FILE - CIA Director Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate Intelligence hearing during his nomination process, in Washington, Jan. 12, 2017.

WASHINGTON — If this week’s WikiLeaks document dump is genuine, it includes a CIA list of the many and varied ways the electronic device in your hand, in your car, and in your home can be used to hack your life.

It’s simply more proof that, “it’s not a matter of if you’ll get hacked, but when you’ll get hacked.” That may be every security expert’s favorite quote, and unfortunately, they say it’s true. The WikiLeaks releases include confidential documents the group says exposes “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”

The CIA has refused to confirm the authenticity of the documents, which allege the agency has the tools to hack into smartphones and some televisions, allowing it to remotely spy on people through microphones on the devices.

Watch: New Generation of Hackable Internet Devices May Always Be Listening

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WikiLeaks also claimed the CIA managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram.

For some of the regular tech users, news of the leaks and the hacking techniques just confirms what they already knew. When we’re wired 24-7, we are vulnerable.

“The expectation for privacy has been reduced, I think,” Chris Coletta said, “... in society, with things like WikiLeaks, the Snowden revelations ... I don’t know, maybe I’m cynical and just consider it to be inevitable, but that’s really the direction things are going.”

The internet of things

The problem is becoming even more dangerous as new, wired gadgets find their way into our homes, equipped with microphones and cameras that may always be listening and watching.

One of the WikiLeaks documents suggests the microphones in Samsung smart TV’s can be hacked and used to listen in on conversations, even when the TV is turned off.

Security experts say it is important to understand that in many cases, the growing number of wired devices in your home may be listening to all the time.

“We have sensors in our phones, in our televisions, in Amazon Echo devices, in our vehicles,” said Clifford Neuman, the director of the Center for Computer Systems Security, at the University of Southern California. “And really almost all of these attacks are things that are modifying the software that has access to those sensors so that the information is directed to other locations. Security practitioners have known that this is a problem for a long time.”

Neuman says hackers are using the things that make our tech so convenient against us.

“Certain pieces of software and certain pieces of hardware have been criticized because, for example, microphones might be always on,” he said. “But it is the kind of thing that we’re demanding as consumers, and we just need to be more aware that the information that is collected for one purpose can very easily be redirected for others.”

Tools of the espionage trade

The WikiLeaks release is especially damaging because it may have laid bare a number of U.S. surveillance techniques. The New York Times says the documents it examined layout programs called “Wrecking Crew” for instance, which “explains how to crash a targeted computer, and another tells how to steal passwords using the autocomplete function on Internet Explorer.”

Steve Grobman, chief of the Intel Security Group, says that’s bad not only because it can be done, but also because so-called “bad actors” now know it can be done. Soon enough, he warns, we could find our own espionage tools being used against us.

“We also do need to recognize the precedents we set, so, as offensive cyber capabilities are used ... they do give the blueprint for how that attack took place. And bad actors can then learn from that,” he said.

So how can tech-savvy consumers remain safe? Security experts say they can’t, and to remember the “it’s not if, but when” rule of hacking.

The best bet is to always be aware that if you’re online, you’re vulnerable.

Source: This article was published voanews.com By Kevin Enochs

Categorized in Online Research

cientists have discovered a surprisingly powerful aid in the never-ending quest for a better night's sleep—the smartphone.

Staring at the device won't help you sleep, but phones did enable researchers to gather a mountain of real-world sleep data from thousands of volunteers around the world. The study explores the daily tug-of-war between our bodies' natural rhythms and those of our social calendars.

Two years ago, mathematicians Daniel Forger and Olivia Walch of the University of Michigan designed a free phone app, called ENTRAIN, that helps travelers overcome jet lag by creating optimized personal lighting schedules. The app is driven by a mathematical model that works effectively only when users accurately input such information as their location, sleep hours and daily exposure to light. The scientists, seeing potential in such data, asked users to anonymously volunteer the information collected by the app. Some 10,000 people from 100 countries did just that.

“It's pretty amazing that for almost no cost we ended up with, I think, one of the richest and most interesting datasets on human sleep ever collected,” Forger says. “The unsung heroes in this are all the people who agreed to send us their data.”

