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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Google Losing Ground in China

A year after Google Inc. moved its search services out of China, the Internet giant is struggling to maintain traction on a range of businesses in the country despite its executives' desire to keep growing in the wake of a feud with the Chinese government. Chinese online media company Sina Corp. said this week that it dropped Google's Web search service from its popular portal site.

At the same time, Google's Gmail free email service has become difficult to use in China; the company blames stepped up efforts by censors to disrupt Gmail access.

The developments are the latest signs that significant parts of Google's business in China, home to more than 450 million Internet users, have been unraveling since last March. The company's share of search market revenue in China dropped to 19.6% last quarter from 35.6% a year earlier.

Many Google users in China lament that products like Gmail are now harder to use—especially in recent weeks as Chinese authorities have stepped up controls in the wake of online threats to hold "Jasmine Revolution" protests in China.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Browser wars - Firefox 4 slaughtering Internet Explorer 9

VentureBeat reports that according to data from web analytics firm NetApplications, Firefox has been slaughtering Microsoft's baby when it comes to downloads. Mozilla’s Firefox 4 browser trounced Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 in first day downloads when it launched last week, but now it’s further walloping Microsoft’s browser by snagging twice as much usage in half the time, according to data from NetApplications.

As of March 26, Firefox 4 was seeing a 3.64 percent share of browser usage after only being available for 5 days. IE9, which launched just a week earlier had 1.78 percent after 12 days.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Google starts testing Google Music internally

Google Music, a streaming service that users would be able to access from Internet-connected devices, is close to being ready but is being held up by a lack of content. Google managers told counterparts at the top four record companies last year that they hoped everything would be in place for a launch by late 2010. The delays are largely due to the fact that Google is negotiating for cloud music rights and not just the authorization to distribute the songs themselves.

Labels have never given out licensing rights for digital lockers, so it's not like they can just grab an old template and work off that. They definitely do want Google to join the digital-music fray, however, as the possibility of a large iTunes competitor could mean Apple won't be able to bully music industry executives as easily.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Firefox 4 adds speed and tames your tabs

Firefox 4 features a clean interface, competitive speed, HTML5 compatibility and two of the best browser features to be unveiled in a long time: the tab-wrangling prowess of Panorama, and the multicomputer synchronization power of Sync.

With Firefox 4, the "Chrome-ization" of the browser world is complete -- all of the major browsers now use a variation of the simple, stripped-down interface pioneered by Chrome.

The visual changes in Firefox 4 are quite substantial. Tabs now live along the top of the browser, above the address bar (which Firefox calls the "Awesome Bar"). Menus have vanished; to get at all of the browser's features, you click a button labeled "Firefox" at the top left corner of the browser and a menu drops down.

Firefox 4 may have borrowed some of Chrome's basic design ideas, but it has also introduced some useful new features as well. Key among them is Panorama, which helps solve the problem of tab proliferation. If you're the kind of person who tends to have many tabs open, making it hard to find the one you want quickly, Panorama may well be the best new feature of Firefox 4. Click the Panorama button (a square icon composed of four smaller rectangles) in the upper right of your Firefox window, and you'll come to a screen that shows thumbnails of all of your open tabs grouped in a single box against a blank background.

Firefox 4 introduces another feature, called Switch to Tab, to help you tame your tabs. As in the previous version of Firefox, when you type text in the address bar, Firefox searches through your history, previous searches and sites you've bookmarked and shows likely matches in a drop-down list below the address bar. Now, however, it also searches through any tabs you have open.

Firefox Sync can synchronize bookmarks, browsing history, passwords and open tabs.

Firefox 4 does an excellent job of supporting Web standards, including the upcoming HTML5 standards.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unlike IE9, Firefox 4 Will Still Support Windows XP

IE9 is designed to support Vista and Windows 7, while the new Firefox also supports XP as well as Windows 2000. Microsoft has said it decided not to support XP in IE9 because it will utilize the graphics processor, which isn't possible under XP, which was released in 2001. A Microsoft executive told news media that supporting XP would have meant "optimizing for the lowest common denominator."

