Indian develops tech to make software unhackable

A unique system has been designed by researchers that will encrypt software in order to make it impervious to reverse-engineering.

A unique system has been designed by researchers that will encrypt software in order to make it impervious to reverse-engineering.

UCLA computer science professor Amit Sahaiand a team of researchers have developed a system which will only allow someone to use a programme as intended, while preventing any deciphering of the code behind it.

This is known as software obfuscation in computer science and it is the first time it has been accomplished.

Sahai said that the new system puts up an iron wall making it impossible for an adversary to reverse-engineer the software without solving mathematical problems that take hundreds of years to work out on today’s computers.

The researchers said their mathematical obfuscation mechanism can be used to protectintellectual property by preventing the theft of new algorithms and by hiding the vulnerability a software patch is designed to repair when the patch is distributed.

The key to this successful obfuscation mechanism is a new type of multilinear jigsaw puzzle. This new technique has paved the way for another breakthrough called functional encryption.

Google kicks off Start Searching India campaign

Tuesday introduced its ‘Start Searching India’ campaign here to help internet users get the most out of the web with its search tool.

“Internet is no longer restricted to the domain of working professionals and is fast emerging as a life enriching tool catering to the varied needs of the people from all walks of life,” Google India’s Director Marketing, Sandeep Menon said on the occasion.

The objective of the campaign is to help Indian users save time, by showing how they can get instant and to-the-point answers to their most common queries, he said.

Presenting the top search trends that the people of Bhopal search for most using using Google Trends (www.google.com/trends), he said that e-governance is doing well in Madhya Pradesh with ‘mponline.com and vyapam.com’ figuring in the top five web searches.

He said that Google’s mission has always been to make search into an ideal assistant: a search engine that understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you need.

Also, recent improvements to Google Search have drawn the company closer to that vision, he added.

Galaxy S4 smartphone explodes in Hong Kong, burns down owner’s house

Hong Kong-based Du was in for a rude shock when his Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone exploded, burning his house down in the process, latest reports confirm.

Chinese website Xianguo.com reports that Du was listening to “Love Machine” on his phone when suddenly he heard a loud pop. Surprised, he threw the smartphone on his sofa, which soon caught fire. The fire then engulfed Du’s entire apartment, where he lived with this wife. The two managed to have a narrow escape, but Du lost all his belongings.

Du claims that the parts of the smartphone were genuine!

Du claims that the parts of the smartphone were genuine! (Image credit)

This isn’t the first time that we’ve come across reports of loss and damage caused due to explosions in smartphones as a result of fake parts used in phones. Du, however, claims that the parts of his Galaxy S4, including the battery chargers, were genuine.

Firefighters rushed to the spot immediately and worked to douse the flames for over 30 minutes, say reports. All furniture and appliances inside Du’s apartment have been reduced to ashes.“Upstairs unit facades and terraces blackened by smoke, metal fence also burned,” adds the report.

This also isn’t the first time that we’ve come across an instance of an explosion involving a Samsung smartphone. Just this month, 18-year-old Fanny Schlatter from Switzerland suffered third-degree burns to her thigh when her Samsung Galaxy S3 exploded in her pant pocket.

The fire caused by the explosion engulfed his entire apartment

The fire caused by the explosion engulfed his entire apartment

Schlatter, an apprentice painter, was in her office when the phone kept in her pocket exploded, forcing her to tear the piece of clothing off to prevent any further damage. By then, her right thigh had received third-degree burns. The pho

Why mobile wallet is still a distant dream

A truly mobile wallet – one that would let you easily pay for restaurant meals, subway rides or beers at a bar with a quick wave of your cellphone – has long been described as imminent.

During a sweltering heat wave earlier this month, it seemed too hot to wear much, carry much or do much of anything at all. Every time I left the house, I tried to figure out where to stuff my bulky wallet. I always had room for my iPhone, even if it meant carrying it in my hand. But the wallet was one thing too many.