What they shared revealed some notable patterns, Forger and Walch, along with UM colleague Amy Cochran, report today in Science Advances. Some nations, for example, are home to night owls while others have citizens who enjoy more beauty sleep. Residents of Singapore and Japan clocked in at the low end, averaging only 7 hours 24 minutes of sleep per night. The Netherlands, in contrast, topped out at 8 hours and 12 minutes of sleep on average each night.

Women most everywhere seem to schedule about half an hour more sleep per night than men. “That's huge,” Forger says. “Half an hour actually makes a huge difference in terms of your overall performance.” Middle-aged men get the least sleep, on average, and often sleep less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours.

As people get older, though, their sleeping schedules look much more alike. “When we looked at the sleep habits of different age groups in our population, we noticed that the distributions of bedtime and wake time were getting narrower as age increased,” Walch notes. This may be real-world support for the results of past studies, she adds, that found that older people had narrower windows of time in which to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Paul Kelley, who researches sleep and circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said it was encouraging to see technology and mathematical models applied to sleep science. “Inventive new methods and new outcomes may offer additional ways to understand our biological timing systems,” he notes, while cautioning that such research remains a work in progress.

Many people don't get enough shuteye. A recent CDC study found that one in three U.S. adults doesn't get the recommended seven minimum hours on a regular basis. And people in other nations around the world are similarly exhausted. That creates problems far more serious than grumpy breakfast conversations and coffee cravings. Sleep deprivation can boost one's chances of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, stress and other ailments. And fatigue makes people perform all kinds of mental and physical tasks poorly, which is why sleep scientists keep suggesting that school days should start later.

A primary cause of all this missed sleep is the daily tug-of-war between our bodies' natural inclinations to rest and a host of competing factors created by human society.

Natural sleep patterns are guided by circadian rhythms that are set and reset by the natural cycle of day and night, adjusted by input from our eyes. Forger and Walch had used existing data from other studies to create their mathematical model that simulates these natural circadian rhythms.

This model also enabled them to explore the patterns that appeared during analysis of the ENTRAIN sleep data. For example, they found that people who spend time outdoors in natural light tend to go to bed earlier, and get more sleep, than those who spend most of their day in artificial light. But those data don't reveal if the light itself is causing more sleep, Walch says. For example, these people may report sleeping more because they have physical jobs, which keep them outdoors and tire them out. The model provided a way to test the impacts of outdoor light alone, and its results suggest that natural light does make people sleep more regardless of what they do while outside.

The results also led Forger to suggest an interesting hypothesis about how the battle between social influence and circadian rhythms plays out each day: “We noticed that when people wake up was not a good predictor of whether people in a certain country would sleep more or less, but when they go to bed really was,” he says. “So the reason why people are getting less sleep in certain countries is that they are going to bed later, rather than waking up earlier than people in other countries.”

That finding suggests to Forger that bedtime may be pushed back by social influences, such as working late or going out with others, but that wake time remains strongly guided by biological factors.

“I'd assumed wake time would really be a function of societal effects like alarm clocks,” he says. “But our data support the hypothesis that our biological clocks are governing when we wake up. For instance, we found that people in countries that have a later sunrise sleep in more.” The timing of sunset, meanwhile, may affect the total amount of sleep a person gets.

That hypothesis, however, is at odds with the results of other studies. “All our data and that of other people speak against this, and 85 percent of alarm clock users also demonstrate the opposite,” says Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology. Roenneberg's work, in fact, suggests that your alarm clock may be hazardous to your health.

“There are, in my view, no easy answers to scheduling our 24/7 existence, [but] it is painfully clear we are currently damaging the lives of most people at the moment, and more immediate actions are required,” Kelley says. “The fundamental point is that there is wide variation in our individual [biological] timings over 24 hours. [It's] not a one size fits all phenomena.”

Source : smithsonianmag.com

 

Categorized in Others

With the internet and smartphones being relatively new phenomena, scientists are still coming to grips with what affect they have on our psyche.

David Emm, principal security research at Kaspersky Lab said: "We need to understand the long term implications of this for how we remember and how we protect those memories.”

A study carried out by the lab saw them survey 6,000 16-55-year olds across six European countries to test their memories.

Just under a half of those surveyed said that they could not remember their partner’s phone numbers and 71 per cent of those with children could not recall their offspring’s digits.

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More than a half of 16-24 year olds in the survey said that their smartphones contained all the information that they needed.

Mr Emm added: "The phone numbers of those who matter most to us are now just a click away - so we no longer bother to memorise the details.”

