Snap joins rivals Facebook and YouTube to fight terrorism


Snap Inc has joined the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, which sees consumer internet companies cooperating to stop the spread of terrorism and extremism online. Facebook, Google and YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter formed the GIFCT last month, and tomorrow it will host its first workshop with fellow tech companies plus government and non-governmental organizations.

The GIFCT started as extension of the shared industry hash database that allows tech company to share the digital fingerprints of extremist and terrorist content, such as photos and videos, so that once one identifies a piece of prohibited content, all the others can also block its upload.

The first workshop, held in San Francisco on August 1st, will host the United Kingdom Home Secretary Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP and United States Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, plus representatives the European Union, United Nations, Australia and Canada. The event’s goals include adding three more tech companies to the hash sharing program beyond new members Snap and JustPaste.it, get 50 companies to share their best practices for countering extremism through the Tech Against Terrorism project, and plan four knowledge-sharing workshops.

It’s good to see Facebook and Snap putting aside their differences for a good cause. While Snap is notorious for its secrecy, and Facebook for its copying of competitors, the GIFCT sees them openly sharing data and strategies to limit the spread of terrorist propaganda online.

FCC says its cybersecurity measures to prevent DDoS attacks must remain secret


The FCC has provided a few — very few — details of the steps it has taken to prevent attacks like the one that briefly took down its comment system in May. The agency has faced criticism over its secrecy regarding the event, and shows no sign of opening up; citing “the ongoing nature of the threats,” to reveal its countermeasures would “undermine our system’s security.”

These cryptic comments are the first items of substance in a letter (PDF) sent to the House Energy and Commerce and Government Reform committees. Members thereof had sent letters to the FCC in late June asking what solutions the it was implementing to mitigate or prevent future attacks.

A cover letter from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai emphasizes the fact that millions of comments have been filed since, including 2 million in the 4 days following the attack. He writes that the Commission’s IT staff “has taken additional steps… to ensure the ongoing integrity and resiliency of the system.”

What those steps are, however, he did not feel at liberty to say, except that they involve “commercial cloud providers” and “internet-based solutions.” Since the comment filing system is commercially cloud-hosted, and the system is fundamentally internet-based, neither of these descriptions is particularly revelatory.

It’s not the security, it’s the communication

The issue, however, isn’t that we are deeply afraid that another hacker will take down the system. After all, basic rate limiting and some analytics seem to have done the job and allowed record numbers of comments immediately after the attack stopped. The FCC was still writing reports and calling experts at the time the system had returned to full operation.

The issue is the FCC’s confusing and misleading handling of the entire thing.

The nature and extent of the attack is unclear — it’s described in a previous letter to concerned senators as a “non-traditional DDoS attack.” Supposedly the API was being hammered by cloud-based providers. What providers? Don’t they have records? Who was requesting the keys necessary to do this?

Very little has been disclosed, and even requests of information circumstantial to the attacks have been denied. What is so sensitive about an analysis of the network activity from that period? Petitioners seeking to see communications pertaining to the attack were told much of the analysis was not written down. Even the most naive internet user would find it hard to believe that in a major agency of a modern bureaucracy, a serious attack on its internet infrastructure, concerning a major internet policy, would fail to be discussed online.

The FCC also says it consulted with the FBI and agreed that the attack was not a “significant cyber incident” as such things are defined currently in government. For the curious:

A cyber incident that is (or group of related cyber incidents that together are) likely to result in demonstrable harm to the national security interests, foreign relations, or economy of the United States or to the public confidence, civil liberties, or public health and safety of the American people.

Okay, that seems reasonable. So why is it being kept under wraps? Why are the countermeasures, which are probably industry standard, unable to be disclosed? How would disclosing the details of those security countermeasures undermine those systems?

If it’s the “ongoing threat,” what is the threat exactly if not the pervasive threat of hacking faced by any public website, service, or API? Have there been follow-up attacks we haven’t been informed of? The investigation is also ongoing, but in that case how could it fail to produce written records for FOIA requests like those already submitted?