A truly mobile wallet – one that would let you easily pay for restaurant meals, subway rides or beers at a bar with a quick wave of your cellphone – has long been described as imminent. But it remains elusive. Some innovations have begun to bridge the gap, but most have been a disappointment or have not yet worked well enough for mainstream adoption.

In 2012, Square, which makes a credit card reader that can be plugged into an iPhone or iPad, worked on an innovative credit-cardless system that let people pay for goods without ever pulling out their wallets or phones. When Square users walk into a store in its network, a Square-enabled register shows pictures of their faces, which are used as authentication for payment. But the app can be awkward to use.

Last summer, Apple introduced Passbook, a digital system for storing boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards and gift cards on the iPhone. But it doesn’t do much beyond that, at least not yet. Google worked with major credit card companies and banks to create its Wallet app, which lets people pay for items at some stores by waving their phones but is available only for Android devices. Visa offers two digital wallets, payWave and V.me, but I’ve never seen anyone use them or signed up myself. And the major mobile carriers in the United States banded together to form Isis, a mobile payments network, which has yet to roll out nationally.

Starbucks has arguably had the most success with the pay-by-phone idea in the United States. The company has persuaded millions of people to download an application that can be used to pay for their lattes. It works like a digital gift card – but only at Starbucks, obviously, so it’s limiting. (The company also invested $25 million in Square and is incorporating Square’s technology in its stores.)

When I complain to friends and colleagues about the inconvenience of fumbling around for my wallet when I’m shopping – and say I wish I could just use my phone instead – they often give me bewildered looks.

Apparently, that’s because paying with a phone today is rarely easier than paying with a credit card. Paying via phone often involves a series of awkward swipes and taps to start the transaction, and the process can be disrupted by spotty wireless connections, low batteries or other electronic hiccups.

“No one wants to be the guy holding up the grocery line at 6 p.m.,” said Joshua Reich, one of the founders of Simple, a banking startup company that gives people free checking accounts and offers them data-rich analyses of their spending and saving habits. “You don’t want to look like that dork, the guy riding a Segway.”

Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum who covers the mobile industry, agreed.

“Mobile payments are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist for most people,” he said. “You don’t hear people moaning about how hard it is to pay with their credit cards or debit cards.”

The biggest problem for paying by cellphone is that so many kinds of businesses are competing to offer services. Companies as varied as phone carriers, banks, credit card companies and technology startups have had plans to get into the mobile payment business, but many are locking horns over who can profit the most, Dawson said.

“Everyone wants to be the primary payments provider,” he said.

Wireless carriers, desperate to bolster their revenue, are reluctant to hand over potentially lucrative streams to companies like Apple and Google, which already make billions from devices and the software that runs on them. Banks and credit card companies are also rolling out mobile checking services and applications, both to impress their younger users and to keep a hand in a game where billions of dollars are at stake annually, largely from the endless parade of small fees racked up with each purchase. And industry heavyweights like PayPal and Groupon are also scrambling to get their own offerings into the market.

It’s tough to persuade major retailers to spend money to work with Google Wallet or Apple’s Passbook, for example, when so many other options are still on the table. And what is popular today might be outdated in a few months.

Part of the reason that Starbucks’ own app works so well is that the company invested significantly to build out the infrastructure in its stores – sleek phone-scanning kiosks and mobile apps that work reliably and efficiently.

“There is a lot of reluctance in installing a lot of technology, especially if they aren’t sure it’ll take off,” said Rob von Behren, one of the lead engineers at Braintree, a payment services company that powers and processes transactions for popular services including Uber, the mobile taxi service, and Airbnb, the travel rental site. This reluctance leads to an “infinite waiting period and slows the growth of an industry,” he said.

Von Behren was one of the creators of Google Wallet before he left to work at Square and later at Braintree. He said that while his Google team’s original goal was to simplify online purchases, it quickly realized that nudging mobile e-commerce forward seemed more urgent.

A large portion of shopping begins on cellphones, but getting to the final checkout remains a challenge because entering payment information on a small screen is clumsy. And most traditional big-box retailers that could build infrastructure to support mobile payments came of age “in an era where there wasn’t network connectivity,” making it harder to update their cashier software, payment methods or loyalty programs, von Behren said.

