Monday, June 9, 2014

Nasscom wants government to set up technology entrepreneurship mission

NEW DELH: Aiming to replicate the Silicon Valley story in the country, IT-BPO industry body Nasscom has asked the government to set up a technology entrepreneurship mission in India to handle needs of startups like financing, infrastructure, ease of business, among others.

According to the industry body, which represents the over $118 billion Indian IT-BPO industry, the country has showed promising prospects for developing technologies and solutions and many large multinationals are reporting that 70% of their emerging markets solutions are coming from India.

"Over the last 2-3 years, it (startups scene) has really widened. All the key elements of this ecosystem are there in terms of venture capital, private equity, angel investors, mentors," Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar said in a statement.

Even the presence of large companies, which actually encourage this ecosystem by way of incubators, accelerators and looking at them as possible partners or possible targets of acquisition, are also here, he added.

"Most of the large multinationals are reporting that 70% of their emerging markets solutions are coming from India. So, I think all in all this is gaining huge amount momentum and traction as well as recognition in different parts of the world," Chandrashekhar said.

Stressing on the need of a Technology Entrepreneurship Mission, the former Telecom Secretary said there are several issues that need to be addressed to sustain and enhance the startup eco-system in India. "I think we still need to do many things to build up this ecosystem and actually in a sense, replicate the Silicon Valley story in India and make sure that this ecosystem is actually able to nurture, grow and deliver breakthrough innovative products, services and solutions," he said.

Nasscom has identified 4-5 different areas and is taking these recommendations to the government. Many states have actually funded and partnered with bodies like Nasscom to set up incubation centres and provide infrastructure support, which lowers the cost of entry, he added.

"There is also the need to ease the flow of capital into this ecosystem because the normal banking and financial set up don't work. This industry is not an asset based industry, it is basically based on the value of an idea and on value of technology," Chandrashekhar added. He said these issues are not recognised by the domestic financing system, which is more focused on assets and collaterals.

Another element is to leverage the domestic market to encourage the growth of such firms as a lot of them also look at the domestic market. The innovation and products and services are also based on domestic market needs, he added.
Chandrashekhar further said: "Spreading this ecosystem to different parts of the country is important because there many places which can support this ecosystem, so we need to grow it beyond just Bangalore and Delhi NCR and places like that," he said.

While Nasscom launched the 10,000 startups initiative, the organisation believes that there is potential to do much more, especially when there is a comparison with other much smaller countries like Israel, he added.

Stressing on the ease of doing business, Chandrashekhar said: "How do you ease the regulatory environment? How do you make it easier for a company to start up? Can you make it possible for a company to be set up in a day or even three days? Five or 10 member companies, that is the usual size of a startup, cannot spend all the time in compliance."

Citing an example, he said small companies that have not even started making revenues, face a tax deduction the moment they make a sale.

Even though the firm is making a loss, finding it difficult to get financing, it has to pay taxes and then claim refund which typically takes 18 months and that further aggravates the financial problem, he said.

"You are not providing financing and on top of that you are extracting taxes where there is no profit. These are some areas we felt some changes are required," Chandrashekhar said.

Today, a lot of firms choose to register outside India and consequently the value that is created dose not accrue to the country, Chandrashekhar added.

"Why should that happen? There is no way you can control it because the nature of the product is such that it can go anywhere. So if we have the people and workforce is here, which is doing all of this, then we must go into the question of why this value creation is not happening within the country," he explained.

The industry body also urged the new government make the regulatory environment more predictable, legal provision more transparent and remove ambiguity.

"And therefore, we have suggested as a very key element of our recommendations to the government that India Technology Entrepreneurship Mission should be set up, which will look at each of these areas that what do we need to do in areas like finance, IT, infrastructure, ease of business and then continuously address those issues," Chandrashekhar said.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How startups are helping employers attract and retain employees

A new breed of hiring portals are offering employers a variety of methods to attract and retain employees.

These ventures offer techniques to identify candidates most likely to leave their current jobs, scout for the right hire on social media and aggregate referrals by friends. At least half a dozen such startups have been set up in recent years that are competing with established jobs portals in the fast-growing recruitment market.
"India is one of the few large markets where the notice period for hiring runs as high as three to six months. In the United States, employees are free to go the same day they resign," said Manjunath Talwar, co-founder of MyNoticePeriod, a portal which scouts for candidates who are serving a notice period for final exit.

Set up earlier this year by 38-year-old Talwar who was earlier head of products at Yahoo Travel along with his colleague Abhijeet Khasnis, the company has signed up clients such as Infosys, TCS, Paytm, Flipkart and Myntra.
The Bangalore-based venture charges a flat monthly fee of Rs 5,000 and is planning to raise funding of Rs 1.5 crore this year.

"The recruitment market has evolved. People are far more connected now with social media and know a lot about a company before joining it," said Vivek Madhukar, COO of Times Business Solutions Limited, which runs TimesJobs, an online jobs portal.

Madhukar has started a section Tech-Gig on TimesJobs which runs coding contests. "Recruiters are now able to identify the top 1% of coders in a city through such contests," he added.

To solve the problem of finding an internal referee for a job application, Insead MBA graduate Nishant Mathur, 30, set up RoundOne, a recruitment marketplace. Those aspiring to join a company can ask an existing employee for a referral for a fixed price.

RoundOne arranges a teleconference between the two parties. "Getting a referral increases one's chance of being hired ten-fold," said Mathur who claimed his portal has about 1.5 million registered users. The company counts clients such as Accenture, TCS, IBM, Capgemini, Cognizant and Infosys, who also use his platform to find the right employees.

Using social circles to identify potential hires is another avenue that new hiring firms are exploring. To make the process a fun one, 32-year old Sudarshan Ravi, a former Deloitte consultant has started Ripple Hire, a company that uses gamification for recruitment.

