MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple, Fox News hacked

How do hackers spend the Independence Day holiday weekend?  Why, hacking, of course. Well, some of them do anyway. Anonymous, the group behind several high-profile hacking incidents this year, posted a document online Sunday allegedly containing a small number of usernames and passwords for access to one of Apple’s servers. The hacker collective announced the breach via its Twitter feed as part of its Anti Security, or “AntiSec”, campaign, warning that the gadget maker could be targeted in further attacks. ZDNet wonders whether Apple is a sort of “Holy Grail” for malicious hackers given the massive amounts of customer data stored on the company’s iTunes and iCloud servers.

In a separate incident, hackers temporarily hijacked a Twitter feed operated by Fox News and posted several false messages early on Monday morning claiming that President Barack Obama had been shot and killed in Iowa. The ScriptKiddies, a group that may be loosely connected to Anonymous, claimed responsibility for the prank. FoxNews.com later regained control of the feed and removed the tweets.  The president is actually at the White House enjoying the July 4 Independence Day festivities with his family. A Secret Service investigation is underway.

Coming soon: English-language search on Baidu. Thanks to a new pact Microsoft has signed with China’s most popular search engine, Baidu will no longer be just for Chinese users. Under the alliance, English searches on Baidu will be powered using Microsoft’s Bing search, which will then deliver results back to Baidu’s Web pages. The new alliance should prove to be a win-win for both companies by helping Microsoft increase its puny presence in China and Baidu extend further beyond China’s borders.

One of the most-talked about features of Google’s new social network Google+ is its video conferencing capabilities, something that Facebook has yet to offer. That could change this week, though. According to a report on TechCrunch, Facebook will use a much-hyped press event this week to launch a new in-browser video chat service powered by Skype.

Sony will finally restore the remainder of its Sony PlayStation Network in Japan this week, months after a massive security breach by hackers forced them to shut the videogame service down globally. Restoration of the service in Japan, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the network’s users, will mark the full resumption of the network globally.

Tech wrap: Want a Google+ invite? You may have to wait

Social media junkies pining for an invite to try out Google+ will have to wait a little bit longer. Google decided to temporarily stop inviting users to join its new social network less than two days after it launched the service. What gives? “Insane demand. We want to do this carefully, and in a controlled way,” a Google engineering executive said in a Google+ post on Wednesday night. A company spokeswoman contacted by Reuters declined to say whether the company had resumed invites on Thursday.

Reviews of Google+ are starting to filter in from those who’ve been lucky enough to get an invite. The general consensus seems to be that it’s a lot like Facebook and that it is an improvement over Google’s past social media efforts, Buzz and Wave.  ZDNet rounds up five things it loves about the new service. The Guardian pans the desktop version, but gives the mobile platform a thumbs up. PCWorld says it’s no Facebook. Wired calls its approach to privacy a “pretty good start”. And CNN explores one of its most distinctive features: video conferencing.

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters on Thursday his company is planning to unveil an “awesome” new feature next week.  Details were scant, but tech blogs have speculated in recent weeks about new mobile products in development at Facebook. Could it be the long-awaited iPad app? Or a dedicated photo-sharing app? Or, as tech blog GigaOm founder Om Malik joked on Twitter, is it just an attempt by Zuckerberg to divert attention away from Google+?

Why the exodus from Facebook?

By Vera Gibbons

Any opinions expressed are the author’s own.

According to the Inside Facebook data service, Facebook lost about 6 million users in the U.S. in May (a claim the company disputes), dropping from 155.2 million to 149.4 million. That’s the first time U.S. numbers have dropped in more than a year.

Why the exodus from the world’s most popular social networking platform? While Daniel Sieberg, author of The Digital Diet, says it’s due to any number of reasons – from “Facebook Fatigue” to privacy issues to our inability to get the same benefits or rewards that we initially did when we first signed on – here are some of more personal, intimate reasons, according to those who have pulled the plug:

Don’t like what we’re seeing
Ashley Hebert, 26, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, had seen one too many photos of her ex-boyfriend – whom she was hoping to get back together with – looking all too pleased with his new girlfriend. Painful as it was, she couldn’t stop looking and was even having her friends spy on her behalf.  “I had to get off Facebook to stay sane.”

Tech wrap: And Myspace goes to . . .

News Corp’s hunt to find a buyer for once-mighty social networking website Myspace has finally ended. Specific Media, an online advertising firm, has agreed to buy the site for about $35 million, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters. News Corp will retain a minority 5 percent stake in the website it purchased six years ago for $580 million. More than half of the site’s 500 employees are expected to be laid off as part of the deal.

Tech watchers will have to wait at least another sleep to find out more about Zynga’s plans for an initial public offering. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the online social gaming firm behind popular Facebook game FarmVille is expected to file for an initial public offering with U.S. regulators on Thursday morning. Earlier reports suggested the company could raise up to $2 billion in the offering and value the firm as high as $20 billion. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher sizes up how Zynga’s expected IPO fits in with other recent filings from similar companies such as Groupon.

Twitter’s Biz Stone and Evan Williams are leaving the site they co-founded and helped popularize – sort of. Both men will continue to advise Twitter on strategic matters but will spend the bulk of their days working at the newly-revived Obvious, the tech incubator company they started years ago that led to the creation of Twitter. Stone summed up their new plans in a blog posting on his website: “Our plan is to develop new projects and work on solving big problems aligned along a simple mission statement: The Obvious Corporation develops systems that help people work together to improve the world.”