He ultimately decided that working with legacy retailers to create a system for in-store shopping with cellphones was a “tremendous juggling act.” He added, “It kind of worked and it kind of didn’t.”

But a new generation of innovation is coming, he said, so he thinks that wide use of pay-by-cellphone systems will arrive eventually.

Braintree recently acquired Venmo, a company that lets people send money to one another via simple text messages. In addition, some promising newcomers say they are working on more complete alternatives.

Clinkle, a startup, has persuaded a notable roster of venture capitalists to funnel $25 million into its mysterious and forthcoming mobile payment services. And a new company, Lemon, is working on its own digital wallet.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see. For now, I’ve come up with my own workaround for hot weather: securing my credit card and driver’s license to my iPhone with a rubber band. But it’s not what I had in mind when I pictured paying with my phone.

New apps enable users to control the action with hand gestures

Like waving a wand, new apps are bringing a bit of magic to computers, enabling users to zoom, pan and control the action with hand gestures.

A new app store called Airspace, launched by San Francisco-based company Leap Motion last week, has 75 apps that are all controlled with the wave of the hand.

“Right now in front of your computer, there’s dead space. You’re only using your desktop, where your keyboard and mouse rest, and the surface of your monitor,” said Michael Zagorsek, vice president of product marketing for Leap Motion.

A new app store called Airspace, launched by San Francisco-based company Leap Motion last week, has 75 apps that are all controlled with the wave of the hand.

“We take all that otherwise useless space in between and make it come alive,” he added.

All of the gesture apps from Airspace use a small device called the Leap Motion Controller, which costs $79.99. It has sensors that can detect motions and translate them for the apps.

Painter Freestyle, a free app for Windows created by the Canadian software company Corel, mimics how artists work. Lightly moving a finger, or paintbrush, toward the computer produces a light brush stroke, while pushing in harder makes a darker, bolder one.

Google Earth’s free apps for Mac and Windows let users pan around the Earth with hand motions and zoom in to explore different regions.

With Unlock, a Windows app, users can password-protect their computers and unlock them simply by waving their hands over the controller. The app, which costs $4.99, works by detecting the unique characteristics of an individual’s hand.

The popular game, Cut the Rope, has also released a free app for the controller. But instead of swiping on a touch screen, users swipe through the air to control motion. Gamers playing Sugar Rush can steer midair using their fists.

Thalmic Labs, a Canada-based startup, has developed a wearable device called MYO that uses gestures to control apps for gaming, 3D modeling and remote control of other devices. The company plans to ship MYO, which costs $149, to customers who pre-ordered later this year.

Microsoft’s Kinect device, available worldwide, also uses gestures to control games, fitness and entertainment.

Although hand gestures are gaining in popularity, Zagorsek does not think the keyboard or mouse will disappear anytime soon.

“There’s nothing wrong with the mouse and keyboard today. They have literally millions of pieces of software making those tools effective,” he said.

But he envisions a bigger role for the technology for three-dimensional tasks.

“In the real world, you can mold something like a piece of clay in minutes, but to do it on a computer requires hours of training and hours of work,” he explained.

“The idea of being able to reach into your computer and manipulate a digital environment is really powerful,” he added.

5 tips for Gmail power users

Think you’re proficient with Gmail? Google is routinely adding and testing new features to help you be more productive and get the most out of the service.

Most recently, Google launched a complete redesign of the Gmail interface, replacing its one-column email view with multiple inboxes that sort your mail depending on whom it’s from: your contacts, social networks or retailers.

From how to customize this new inbox to quickly transferring money, here’s a look at five new Gmail features that will help you get work done.

1. Customize tour new inbox
Gmail’s new interface, which is still rolling out to users, automatically sets you up with five inbox tabs: primary, social, promotions, updates and forums. If some of these are useless to you, you can easily remove them.

To customize the look of your new inbox, click the Settings button at the top right of your screen. Then, select “Configure inbox.” On the form that pops up, uncheck the tabs you want to remove and click Save.