Dr Kathryn Mills, of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, said: “Reliance on digital devices, and the trust we place in them, can resemble a human relationship.

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Our constant picture taking is also hampering our memory

“The feelings are established in the same way – through experience.

“Repeated experience with a reliable individual builds a ‘schema’ or association for that individual in our memory, telling us that this person can be depended on.

“If a digital device is continually reliable then we will build that into our schema of that device.”

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Our memories are getting worse

Dr Maria Wimber, Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, added that the fact that the majority of us constantly have a camera on us, usually on our phones, which is causing selective memory.

She stated: “One aspect that seems to be a trend in the age of smartphones, is to externally store personal memories in the form of pictures.

“Pictures are a very powerful reminder, and have the potential to reawaken memories that we would otherwise have forgotten.

“However, they also carry the risk of dictating which aspects of our past we remember, and the more often people remember the same events, the more likely they forget other relevant memories that are not captured in pictures.

“There also seems to be a risk that the constant recording of information on digital devices makes us less likely to commit this information to long term memory, and might even distract us from properly encoding an event as it happens.”

Dr Wimber went on to say that constantly using search engines such as Google is affecting out long-term memories.

Dr Wimber: “There is an argument to be made that looking up information online, instead of trying to recall it ourselves, makes us shallower thinkers.

“Past research has repeatedly demonstrated that actively recalling information is a very efficient way to create a permanent memory.

“In contrast, passively repeating information (e.g. by repeatedly looking it up on the internet) does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way.”

Source : express.co.uk

Categorized in Science & Tech

Scientists have found a new vulnerability in a common tech component, uncovering a security flaw that could expose potentially millions of smartphones, fitness wearables, and even cars to hacking.

By using sound waves, researchers have figured out how to trick accelerometers – the tiny sensors in gadgets that detect movement – into registering a fake motion signal, which hackers could exploit to take control of our devices.

"It's like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words," computer scientist Kevin Fu from the University of Michigan told The New York Times.

"You can think of it as a musical virus."

The sensors that Fu's team investigated are called capacitive MEMS accelerometers, which register the rate of change in an object's speed in three dimensions.

It's these sensors that can tell which way you're holding or tilting your smartphone or tablet, and count the steps you take using an activity tracker.

But they're not just used in consumer gadgets – they're also embedded in the circuits of things like medical devices, vehicles, and even satellites – and we're becoming more reliant on them all the time.

"Thousands of everyday devices already contain tiny MEMS accelerometers," Fu explains in a press release.

"Tomorrow's devices will aggressively rely on sensors to make automated decisions with kinetic consequences."

But accelerometers have an Achilles heel: sound. By precisely tuning acoustic tones to the right frequency, Fu's team was able to deceive 15 out of 20 different models of accelerometers from five different manufacturers, and control output from the devices in 65 percent of cases.

Accelerometers may enable some high-tech functionalities, but the principle is fundamentally simple – using a mass suspended on springs to detect changes in speed or direction. But those measurements can effectively be forged if you use the right sonic frequency to fool the tech.

"The fundamental physics of the hardware allowed us to trick sensors into delivering a false reality to the microprocessor," Fu explains.

Once they figured out what the frequencies were to manipulate the sensors, they were able to trick a Fitbit into counting thousands of steps that were never taken; pilot a toy car by taking control of a smartphone app; and even use a music file to make a Samsung Galaxy S5 crudely write out a word ("Walnut") in a graph of its accelerometer readings.

The tech used to hijack these devices wasn't high-end audio gear either. In one case, the researchers used a US$5 external speaker; in another, a smartphone played a sound file on its own internal speaker and effectively hacked itself.

While all these proofs-of-concept were fairly harmless demonstrations of the technique, the researchers warn that it could easily be used for malicious and potentially very dangerous purposes.

"If a phone app used the accelerometer to start your car when you physically shake your phone, then you could intentionally spoof the accelerometer's output data to make the phone app think the phone is being shaken," one of the team, Timothy Trippel, told Gizmodo.

"The phone app would then send the car a signal to start."

The research is due to be presented at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy in Paris in April, and while the study hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, the findings are being treated seriously.

As John Markoff at The New York Times reports, the US Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a security alert in relation to the specific sensors documented in the paper.

The manufacturers involved were separately forewarned of the vulnerability before the researchers went public with their findings this week.