Candidates are set a minimum number of goals, which could be gaining a referral. On achieving the target there are rewards of cash and kind. The company has clients such as Adobe, Real Image, and Social Wavelength. "Gamification is fun, engaging and drives business results," said Ravi.

Source : TOI

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Google to offer store alerts for products you searched online

NEW DELHI: You often look for products on the internet, but soon forget about it. Google aims to change this.

The latest Google Now update for Android will ensure that the app alerts you if a shop around you is selling the goods you searched for on the internet.

With the new update, Google Now cards will show "the product and price to remind you that you wanted them," the company said in a Google+ post. Therefore, you just need to step into the store and see if it is in stock at the moment.

Google Now recently added another feature that users may find beneficial. The digital assistant will use the smartphone's motion sensors to identify if the user has left the vehicle and then keep note of the location you last left it at. Therefore, car owners can easily locate where they parked their cars in case they are unable to find it; Google says that users' parking location data will not be shared with anyone.

However, this feature is not foolproof and if you travel by bus, it will assume that the point you got off is the location you parked your car.

Google Now also recently got offline mode, where the app will show relevant cards even in the absence of an internet connection.

Source: Times Of India

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

With HD Voice, better call quality is coming

Cellphone calls sound terrible. And the quality of the calls over the years has grown worse, in contrast to the evolution of other modern technologies, degrading into bad digital shouting matches, stutter starts and misunderstandings.

The reasons for these bad calls are many and complicated and basically come down to lousy audio technology that breaks up and squeezes the sound of your voice into little bits and pieces. Then, as those bits get transmitted over a bad or congested carrier connection , some get tossed away or lost and what comes out the other side is garbled or incomplete, sort of like a game of telephone.

Hope always seems to be near. In 2010, next-generation phone networks were supposed to route calls without delays and require less of that squeezing. In 2011, those high-speed LTE (Long-Term Evolution, sometimes called 4G) networks were even closer, and they'd be combined with better phones that would, this time, really truly improve call quality.

But all that turned out to be a lot more expensive and difficult than the carriers had anticipated, and so they haven't done it yet.

Now, there's yet another call quality fix looming: HD voice. While the technology has some promise, I'm not sure it will arrive before most of us switch to Skype, Google Voice or give up calling completely.

HD voice is an industry term for a combination of better audio compression (the act of squeezing digital data to make it take up less space), a wider range of audio frequencies and phones meant for better sound and noise cancellation. HD voice expands the sound of a cellphone call from about four octaves to more like seven. That's closer to the sound of an actual human voice and to what we can actually hear, which is about 10 octaves.
The result is better-sounding calls, less background noise and hopefully less delay — quality as good as a landline , or better.

T-Mobile was the first American carrier to introduce HD voice on its network, first announced at the 2013 CES conference. It's running now, but with some major caveats. Both sides of a call have to have T-Mobile service, for one thing, and both must have a phone that supports HD voice. Oh, and it can't just support HD voice, it has to support the specific compression program the carrier is using.

Phones that have all that technology include the iPhone 5 and newer iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and new versions, the HTC One line and a few others. That's a popular lineup, so if you have a family plan on T-Mobile and you all have newish phones, you can enjoy high-quality calling, and you maybe already have.

Source: TOI

Friday, May 2, 2014

Facebook is new classroom teacher: Study

Facebook may not be all that bad for your kids. According to a study, university students who used a Facebook group as part of a large sociology class did better on course assignments and felt a stronger sense of belonging.

"Although some teachers may worry that social media distracts students from legitimate learning, we found that our Facebook group helped transform students from anonymous spectators into a community of active learners," explained Kevin Dougherty, an associate professor of sociology at Baylor University's college of arts and sciences.

"The study has implications for the challenge of teaching large classes - a matter of growing concern for higher education," Brita Andercheck, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Baylor University, added.

The Baylor research focused on a class of 218 students in an introductory sociology class.

Students who participated in the Facebook group scored higher on quizzes, wrote stronger papers and did better on exams than classmates who did not take part, the study reported.

Both students and teaching staff provided a steady stream of content to the Facebook group.

Teaching staff posted discussion questions, links to relevant online material and photos and videos of in-class events such as guest lectures and themed skits.

Students, meanwhile, posted their own photos and videos related to course concepts, engaged in discussions and sought solutions to questions and problems.

"Again and again, we saw students helping one another on the Facebook group," Dougherty noted.

As final exams approached, students were especially helpful to each other, swapping definitions and examples and organising informal study sessions.

A Facebook group extends the classroom in time and space, Dougherty said.

"It allows students to interact with one another and with the subject matter wherever and whenever they choose. It makes them more active learners," he concluded in the study published in the journal Teaching Sociology.

Source: Times of India

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trai to soon fix minimum internet speed for mobiles

NEW DELHI: Sick of dead slow internet connection on mobile? Relief is on the way as regulator Trai will soon fix the minimum download speed the telecom operators will have to deliver for wireless data services. 

"The Authority (Trai) has been receiving a number of complaints from consumers regarding the poor download speed experienced by them. The Authority after examining the issue felt that there is now a need to mandate the 'minimum download speed' for the wireless data services," Trai said in its latest consultation process. 

At present, there is no binding regulation on telecom operators to deliver wireless service at a particular minimum speed. 

3G operators promise mobile Internet speed in the range of 7.1 megabit per second (mbps) to 21 mbps. At 7.1 mbps speed, a mobile user should be able to download a full-length movie in around 12-14 minutes. 

But invariable, it takes around 40 minutes to download a a file size equivalent to that of a movie on the best network. 

The minimum speed reported by operators to Trai lies in the range of 399 kbps (minimum broadband speed is 512 kbps) to 2.48 mbps. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has found the minimum speed delivered by an operators doesn't even qualify to be called broadband. 

The wireless data services include mobile internet and broadband services like 2G, 3G and those offered using dongles. 

The regulator is of the view that the minimum download speed for 3G and CDMA EVDO service should be 1 megabit per second with 95% success rate. For GSM and CDMA 2G the minimum speed should be at 56 kilobit per second and for CDMA high speed data it is 512 kbps. 

