NEW YORK – More Facebook users can expect to see a blue cartoon dinosaur popping up in their feeds, reminding them to check their privacy settings.
No stranger to privacy fiascos, Facebook had already made the tool available to users who were posting public updates. The feature is designed to remind people how widely they share posts, what apps they use and other privacy issues.
Facebook engineering manager Raylene Yung says the tool is the result of user feedback and decisions by the company to improve the user experience. Facebook says users are sometimes worried about sharing something by accident, or sharing with the wrong audience.
Facebook will also make the default audience for new users’ posts to “friends.” Previously, it was set to public.
iWatch? What about iPod? Apple’s most forgotten big brand seems ripe for a makeover.
Apple hasn’t had a new iPod since 2012. There were two that year, debuting alongside the iPhone 5: an updated iPod Touch and a redesigned Nano. It’s been a while. And during that time, the iPod line’s share of Apple’s revenue — once the company’s bread and butter — continues to fade.
Meanwhile, even as rival companies like Google and Samsung laying their cards on the table of the nascent wearable tech market, Apple has yet to announce — or even hint at — a wearable product. It’s mid-2014, and we still don’t know what Cupertino has in the works yet. All we’re left with are guesses.
I have no more insight into Apple’s plans than anyone else outside Apple’s campus, but there’s one thing I do know: when it comes to wearable tech, there’s not much competition out there worth being scared of. The whole category, such as it is, is still a mess. And even though Apple fanboys pray for the company to make its presumed future mythical device magical, or captivating, it might make a lot more sense for Apple to just take the boring path.
And by boring, I mean useful. Practical. And possibly a little unexciting. The product that most fits the bill? The iPod.
I’ve felt all along that an Apple wearable shouldn’t just be a watch. It should be modular. It should…well, it should feel a lot like the iPod lineup of old. And given that the line is already a recognizable brand — albeit one that’s in need of a turnaround — it would make sense if Apple’s rumored wearables turn out to also be the new iPods. I’ve been feeling that way for a while, and recent articles by others like John Gruber show I’m not alone in that opinion.
It’s already a perfect name
The name iPod has always been enigmatic and a little futuristic. It’s not iMusic, or iPlayer. It doesn’t have to just be about music. It suggests something small. Why not make iPod the name for Apple wearables?
And, iPods have already been wearable. The Shuffle and Nano are already clip-on devices that can slide easily into a tiny pocket. Some people already wore the old Nano as a watch. I was one of those people.
The return of the Nano plus wristband
Apple already cracked the solution: a small puck that can snap into a wristband or clip on a pair of running shorts. It’s the 2011 iPod Nano. That device didn’t have Bluetooth, but it did have some basic Nike+ software.
The old Nano, the one that fit on optional wristbands and was, already, a watch, could be a really model for what comes next. A modular, Bluetooth-connected device, that could also track steps and be a good overall music player, would solve a lot of needs. It wouldn’t necessarily be super-exciting, but it could also get to a price that wasn’t too expensive.
How the product lineup could work
Yes, the Nano could return as a wrist-worn, more advanced health tracker and smartwatch alternative. But maybe there’s more than one Apple wearable. The Shuffle could incorporate an M7 processor — Apple’s motion co-processor that debuted in the iPhone 5S – and double as an entry-level pedometer (think Fitbit Zip).
And maybe there’s an even higher-end product, one that casts a wider net on lifestyle beyond fitness. A new Nano could add wireless connectivity for subscription music services, and maybe even some connected smartwatch-like features, if it’s Bluetooth linked.
Just adding M7 processors and Bluetooth would be a big first step to giving Apple, essentially, wearable fitness products. Even in its reduced state with no new products, Apple still sold 2.75 million iPods last quarter — a number that dwarfs the number of Samsung Gear watches sold to date. It wouldn’t take much for Apple to go from zero to 100 in the wearable space, if its wearable products could at least double as iPods.
Standalone vs. “phone accessory”
I can’t think of a single wearable I’ve seen that isn’t function-challenged. It’s a glorified pedometer, or it’s got half-baked apps, or it has a ridiculously short battery life, or…it doesn’t do anything a phone doesn’t already do. That’s the story of most bands and glasses. And almost all of them suffer a fate of being a phone accessory, serving a role that most people haven’t found a need for yet. Most of these watches have awkward chargers, unreliable connectivity, and questionable apps.