The more the FCC drags its feet and stammers out non-answers to simple questions regarding what it itself has categorized a non-major attack that happened months ago and did not significantly affect its systems, the less we trust what it does say.

Concerned Senators, Representatives, and others are not going to stop asking, however. Let’s hope whatever the FCC seems unwilling to share comes out before it ceases to be relevant. It would be a shame, for instance, to receive a full report on hackers bent on supporting one side of the net neutrality argument… the day after the FCC votes on the issue.

Featured Image: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Pandora sort of bounces back after months of chaos


Pandora is probably breathing a small sigh of relief after months of chaos have still ended with a positive second quarter, sending the shares up more than 7 percent in extended trading.

Pandora has certainly had an interesting second quarter, capping off the drama with CEO Tim Westergren stepping down at the end of June. It also sold Ticketfly at a pretty big loss, pondered selling a big stake in the company to private equity firm KKR with some weird terms and then finally took a massive $480 million investment from SiriusXM. An outright sale of Pandora, for now, seems off the table after some consideration and that massive investment.

The company managed to eke out a slightly better-than-expected quarter following that mess, today posting a loss of 21 cents per share on revenue of $376.8 million. Wall Street was looking for a loss of 24 cents per share on revenue of $368.9 million. The company’s advertising revenue grew 5 percent year-over-year, while its subscription revenue was up 25 percent year-over-year. Advertising revenue still comprises the majority of the company’s revenue.

The company’s listener hours — one of its main metrics of success — were down year-over-year to 5.22 billion hours in Q2. Last year, the company said users listened to 5.66 billion hours of music. Pandora’s explanation here was that “listener hours were actively managed this quarter to optimize profitability in our ad-supported service.” Pandora said it has 76 million active listeners as of the end of the second quarter this year.

Anyway, things haven’t gone well for the company for the entire year. The company also pulled out of Australia and New Zealand, sending the stock down before the company reported its earnings today. Pandora has seen its total value fall off by one-third as more and more uncertainty builds around its future. To the chart!:

Pandora is facing a laundry list of issues. The most obvious one is that its core business — the one that turned it into a publicly traded company and made it one of the first breakout smartphone apps — is quickly being commoditized. Spotify, which showed off some impressive growth metrics, has picked off the on-demand section while Apple Music is basically on its way to locking down the universe of listeners on the iPhone.

There’s also the licensing problem. Digital music companies face a lot of pressure because of the costs of licensing music. It’s not just a Pandora problem — Spotify has also seen some issues here — but it’s one that in the end is partly keeping Pandora from generating the cash that it needs to invest in developing and growing its audience.

Still, anything greater than zero is positive, and it’s something that Pandora likely needed as it heads into (yet another) uncertain quarter trying to solve the business of an online radio.

AMD’s new $499 RX Vega 64 and $399 Vega 56 top-end graphics cards launch in August


It’s high time for launch details regarding new AMD RX Vega cards that were teased in May  — high-end graphics cards designed to challenge NVIDIA’s domination with the GTX 1080 and 1070.

Both cards are going on sale August 14, at $499 for the Radeon RX Vega 64 and $399 for the Radeon RX Vega 56.

For the specs intro, the RX Vega 64’s core specs include 64 compute units, a base clock of 1,247MHz and a boost clock of 1,547MHz, with 8GB of HBM2 memory — a new GPU memory technology that spots 484GB/s of bandwidth.

All this power means you could technically drive a 5K display via a single cable, without breaking a sweat. Or, go mining for cryptocurrency.

AMD is betting on its improved ecosystem of FreeSync monitors and drivers to push their latest GPUs forward.

Power requirements for the RX Vega 64 are high, with 295W needed for power — more than the GTX 1080’s TDP (thermal design point) of 180W. But AMD is banking on the growing ecosystem of FreeSync-equipped curved monitors and supported games to justify the higher power requirement, with the top-tier gaming performance to match.

Meanwhile, the Vega 56 is expected to perform like the GTX 1070, which is a step down in performance but also $100 less. It sports 8GB of memory like its more powerful sibling, but has fewer texture units and a slower boost clock speed of 1471MHz.