Trai has sought public views on its consultation by May 5 and counter comments on it by May 12

Monday, April 21, 2014

How brands are leveraging Facebook's 100 million users in India

MobiKwik , a Gurgaon-based start-up that offers mobile payment services, has been on Facebook for two years. About a year back MobiKwik started paid advertising on Facebook targeting Android phone users, the most popular operating system on smartphones. Besides, a lot of the new users of MobiKwik coming on Android devices were in the 25 to 30 age group, and MobiKwik found that Facebook enabled it to target ads at this group. Says Sachin Gupta, digital marketing specialist, MobiKwik: "Being on Facebook helped us drive traffic to our app and get new users."

From start-ups like MobiKwik to Pigtails and Ponys, a Bangalore-based hair accessory label, more and more brands are finding it difficult to resist the lure of the world's largest social network in their bid to connect with customers. Facebook now boasts 100 million users, a base the likes of HDFC Bank, PepsiCo India, Lufthansa, Tata Docomo, Nokia, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Pernod Ricard have woken up to.

Around end of 2013, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 3 on Facebook, using a different creative to target men and women. And last year, through Facebook , Nokia was able to target feature phone users for its Nokia 205 entry-level smartphone model. Last month the Nokia X (Android phone) campaign on Facebook resulted in two lakh conversations, not just creating awareness for the brand but also resulting in the Finnish handset maker getting some muchneeded consumer feedback.

Says Kirthiga Reddy, head, Facebook India: "There are over a million advertisers globally on Facebook. We are conscious that every dollar spent on Facebook is a dollar that advertisers can spend anywhere else. Our USP is the ability to do effective and efficient targeted ads." While companies have multiple social media platforms to advertise on, including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ besides banner ads across popular websites, what makes Facebook attractive is the 100 million milestone it reached on March 31.

Says Kartik Jain, head of marketing, HDFC Bank: "It [the user base] reflects Facebook's increasing role in online social chatter." Agrees Jitender Miglani, social media analyst at Forrester Research: "100 million Facebook users are valuable for any marketer. It will attract a lot of share of internet market spending." It is particularly valuable for those brands that are following, what Rishi Dogra, head of digital marketing at PepsiCo India calls, a "consumerled strategy" .

Facebook for feedback

While for start-ups the Facebook user base is a quick access to customers and, hence business growth, for large companies it's a multi-step platform, starting with using Facebook as a listening board before any business can be transacted . Says Jain: "We use Facebook to listen to our customers, build our image and crosslink across social media platforms." For example HDFC Bank has 90 videos on YouTube that talk about aspects of banking in simple terms (simplifying fixed deposits, mortgages and the like), which it promotes on Facebook.

Wines and spirits maker Pernod Ricard has Facebook pages to do surrogate messaging like promoting the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour. At the other end of the spectrum, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which has a mandate to skill 150 million people by 2022, uses Facebook as a communication platform. And Pepsi has been on Facebook since 2009 and uses it to engage with brands and fans. Says Dogra: "It's a continuous engagement model. We have created and executed campaigns including Pepsi T20 and launched our 'Oh Yes Abhi' positioning. The Pepsi brand page has 31 million users." Adds Ronita Mitra, senior vice-president , brand communication and insights,

Vodafone India, which has brought back the Zoozoos for the Indian Premier League (IPL) that began on Wednesday: "We have 17.8 million fans on the Vodafone Zoozoos page. Facebook allows us high measurability and targeting and we aim to use the medium in line with its strengths."

Facebook knows the user

The USP of social media and Facebook lie in their ability to know the user — age, city location, what device she is using, what she likes and so on. For instance Nokia targets the 18-24 year olds routinely with its new launches. Says Viral Oza, marketing director, Nokia India: "From a creative and engagement perspective this is our target audience. Social media and Facebook are high-involvement platforms, where youth converge. Ability to target helps get the message to right people, while scale creates the impact." That ability to know the user enables Facebook to customize ads. For instance, Facebook has a custom audience feature, where a company's data base of emails can be matched with those of Facebook users and messages can be sent out on the social network to the targeted user base. Another tool, generate a 'look alike audience' , helps companies on

Facebook finds people with a similar profile to its existing customers. Explains Gupta of MobiKwik: "If I want to target 25-30 year olds in Pune who drink vodka and use an Android phone, I can get such a user base from Facebook." About 40% of MobiKwik's ad spend is on Facebook, 10% on Twitter, 20% on banner ads across websites, and the rest on traditional media.

Online marketplaces are also using Facebook to drive traffic to their sites. For example, online fashion retailer Myntra uses Facebook logout ads — the ad that a user sees on logging out from Facebook . Says Vikas Ahuja, chief marketing officer , Myntra: "Facebook can help do age segmentation — we target 18-27 year olds, as that's the internet-savvy population and key contributor to our business. We can do gender-specific targeting and by location as well. Around 35% of our business comes from women."

Facebook controls the algorithm and hence has the power to target users. Says Senthil Anand, head of account management at KRDS, a Paris-headquartered social media agency: "Half of the Facebook user base comprises 18-24 year-olds and 30% are 25-34 year-olds . On Facebook, companies can target people who have their birthdays on a particular day. And videos go viral via Facebook. It gives more visibility to brands." KRDS started operations in India three years back, in Chennai.

A young user base is attractive not just to internet startups and brands like Nokia and Pepsi, but for brands in more traditional categories, too. Like banking, for instance. Says HDFC Bank's Jain: "Our follower profile on Facebook is similar to the user base of Facebook — a large number are below 25 and may have just started banking. The idea is to engage with them. We use Facebook to listen to customers and build our image." For a brand like HDFC, being on Facebook helps in listening to customer issues, complaints and resolving them.

However if the strategy is to only target fans, then companies are really missing the point, insists Facebook. Says Reddy: "We have studies that show fans buy 1.9 times more than non-fans . But fans are a small percentage of the target audience. Fan engagement is valuable in itself, but brands can do a lot more than that."

