Monday, April 1, 2013

A Photo Service That Understands the Contents of Your Images

A Photo Service That Understands the Contents of Your Images

Everpix organizes photos after analyzing them with software that can detect things such as animals, outdoor scenes, and people.

Browsing digital photos usually means scrolling through them chronologically, unless they have been sorted into folders and collections. This week a startup company called Everpix began offering an alternative: a system that uses machine vision software to analyze each photo for its content so that photos can be browsed using categories such as “city,” “animals,” “people,” and “nature.”
The category-based view, called Explore, is now a feature of the company’s iPad and iPhone apps. It joins an existing feature of those apps and the company’s website that provides a way to browse the “highlights” from a collection of photos in a particular year. Those highlights are compiled into a scrollable collage by software that looks for signals suggesting that a photo is high-quality and interesting.
Thanks in part to the ubiquity of smartphone cameras, many people’s digital photo collections now contain thousands of images. At that size, they are becoming unmanageable with conventional tools such as Apple’s iPhoto, says Pierre-Oliver Latour, CEO and cofounder of Everpix, which is based in San Francisco. “We’re building something to solve this big problem that is coming where people are going to have too many photos and they begin to miss out on them and neglect them,” he says.
Many people have already reached that point, says Latour. Since launching quietly in 2011, Everpix has attracted tens of thousands of users to its service, which until this week cost at least $49 a year. The average new user uploads more than 10,000 photos, from sources including Windows and Apple PCs, mobile devices, and Facebook accounts, says Latour. A new free tier of the service, launched this week, offers a user access to just the last 12 months’ worth of photos; paying $49 a year allows access to an unlimited number.
Most photo organizing software relies on time stamps and user-created categories and folders, although some, such as Apple’s iPhoto, Google’s Picasa, and Facebook, use facial recognition as a way to find photos of particular people.
Everpix does not use facial recognition, but in a demonstration at the company’s offices, Latour and cofounders Kevin Quennesson and Wayne Fan showed evidence that their software understands much more than the categories its software now exposes to users. The software can identify when an uploaded image contains plants, babies, animals, water, or snow, for example. A database of word meanings has been integrated into the system so it can understand other ways to refer to the label it’s applied to a photo.
The image analysis software was trained by having many thousands of images labelled by crowdsourced workers, and the new Explore feature correctly categorises photos most of the time. When it doesn’t, a user can provide feedback to help Everpix train its software further.
Latour says future features will take advantage of the deeper understanding his company’s technology can mine from photos. During the demonstration, a search interface developed for internal research purposes was able to accurately find photos in response to queries such as “city photos with crowds from April 2012” and “city photos with people that are close to the camera.” Latour wouldn’t say whether that same interface would later appear in the Everpix website or apps.

HTC May Be Taking Another Swipe at a Facebook Phone

HTC May Be Taking Another Swipe at a Facebook Phone

Despite Mark Zuckerberg himself saying last fall that a Facebook phone wouldn't make sense for his company, leaked specs are pointing to another possible HTC-manufactured, Facebook-branded device. The new reports come as the social network continues to refine and improve its mobile strategy, and as HTC looks to kickstart its fortunes in the smartphone market.
A day after Facebook announced a mobile-centric makeover of its News Feed, rumors have resurfaced that HTC may be working on a phone that features special integration with the social network. The spark for speculation is the Friday publication on the Web of the device's specifications.
The smartphone is reportedly named the HTC Myst, with a possible U.S. launch set for the spring.
Reports of the Myst join a long line of rumored and actual smartphones with Facebook integration. HTC has been here before, launching the ChaCha -- later rebranded as the Status -- in summer 2011. That phone sported a button with the Facebook logo for direct access to the social network.
UK-based INQ launched the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q phones in late 2011; the Android OS on those phones offered several paths to the social network from the home screen.
Neither the INQ nor the HTC phones posed sales challenges to the iPhone and Samsung smartphones, and Facebook soon started paying more attention to improving its mobile device app.
"We don't comment on rumors or speculation," Facebook said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by Ulysses King of The Outcast Agency.

The Myst's Listed Specs

Specs for the Myst #UL, which is apparently the HTC Myst's proper appellation, were first leaked last month, but Friday's reports listed more details.
The device's processor will be a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 system on a chip instead of the MSM8930 Snapdragon previously reported.
The smartphone will apparently have a 4.3-inch 720p display with a pixel density of 320 PPI and front and rear cameras rated at 5 MP and 1.6 MP, respectively. It will reportedly run Android Jelly Bean, and will come preloaded with the Facebook app, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
The Myst #UL will reportedly support Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n, WiFi, LTE and Category 14 High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). Category 14 HSDPA offers a maximum data rate of 21.1 Mbits/sec.
"HTC does not comment on rumors and/or speculations," the company said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by Elena Caldwell of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

From Buffy to Opera

In November 2011, Facebook reportedly tapped HTC to build a smartphone with the social media network integrated into the device, code-named "Buffy." It was supposed to run on a version of Android that had been heavily modified by Facebook to deeply integrate its services and to support HTML5.
The project had been in the works for two years and was led at the time by Facebook's then-chief technology officer Bret Taylor.
This news was followed by a report in November 2012 that Facebook had picked HTC to manufacturer a smartphone tied to the social network. This device was to be called the HTC Opera UL. However, the project had been delayed.

What's In It for HTC?