Tech wrap: Microsoft reaches for the cloud

Everyone seems to be gabbing about the “cloud” these days. Whether it’s Apple’s much-hyped iCloud service or the Amazon Cloud, the now-popular euphemism for web-based software services has become one of the tech world’s biggest buzz words. Microsoft joined in on the action today by unveiling a revamped web-based version of its popular Office suite of business software. But Microsoft’s main target here is not Apple or Amazon, but Google, which has stolen some of the software maker’s corporate customers in recent years with cheap, web-only alternatives.

With Office 365, customers will be able to access familiar applications such as Outlook email, Excel spreadsheets and SharePoint collaboration tools beyond the desktop on a variety of different devices wherever there is an Internet connection. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer touted the service’s online format and built-in conferencing tools as especially good for small and medium-sized businesses looking to save money. Microsoft has offered online versions of some of Outlook and some other applications to corporate clients for years, but increased competition seems to have spurred Microsoft’s latest push into the cloud.

Google is praised for doing many things right, but social networking is not widely regarded as one of them. Co-founder and CEO Larry Page, who took over the helm from now-Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in April, has made it clear that he hopes to change that. The Web giant trotted out its latest and most extensive foray into social networking with Google+, a new social service that aims to compete with Facebook by bundling together all of its its online properties into one platform. Google+ is an attempt to move past former flops such as Google Wave and Google Buzz.

Tech wrap: Google probed

U.S. antitrust regulators started a formal investigation into whether Google abuses its market power by favoring its own services over those of rivals in online searches and through other practices. The company has been accused of anticompetitive practices by other companies doing business online. “It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand,” Google said on its official blog. “Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that if we focus on the user all else will follow.”

“Typically less than one out of every 10 investigations lead to enforcement. This investigation faces daunting odds,” said David Balto, a former FTC policy director.”The complaints presented to the FTC are from disgruntled advertisers, not consumers. That is not a strong foundation to an antitrust case.”

Private equity firms KKR and Silver Lake are in talks to buy Internet domain site GoDaddy.com and a deal could be more than $2 billion, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Tech wrap: FTC seen deepening Google probe

Google will receive the civil equivalent of a subpoena from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of a probe into the Web giant’s Internet search business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The FTC plans to send the civil investigative demand with a request for more information, the civil equivalent of a subpoena, within five days, according to the report. U.S. antitrust regulators have been concerned about Google’s dominance of the Web search industry, and the giant Internet company has been under investigation by the European Commission since last November.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop showed images of his company’s first phone running on the Windows phone OS. Codenamed “Sea Ray”, the phone appeared to be a near copy of Nokia’s N9 smartphone, unveiled earlier in the week.

The chairman of Yahoo voiced support for Chief Executive Carol Bartz, who has become a lightning rod for criticism as the company struggles with stagnant revenue growth and a rift with its Chinese partner. Yahoo’s efforts to mount a turnaround remain a work in progress, said Chairman Roy Bostock at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. But he said he was confident that the company was headed in the right direction and that Bartz had put Yahoo on a “clear path forward to accelerated revenue growth.”

Nokia’s first Windows phone is N9 redux

The walking dead lives!

Two days ago, I suggested that Nokia’s newly introduced N9 phone based on the MeeGo zombie OS was released to generate buzz around the features and form we could expect from the Finnish company’s first handset based on the Microsoft’s Windows phone OS.

It turns out I was right, literally. CEO Stephen Elop naively or more likely, coyly, offered a large crowd a sneak peak of handset codenamed “Sea Ray” running the Mango iteration of Windows 7 phone OS on condition it was kept secret. To no one’s surprise, it wasn’t, and in due course a video of Elop’s top secret meeting appeared on YouTube.

While little is know about the guts of the Sea Ray, the exterior looks identical to the N9, save for an extra button to operate the same 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens found on the N9 and different placement of an LED light on its back.

Tech wrap: New iPhone seen in time for school

Apple plans to launch a new iPhone with a faster chip for data processing and a more advanced camera in September, Bloomberg said. The new iPhone will include the A5 processor along with an 8-megapixel camera, the report said, quoting two people familiar with the plans. Apple is also testing a new version of the iPad that has a higher resolution screen, the report said, adding a cheaper version of the iPhone aimed at developing countries is also in the works.

A U.S. judge rejected Samsung’s request for a peek at Apple’s unreleased iPhone and iPad, brought in the course of high-stakes patent litigation between the two companies. Apple sued Samsung in April, claiming Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets infringe several patents and trademarks. Samsung counter-sued, asserting its own patents against Apple. In the ruling, the judge said Apple’s legal claims are only based on its products that have already hit the market.

A senior Chinese official said there is no cyber warfare taking place between China and the United States. The two countries might suffer from cyber attacks, but they were in no way directed by either government, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said.

Live event ticket search from FanSnap now on Bing

FanSnap's map showing the seating area corresponding to the tickets for an upcoming concert by Paul McCartney

The big guns of search, Google and Bing, have not quite mastered the art of high level, niche, transaction-focused searches but it looks like Microsoft is at least ready to work with start-ups on this.

Bing, the No.3 U.S. search engine from Microsoft,  is now including results from FanSnap, a Kayak-like search startup for sports or concert tickets.
Palo Alto, California-based startup FanSnap, which was founded in 2007, helps users search multiple ticket providers at once, with ticket results included from sites like StubHub and eBay. The company’s results currently include more than 20 million tickets to about 61,000 events.