Apple would have to solve these problems, and I’m not sure all of them can be solved right now. So maybe the answer is baby steps. Create a product that does a few things well now, and wait until next year or the year after to take the next leaps. Make it small, make it affordable, make it stand apart from an iPhone. That’s something that even the lowly, screenless, 4-year-old $50 iPod Shuffle does well — once you load it full of music, at least.
Let someone else figure out the wristbands
It’s hard to make a great wristband. Snapping a band out and finding the right design is a pain. Most smartwatches also have to deal with wear and tear on those parts, too.
Selling the bands separately — or, whatever other accessories are compatible — seems most like the path of the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Apple has created a massive halo industry based on docks, headsets, cables, chargers, and especially cases. The wearable iPod can follow in that tradition. Sure, Apple can toss in a default band, but the core device shouldn’t be married to one. Letting accessory partners fill in the gaps will make it easier to appeal to both men and women. The Misfit Shine and Withings Pulse have already taken this path.
More fitness tracker, less smartwatch
I can’t help wondering about who would buy a mythical iWatch, and what it would actually do to convince people to buy one.
When the iPad debuted, it wasn’t the first tablet. The iPhone emerged when a fair number of people owned cellphones, and even smartphones. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player. But the smartwatch market feels a lot less mature than those tablet, smartphone, and music player markets were at the time.
Fitness trackers are a different story. Because they’re affordable and simpler to use, I know more people who bought or want to buy Fitbits, Fuelbands, Jawbone Ups and other bands. Fitness tracking is the market that makes the most sense for Apple.
An M7 chip-equipped iPod with a pedometer and Bluetooth audio may not sound exciting, but a lot of people would use one. Who? Anyone who’s in the market for a basic fitness tracker. Add in an ability to transfer music wirelessly via iTunes, or work with a subscription music service like the one that Apple might have from a partnership with Beats, and knit in more advanced Nike+ Fuelband-like connectivity, and you have an equation for a better, more attractive iPod.
Beats might just sweeten the deal
Is that enough for now? Maybe not if you’re expecting a revolutionary device, but watches studded with features that can also run apps are only as good as the use cases they’re able to be amazing for. Samsung’s Gear watches are full of features, but they’re not very easy to use, and they don’t do all that many things exceptionally well. They’re forward-thinking, but unfinished.
Alternatively, a new wearable-friendly iPod could work in some new advanced tech and be really good at it: excellent heart rate monitoring that worked as well as Touch ID does for fingerprints, for instance.
Or, maybe the much-discussed but still not finalized Apple-Beats deal could provide new headphone tech, or extra features that enhance sound. Is Beats necessary for a future iPod? No, but if any Apple device seems like a no-brainer for Beats integration, it would be the iPod.
In a landscape as messy as wearables, I’m increasingly of the opinion that any gadgets are better off doing one or two things well or not do them at all. If this is the humble iPod’s destiny, I’m all for it.
Netcraft’s monthly survey of Internet infrastructure shows bumps in Nginx and Microsoft Azure usage
After almost two decades of trailing the market leader, Microsoft’s Web server software is coming close to rivaling the dominance of the Apache Web server, according to the latest Netcraft survey of Internet infrastructure.
“Apache has been the most commonly used Web server for more than 18 years, but this is the closest Microsoft has ever been to threatening this position,” a blog post from the English security firm stated about the survey.
The growing use of Microsoft’s server software also suggests that the company’s Azure cloud services continues to gain traction, given that some of the new copies of the software are running from within Azure.
The open source software from the Apache Software Foundation is beset by all sides from rivals. Netcraft also reported that the use of the Nginx high performance Web server softwarecontinues to gain traction as well, at least with the most heavily visited websites.
The monthly automated survey pinged over 975 million websites to determine which server software and associated applications they were using.
May saw an additional 9 million sites using Microsoft Web server software, increasing the company’s share of the Web by 0.37 percent. In the same period, Apache’s market share fell by 0.18 percent, despite gaining an additional 4.3 million sites. Microsoft is now just 4.1 percentage points behind Apache, which, as the most popular Web server software on the Internet, now powers about 37.6 percent of all sites.