Between now and the holiday season, it shouldn’t take long for NVIDIA to respond in turn with updated specs for a new top-end GPU of their own.

Facebook, Autodesk partner with a design organization geared toward underserved kids


Facebook and Autodesk, have partnered with non-profit organization Inneract Project, which is geared toward bringing design to young people in underserved communities through free, hands-on classes and mentorship.

With the support of Autodesk and Facebook, Inneract Project has been able to hire two full-time employees, an operations managers and a project leader coordinator. The organization is also able to bring on a few part-time people, Inneract Founder and Executive Director Maurice Woods told me.

“More importantly, what it’s done is provide us an opportunity to really become real, sound players, not only just in creating curriculum but also in starting to have meaningful programs with kids,” Woods said.

San Francisco-based Inneract Project aims to empower underrepresented kids by teaching them the core concepts and skills of design in technology. Inneract Project does this through three main, free offerings: Youth Design Academy, an eight-week class for middle school students, Learning Labs, workshops, lectures and studio tours for middle school and high school students, and a video series that documents designers, called Designed.

“I believe supporting programs like IP’s Youth Design Academy is a critical step in making design more accessible to students from all backgrounds,” Facebook Head of Design Luke Woods said in a statement. “We all get better results when designers come together with unique perspectives.”

With Facebook, Inneract Project is working on something that fits alongside developing the pathway for underserved kids in the community, Woods said, and ultimately bringing more diversity to design.

“Our challenge over the next four years is to obviously continue to teach design to kids but how do we get as deep into the community as possible — reach as many underserved minority kids as possible,” Woods said. “We just haven’t had the resources to be able to dig as deep as we want to dig. It takes time and outreach. Kids, parents and administrators don’t really understand what design is entirely and how it fits in terms of not just an educational standpoint, but career standpoint.”

In partnership with Autodesk, Inneract Project is developing a design bootcamp, where the organization will work with 10 to 12 kids over the course of two weeks every day on a maker-style bootcamp, which includes developing prototypes and fabricating using a 3D printer to print out the final piece, Woods said.

“We’ve never been able to offer this before because we haven’t had the resources for it.”

Over the years, Inneract Project has taught hundreds of kids from underserved communities in design and technology.  But the bigger thing Woods is interested in with Inneract Project is entrepreneurship and reprogramming young peoples’ minds into being more entrepreneurially sound and understanding their place in business and how design and business kind of intersect.

“Design is a place where professionals are creating and designing things for people,” Woods said. “That puts us in a really great position to learn the business side and learn how to market our own ideas and build businesses on our own. We want them to work at Facebook, at a Google, at an Autodesk, but we also want them to build a Facebook, Autodesk and Google. We want them to have that mentality so they’re not reliant on someone giving them a job, but creating opportunities.”

Featured Image: Inneract Project

Wyndham Hotel Group buys Love Home Swap for $53M


Large hotel chains are feeling the heat from Airbnb and other startups building digital marketplaces for travellers with a more flexible range of places to stay, and more flexible prices to match. And that is leading some of them to make acquisitions.

RCI, a division of the Wyndham Hotel Group, has acquired Love Home Swap, a startup out of London that lets people book time to stay in other people’s homes, while at the same time list their properties for people to book.

Wyndham is not revealing the terms of the deal, but we have learned from sources close to the deal that it is £40 million (just under $53 million) in cash. The company had raised about £12 million ($16 million) in funding.

 

Notably, as part of the deal, co-founder and CEO Debbie Wosskow is stepping down from her role leading the company and moving to an advisory position for the next six months. Her brother Ben, who co-founded the company with her, will step up as CEO.

Wosskow has been one of the more outspoken executives in the London tech community when it comes to advocating for a more diverse landscape of founders, and last year she and Anna Jones, the CEO of Hearst UK, formed AllBright a funding and education network geared at female entrepreneurs. Stepping away from the CEO role will give her more time to focus on that.