Now that we know about the security flaw, hopefully researchers and technology companies will be able to work together and find a means of patching up the weak spot.

As technological devices get ever more powerful and independent, it's crucial that they can't be puppeteered by something as rudimentary as sound waves overriding their fundamental components.

"Humans have sensors, like eyes, ears, and a nose," says Trippel.

"We trust our senses and we use them to make decisions. If autonomous systems can't trust their senses, then the security and reliability of those systems will fail."

Source : sciencealert.com

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Recent reports pointed out that Spyware in smartphones can easily be installed into their partners' phones. In fact, it was raised that the government is not the one who has advanced spying tools for iPhone and Android devices. Will the illegal act become trending when users realize it's an easy task?

First of all, it was established that governments rely on government-grade surveillance tools on private citizens to ensure national security. However, it was revealed that even spouses, and other smartphone users, can spy on other users with just a simple click. In fact, a user revealed that control is the absolute heart of domestic abuse and that controlling types of people have been installing spyware in smartphones to leak information about private individuals, reported BGR.

Although this would be interesting for users who wish to spy on someone else, the act of installing spyware in smartphones is illegal and the sellers of such can be sued. In fact, the act would constitute a breach of security. It was referred to as 'jailbreaking an iOS device' which involves the installation of apps from another source into someone else's smartphone.

As reported by Forbes, the source of the spyware in smartphones is a salesman who would peddle on jealous spouses and paranoid parents. Their services were said to be offered at a small fee, but those who were good enough would sell their talents to the police and intelligence agencies for higher prices. In fact, it was revealed that they used malware to snoop on terrorists and pedophiles the same way as the controlling users used them for their spouses or children.

The presence of sellers of spyware in smartphone caused a stir for lawmakers, lawyers, and women's rights activists. Will the U.S. government take action on the sale of spyware in America?

Author : Leian N.

Source : autoworldnews.com

 

Categorized in Others

While 2016 was a pretty solid year in terms of new innovations and concepts in the smartphone market, let's list down all what we know so far about this year's upcoming smartphones

2016 was probably one of the most experimental year in terms of smartphone innovation. We saw a bunch of new concept smartphones whereas the flagships continued to built-up on their predecessors. Barring the Note 7 fiasco, last year was pretty solid in terms of value for money as well. However, leaving the past behind, let's look forward and list down all the new little bits and pieces of innovation we are likely to see in smartphones this year. In other words, let's jot down all the top upcoming smartphones of 2017 which have already been in the news.

Samsung Galaxy S8


Probably the most rumoured smartphone of 2017 right now, the first up on our list is the new Samsung Galaxy S8. However, the company is also expected to launch a Plus variant this time around. Quickly briefing down all the specifications we know so far, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is expected to come in two variants, a 5.8-inch and a 6.2-inch variant both of which will sport a QHD Super AMOLED display coming in with an aspect ratio of 18:5:9. On the inside, the South Korean giant is expected to pack in either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC or it’s own home-grown Exynos chip.

Interestingly, the device is expected to come with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. For the optics, both the variants will come with a 12-megapixel rear facing camera with f/1.7 aperture and 8-megapixel front-facing camera. The camera is said to come with a bunch of new features including the recently rumoured visual search capability. For the battery, the 5.8-inch variant is likely to come with 3000 mAh battery while the 6.2-inch variant will house a 3500 mAh battery. Contrary to previous rumours, the Galaxy S8 will come with a 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung will not launch the S8 at this year’s MWC this month. Moreover, the official unveiling is expected to take place on March 29 with the release scheduled for sometime in April. The 5.8-inch variant is expected to sell for Euro 799 (approx. Rs 58,000) while the 6.2-inch variant will sell for Euro 899 (approx. Rs 65,000).

LG G6


The next up in the list is going to be showcased at the at the upcoming MWC (Mobile World Congress) which is unlike what LG has been doing in previous years. Probably to capture more sales, LG will launch its LG G6 flagship much before Samsung plays its trump card. The upcoming LG G6 is expected to come with a 5.7-inch QHD+ display with a pixel density of 564 ppi and an aspect ration of 18:9. The screen is said to be bezel-less and the device will fit the screen as big as 5.7-inches inside an almost same shell as the LG G5 in terms of the dimensions. LG G5, if you don't know, came with a 5.3-inch display. The new flagship from LG is also touted to come equipped with Google Assistant, which is exclusively available for Google Pixel and Pixel XL currently.