2. Add events to your calendar from Gmail
If you use Gmail to coordinate events or meetings, adding them to your Google Calendar is now a lot easier.

Dates and times in emails sent to you are now underlined. Hover over one to preview your schedule and change the date, time or title of the event. Then click “Add to Calendar” to confirm and add it to your schedule. The entry in your calendar will include a link back to the original email to make referencing the details easier.

3. Transfer money from Google Wallet using Gmail
If you need to reimburse a friend or add money to your kid’s checking account, doing so is as easy as sending an email. This new feature is also still rolling out to users. You’ll know you have it when a ($) button is added to the Gmail compose window.

To send money, compose a new email and click the “Attach money” button. On the form that appears, enter the amount you want to transfer and click send. Transactions are free if you send money from Google Wallet or directly from your bank account. A 2.9 percent fee per transaction is charged if you use a credit or debit card. Receiving money does not cost anything.

Recipients will receive an email confirmation and the funds will be available almost instantly. If you send money from a bank account, the transaction could take several days to clear, Google said.

4. Mute conversations
If you’re involved in a never-ending email thread that you’ve lost interest in, Gmail has one feature that will keep your inbox from filling up. “Mute conversations” is a feature that prevents the thread from reappearing in your inbox.

To mute a thread, select it by checking the box beside it. Then select the “Mute” option from the drop-down menu under “More.” After you mute a conversation, the emails are removed from your inbox and archived. You can still see the conversation in the “All Mail” label, where you’ll see a new label called “Muted.”

To unmute a conversation, check the box and click “Move to Inbox.”

5. Use Google Drive to send large files
Sometimes email attachments can be too large to send the conventional way using Gmail. In this case, you can now use Google Drive to send big files. Google’s cloud storage feature lets you insert and send files 400 times larger than the traditional attachment — with a maximum file size of up to 10 GB.

To send a large email attachment, make sure you’ve uploaded it first to Google Drive. Then, click the Drive icon from the Compose window, and choose the file you want to send. Gmail will verify that your recipients have access to the file you’ve chosen. If they don’t, Google will prompt you to change the sharing settings

First look: Google’s new tablet Nexus 7

When it comes to technology, we’ve been trained to expect more for less.

When it comes to technology, we’ve been trained to expect more for less. Devices get more powerful each year, as prices stay the same or drop. With the new Nexus 7tablet, Google hopes we’re willing to pay more for more.

The new tablet comes with a $30 price increase over last year’s model. At $229 for the base model, it is still a bargain – and 30 per cent cheaper than Apple’s $329 iPad Mini. The display is sharper and the sound is richer than the old model. There’s now a rear camera for taking snapshots. The new Nexus 7 is the first device to ship with Android 4.3, which lets you create profiles to limit what your curious and nosy kids can do on your tablet when you’re not around.

Amazon.com’s $199 Kindle Fire HD is cheaper, but it doesn’t give you full access to the growing library of Android apps for playing games, checking the weather, tracking flights, reading the news, getting coupons from your favorite stores and more. The Nexus 7 does.

It’s a fine complement to your smartphone if it’s running Google’s Android, the dominant operating system on phones these days – even as Apple commands the market for tablet computers with its full-size iPad and iPad Mini. Unless you tell it not to, apps you use on the phone will automatically appear on the Nexus 7, so you can switch from device to device seamlessly. When you are signed in, bookmarks will also transfer over Google’s Chrome Web browser, as will favorite places on Google Maps.

If you were already eyeing last year’s Nexus 7 model, then go ahead and pay $30 more for the latest.

Although screen dimensions are identical, the new Nexus 7 has a higher pixel density, at 323 pixels per inch compared with 216 on the old model. Trees and other objects in the movie “Life of Pi” look sharper, as do the movie title and credits on the screen.

Sound is much better with speakers on the left and the right side of the tablet, held horizontally. Although they are technically back facing, the speakers are placed along a curved edge in such a way that sound seems to project outward and not away from you. On the old Nexus 7, I can’t even tell where the speakers are.