Start-ups see a great return on investment (RoI) on Facebook — like MobiKwik has seen cost of customer acquisition reduce and new user sign up increase via Facebook. For the bigger companies returns are slower to come by. Says Mitra of Vodafone: "A lot of the best practices for Facebook are still evolving and that makes it challenging to put a definite RoI on our spends." KRDS believes its early days and at present its more about engagement than RoI.

From users to buyers

Engaging with the user base is what attracted companies to Facebook, but now they are keen to know RoI as well. Says Jain of HDFC, "RoI on social media is tough. It started as a listening board and the next step is lead generation. Our objective this year is to look at RoI from social media."

RoI essentially involves converting Facebook subscribers into buyers. Say for instance a bank launches a home loan product, can it sell it to users of the social network? With no easy answers on that front yet, despite their presence on social media, most brands still dedicate a bulk of their advertising budgets to traditional media. Says Jain: "As of now, 1-2 % of our total marketing spend is on social media. Bulk of the spend goes into direct marketing, onground efforts and digital campaigns."

For Pepsi, RoI is an ongoing calculation. Says Dogra: "If you create an engaged community RoI will continue to accrue over the years whereas the investment on customer [or follower] acquisition is a one-time spend." Facebook argues that the platform's ability to target ads in itself creates better RoI than on any other platform. Says Reddy: "It's the ability to drive a message in a particular way with zero-spillage that drives RoI. We are results-focussed. We are measured on business objectives and what we deliver fuels the next stage of growth."

In the expanding world of internet — India has over 200 million users, expected to triple by 2016 to 600 million — Facebook dominates the social media play. Most of the online population (around 84 million) uses the Net via their handsets, and these mobile users may not find the ad intrusions on Facebook a pleasurable experience. Also, when it comes to mobile internet, advertisers have Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms to pick from. Says KRDS' Anand: "Brands want to invest in YouTube as well. Video content grabs better attention. That's why Facebook now allows videos. At present YouTube is second most popular for advertisers after Facebook."

Adds Dogra of Pepsi: "Organic reach [on Facebook] has been consistently dropping over the past three years. While this is a function of the larger network effect, it limits the ability to sustain a continuous engagement model as reliance on paid reach increases." Organic reach is the number of people who would see anything you post without any paid media push.

Facebook's 100 million users will have the brands following it, as that's where the young consumers are. Even as companies search for RoI, Facebook will look to monetise that user base fast given that the social media platform gets just $40-50 million (according to Forrester Research) of its $7.87 billion global business from its second largest user market after the US.

Source: Times Of India

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bend it, charge it, dunk it: Graphene, the material of tomorrow

Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.

Only a single atom thick, it has been called the wonder material.

Graphene could change the electronics industry, ushering in flexible devices, supercharged quantum computers, electronic clothing and computers that can interface with the cells in your body.

While the material was discovered a decade ago, it started to gain attention in 2010 when two physicists at the University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for their experiments with it. More recently, researchers have zeroed in on how to commercially produce graphene.

The American Chemical Society said in 2012 that graphene was discovered to be 200 times stronger than steel and so thin that a single ounce of it could cover 28 football fields. Chinese scientists have created a graphene aerogel, an ultralight material derived from a gel, that is one-seventh the weight of air. A cubic inch of the material could balance on one blade of grass.

"Graphene is one of the few materials in the world that is transparent, conductive and flexible — all at the same time," said Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, a lecturer in nanomaterials at the University of Manchester. "All of these properties together are extremely rare to find in one material."

So what do you do with graphene? Physicists and researchers say that we will soon be able to make electronics that are thinner, faster and cheaper than anything based on silicon, with the option of making them clear and flexible. Long-lasting batteries that can be submerged in water are another possibility.

In 2011, researchers at Northwestern University built a battery that incorporated graphene and silicon, which the university said could lead to a cellphone that "stayed charged for more than a week and recharged in just 15 minutes." In 2012, the American Chemical Society said that advancements in graphene were leading to touch-screen electronics that "could make cellphones as thin as a piece of paper and foldable enough to slip into a pocket."

Vijayaraghavan is building an array of sensors out of graphene — including gas sensors, biosensors and light sensors — that are far smaller than what has come before.

And last week, researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, working with Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, said that Samsung had discovered how to create high-quality graphene on silicon wafers, which could be used for the production of graphene transistors. Samsung said in a statement that these advancements meant it could start making "flexible displays, wearables and other next-generation electronic devices."

Sebastian Anthony, a reporter at Extreme Tech, said that Samsung's breakthrough could end up being the "holy grail of commercial graphene production."

Samsung is not the only company working to develop graphene. Researchers at IBM, Nokia and SanDisk have been experimenting with the material to create sensors, transistors and memory storage.

When these electronics finally hit store shelves, they could look and feel like nothing we've ever seen.

James Hone, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, said research in his lab led to the discovery that graphene could stretch by 20% while remaining able to conduct electricity.

"You know what else you can stretch by 20%? Rubber," he said. "In comparison, silicon, which is in today's electronics, can only stretch by 1% before it cracks."

He continued, "That's just one of the crazy things about this material — there's really nothing else quite like it."

The real kicker? Graphene is inexpensive.

If you think of something in today's electronics industry, it can most likely be made better, smaller and cheaper with graphene.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley made graphene speakers last year that delivered sound at quality equal to or better than a pair of commercial Sennheiser earphones. And they were much smaller.

Another fascinating aspect of graphene is its ability to be submerged in liquids without oxidizing, unlike other conductive materials.

As a result, Vijayaraghavan said, graphene research is leading to experiments where electronics can integrate with biological systems. In other words, you could have a graphene gadget implanted in you that could read your nervous system or talk to your cells.

But while researchers believe graphene will be used in next-generation devices, there are entire industries that build electronics using traditional silicon chips and transistors, and they could be slow to adopt graphene counterparts.

