

Linux turned 25 years old on Aug. 25.

Back in the day in 1991 was the day Linus Torvalds posted his message asking for assistance from fellow coders about a personal project.

In a message board, he requested for feedback from developers’ on an OS which was “just a hobby,” and according to its author “won’t be big and professional like gnu.” Meanwhile, Linux expanded way beyond any limits than Torvalds might have fathomed at the time.

The OS keeps important parts of the internet infrastructure going, powers up data centers from big names in the industry, and helps coders build stock exchanges, websites, and the most popular smartphone OS. What is more, the majority of global supercomputers run on Linux.

Despite not being able to rival Microsoft’s dominance over the PC environment, Linux is active on millions of desktops. In fact, it is so popular that Microsoft recently announced in June that the company’s software development platform .NET Core 1.0 will run on Linux as well as Mac OS X.

Despite not being able to rival Microsoft’s dominance over the PC environment, Linux is active on millions of desktops. As the operating system saw increased traction, Linux development started to rely more on professional coders than unpaid volunteers.

Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu), said that the organization is continuing to “support Linux’s journey as the production platform for the enterprise and telecoms infrastructure we see today.” She added that while cloud technology runs almost entirely on Linux, Canonical still thinks the desktop is important to Linux’s growth. Ubuntu also started as a desktop OS, and it’s still used for both mobile and desktop programs, she said.

In the next 25 years, Silber believed that developers and software organizations can put their trust in Linux for everyday needs, whether it’s for simple developments, or for things like the IoT or machine learning.

Canonical also sees software remaining free to share so it can continue to improve by the community. Under the GPL, no one can take advantage of anyone’s code, and it will always remain free, said Torvalds.

Canonical’s Silber agreed: The fact that Linux is still an open platform is something to celebrate, she said.

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PokeFit gives Pokemon Go a real-time fitness dashboard

PokeFit, from P3 communications, helps trainers get a real-time grasp on the positive health benefits they’re getting by playing Pokemon Go. The app itself keeps a log of your sessions, giving you a breakdown of how long each lasted and how much distance you traversed during your trip. When you’re using Pokemon Go, it displays a small rectangular frame in the upper left corner of your screen, providing quick access to info at a glance. You can also turn off the display but still track your stats for review later if you’d rather go for the pure PoGo experience.

The app has another special feature that power trainers will welcome: You can use it to override your screen’s timeout settings, keeping the display on Android devices from going dark while you’re out tracking down your ‘mons. The app also tracks battery usage and data spent while playing Pokemon Go, which might be eye-opening info for frequent players.

LookOut! for instance, offers a live video feed at the top of your display overlaid on Pokemon Go to give players a look at what’s in front of them, so they don’t walk into traffic or fall down a well.

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Instagram and anti-harassment tools

In order to combat harassment on Instagram, the photo-sharing platform is gearing up to let people with “high volume content threads” filter their comment streams, or just turn them off entirely, The Washington Post reported.

For those who decide to leave on the comments, they can create a banned words list that will enable them to hide the comments that use those terms. Soon, Instagram will enable everyday people on Instagram – the ones with not as much action on their accounts – to moderate their comments.

This also means that any person who cares about preventing harassment on their photos – likely the very people who are already experiencing harassment on Instagram or elsewhere – are going to have to put some work into stopping it. But the fact that tools will be there at all, and the fact that banned phrases can be updated at will, is a big step forward.

Instagram has already begun testing these features with celebrities – this is very likely what Taylor Swift used to stop all those snake emoji comments. Advertisers may also have been asking for this to prevent critical commenters.

“High-volume” Instagram accounts will receive the anti-harassment features first, according to the Post. The filtering feature is supposed to appear in “the coming weeks,” while Instagram is still determining whether to widely roll out the ability to disable comments.

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Facebook’s Q2 results show the company growing at enormous pace

The company accelerated its revenue growth in the second quarter, delivering a 59% increase that blew past Wall Street targets and sent its shares rocketing up 8% to a new all-time high in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

The stock is now only up about 5.5%, likely related to Facebook cautioning investors that it doesn’t expect as much growth in the coming quarters.

