Mark Wilson

Ramp up the resolution: Google and Bing can now use more detailed imagery on maps


If you have ever bemoaned the fact that maps are too blurry on Bing, too grainy on Google, moan no more! US restrictions on the quality of satellite imagery that can be used by online services such as these has been lifted by the US government.

The ban is to be removed after satellite photography firm DigitalGlobe made an appeal to the US Department of Commerce. Security concerns meant that satellite images were limited to a 50cm resolution, but this is to be boosted to 40cm and beyond.

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LinkedIn to face lawsuit for spamming users' email address books


A judge in the Northern District of California has paved the way for a lawsuit against the social network LinkedIn for violating the privacy of its users. The complaint was that LinkedIn "violated several state and federal laws by harvesting email addresses from the contact lists of email accounts associated with Plaintiffs’ LinkedIn accounts and by sending repeated invitations to join LinkedIn to the harvested email addresses". It relates to the fact that LinkedIn not only used the address books of those signing up for accounts to tout for business by sending out an email to that effect, but also sent follow-up email if there was no response.

US district judge Lucy Koh ruled that while users granted permission for LinkedIn to access their contact list it is this 'spamming' that is likely to land the company in court again. The judge outlined the process users were complaining about, explaining that LinkedIn sent an email to connected in users' address books -- albeit with initial permission -- sends the same email a week later if the recipient has not joined LinkedIn, and a third email if another week passes without a signup.

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#FreeTheNipple campaign leads to breastfeeding nipple-shot ban reversal by Facebook


Facebook comes under fire for all manner of things -- it's just part and parcel of being a social network. When users are not up in arms at the site's privacy policies, they are found voicing their disapproval at the types of content they're not allowed to publish on their timelines. There are lots of types of pictures that are frowned upon, and parents were upset to find that many of the photos they posted fell foul of Facebook's moderators. Facebook's Community Standards have never included a stated ban on breastfeeding pictures, but those that included glimpses of nipples were often swiftly removed. A well-publicized campaign that used the hashtag #FreeTheNipple seems to have had the desired result.

As noticed by The Independent, there has been a softening of views as Facebook Moderators are now encouraged to consider the context in which nipples appear in photographs. The Community Standards state "Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity". But there is the caveat that "we aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding".

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week: June 8 -- 14


Eyes were focused on Microsoft as the company held an Xbox One press conference at E3 2014, with the focus being very much on games. Not to be outdone, Sony also held a press conference at the event. Consoles from Sony and Microsoft are still largely reliant on traditional controllers -- dull! But the SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker is something to, almost literally, keep an eye on as it allows for controlling games with your peepers. PS4 users have the arrival of YouTube to look forward to, and Chromecast owners will soon be able to stream files from VLC.

In security news, AVG publicized details of yet another OpenSSL flaw. While less serious than other vulnerabilities that have been discovered recently, it's still something of a cause for concern. We're still feeling the fallout of the Zeus botnet, and F-Secure set up an online testing tool that can be used by anyone to check for the infection. One tactic used to attack websites is bombarding them with comment spam, and new research shows that 80 percent of such spam is generated by less than a third of site attackers.

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Privacy blow -- .UK websites must publicize registrant's name and address


It seems there are new privacy worries at every turn. The latest cause for concern relates to websites in the UK. Nominet, the internet registry services provider for .uk domains, has changed one of its policies, and the change means that individuals running websites may have to reveal their home addresses. There are obvious privacy and security concerns associated with this, particularly for websites run by individuals who wish to remain anonymous -- full names of domain registrants must also be displayed.

Nominet's policy on opting out of appearing on WHOIS searches is not immediately clear. Things start off in a fairly simple fashion. "Only domain name holders that are non-trading individuals can opt out of having their address details published on the WHOIS". Great; my website is just a blog. There's no need to advertise my home address for the world to see, you might think. But 'advertise' could be the key word here. If Nominet classifies you and your site as a business, it is a completely different story and your home address must be displayed.

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Hard drive failure responsible for two thirds of data loss

Damaged hard disk

There may be a gradual move to storing more and more files in the cloud, but businesses and end users are still highly reliant on good old-fashioned hard drives. This technology, though convenient, does have its downsides; hard drives fail. A survey conducted by data recovery firm Kroll Ontrack found that nearly three quarters of those questioned (72 percent) had lost data from a drive in a laptop or desktop computer. A far lower percentage (15 percent) lost data from SSDs -- reflecting the fact that fewer SSDs are in use than mechanical drives -- while 13 percent attributed their most recent data loss to RAID or virtual services.