If that is the case, graphene might end up being used in other industries before it becomes part of electronics. Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid for the development of a graphene-based condom that is thin, light and impenetrable. Carmakers are exploring building electronic cars with bodies made of graphene that are not only protective, but act as solar panels that charge the car's battery. Aircraft makers also hope to build planes out of graphene.

If all that isn't enough, an international team of researchers based at MIT has performed tests that could lead to the creation of quantum computers, which would be a big market of computing in the future.

So forget plastics. There's a great future in graphene. Think about it.

Source: Times of India

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Microsoft makes Windows free for small devices

In a surprise move, Microsoft on Wednesday announced at Build 2014 that it will offer Windows, including Windows Phone, for free to any computing device that has a screen size of less than 9 inches. This is a big change in the strategy for Microsoft, a company that pioneered the use of licensed software and has thrived due to the licence fee it collects from computer makers.

Terry Myerson, who heads the operating systems division in Microsoft, also said that Windows will be free for Internet of Things devices, the small gadgets that will have ability to connect to the web and process information.

With Apple and Google taking away the market share from Windows in the world of computers with iOS and Android devices, Microsoft was toying with the idea doing away with licence fee for Windows. Recently, industry sources in Indian phone market told TOI that Microsoft would offer Windows Phone free to Lava and Karbonn.

The Microsoft announcement also highlights that the operating system business has changed significantly in the last few years. The core Android code is free to use. Also, all Android updates are free for users. iOS, which is used only Apple devices, also offers free updates.

Last year when Apple announced OS X Mavericks it surprised the industry by announcing that the OS would be available to Mac users as a free download.

One important thing to note here is that Windows is not free for end users. The small screen devices — phones and tablets — come with the OS preinstalled. The OS is free for Microsoft's hardware partners. Consumers will not be able to obtain or download Windows for free and install on their computer, whether it has a screen of less than 9 inches or a 20-inch monitor.

While Windows is still the most-used operating system on personal computers by big margin, it is no longer the biggest computing platform. By giving away the Windows for free, especially for devices like phones and tablets that are still seeing big growth in the market, Microsoft hopes to negate the advantage of Android and iOS.

Source: TOI

Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Dendroid' virus threatening Android phones in India

Indian cyber security sleuths have alerted users of Android smartphone about the malicious activities of a tricky virus called 'Dendroid' whose infection could "completely compromise" their personal phone device.
The virus of the deadly 'Trojan' family, once activated,  could change the command and control server of a user's personal Android phone and intercept private SMSes coming in or going out.
"It has been reported that a malicious toolkit called DENDROID is being used to create trojanised applications that infects Android-based smartphones.
 The malware is created by modifying the required permissions by any clean APK (Android Application Package) with Dendroid RAT functionality that allows detailed management of the infected devices," the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) said in its latest advisory to Android phone users in the country.
The CERT-In is the nodal agency to combat hacking, phishing and to fortify security-related defenses of the Indian Internet domain.
Security experts say the virus is street-smart because it has a striking resemblance to the name Android.
The agency said upon installation of this malicious application, a remote attacker could "completely compromise the affected Android-based smartphone and could control it remotely".
The virus can perform a number of malicious activities.
"It can change the command and control server, delete call logs, open web pages, dial any number, record calls and audio, SMS interception, upload images and video to remote location and open an application," the advisory said, categorizing the virus as an "attack toolkit".
It said the malware infected "is controlled by the attacker through Dendroid Toolkit. Dendroid is a HTTP RAT, having a sophisticated PHP administration panel and an application APK binder package."
The agency has suggested some countermeasures to thwart the ill-attempts of the latest virus including keeping a check on the overall usage and any unsatisfactory rise in the user's mobile phone bill.
"Do not download and install applications from un-trusted sources, install applications downloaded from reputed application market only, run a full system scan on device with mobile security solution or mobile antivirus solution, check for the permissions required by an application before installing.
"Exercise caution while visiting trusted/untrusted sites for clicking links, install Android updates and patches as and when available from Android device vendors, users are advised to use device encryption or encrypting external SD card feature available with most of the Android OS," the agency said.
Android phone users, the CERT-In said, are also advised to keep an eye on data usage (application-wise usage also) and unusual increase in mobile bills and keep an eye on device battery usage (application-wise usage also).
"Avoid using unsecured and unknown Wi-Fi networks. There may be rogue Wi-Fi access points at public places used for distributing malicious applications and make a practice of taking regular backup of Android device," the advisory said.
Source: Hindustan Times

Monday, March 24, 2014

Facebook's new programming language

Facebook just released a new programming language, aptly named Hack, that will let programmers write code faster while more easily avoiding errors.

Hack hits a sweet-spot by combining elements of both static and dynamic languages. Meaning, programmers can retain all the speed they'd have with a dynamic language (like PHP or Ruby), while also catching mistakes before run-time with early error detection traditionally only seen with static language.

The company has migrated almost all of its PHP-based site to Hack over the last year (one of the beauties of Hack is that it coexists seamlessly with PHP files). Facebook has now made the language open-source, meaning that any engineer can use it and help improve it.

Business Insider connected with Gabe Levi, one of the engineers who led most of Facebook's conversion to Hack, and he answered our questions via email:

How do you think that other companies / programmers will benefit from using Hack?

Hack helps you write correct code faster. Hack adds safety nets while avoiding slowing you down and adds language features that make coding in Hack more enjoyable. Converting PHP code to Hack is easy and can be done gradually, as PHP and Hack work together when run with HHVM. The use case can range from one person working on an app to a scale computing company like Facebook. We're putting Hack out there along with an improved HHVM because it can be relevant to everyone.

How does it feel to have completed a project that will increase speed for the entire FB engineering team?

It is immensely satisfying to build useful things for your friends, and that's what we've had the opportunity to do.

Any moments stand out when working on this project as particularly memorable breakthroughs?