On the earnings call, the most exciting reveal was that Facebook now sees 2 billion searches per day, up from 1.5 billion a year ago. Zuckerberg said people searching for what others are saying about certain topics is driving that growth, which highlights Facebook’s on-going quest to win public chatter – as space Twitter has long ruled. However, Facebook doesn’t plan to rush to monetize search.

Zuckerberg also noted that he believes augmented reality will reach the mainstream first via smartphone apps instead of clumsy headsets. Facebook’s secondary products also enjoyed big milestones. Facebook Messenger hit 1 billion active users, thanks to constant product iteration like the new addition of an end-to-end encryption option, though also the fact that Facebook removed chat from its main app and forced users to download Messenger.

Meanwhile, Instagram reached 500 million users. Its community bristled at the announcement that an algorithmic feed would start highlighting the most popular posts instead of showing a purely reverse chronological stream.

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Windows 10 no longer free

Downloading the Home version of Windows 10 will now cost users $119, while the Pro version will cost $199

The offer – which has run since Windows 10 was launched – comes to an end just ahead of an “Anniversary Update” that’s set to be released on August 2. “We are committed to delivering continuous innovation to you,” Microsoft said of the Anniversary Update, which features the Windows Ink tool that enables users to note-take and draw on any screen with a stylus and improvements to its virtual assistant, Cortana.

“Features that bring Windows Ink and Cortana to the mainstream; a faster, more accessible and more power-efficient Microsoft Edge browser; advanced security features for consumers and enterprises; new gaming experiences and new tools for the modern classroom.

Microsoft has offered the free upgrade to anyone running Windows 7 or 8.1 since it launched Windows 10 a year ago. Microsoft has been vastly criticized for pushing that upgrade too hard to its existing users. People have complained – and even been given money in return – about the pop-ups and other nagging notifications that Microsoft sends them to tell them to upgrade.

Rolled out at the end of last July, Microsoft billed Windows 10 as the “last” version of the OS, as updates going forward will be incremental and delivered automatically through the cloud. Since its release, the new operating system has been available as a free upgrade to existing Windows users, but that’s set to change days ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled Anniversary Update.

Microsoft said when Windows 10 was launched that it hopes to have it installed on a billion devices by 2018. But it has since walked back that commitment, admitting that it will “take longer” than it had hoped to get to the target.

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Apple charters technology to deactivate iPhone cameras at live concerts

Apple’s new initiative of blocking the iPhone’s camera feature allows venues to use an infrared beam to disable photography on mobile phones, preventing people from taking videos and photos.

The invention comes amid growing frustration that intimate live events are being spoiled by a sea of screens as visitors record videos in order to share them on social media.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently pleaded with fans to stop filming while he performed in Hamlet, and the pop singer Adele told a female fan filming on her mobile at a concert in Italy to “enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera”.

Apple’s patent, which illustrates how an iPhone would become temporarily disabled during a rock concert, would require an infrared transmitter to be installed at shows. When switched on, the patent says, the phone would simply display a “recording disabled” message when audience members attempt to take photographs or videos. Alternatively, a watermark or blur effect may be applied, to discourage people from sharing them.

Other initiatives include shining lasers on visitors who use mobile phones during performances, which has become a popular tactic in cinemas in China and was recently adopted by London’s Jermyn Street Theatre.

If Apple’s technology is introduced, however, it could lead to fears that it would be used by oppressive regimes and law enforcement to prevent citizens documenting oppression.

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Norton and Symantec shamed for security software peppered with critical vulnerabilities

Google’s group of security analysts also known as the “project zero” team, tasked with hunting for computer bugs, discovered a heap of critical vulnerabilities in Symantec  and Norton security products – allowing hackers t o completely compromise people’s machines simply by sending them malicious self-replicating code through unopened emails or un-clicked links.

The vulnerabilities affect millions of people who run the company’s endpoint security and antivirus software, rather ironically to protect their devices. Indeed, the flaws rendered all 17 enterprise products (Symantec brand) and eight consumer and small business products (Norton brand) open to attack. In the words of Tavis Ormandy, an English hacker who works on the Google  team: “These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets”—and have “potentially devastating consequences.”