Like IE, Firefox 4 offers support for hardware acceleration in Vista and Windows 7 by utilizing Direct2D and Direct3D APIs. XP doesn't support Direct2D, but Firefox uses Direct3D on XP to provide partial acceleration in Firefox 4. According to web-statistics firm Net Applications, XP represents 55 percent of operating systems connected to the web, or 61 percent of all Windows-based systems.

Other browsers, including Apple's Safari for Windows, Opera and Google's Chrome, will continue to support XP, which Microsoft has essentially abandoned as it attempts to move users to Vista and Windows 7.

In a video on Mozilla's web site, Nightingale said the new JavaScript engine in Firefox 4 is up to "six times faster than any previous version we've shipped."

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Microsoft Claims Rustock Botnet Takedown

Microsoft is claiming it took down the massive Rustock botnet, in a wide-ranging operation that saw servers seized in multiple cities.

Estimates of Rustock’s size varied between 1.1 million and 1.7 million infected computers, and the botnet may have been responsible for 47.5 percent of all spam sent worldwide by the end of 2010.

In a March 17 posting on the Microsoft on the Issues blog, Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU), claims the company squashed Rustock following a months-long investigation. In addition, Microsoft has apparently filed suit against the Rustock botnet’s anonymous operators, following a procedure pioneered when the company helped take down the Waledac botnet. In the case of Rustock, the takedown involved bringing the case before U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in addition to a “coordinated seizure of command and control servers in multiple hosting locations escorted by the U.S. Marshals Service.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 downloads: 2.3 million in first 24 hours

The newest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, IE9, tallied 2.3 million downloads in its first day of release.

Microsoft's browser refresh is getting high marks for embracing Web standards such as HTML 5 and CSS3, a tracking protection mechanism, features such as pinned sites and dynamic jumplists, and a more streamlined interface. Microsoft's new browser also features hardware acceleration designed to take advantage of your computer's capabilities for improved graphics rendering.

While other Web browsers like Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome are eating into Internet Explorer's audience, in North America, IE "still retains a clear lead in the browser market," said StatCounter, a website analytics company, in January.

Firefox 4 is coming next week, due for release March 22. It's a major revamp, with improvements that are supposed to make the browser speedier and provide a streamlined user interface.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adobe Flash Player has critical security issue

Adobe released a security advisory revealing that a “critical vulnerability” was found in pretty much all versions of the multimedia platform as well as in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.

Affected versions include: “Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions (Adobe Flash Player and earlier for Chrome users) for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris operating systems, Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Android, and the Authplay.dll component that ships with Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.0.1) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions of Reader and Acrobat for Windows and Macintosh operating systems.”

The vulnerability could result in a crash or potentially be exploited by a hacker to “take control of the affected system.” Worse, there are reports already that this security hole is being exploited via a Flash file (.swf) embedded in a Microsoft Excel (.xls) spreadsheet that arrives as an e-mail attachment.

Work on a fix is underway. Those versions of software with critical flaws — which is everything other than Reader X, are getting the most attention. Adobe expects a fix to go live “during the week of March 21, 2011.”

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Google activates 'kill switch' to remove Android malware

Google's response to a bout of Trojan-horse applications targeting its Android operating system shows how much and how little power it exerts over that platform. The key part of Google's latest reaction is the remote removal from users' phones of applications identified as malware.

Google will also send a software update called "Android Market Security Tool March 2011" to infected phones over the next day or two that will close the security vulnerabilities exploited by this malware.

Although the current version of Android, 2.3, doesn't have the vulnerability exploited by this malware, most Android phones don't run it. And Google can't make them offer updates to 2.3.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Malware Discovered in Android Market

The growing popularity of app stores for mobile applications has attracted the attention of malicious hackers hoping to spread malware that could potentially compromise a user's security and expose personal information. The latest example is a report that Google had to scramble this week to pull at least 20 applications from its Android Market after the website Android Police reported that they were infected with malware.

"There's another APK hidden inside the code, and it steals nearly everything it can: product ID, model, partner (provider?), language, country, and userID," the post adds. "But that's all child's play; the true pièce de résistance is that it has the ability to download more code. In other words, there's no way to know what the app does after it's installed, and the possibilities are nearly endless." Android Police updated its report to note that Google moved extremely quickly to pull the offending apps.

Symantec estimates that a thousand new apps are uploaded to Android Market every day.

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