I consider Hack the product of a lot of hard work and a tight feedback loop with our original users, the engineers at Facebook. There are many great, original ideas in Hack, but our success at Facebook was the result of a lot of fine tuning rather than large breakthroughs.

Why'd you choose New York instead of the Valley to work?

The standard reason: a girl. I worked for Facebook in California until I started dating a smart, beautiful Facebook NY recruiter who laughed at my jokes. She convinced me to move to New York, which was a pretty easy sell!

Source: TOI

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why do cellphones explode and how to prevent it?

Mobile phones may be treated like playthings these days. However, these flashy gadgets can prove dangerous if not handled with care. Several instances have been reported about the phones blasting off suddenly, the latest victim of which was a 14-year-old child of daily wage workers from Seoni. The blast was so bad that the boy narrowly escaped death and ended up with severe disfigurement to his jaw, nose, mouth and face.

What are the things to be kept in mind while buying mobile phones?

Buy a branded phone as far as possible. Ensure that the phone has a proper IMEI number, which is a code that identifies each phone. Check that the number on the phone corresponds to that on the box and receipts.

It is considered wise to check the accessories such as earphones, battery and charger. Make sure the battery description such as voltage value matches with that of the charger to avoid overcharging which sometimes lead to explosion of handset.

How and why do mobile phone blasts happen?

The most common reasons for a cell phone to explode are using it while the phone is being charged and 'call bombing'. Charging puts pressure on the motherboard of the phone, using it during charging increases this pressure manifold. This causes the cheap electronic components in some mobiles to explode. Call bombing refers to calls or missed calls received from international numbers. If one receives or calls these numbers back and the call exceeds a certain amount of time, the phone will blast. There is also a malware, or bug, found in some Android-based smartphones, that can also cause explosion by exerting extra pressure on the motherboard during charging.

What care should be taken to ensure not much pressure is put on the phone?

Avoid using the phone while the battery is being charged. If you wish to receive a call during this time, disconnect the phone from charger before connecting the call. Ensure it is not over-charged by removing the electric supply when the battery is fully charged. If your battery seems to have swollen, replace it immediately.

Why is it dangerous to buy cheap phones?

Most cheap models, like those of Chinese make, use hardware and components that are not branded and often substandard. The quality of vital accessories such as battery and earphones are compromised which can have disastrous outcome. Such components cannot be used continuously for as long as their high-quality substitutes. Their shelf life is also shorter.

Is it more harmful to surf internet or download anything on mobile phones?

Yes, because the anti-virus software for mobile phones are not as effective. That is why one should avoid downloading anything from a third party vendor, i.e directly from the internet browser. Instead use the in-built store or market application provided by the operating system. Malware, which is software that creates a bug in the operating system of the phone, often gets downloaded with third party tools. The sites that you visit using the phone must start with an https (which means they are encrypted or safe sites).

Avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi connections. A hacker could access the mobile device through a port that is not secured. Make sure the Bluetooth connectivity is not switched on in public places as it can be used to send malicious files which corrupt the operating system.

Are there certain precautions that must be practiced while using a mobile phone?

While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as this would reduce the strength of the electromagnetic field of the radiations. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless blue tooth headset. For long conversations, use a landline phone.

Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. When in pocket, make sure that key pad is positioned toward your body so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from you rather than through you. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under pillow or a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on 'flight' or 'offline' mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions. Avoid using your cell phone when signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in car or train.

How to deal with a wet phone?

After removing the phone from water, dismantle it by removing battery, SIM and memory cards and switch it off (only SIM card in case of an iPhone). Dry each component thoroughly (but gently) with a towel until the phone is dry to the touch. Then put all components in a bowl of uncooked rice in a way that all components are totally covered. If you have any silica packets (the ones that come with products like new shoes), put them in to the bowl too. Leave it there for 12-24 hours.

Never use a hair dryer to try to dry the phone quicker. Drying it with a heated hair dryer can cause important parts to melt, while forcing water further into the phone. Drying it will a cold hair dryer will just force water deeper into the phone.

Why you shouldn't hold your mobile in your mouth?

Using mobile phones too close to your mouth regularly or holding cell phone in your mouth frequently could lead to malignant salivary gland cancer and tumors in mouth. Regular cell phone users who speak with the phone held too close to the mouth face the problems of sleep disturbance, migraine and headache.

Source : TOI

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tweet calling Google a scraper goes viral

NEW DELHI: Recently when Matt Cutts, the head of the web spam team at Google, tweeted against scraper websites, he was in for a big surprise.

While the tweet was made against scraper websites, which use the content generated by other people to make money, Cutts had no idea that a Twitter user would call Google a scraper, complete with a simple example showing how the search engine benefits from the content produced by others.

On February 28, Cutts said, "If you see a scraper URL outranking the original source of content in Google, please tell us about it." Google doesn't want scraper websites to rank high in its search engine and Cutts, as the man who fights spam on Google search engine, is interested in knowing offenders.

But the reply Cutts got must have left him speechless. Dan Barker replied, ".@mattcutts I think I have spotted one, Matt. Note the similarities in the content text. The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot that showed Google ranking the direct answer to "what is a scraper site" on top of the search results. The text of the answer, which was part of Google's search engine, was copied, or in other words scrapped, from the Wikipedia page on a scraper website. The link to Wikipedia page was listed below Google's answer.

Barker's tweet became viral within hours. It was re-tweeted over 34,600 times till 7 pm on March 10 and favored by over 3,700 users. Cutts did not reply to Barker's tweet.While for a long time Google just served a summary and links to web pages in response to search queries, in the last few years the company has started to provide "answers." The answers are part of a feature that Google calls Knowledge Graph.

For example, earlier if you searched for movie '12 Years A Slave', you would have got some links, including the IMDb link on top of the search page. But nowadays, you will not only get the links but also a brief summary of the film, people who acted in it and other relevant details on the search page itself. This means to know more about '12 Years A Slave', you may not have to go to the IMDb page anymore.