As far as other specs are concerned, the smartphone is likely to sport 3.5mm headphone jack and might use USB Type-C for charging and data syncing. LG is also likely to keep the Hi-Fi Quad DAC for high-quality audio output via headsets, however, we might bid adieu to the modular design as LG is planning to bring water resistant certification to the device as well. Surprisingly, LG is likely to skip Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC which will be this year’s flagship chipset. Further, we don’t really have much information about other specifications as of now, but we expect more of it in coming weeks as we head closer to the MWC 2017.

iPhone 8


Top smartphones of a particular year cannot skip the one which is expected to come from Apple, especially when the Cupertino-based company this year will be celebrating 10 years of iPhone. This year, Apple is expected to unveil three iPhones - a 4.7-inch variant and a 5.5-inch variant sporting LCD panels as before and a 5.8-inch variant boasting a curved OLED panel. We don’t really know about the RAM and battery specifications yet but that has never got people’s attention given iOS’s degree of compatibility with the hardware Apple puts in the iPhones. Moreover, Apple is expected to ditch the traditional Home Button and implement a fingerprint scanner underneath the display. Apple is also working on 3D photography which might debut in the next iPhone. Further, we might see a Dual SIM iPhone this year, if rumours are to be believed. While all this might sound interesting, it is still too early to dig into the expected specifications about the new upcoming iPhone 8.

Xiaomi Mi 6


Xiaomi has also entered the flagship game and honestly, has  acquitted itself well too. Although the company will skip this year's MWC event, the upcoming Mi 6 will debut sometime post MWC. The upcoming flagship from Xiaomi will feature a similar design language as Mi Note 2 boasting a curved display on both sides. For the specifications, Xiaomi Mi 6 will arrive in three different variants with different chipsets. The first variant will be equipped with Helio X30 SoC and will carry a price tag of about 1,999 Yuan (approx. Rs 19,757).

The second variant will run on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, which was recently showcased at CES 2017, and is expected to be priced at 2,499 Yuan (approx. Rs 24,718). The third variant will also come with the same Qualcomm's chipset but will have a dual-edge curved display similar to Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and will be priced at 2,999 Yuan (approx. Rs 29,667). The Snapdragon 835 variant of the Mi 6 is further rumoured to come in two variants - a 6GB RAM with 256GB internal storage variant, and 4GB RAM with 128GB internal storage variant. Both the variants are said to feature OLED panels with 2K resolution. The other variant of Mi 6 which is said to use the MediaTek Helio X30 processor is rumoured to come only in one option which includes 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. Mi 6 might feature an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner as well, just like the Mi 5S, will run on Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box and will boast a 12MP Sony sensor at its rear.

Huawei P10

Another manufacturer who is expected to unveil its this year’s flagship at the MWC 2016 is Huawei. The Chinese handset manufacturer is expected to launch two flagships at the event, Huawei P10 and Huawei P10 Plus.

Both the P10 and P10 will boast  the by now almost proprietary dual-camera setup at the back with LEICA branding. For the specifications, the P10 is rumoured to feature a 5.2-inch Quad-HD display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. On the inside, the device is rumoured to pack a HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset, similar to what we saw on the Mate 9, along with 4GB RAM with 64GB of internal storage and 6GB RAM with 128GB of internal storage. The device will come with Android 7.0 Nougat while the internal storage in both the variants will be expandable. Powering the device will be a 3100 mAh battery inside. Moreover, the P10 Plus will be a lot similar to the regular P10 except a slightly larger display (as mentioned above), a bigger battery at 3650 mAh capacity and two RAM and internal storage variants namely a 6GB RAM + 128GB internal storage variant and 8GB RAM + 256GB internal storage variant. Interestingly, the P10 Plus might feature an Iris Scanner, two fingerprint scanners and a ring-shaped LED flash at the back.

Apart from the above-mentioned smartphones, we also expect Google to release the successor to the Pixel and Pixel XL. The search engine giant is also reportedly working on a cheaper variant for this year.