Not all of the data loss came as a result of hardware failure. Software and human error accounted for around 20 percent of data loss, but drive crashes and other hardware problems were responsible in two thirds of cases (66 percent). This is a significant increase from 2010's figures when just 29 percent of data loss was attributed to hardware failure. Paul le Messurier, Program and Operations Manager at Kroll Ontrack is very matter of fact about the findings:

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Lumsing's sexy 'Harmonica Style' battery pack delivers power on the move


Battery packs may not be the most exciting or sexiest gadgets on the market, but the LUM-008-01 Power Bank from Lumsing has a good stab at changing things. But stabbing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when picking up this battery pack for the first time. Yes, the manufacturers "Harmonica style" description is fairly accurate but this is a unit that is rather weightier than the handheld instrument favored by blues and folk musicians. The mass of 236g (8.3oz) coupled with the way it nestles in the hand brings to mind a form of cudgel; this is a battery pack that could double as a murder weapon. Maybe that's just me... I should probably evaluate it for what it is.

Let's cut to the chase. This is a battery pack. There's a limit to how animated one can get about such a device, but Lumsing's offering gets off to a great start by being so easy on the eye. It's good to look at, and it also feels good in the hand. Style drips from every port. In all there are three ports: one USB input for charging the unit itself, and two outputs for charging other devices such as mobiles and tablets. There's one low powered 1.5 A port and one rated at 2.1 A so there's scope for charging all manner of devices.

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week: June 1 -- 7


The biggest news of this week came from Apple which held a keynote speech at WWDC in San Francisco. One of the major announcements was the unveiling of iOS 8 which will be making its way to iPhone and iPads around the world sometime in the Fall. There was a lot to take in, including "Hey, Siri", HealthKit and iCloud Drive. OS X also got a new lick of paint with Yosemite, with beta versions made available for immediate download. There was also an intriguing change to the App Store Review Guidelines that suggests the doors may be opened to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.

Windows 7 continues to grow faster than Windows 8.x, but if you're looking for an alternative to Windows, Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" could be worth a try. Windows XP is still managing to hang on it there for the time being. Microsoft celebrated the news that Windows Phone is becoming increasingly popular -- if not with developers -- particularly when security is important; which is just as well, because reports suggest that handsets need to be made more secure for enterprise. Microsoft also had cause for celebration after helping the FBI to take down the Zeus botnet.

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Queen's speech proposes life sentences for cyber criminals in the UK


Edward Snowden is on the run, living in exile as a means to evade the long arm of US law. The United States seems keen to have him prosecuted for leaking documents that have arguably put national security at risk. He acted in good faith, but has been branded a cyber criminal. Today in the UK, the Queen gave her annual speech -- well, it's really a speech written by the government, but dear Liz reads it out so she gets to call it hers -- and she revealed that cyber criminals could face life sentences for their endeavors, and that existing punishments for digital crimes cold become harsher.

Singled out for particular attention are those "cyberattacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security, or a significant risk thereof". Those committing such acts could be put behind bars for life. But the proposals do not end there. The aging Computer Misuse Act could be updated, so that criminals that cause "a significant risk of severe economic or environmental damage or social disruption" incur a 14 year term compared to the current 10.

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The new industrial revolution -- machines rise up to become our equals


The Internet of Things is just the latest buzzword that is being used to push all manner of products. Let's cut to the chase -- it's just about "stuff" (other than obvious things like computers and phones) connecting to the internet. Nothing more than that. But this dismissive-sounding definition is not meant to undermine the importance or the significance of the IoT. We've spent the last 20 years or so getting used to the idea of accessing the web, harnessing what it has to offer, exploiting it in various ways and finding all manner of methods of using it to make life easier, more entertaining, and more profitable. The evolution of the Internet of Things sees this taken to the next level.

We are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Many would say that the wheels are already in motion. The tired -- very, very tired -- example of what the Internet of Things is about, is the prospect of owning a fridge that will be aware of when you run out of milk, and then either alert you or place an order on your behalf. This is a very simplistic view of things, but it is the communication between devices that will be the hallmark of things to come. Inter-device communication, or machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Devices that can be left to their own devices (ahem) are approaching in ever-growing numbers, and there are advantages to be gained.