The new Nexus 7 also feels more comfortable in my hands. It’s 17 per cent thinner and 5 per cent narrower when held like a portrait. The old model was a tad too wide to grip comfortably in the palm of my hands. The new device is also 15 per cent lighter, at 10.2 ounces. And the rubbery back feels smoother on the new tablet.

The new Nexus ships with a camera app, something last year’s model didn’t really need because it had only a front-facing camera, for videoconferencing. With the new rear, 5-megapixel camera, you can take photos and video of what’s in front of you. Expect to be ridiculed, though, if I see you doing that. Still, it’s not as bad as blocking someone’s view with a full-size tablet.

As for the restricted profiles that come with Android 4.3, it’s a good idea, though it still has kinks. When you set up a profile for your kid, you pick which apps to enable. Don’t want your kid to be surfing the Web unrestricted? Then keep the Chrome browser disabled. Don’t want him or her on Facebook? Keep that app disabled, too. The app store is also disabled, so Junior can’t go on a download spree. If you do allow access to a particular app, though, then it’s full access. There’s no filtering to block porn and other questionable material, for instance.

I found that some apps won’t work with restricted profiles at all, including those for Gmail and other email accounts. If you want your kids to have access to email, then you have to give them full access or enable the browser to check email over the Web. You can’t turn on just the email app.

And although the new tablet is the first to ship with Android 4.3, it’s available to download on other devices, including last year’s Nexus 7.

What the new tablet does offer is the promise of a longer battery life – up to 10 hours for Web surfing and nine hours for video streaming. Last year’s model was rated at eight hours.

There’s no question the new model is better and worth the price increase.

Choosing between the new Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini is tougher.

If you already have an iPhone, the iPad Mini will be a nice complement. You won’t have to buy music, video and apps twice, for instance. You might want to wait until this fall, though, to see whether Apple comes out with a new model.

It’s a tougher call if you have an Android phone.

By volume, the two systems have a comparable number of apps. But I’ve found that many larger app developers have made versions only for the iPhone and the iPad. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has six that work on iPads but only one on Android devices. An app to watch full episodes of CBS television shows is for Apple and Windows devices only, not Android. Meanwhile, the iDonatedIt app for tracking tax deductions has more features for Apple devices, while features that are supposed to work on Android often don’t.

Android is good in that many apps designed for a phone’s smaller screen are automatically adapted to take advantage of a tablet’s larger screen. On the iPad, apps that aren’t optimized for it are squeezed into a smaller window the size of an iPhone. Blow it up to full screen, and it looks distorted. But that’s not as glaring on the Mini as it is on the full-size iPad. And having apps automatically change their layout isn’t the same as designing them for the tablet from scratch, as is the case with the hundreds of thousands of apps optimized for the iPad.

The Nexus 7’s screen is much sharper than that on the iPad Mini, which has the non-HD display technology of the iPad 2 from 2011 – ancient in the world of mobile gadgets. The Nexus 7 is also a tad lighter, by 6 per cent.

That said, the iPad Mini has a larger screen, measuring 7.9 inches diagonally compared with 7 inches on the Nexus. And the iPad Mini has had a rear camera from the start. The iPad Mini also has Siri, a voice assistant that is feistier than Google Now on the Nexus. If you prefer Google Now for its ability to give you information you need to know without even asking, you can download it on the Mini. You can’t get Siri on the Nexus.

If you do get the Nexus 7, it supports wireless charging, so you can get rid of the messy wiring. The device comes only with a standard microUSB charger to plug in, so you’ll have to buy a Qi-compatible wireless charger yourself.

The $229 base model comes with 16 gigabytes of storage. For $40 more, or $269, you get twice the storage. Both will go on sale in the US next Tuesday. A 32-gigabyte model with 4G cellular capability will cost $349. By contrast, the iPad Mini starts at $329. A 32-gigabyte version with 4G costs $559.

Even with the price increase, Google has Apple beaten on price. The Nexus 7 may lack the cachet and many of the apps that the iPad Mini has, but you’ll be able to do a lot with it. I hope technology companies won’t make price hikes a habit, but this one is made palatable by the device’s richer display, sound and camera.