Other than this, Nokia’s much-awaited comeback has already kickstarted with the launch of Nokia 6, last month while the company is yet to drop the curtains from its flagship. Although the exact name of the device is not unveiled yet, we presume it to be Nokia P1. Further, the company has also confirmed that they are working on a Snapdragon 835 running device, however, we are not really sure if the flagship device will be unveiled at the MWC 2017. Nevertheless, Nokia surely is touted to have something for us at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

Source: http://www.themobileindian.com/news/top-upcoming-smartphones-of-2017-16385

Categorized in Science & Tech

Marketers have much more to consider this holiday season as they try to optimize campaigns and turn on a dime. Will gift cards catapult sales through smartphones? How do Google AdWords and Bing Ads play a role in local search targeting? Which direction should brands take when driving foot traffic through search engine optimization and paid search to local stores?


Today marks the start of a shopping frenzy both online and offline as retailers prepare for a combination of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. HookLogic, a Criteo-owned company, released its first round of ecommerce data Monday.

 

HookLogic pulled data in aggregate over the first two weeks of November from its retailer network, which includes Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Toys 'R Us, Macy's and other retailers.

 

Interestingly, online sales fell 5% the day before the presidential election, compared with the year-ago date, and 16% the day of the election. The day after the election, ecommerce plummeted 23% year-over-year.

 

While it fell during the days surrounding the election, ecommerce made a quick comeback -- climbing 24% YoY on the Thursday after the election as consumer confidence rebounded and Americans were ready to get back to their holiday shopping.ecommerce also shows interesting dynamics based on devices used for shopping. During the two weeks analyzed, desktop shopping remained flat while access on mobile phones rose 3 percentage points compared with the same days in 2015. Smartphones took share from tablets, which declined 3 percentage points YoY.

 

 

 

 

Driving purchases through smartphones has its benefits. Adobe Digital Insights predicts that mobile Web site visits will overtake desktop for the first time during the holiday season. But although more Web traffic will come from mobile, the devices will drive only 34% of revenue. Consumers also tend to put less in their  carts when on a smartphone -- an average of $35 less per transaction.

 

Despite the rise of searches on mobile devices, consumers will continue to do most of their buying on desktops and in stores this year. Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow believes many consumers will search online and in store, browse ad circulars and even login to Facebook to find inspiration for unique and memorable gifts for friends and family.

 

Goodfellow's prepared statement, published Monday with survey findings from the National Retail Federation, found that nearly 56% of shoppers have already started buying holiday gifts -- the second-highest level in the history of the survey, down slightly from the record nearly 57% during the same time last year. Only 3% said they were finished shopping.

 

The NRF survey, which asked 7,206 consumers about holiday shopping plans, was conducted November 1 through November 8.

 

Gift card will become a popular gift this year. Most can be purchased online. And while there's no data to back up the fact, it seems the online purchase of gift cards could help to increase sales through smartphones.

 

The NRF shows that holiday shoppers are planning to purchase an average of three gift cards with an approximate value of $46 per card, the second most-popular gift after clothing.Some 61% of shoppers said they would buy clothing.

 

Some 56% will give gift cards; 44%, books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games; 42%, toys; 31%, food or candy, and 30% plan to give some form of electronics.Spending on gift cards is expected to reach $27.5 billion, up from last year’s planned $26 billion. Restaurant gift cards at 35% are the most popular types, followed by department stores at 33%, Visa/MasterCard/American Express at 22%, coffee shops at 21% and entertainment at 17%.

 

 

 

Author:  Laurie Sullivan

Source:  http://www.mediapost.com/

 

 

 

Categorized in News & Politics

Navigating the ever changing landscape of digital advertising can be difficult for the most seasoned business owner. Traditional advertising remains relevant, however being out front and visible in the digital space is paramount for today’s businesses to be successful.

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Over the last 15 years, the shift to digital advertising has been tremendous. With the increase in mobile phone usage along with mobile phone capabilities, the window for reaching customers has become much larger. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of Americans own a mobile phone. Of those 68% have Smartphones up 35% from 2011.