The deal is not the first time that a large hotel chain has acquired a travel startup to move into the new wave of marketplaces. Last year, Accor Hotels paid $170 million to acquire OneFineStay, a would-be Airbnb competitor that focuses exclusively on high-end properties.

Meanwhile, Expedia was reportedly rebuffed in its attempt to acquire Luxury Retreats (another company focused on high-end properties that eventually was snapped up by Airbnb). In the meantime, it and Priceline have been pumping up their inventory of vacation rentals in an attempt to compete with Airbnb.

Love Home Swap is a logical acquisition for Wyndham’s RCI group. While the larger company is famous for hotel chains like Travelodge and Ramada. It also has long had a business in self-catered and family accommodation, and RCI specifically is focused on time-share rentals, but Wyndham and RCI have yet to move into the complementary area of private home rentals.

“Since first pioneering the vacation exchange concept more than 40 years ago, RCI has continually found new ways to evolve and grow its own business while also propelling the exchange industry further,” said Gordon Gurnik, president of RCI. “Through this acquisition we expand the exchange options we offer travelers and strengthen our footprint in key growth markets across the globe.”

The Love Home Swap deal is a far cry from the numbers that float around Airbnb, which is reportedly heading for an IPO, and has raised over $1 billion and is now valued at $31 billion.

Nevertheless, it underscores a large swing in the hotel industry for the bigger and more established companies — be they large hotel chains, or the megaliths that control the vast amount of hotel bookings online. They are all buying up and investing in some of the smaller upstarts to help position themselves for the next stage of competition.

Airbnb feels unstoppable now, and its moves into areas like flight booking, vacation planning and other services adjacent to accommodation are gradually making it more likely that it will soon be able to close (and control) the travel loop completely. In that regard, Wyndham’s move feels less a threat, as it is a sign of how the big owner of Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Howard Johnson, Wyndam Hotels and more, is merely coming along for the ride.

Featured Image: Shutterstock

Noorani Qaida (with sounds) APK

“Noorani Qaida” is a free application specifically designed to educate Muslim kids and adults who are naive to correctly read Arabic Qur’aan with perfection. If you are looking forward to learn to read Quran in Arabic, then “Noorani Qaida” is the free tutor in form of android application, which will educate you in learning Quran in a tremendous way. Its features are simplest to use and easy to understand which increases the interest of the user in learning. Here are some reasons why you must opt for “Noorani Qaida”.
Chapters :–
Unlike others, this app is categorized in forms of chapters, which are 20 in total. Starting from the basics Arabic alphabets, the user is proceeded towards forming words and then sentences using the right pronunciation of alphabets.
Tests :-
With chapters test one can easily understand their progress that how much he/she has learnt so far.
Audio Recitation :–
Besides the categorized chapters of “Noorani Qaida”, the app also entails the audio recitation of the alphabets, words, and sentences, which will help in comprehending the right pronunciation of Arabic words and sentences. This further will enable the Muslim Kids and Adults in developing understanding on how to be able to read the chapters and verses of Quran in the right way.
Writing Practice :-
It’s another key feature of “Noorani Qaida”, you can learn better by written practice, in paint activity you can choose different colors to draw letters, you can erase, you can choose different sizes of brush and eraser and you can save the file in your Android.
Languages :-
“Noorani Qaida” support two languages. But soon other languages will be added.
In short, “Noorani Qaida” serves as a Qur’aan Teaching Application which will help in improving the Qur’aan recitation and reading skills.

What’s New

bug fixes

Additional information

Name
Noorani Qaida (with sounds)
Package
com.blogspot.quraniccentre.qaidaforkids
Version
3.9
Size
75.18 MB
Installs
10,000+ downloads
Developed By
Pakistan Tech (Pvt) Ltd

Download APK

Minecraft’s cross-platform ‘Better Together’ update arrives in beta


Minecraft’s “Better Together Update” is rolling out now in beta, for players on Windows 10 PCs and Android devices. That means players on either platform with the beta installed will be able to participate in games from either type of device, together in cross-platform play.

This update was originally revealed at E3 back in June, and includes other feature additions like community servers and a community Marketplace with paid add-ons. There are also a range of new in-game item types, multiplayer host and permission options, and more.