Overall, nearly 7 million new sites found by Netcraft are using Microsoft’s flagship Web server software IIS (Internet Information Server), around 11,000 of which are being run from within Azure. These instances help “maintain Microsoft’s position as the largest Windows hosting company in terms on web-facing computers,” Netcraft reported.
Perhaps most embarrassing for Apache champions is that the Apache Lounge, a Web forum for techs running Apache on Windows, now reports running IIS, though Netcraft stipulates that IIS may be used there for load balancing work, while the end nodes may still run Apache.
The use of Nginx actually dipped by 3.7 million sites, though most of these losses came from a handful of hosting sites, most notably Enzu and BurstNet, that switched software. Within the top million most visited sites, Nginx was the only Web server software to gain market share, while Microsoft, Apache and Google each lost market share.
Young services are infamous for having extensive outages. Twitter, for one, when small, was down chronically. Facebook going down, given how mature it is as a platform and public company, is a larger issue.
I have reached out to Facebook for context as to what caused the downtime. Update: Facebook responded with the following comment from a spokesperson: “Earlier this afternoon we experienced an issue with our serving infrastructure that prevented some people from accessing Facebook for a short time. We’ve resolved the underlying problem and service is recovering. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”
The issue is keeping many from logging into their accounts, them being marked as “temporarily unavailable.” It appears that someone in Menlo Park isn’t having a very good Friday.
Solar panels have become cheaper and more efficient in recent years, but you can’t say the same for the big, costly inverters turning their energy into usable electricity. Google isn’t happy with this lack of progress, so it’s about to launch the Little Box Challenge, an open competition to build a tiny (and consequently cheaper) solar power inverter. The search giant is promising $1 million to whoever cracks the problem, although it warns that this won’t be easy; don’t expect to reach a breakthrough in your basement. If someone does produce this miniscule power box, though, it could lead to Eco-friendly energy in places where it’s currently unaffordable or otherwise impractical — whether it’s a remote village or your own rooftop.
The courts just handed Oracle a surprising win in its years-long lawsuit against Google and Android. And Google, to say the least, is not pleased.
Google sent Business Insider this statement:
“We’re disappointed by this ruling, which sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options.”
It’s unclear how much money Google could owe Oracle as a result of this new ruling. Oracle had originally been seeking a shocking $6 billion, but the courts didn’t allow that huge amount to stick.
The fee Google winds up paying could be as low as $300,000, or even nothing. That’s because the courts still have to rule on Google’s final defense: that the copyrighted material it used for Android is ok to use under the Fair Use Doctrine.
To recap: Oracle accused Google of copying some of its Java computer code when it wrote Android. Android itself wasn’t the issue. Android is different than Java. But Google wanted developers that work with Java, a popular language for Web apps, to jump to Android. So it incorporated Java’s application programming interfaces (APIs) into Android. This allowed them to quickly convert their apps to Android and it meant that the millions of programmers trained on Java would be familiar with Android, too.
Oracle sued claiming that the APIs were copyrighted. But the judge ruled that APIs are not subject to copyright laws.
On Friday, an appellate court just overturned that loss, and said that APIs are subject to copyright.
An API exists to allow two programs to talk to each other. Normally, APIs are freely given away. It’s the tool that encourages developers to write apps for a tech company’s products.
By saying that APIs are copyrightable, the whole software industry has been put on alert. This ruling could be an epic mistake that leads to a lot of frivolous litigation, James Grimmelmann, a copyright scholar at the University of Maryland, told Vox’s Timothy Lee.
In 2013, when the case was still pending, two developers weighed in, railing against Oracle, Sacha Labourey, CEO of CloudBees, and Steven Harris, senior vice president for CloudBees and formerly a SVP of Java Server Development at Oracle. In an article on TechCrunch they wrote:
“Will our economy thrive and be more competitive because companies can easily switch from one service provider to the other by leveraging identical APIs? Or will our economy be throttled by allowing vendors to inhibit competition through API lock-in?”
Interestingly, this win was largely due to the lawyer Oracle hired, known for helping Apple win cases against Motorola, notes patent blogger, Florian Mueller:
“This reversal-in-part is a huge win for Oracle and its appellate counsel, a team of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe lawyers led by Joshua Rosenkranz and Mark Davies. Mr. Rosenkranz has previously been dubbed the “Defibrillator” for reviving lawsuits on appeal after losses in district court. He did it again.”
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