If your business is doing digital advertising, below are a few tips to follow:

First, make sure your website is mobile compatible (friendly). On average over half of all website traffic comes through business’s mobile platform. Matt Roland,the Director for Reach 256 a local digital agency in Decatur Al, says the most common issue for customers is having an older website that was built in the earlier 2000s. These businesses, in many cases, do not have access to the back end of their website to make weekly or monthly changes. “Our number one service here in Decatur is building responsive websites for small to medium sized businesses. Along with building their website, we help manage the day to day operations; making text changes and product changes as needed. “Customers don’t have the time to worry with making changes. We prefer to manage their site for them and this in return gives the client more time to run their business.” (Reach 256)

Having a mobile friendly website also can help with your organic listing on Google search pages. In April 2015, Google announced an update to their search algorithms. Many in the industry referred to this update as Mobil Armageddon. “Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly, but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a significant impact in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide.” (Search Engine Land)

If you’re not sure if your website is mobile friendly, Reach 256 suggests you contact them or use this tool that Google offers to help determine your site’s profile:https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Along with a mobile website, having a social presence is essential. Facebook promotes to have over 1.7 billion active users per month. Other rising social media platforms include Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, and Pinterest, just to name a few. 

“Having a page isn’t enough anymore,” says Roland. “Using the wealth of information provided through these channels is a huge asset for a business.” (Reach 256). Being able to target customers from their likes and behavior, along with their geographic area, helps businesses target their perfect customer. This in turn helps them on the ROI.

With the digital landscape changing almost daily, we suggest seeking advice from a professional digital agency like Reach 256. Staying updated and relevant is a fulltime job. Compliance is time consuming. Each social platform has its own requirements. Reach 256 can help both promote your business and stay on top of the game while handling all the heavy lifting for you.

For more information about digital advertising, Reach 256 can be contacted at 256-340-2370.

Source : timesdaily

Categorized in Science & Tech

It’s no secret that battery life on smartphones these days are not the best. Most will consider it mostly a hardware issue, seeing companies trading battery size for aesthetic design. But that’s not the entire reason, with a large part being attributed to the software used on our phones.

In the XDA Virtual Office, many of us writers will often find the biggest culprit behind our battery woes are attributed to certain processes running rampant. Namely, Google services.

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There are currently many ways to provide longer battery life cycles, methods such as: battery banks, battery cases, processor clocking, etc. A usual solution is to disable apps not being used, or apps that are taking up a lot of system utilities. What I wanted to do was disable all of Google’s apps and services on my device, to see if it might give my battery a shot at living longer. Instead of just using a debloater tool, or the stock settings disabler, I chose to go the extra mile, and install Android without any Google Apps, or any Google services.

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Since my daily driver doesn’t have an unlockable bootloader (thanks Verizon), I decided to look into the old phones drawer, and chose one of my favorite devices to use. The Motorola Moto X 2014 was the device I had selected for this experiment. For a period of four days, I used the Moto X with CyanogenMod 13 installed, sans any Gapps packages. For comparison, I factory reset the device after the four days was up, installed the same CM 13 zip, and this time installed the Stock Gapps package from the Open Gapps repository.


While using each ROM as a daily driver for four days, I depended on them for many of my usual services. Being that I depend on Google Services on a daily basis, going about this experiment proved rather difficult. Below is a list of the Google Apps I used the most, as well as a list of all the alternatives I used.

appss

 

There are many alternative app stores and repositories on the internet, from the Amazon App Store, F-Droid, XDA Labs, APK Mirror, and plenty of others. To get my apps for this test, I stuck with two store/repositories that I was familiar with using, XDA Labs and APK Mirror.

Going without Google Services on a Google-based platform is no small feat. There was a noticeable lack of functionality across the operating system from day to day. While some services have a browser interface, a couple will only try and direct you to the Play Store… Or the browser site of the Play Store. With Hangouts being one of those without a mobile interface, I was left unable to communicate with a few colleagues and friends.

Speaking of communication errors, Hangouts wasn’t the only service I had trouble with. I may not be a fan of the app, but Snapchat was a complete no go without Gapps. The app requires Play Services to log in, and unfortunately I was left unable to communicate with my friends on two separate services.

Fortunately, my second communication service for my business colleagues was partially functioning. I was able to send and receive messages on Slack, but notifications would not work, as they relied on Google Cloud Messaging. Quite a few other apps had the same issue, meaning I only ever received notifications for calls, texts, and emails.

Trying to substitute google with Cortana was… just not something I subjectively enjoyed. Microsoft’s searching service is welcome competition and is continuing to get better, but it is not enough to compete with the original search engine. The only useful functionality I found with the Cortana app over the mobile page from Google was the option to have a voice search shortcut on my homescreen, which comes in handy more often.