Most of these Google 'answers' use the content produced by websites like Wikipedia and IMDb. It is not clear how much, if at all, Google pays these websites for using their content.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Security flaw in Android Jelly Bean, KitKat: CERT-In

NEW DELHI: A "critical flaw" has been detected in the virtual private network offered by Android operating systems in the Indian cyberspace leading to "hijack" of personal data of users.
Internet security sleuths have alerted consumers of this web-based service to guard against the spread of this virus which affects computer systems and mobile phones using the Android system.
The suspicious activity has been noticed in two Android versions: 4.3 known as 'Jelly Bean' and the latest version 4.4 called 'KitKat'.
"A critical flaw has been reported in Android's (virtual private network) VPN implementation, affecting Android version 4.3 and 4.4 which could allow an attacker to bypass active VPN configuration to redirect secure VPN communications to a third party server or disclose or hijack unencrypted communications," the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) said in a latest advisory to users of this network.
The CERT-In is the nodal agency to combat hacking, phishing and to fortify security-related defences of the Indian Internet domain.
VPN technology is used to create an encrypted tunnel into a private network over public Internet. Organisations and group of people use such connections to enable employees or acquaintances to securely connect to enterprise networks from remote locations through multiple kinds of devices like laptops, desktops, mobiles and tablets.
The agency said the current malicious application is capable of diverting the VPN traffic "to a different network address" and successful exploitation of this issue "could allow attackers to capture entire communication originating from affected device."
The lethality of the virus to disrupt a system is large.
"It is noted that not all applications are encrypting their network communication. Still there is a possibility that attacker could possibly capture sensitive information from the affected device in plain text like email addresses, IMEI number, SMSes, installed applications," the advisory said.
Cyber experts said that this anomaly could only lead to capture and viewing the data which is in plain text and Android applications directly connecting to the server using SSL will not be affected.
Websites which use 'https' in their URL will also be safe.
The cyber agency has also suggested some countermeasures to beat this threat.
"Apply appropriate updates from original equipment manufacturer, do not download and install application from untrusted sources, maintain updated mobile security solution or mobile anti-virus solutions on the device, exercise caution while visiting trusted or untrusted URLs and do not click on the URLs received via SMS or email unexpectedly from trusted or received from untrusted users" are some of the combat techniques which have been suggested by the agency.
Source: TOI

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Social media is a security threat: Expert

BANGALORE: Social networking sites are a threat to national security as they are used as tools for drug trafficking, money laundering and match-fixing, said N Balakrishnan, associate director of Indian Institute of Science.

Speaking at the inauguration of a national conference on cyber space security on Friday, he felt social networking sites are also used to spark communal tension. When such messages turn viral, they can harm the nation's social fabric, he said.

Citing last year's Northeast exodus when false messages were spread using fake IDs, triggering panic, he said automated machines can send thousands of tweets without human intervention.

Balakrishnan alleged that China is taking advantage of botnets in its anti-India campaign. Botnets are networks of malicious software that are used to control computers without the owners' knowledge.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Facebook to buy mobile messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion

Facebook Inc will buy fast-growing mobile-messaging start up WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, as the world's largest social network looks for ways to boost its popularity, especially among a younger crowd.

The acquisition of the hot messaging service with more than 450 million users around the world stunned many Silicon Valley observers with its lofty price tag.

But it underscores Facebook's determination to win the market for messaging, an indispensable utility in a mobile era.

Combining text messaging and social networking, messaging apps provide a quick way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips - bypassing the need to pay wireless carriers for messaging services.

And it helps Facebook tap teens who will eschew the mainstream social networks and prefer WhatsApp and rivals such as Line and WeChat, which have exploded in size as mobile messaging takes off.

"People are calling them 'Facebook Nevers,'" said Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed and an early investor in Snapchat.

WhatsApp is adding about a million users per day, Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said on his page on Wednesday.

"WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community," he wrote on his Facebook page. "Since WhatsApp and (Facebook) Messenger serve such different and important users, we will continue investing in both."

Smartphone-based messaging apps are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.

"Communication is the one thing that you have to use daily, and it has a strong network effect," said Jonathan Teo, an early investor in Snapchat, another red-hot messaging company that flirted year ago with a multibillion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook.

"Facebook is more about content and has not yet fully figured out communication."

Even so, he balked at the price tag.

As part of the deal, WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive officer Jan Koum will join Facebook's board, and the social network will grant an additional $3 billion worth of restricted stock units to WhatsApp's founders, including Koum.

That is on top of the $16 billion in cash and stock that Facebook will pay.

"Goodness gracious, it's a good deal for WhatsApp," Teo said.


Shares in Facebook slid 5 percent to $64.70 after hours, from a close of $68.06 on the Nasdaq.

Facebook said on Wednesday it will pay $4 billion in cash and about $12 billion in stock in its single largest acquisition, dwarfing the $1 billion it paid for photo-sharing app Instagram.

The price paid for Instagram, which with just 30 million users was already considered overvalued by many observers at the time.

Facebook promised to keep the WhatsApp brand and service, and pledged a $1 billion cash break-up fee if the deal falls through.

Facebook was advised by Allen & Co, while WhatsApp has enlisted Morgan Stanley for the deal.

Source: TOI

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Will Chrome OS and Android dominate the 2014 Linux desktop?