“An attacker could easily compromise an entire enterprise fleet using a vulnerability like this,” Ormandy writes on a Google blog. “Network administrators should keep scenarios like this in mind when deciding to deploy Antivirus, it’s a significant trade off in terms of increasing attack surface.”

Ormandy’s post published soon after Symantec issued advisories of its own, which credit him for reporting the bugs. “An attacker could potentially run arbitrary code by sending a specially crafted file to a user,” the notice warns, before mentioning that the company has “verified these issues and addressed them in product updates.”

Symantec, which recently purchased the Bain Capital-backed cybersecurity firm Blue Coat for $4.65 billion, also employed open source code that it failed to update even after seven years of use, Ormandy notes.

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Phreaking or sounds from your computer’s fan can analyze usernames and passwords

A team of Israeli researchers have discovered that sounds made by a computer’s fan can be analyzed to extract everything from usernames and passwords to full encryption keys. This demonstrates deftness of hackers and how the weakest link in any security system still involves the human element.

A well-known hacking term called “phreaking” used to once refer to phone hacking via automated touch-tone systems, but today it simply means system investigation or manipulation that uses sound as its main mechanism of action. Phone phreakers used to make free long distance phone calls by playing the correct series of tones into a phone receiver — but phreaks can listen to sounds just as easily as they can produce them, often with even greater effect.

That’s because sound has the potential to get around one of the most powerful and widely used methods in high-level computer security: air-gapping, or the separation of a system from any externally connected network an attack might be able to use for entry.

This new fan-attack actually requires even more specialized access, since you have to not only get a mic close to the machine, but infect the machine with a fan-exploiting malware. The idea is that most security software actively looks for anything that might be unusual or harmful behavior, from sending out packets of data over the internet to making centrifuges spin up and down more quickly.

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Google My Activity tells it all

This new website knows you inside out, everything you’ve searched for and many of the things you’ve done with your phone.

Google has launched a new site that discloses everything it knows about its users. The new My Activity page collects all of the data that Google has generated by watching its customers as they move around the web. And depending on your settings that could include a comprehensive list of the websites you’ve visited and the things you’ve done with your phone.

Google has long allowed its users to see the kinds of information that is being generated as people use the company’s products, including letting people listen in on automated recordings that it has made of its users. But the new page collects them together in a more accessible – and potentially more terrifying – way than ever before.

The page shows a full catalog of pages visited, things searched and other activity, grouped by time. It also lets people look at the same timeline through filters – looking at specific dates, which go all the way into the past, and specific products like Google search, YouTube or Android.

When users open up the page for the first time, pop-ups make the case for why it has been launched and why Google collects quite so much data. You can use the site to “rediscover the things you’ve searched for, visited and watched on Google services” and help “delete specific items or entire topics”.

All of the information that’s used is how Google uses its ads services. By tracking people around the internet it can tailor those ads – but people can use the same site to opt out from the tracking entirely, or just delete information that they would rather wasn’t used for advertising.

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Facebook tracks non-users, sells them offsite ads

Already a colossal business — Facebook’s ad service raked in over$55 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter alone. This could just increase now, with plans to start showing ads to non-users across the web.

Previously, if you were either not a Facebook user or not logged into the social network, Facebook advertising on third party websites or mobile apps would not have been visible to you.

With more than 1.6 billion active users who share a range of personal information through its service, Facebook has built a formidable advertising business that enables companies to drill down into granular detail when targeting the audience they want to reach.

That’s changed the game for generating interest in websites, services, app downloads or really anything online. While Facebook’s Audience Network has enabled it to extend that reach outside of Facebook to let advertisers find Facebook users while they are not inside the social network, today’s subtle move could hand advertisers the power to reach even more people.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook will use a mix of cookie tracking, its own buttons and plugins and other data to identify non-users on third-party websites. Added to that data, Facebook will use patterns within its massive user base to make educated guesses about non-users to help target them with more relevant advertising.

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