 

Having to rely on the browser for services I couldn’t access otherwise was a bit frustrating. Being used to having YouTube Red, leaving the YouTube site would stop the audio. This was causing me to become irritated more and more often. As a big music fan, I like to listen to and discover all types of music on my phone. While CM’s baked in music app works, the lack of a streaming service caused me to have to resort to alternative, older methods of discovering music.

Using the phone for about a week both with and without Gapps concluded with interesting results. As you can see from the screen captures below, the average screen on time and total battery time on the No Gapps runs was no longer than that of the Gapps runs. However, do notice the steeper slopes in the (slightly shorter) asleep times.

Screenshot 5

These results are not what I expected going into the experiment. Looking at the battery graphs, you can tell that the runs with Gapps yielded more device wake ups, as expected. This is evident by the Gapps runs not only having more active indication on the bars below the graph. The Gapps graphs all have a much more gradual slope associated with them, whereas the No Gapps graphs seemed to level off a lot more often. But screen-on drain was about the same, with the main difference seen in idle drain as expected.

In terms of performance, there was a negligible difference. Apps certainly crashed more often on the Gapps run, with the main culprit being Hangouts (as usual). Running benchmarks on each run seemed redundant, given I was using the same exact processor and CPU and these processes amount to a negligible hit on the processor.

 

All in all, this experiment was fun. Despite the lack of functionality, it was interesting to challenge myself to work around such large limitations. So that brings us to our main inquiry, is it worth it to live sans Google Apps and Services to save a little on battery? To me, the short answer is no. While the battery life was consistent, it was not particularly longer in any way. It might be useful to live Sans Gapps if you are looking to limit yourself from using your phone on a vacation or something, but not much else. If I had to sum up the lack of functionality, I would say the experience is reminiscent of the feature phone days before the smartphone boom.

Source : http://www.xda-developers.com/comparing-battery-life-with-and-without-google-services-a-week-of-minimal-idle-drain/

Categorized in Science & Tech

The company behind two of the most highly rated smartphones (big and small), the leading smart thermostat, a super high-end laptop, a 2-in-1 tablet, a Wi-Fi camera, streaming audio and video players, a sexy router and a smart smoke detector ... is Google?

 

It's strange but true. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) is synonymous with search and Internet apps, but it has quietly built itself a very respectable gadget business. Google has come a long way since its first Nexus smartphone launched in 2010.

 

The Nest is a top-seller. The Chromecast is a big hit. The Nexus 6P is one of the best-reviewed smartphones ever. And Chromebooks are quickly becoming the standard education laptops for K-12 students.


Google appears unsatisfied, however.


Its portfolio of gizmos is expected to expand at the Google I/O developers conference next week. Google is rumored to be unveiling two brand new gadgets at I/O: A virtual reality headset and an Amazon Echo competitor.


Google's new virtual reality gizmo is expected to be a standalone gadget, running Android (no smartphone required).


VR isn't new to Google, though its current offering is kind of a joke. "Cardboard" is its $15 VR viewer that is literally made out of cardboard, Velcro and plastic lenses. It doesn't do anything on its own: You have to stick your smartphone inside a cardboard flap.


Google's new Echo competitor is expected to be a tall Internet-connected speaker that can play music, read your emails out loud, tell you the weather and do all the tasks that virtual assistants do. Like Amazon's Echo, it will respond to voice commands ("OK Google," not "Alexa"), but it will have Google's giant search engine to pull information from.

 

Why the big gadget push?


Google thrives on data. Its mission, after all, is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."


There's a tremendous amount of information that can be learned from Google's gadgets: how you use energy, connect to the Internet, and what media you stream. By better understanding its customers' behaviors, it can offer ads and services that are tailored to them.


Plus, VR and the Internet of Things are the buzzy, potentially groundbreaking ways we might interact with the Internet in the future. Google wants to ensure it isn't left out. If Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or any other competitor beats Google to the punch, Google could lose out on a massive amount of important information about their customers.


And if Google doesn't control the gadgets that you use, there's no guarantee you'll use its services. For example, Android promotes Gmail, YouTube, Google search and Google Maps at launch (something the company is currently being investigated for by the European Union).


By making gizmos and devices that its customers want to use, Google can continue to lock people into its services and searches, collecting their data and serving up more relevant ads.

 

Source:  http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/12/technology/google-gadget/index.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

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