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Dirty desktops and titillating tablets -- the browsers you use to get a porn fix

Shocked surprised man woman girlfriend boyfriend laptop

Porn has always been big business, and online porn accounts for a staggering proportion of web traffic. The availability of always-on internet connections in the home, and near blanket use of internet-enabled mobile phones and tablets, means that it is now easier than ever to get a porn fix if you feel the urge. But have you ever wondered how all of this porn is being accessed? Well… wonder no more! Porn site (you don’t say!) PornHub conducted research after Gizmodo expressed an interest in seeing which browsers were most used by consumers of porn, and the figures make for interesting reading.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that desktop browsers prove the most popular. Some 51 percent of Pornhub's traffic comes from people using desktop computers. But, without wanting to put too many unpleasant images in your head, this leaves 49 percent of porn perusal that is enjoyed on mobile phones and tablets. You know, those devices that are easily transported to a quiet room and are rather easier to hold in one hand than a laptop...

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Google offers End-To-End encryption with new alpha Chrome extension


Today, Google took the wraps off a new security tool for Chrome users. Currently available as an alpha release, End-To-End is an extension for Google's browser that offers... well... end-to-end encryption for data arriving in and departing from Chrome. As this is only an alpha version, the extension is not currently available in the Chrome Web Store, but Google has made the code available so the privacy-conscious and security-minded can take it for a test drive.

Based on OpenPGP and a newly developed, JavaScript-based crypto library, End-to-End can be used to encrypt, decrypt, digitally sign, and verify signed messages. Google is keen to receive feedback -- discover a problem and you could cash in, thanks to the Vulnerability Reward Program. In a post on the Google Online Security Blog, Stephan Somogyi, Product Manager, Security and Privacy explains that "we recognize that this sort of encryption will probably only be used for very sensitive messages or by those who need added protection. But we hope that the End-To-End extension will make it quicker and easier for people to get that extra layer of security should they need it".

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Apple opens the door to Bitcoin and other virtual currencies


Yosemite! Woo! iOS 8! Yay! New way of programming! Huzzah! These were the obvious highlights of Apple's WWDC keynote yesterday, but as the dust settles there are some additional interesting tidbits emerging. As this was a developer conference, it should come as no surprise that the announcements and revelations have the most immediate impact on developers -- but things will also filter down to users. One change that was not given any fanfare at the WWDC is an alteration to Apple's App Store Review Guidelines which paves the way for virtual currency support.

The guidelines themselves are surprisingly easy to read -- this document is nothing like an EULA! But if you'd like to cut to the chase, jump to 11.17 in the "Purchasing and currencies" section. Here you'll find the advice that "Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions". There is no reason that this possible virtual currency support should not include Bitcoin, although the currency has not been specifically mentioned.

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Reset the Net shows a groundswell of opposition to the NSA

flipping the bird

Internet heavyweights such as Reddit, Imgur, BoingBoing and the WikiLeaks Party are joining forces to encourage internet users to take control of their privacy. Reset The Net is a campaign that flips the virtual bird at the NSA by inviting people to make use of privacy and encryption tools to keep themselves protected online. Also involved are such names as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the campaign is gathering momentum as internet citizens find themselves increasingly disillusioned by the post-Snowden world.

We have already seen an upsurge in the use of online encryption, but this has been largely employed by those who are more technically minded. The Reset the Net website asks web users to make a pledge: "On June 5, I will take strong steps to protect my freedom from government mass surveillance. I expect the services I use to do the same". Reset the Net is not an end in itself, but more of an awareness-raising campaign that aims to educate people as much as send a message to the NSA and its ilk.

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HP wants you to forget Chrome OS and embrace the Android laptop SlateBook


At the cheap end of the laptop market, there isn’t really all that much choice at the moment. Chromebook has the bargain basement side of things covered, but this is not an OS that works for everyone. Android is, by quite some way, the most popular operating system on phones and tablets, so it makes sense that it should also prove popular on a laptop, right? This is what HP is hoping, at least, as it launches its new SlateBook, a 14 inch, touchscreen laptop that runs Android.

Launching July 20, the SlateBook has a price tag of $399 and includes a full-sized keyboard in addition to a 1080p touchscreen. As this is a device running Android, it should perhaps come as no surprise that battery life is fairly high. The quoted nine hours is fairly impressive and this is being touted as an entertainment device. To back up this claim, in addition to the longevity of the battery, four speakers from the Apple-acquired BeatsAudio provide what is described as "the best-sounding, richest audio on a notebook".

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