Archive for June, 2012

The Wi-Fi Alliance has begun vetting mobile devices and network equipment for its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint program, the wireless industry group announced Tuesday. Hailed as a “major milestone” by the Wi-Fi Alliance in its press release, this latest development brings us a step closer to a world where mobile devices will automatically connect to access points—securely at that.

The first products to be designated Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint are those that will form the program’s test suite. The list includes wireless network gear from BelAir, Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Ruckus Wireless.

“For most users, Passpoint means that there will be no need for manual intervention when entering a hotspot running on Passpoint equipment with a Passpoint mobile device,” reads the Wi-FI CERTIFIED Passpoint program FAQ.  “Automatic detection and secured connection will occur provided the user is a subscriber of the entity running the hotspot or is a subscriber of an entity that has a roaming relationship with the entity running the hotspot.”

“Passpoint devices use industry-agreed uniform mechanisms for discovering and creating secured connections to hotspots. This allows a subscriber to experience seamless Wi-Fi connectivity to a hotspot anywhere in the world his provider covers through roaming agreements.”

Service providers are expected to begin deploying this technology sometime next year.

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When Dropbox announced its “get link” file-sharing feature a couple of months back, a number of tech news outlets, including this one, were quick to report on it. Some of these reports, though, focused more on how the feature could make Dropbox popular among Internet pirates. The cloud storage service responded by saying it employs “a number of measures to ensure that our sharing feature is not misused.” If anyone still had any doubts over its intentions, the company laid them to rest on Monday when it blocked (read: killed) Boxopus, a service for downloading torrent files directly to Dropbox, from accessing its API owing to piracy concerns.

While this decision underlines its firm resolve against copyright infringement, the ban on Boxopus has surprised many, including Boxopus founder Alex, as initially Dropbox seemed to have no problem with it.“Once the alpha version was approved we were pretty sure that Dropbox was okay with it, so we put our efforts into optimizing the service. It took us 3 months to finish the product with a team of 5 people, which was a $30,000 USD investment,” Boxopus founder Alex told TorrentFreak.

This is what the Dropbox team told Boxopus about its decision to ban the nascent service from accessing its API: “It’s come to our attention that latest Boxopus features could be perceived as encouraging users to violate copyright using Dropbox… We recommend removing Dropbox integration from Boxopus.”

Boxopus founder maintains that the app fully complied with DMCA and Dropbox’s own Terms of Service. However, he isn’t ready to give up yet and is currently holding talks with other cloud storage services in the hope of replacing Dropbox.

What do you think of Dropbox allowing the app at first, only for the permission to be revoked a few months later?

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Well, isn’t this amusing and scary at the same time: Orbitz is now starting to show visitors who use Macs different, often higher-priced rooms than their PC-based counterparts because the company’s data shows that Mac users tend to spend more on their bookings. While it’s easy to poke fun at Apple-ites — are they gullible or simply high maintenance? — the report also highlights a possible consequence of having all your online interactions driven by scads of big data.

Orbitz bigwigs were quick to tell the Wall Street Journal (paywalled*) that prices for rooms weren’t different for Windows and Mac users; Mac users just see classier options by default.

That’s because the company’s data showed that Mac users spent an average of $20 or $30 more per room than Windows users. They’re also 40 percent more likely to book a room at a top-rated hotel, and when Windows users decide to step up from the hovels they’re apparently staying in to make a reservation at a hotel that both Windows and Mac users frequent, the Mac users usually stay in the nicer suites. For example, almost half of the Orbitz reservations for a swanky Chicago hotel come from Mac users.

The use of predictive analytics and big data are bound to increase as time goes on and so-called success stories like this one make the headlines. Targeted advertising and service offerings definitely have their place, but still: how do you feel about being classified and treated differently because of your chosen operating system? Does it make you think twice about Google’s personally tailored search results?

*Sure, it’s paywalled, but if you found a way around it — say, by heading to Techmeme and clicking the “On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels” WSJ link that’s down the page a little bit — you can read the article in its entirety.

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Dell today added a pair of new notebook models to its flagship XPS brand, one of which is a 14-inch Ultrabook (XPS 14) and the other a 15-inch laptop (XPS 15). As one would expect, both models are equipped with 3rd Generation Intel Core processor options (Ivy Bridge), and both bring new digs to the mobile party with edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass and a machined aluminum finish precision cut from a single block of aluminum.

Cost of entry for the XPS 14 Ultrabook is $1,100, which positions it in premium territory. A baseline configuration consists of a 1600×900 resolution display with 400-nit brightness, Intel Core i5 3317U processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, 500GB 5400RPM hard drive + 32GB mSATA SSD, 1.3MP webcam, 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0, Intel WiDi technology, two USB 3.0 ports, mini DisplayPort, HDMI output, 3-in-1 card reader, and Windows 7 Home Premium. For $100 more, Dell upgrades the graphics to an Nvidia GeForce GT 630 GPU.

Starting at $1,300, the XPS 15 offers a 1920×1080 resolution driven by an Intel Core i5 3210M processor and GeForce GT 630M GPU. A baseline config also consists of 6GB of DDR3-1600 memory, 500GB 7200RPM hard drive + 32GB mSATA SSD, and an optical drive.

Both the XPS 14 and XPS 15 are available to purchase now.

Image Credit: Dell

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The Internet community is obsessed with cats, so if you’re going to build a neural network consisting of 16,000 computer processors designed to simulate the human brain, then what better task is there than to have it scour the Web for felines? Researchers from Google’s X laboratory saw the logic in doing exactly that, and remarkably, the massive neural network actually taught itself to recognize the Internet’s favorite type of furball with surprising accuracy.

A detailed report in The New York Times outlines Google’s efforts, noting that the newest simulation bests all previous efforts by being twice as capable of picking out objects from a “challenging list of 20,000 distinct items.”

In order to successfully learn what a typical cat looks like, Google’s research team presented the neural network with random thumbnail images taken from 10 million YouTube videos. The Google brain, as they refer to the network, constructed a hierarchy of memory locations based on the millions of images it saw.

“It is worth noting that our network is still tiny compared to the human visual cortex, which is a million times larger in terms of the number of neurons an synapses,” the researchers wrote.

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