Android phone and tablet users have now become accustomed to the immense functionality and level of comfort that the platform offers
Linux is poised to grow even big in 2014. People across the globe are now willing to try Linux and open source, embracing the goodness of the medium with arms wide open. The popularity of Linux desktops has increased like never before with each day. 2014 will be no different!
When you give it a thought, it's ironical that the likes of Google would introduce Linux to the broader desktop market. But that's the way it is, not that we are complaining! What really sparred the growth of Linux at the first place was the very terrible response to Microsoft's Windows 8.
It's not everyday that you see traditional Windows users sifting through alternatives. Apple might have been one, but sadly that didn't happen! It's at times like these that Chrome OS and Android grab the limelight. Of course, users of traditional distros like Ubuntu or Linux Mint might beg to disagree.
Chrome OS and Android Desktop are not one hundred per cent perfect, being attached to Google makes them liable for privacy concerns, however the fact of the matter still remains they have enough fire power to pull the rug from beneath Microsoft's feet.
Meanwhile, Android phone and tablet users have now become accustomed to the immense functionality and level of comfort that the platform offers, therefore, it's only a matter of time that they would dump Windows from their desktops, switching on to the obvious.
At the same time, regular Linux desktop distros like Fedora and Linux Mint should not be left behind. They are only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to desktop distributions and are immensely wonderful in their own right.

Source: CIOL

Friday, February 14, 2014

How Indians have contributed to technology

Satya Nadella's elevation as CEO of Microsoft marks the acme of global corporate leadership attained in recent years by first generation Indian immigrants. While Indra Nooyi at Pepsico, Vikram Pandit at CitiBank (who has since stepped down), Ajay Banga at Mastercard, and Anshu Jain at Deutsche Bank have already scaled the dizzy heights, Nadella's ascension was a landmark event given Microsoft's high profile and its close association with India, fuelled in part by a large section of its workforce being of Indianorigin. (The figure of 33 per cent Microsofties being of Indian origin is hyperbolic; it is less than 10 per cent, and from what Bill Gates told this correspondent several years back, it is about 20 per cent in the engineering division.)

The story of India's/Indian/Indian-American contribution to technology is not new; it goes back at least couple of decades, possibly more. Back in the 1990s, when I was working on a book that was eventually titled The Horse That Flew: How India's Silicon Gurus Spread Their Wings, a librarian who was helping me with research would pull my leg about India having invented zero ("THE zero,'' I'd correct her), as we scoured the archives for stories about Indians in the science and technology fields. The idea for the book was triggered by then "hot male'' Sabeer Bhatia's sale of Hotmail to Microsoft for $ 400 million. Shortly before that, Vinod Dham had been instrumental in launching the Pentium chip, and Ram Shriram (who would later fund Google and become a billionaire) was a key figure in Netscape, the early browser favorite. Years before, Narendra Singh Kapany had done pioneering work in fiber optics, C. Kumar Patel was recognized for cutting edge work on lasers, Arun Netravali led the team that developed high-definition television (HDTV), and Praveen Chaudhari held patents for the erasable read-write compact discs, the kind you burned music on a generation back. I chronicled several such stories in my book.

However, Indians in the management and corporate side of things was a different deal altogether. There was the inevitable talk of a glass ceiling, and it was rare that an Indian went on to become CEO of a company, although several, like Vinod Khosla, Umang Gupta, and Kanwal Rekhi, had founded companies and even helmed them briefly. White-dominated America was leery of showing a minority face at the helm. It was only in the nifty noughties (2000 onwards) that things began to change, in keeping with the changing demographics and ethos of the US itself, and the self-belief and critical mass Indians attained, riding on the exploits of the pioneers.

In 2004, Surya Mohapatra, an alumnus of Sambalpur University and Regional Engineering College-Rourkela, his Odiya accent untainted by decades in the US, was appointed CEO of Quest Diagnostics, a Fortune 500 company. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, who went to one of her first interviews in the US in a sari after her professor advised her to "be yourself,'' was elevated at PepsiCo in 2006. Nagpur-born Vikram Pandit at Citibank, Francisco D'Souza, son of an Indian diplomat, at Cognizant, and Adobe System's Shantanu Narayen, like Nadella a Hyderabad native, all scaled the top in 2007. Ravi Saligram at OfficeMax and Sanjay Mehrotra at SanDisk would make the grade by the end of the decade, when there were at least ten CEOs of Indian origin in the Fortune 500. The numbers compared favorably with Blacks (six CEOs), Hispanics (eight), and other Asian-Americans including Chinese, all of whose population was several times larger than that of Asian-Indians in the US.

There were several reasons attributed for this success by a number of experts I spoke to. They ranged from the Indian comfort with English and ease with numbers, to the fact that most Indian immigrants came from the relatively creamy layer of Indian society (although several achievers spoke to me about the tough grind they went through in India, from studying by candle light to walking miles to school). It all boiled down to hard work, initiative, and a hunger for success, topped off with some luck, in an American ecosystem that recognized merit better than in India.

But fundamentally, it also went back to a society that manages the paradox of at once being religious and superstitious and at the same time fostering a scientific temper and a spirit of inquiry; or at a higher level, balancing science and spirituality. For instance, India is very familiar with Swami Vivekananda and his epic tour of America to address the Congress of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Less well known is Vivekananda's extensive engagement, pursuant to his interest in science and spirituality, with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, the pioneers of all things electric.

A decade or so later, a young man named Gobind Behari Lal, a nephew of the Indian nationalist Lala Hardayal, left India to come to the University of California-Berkeley, on a scholarship. Following his post-doc, he joined Hearst Newspapers as a "science writer,'' the first time the designation was used in an American newspaper. In a career that lasted more than half a century, he interviewed such formidable scientific titans as Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and Max Planck, winning a Pulitzer Prize (1937) on the way, the first for an Indian-American (Jhumpa Lahiri would come decades later, much after Lal died in 1982). His work inspired a generation of Indian-Americans who streamed into the sciences and technology.

Little of this was known in India, which on account of its own constricting policies and a lack of opportunity, gave up some of its best and brightest to the US, which on its part used its immigration policy to attract them. From 1965 onwards, when immigration rules were relaxed for Indians, more than a million educated Indians have streamed into the US for "higher studies,'' many of them staying behind to become "Indian-Americans,'' and often, particularly in case of their children, just "Americans.'' Few who have been in the US for more than 20-25 years and who have taken US citizenship bear any allegiance to India, and many of them find the media hysteria in India over their achievements quite cringe-worthy.

Source: Times of India