The beta is also set to roll out for Xbox One “soon,” Microsoft says, which will add the gaming console to the cross-platform action. Microsoft also said when the update was announced that it’ll eventually add support for the Play Together Update to iOS, Nintendo Switch and VR devices (Sony was apparently offered the chance to participate in the update for PlayStation, but declined).

To get in on the beta, players will need the Xbox Insider app for Windows 10 and Xbox One, and on Android they’ll need to have Google Play and of course everyone will need a copy of the game.

This could be huge for unifying Minecraft’s massive player community, which is already quite the club.

Lyft and Disney launch ‘Minnie Van’ on-demand ride service at Walt Disney World


Lyft has a big name new partner – Disney Parks, which will introduce on-demand transportation within select resorts as an added hospitality feature for guests. The service will employ Minnie Vans, vans painted in Minnie Mouse trademark dress in committed service to a wonderful dad joke.

The vans will take guests to any destination within Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and can each take as many as six guests. Each van is also equipped with two child seats for younger family members. The pilot is kicking off with service at Disney’s Boardwalk and Yacht & Beach Club resorts, and the vans themselves will be drive by cast members in full costume (likely without vision occluding full face masks).

Guests of the resort can call the service using the existing Lyft rider app, and the option should appear in the designated service area.

This is another interesting business model evolution from Lyft, which also recently debuted a tie-up with Taco Bell that introduces in-car native marketing, letting passengers add a Taco Bell pitstop to their ongoing trip mid-route. The resort integration highlights Lyft co-founder John Zimmer’s background in the hospitality industry, which Lyft notes in its announcement of the news.

Serving private-run tourist destinations like Disney World is an interesting avenue for Lyft, and should help it position itself as a potential partner as shuttles like these become more autonomous, something that could happen quicker than self-driving on roads, given the more controlled conditions, strict routes and absence of other unpredictable motor vehicles.

Uber’s continued need to focus on core organizational challenges remains an opportunity for Lyft, and unique partner arrangements like this one prove it’s making good use of the time.

Google opens its Nearby Connections tech to Android developers to enable smarter offline apps


Google announced today the public availability of a developer tool that will allow Android apps to better communicate with nearby devices, even while offline. The company touts a number of potential use cases for this technology – like hotel rooms that sense your entry then set the temperature accordingly and turn on your favorite music, or phones that can merge their address books while in proximity, among other things.

However, the initial implementations of the technology aren’t perhaps quite as magical. Instead, forthcoming apps will use the Nearby Connections API, as the technology is called, for things like offline media sharing or the distribution of urgent weather warnings in low-bandwidth areas, for example.

Google has been developing its Nearby Connections API for some time. The API was first announced in 2015 as a way for mobile devices to be used as second screen controllers for games that are running on your TV.

At this year’s Google I/O developer conference in May, the company announced the API was being refreshed.

(Nearby Connections API discussed above at 24:15 mark)

The technology itself leverages Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE and Classic Bluetooth under the hood to establish connections with nearby devices, Google explains. Apps using the API can switch between these various radios when it makes sense, or even take advantage of new radios when they become available – without requiring developers write new code to do so.

Apps can take advantage of this technology in a couple of ways.

In one scenario, a centralized device – like the host of an offline game or a teacher’s device in a classroom quiz app – could be connected to other nearby devices. Another implementation could create “mesh networks” for things like offline chat or ad-hoc project groups for real-time collaboration.

Google also today announced some of the apps that will be using the new API.

This includes The Weather Channel, which is using the technology to create on-demand mesh networks in data-deficient areas to spread urgent weather warnings; Hotstar is working on offline media sharing for those times connectivity isn’t available, like on airplanes or subways; and GameInsight will use the API to find nearby players and to run entire games offline.

In addition, Android TV will get a new remote control app that will use Nearby Connections to make the initial setup process easier on end users, as well to enable new second screen experiences.

The API was previously available to early partners, but is now open to all Android developers, and works across all Android devices running Google Play services 11.0 and up.