HTC may be looking to stand out from the smartphone pack by manufacturing a branded Facebook phone, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle group.
"HTC is in trouble, they haven't had one really breakout phone from the standpoint of sales in a while, and they need something to give them an edge," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "I think they are thinking social media may be something that can be done better, but the strategy is likely born of desperation."
The manufacturer's reason for possible involvement with a Facebook phone "may be the same reason Nokia did a Windows phone: Because a sponsor is paying them to do it," Carl Howe, a vice president of research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. "It is an ad-network supported phone with exactly one advertising network: Facebook's."
Facebook's mobile ad revenues nearly doubled in the fourth quarter, accounting for 23 percent of its total ad revenue compared to 14 percent in the previous quarter. Ad revenue for the quarter totaled $1.33 billion.
Other benefits for HTC: Facebook would help promote the device, and it "might anticipate features that Facebook hasn't yet released," said Enderle. 

Something to Jump Up and Down About: Dish Hopper

Something to Jump Up and Down About: Dish Hopper

The Dish Hopper was eventually named CES' "best of show," but only after a brouhaha that ended with CNET being chopped as the nominator of candidates for show awards. The Hopper became the center of controversy when CNET's editors got a memo from CBS head honchos directing them to exclude it from the running. CBS is CNET's parent company, and the Hopper offers a few things network executives don't care for so much.

PrimeTime Anytime essentially lets users have access to up to eight days of prime time content from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- sorry CW, you don't get the love. This means no scheduling to manage on the DVR, as long as you can watch a show within eight days of its airing. For TV junkies who may have missed something everyone's talking about at the water cooler, this is a nice feature.
Hopper doesn't get its catchy name for recording shows to the DVR, though. Just as its kangaroo icon can do a little hopping, so can its AutoHop feature -- it hops right over commercials in select prime time shows. In fact, this DVR asks at the beginning of the show if you'd like to have commercials skipped.
The result is, in a word, fantastic -- if you aren't a Madison Avenue ad executive. From the advertiser's perspective, this could be the worst thing to happen to TV since the Internet started to pull eyeballs away. No wonder CBS execs weren't exactly thrilled about this "award-winning technology."
In practice, the Hopper's functionality lives up to its promise. The service takes a few seconds to recognize a commercial, then zaps to the moment before the show resumes. If there is a complaint, it is that it leaves no time to go refill a beverage or head to the bathroom, but that's why we have pause buttons.

That Sling Thing You Do

The AutoHop and PrimeTime Anytime features would be enough to justify giving the Hopper the "best of show" CES award this year. These are great features, and cable providers are going to be hard- pressed to compete.
However, Dish takes things a step further with its Sling functionality. Cable providers such as Comcast -- the service I subscribe to -- do offer viewers the ability to catch up with programming on demand via the Internet. However, the Hopper With Sling allows you to view anything on your DVR anywhere, on a computer or mobile device.
So you're on a business trip or vacation and want to catch your favorite program but don't want to rush back to the hotel? No worries -- log onto and the content can be streamed from your own DVR, local ads (which you can AutoHop over) and all.
In tests, this feature was quite good, and at least on par with watching programs via Hulu, YouTube, Amazon or any of the networks or other content providers. It was actually a little easier to fast-forward than many of those.
As with most streaming video, there were some moments when the computer/tablet had to allow the content to cache, but this is to be expected and is really a problem with the network connectivity more than the service.
I was able to do a hand's-on test with hotel WiFi. It was interesting to be in one city and have local programming from another, and to watch Modern Family -- a show I hadn't scheduled to record -- an hour after it ended. While ABC makes such content available online, it typically doesn't do so until the next day. With the Sling, I was able to watch immediately after it aired. For those who want to avoid spoilers, this could be a true game-changer.

Easy Transfers

The downside to Sling is that it is only good for those times and occasions when you're actually able connect to the Internet. Sling doesn't do its thing in the air. That's where Hopper Transfer comes into play.
It's similar to the Sling, but it allows recordings from the Hopper with Sling to be transferred to an iPad for offline viewing. The biggest downside to this is that it is at present just an iPad option, but there are rumblings that an Android version is in the works.
Another downside is that those transfers to an iPad are, in a word, large. Even with compression, it takes about 2 GB for each hour of recording. This is enough to make those mega-large iPads suddenly look a little more inviting.

Friendly Features

The Hopper is packed with a plethora of additional features, including the Dish Explorer app, which allows users to discover what other viewers are watching and tune in via the Hopper. The box also offers streaming of music via Bluetooth and access to more than 70 SiriusXM satellite music channels, including album art.
The Hopper features a 2 TB hard drive, or enough for about 500 hours of HD recordings -- plenty of space, even for hard-core TV viewers. This is welcome news for those who take a two-week vacation and want to ensure they don't miss their shows.
Picture and sound are certainly comparable to cable TV but lag behind Blu-ray for movie viewing. I recorded and ran a head-to-head-to-head test with Saving Private Ryan -- a movie that sounds good and looks good -- and Dish and cable were neck-and-neck. At some points, Dish had a little less artifacting or pixelating than cable, but neither had quite the audio performance of the lossless Blu-ray. That's to be expected.
The Hopper is for those who love TV, but it's not quite up to par for the true videophile. Otherwise, there is really little dirt to dish. For those who can't always be home during prime time and don't want to wait to get home to watch their shows, the Hopper With Sling is the Dish to serve up.

Hackers Escalate Reign of Malware Terror on Android

Hackers Escalate Reign of Malware Terror on Android

The relatively open nature of Google's Android OS makes it far more vulnerable to malware than Apple's highly controlled iOS, but F-Secure's report that it attracted 79 percent of mobile malware attacks in 2012 still comes as a bit of a shock. "For hackers, the app store is basically paradise, because they can upload a malicious app and infect thousands of devices with very little effort," said nCircle's Lamar Bailey.
Android has become a mobile malware magnet, according to F-secure.
A whopping 79 percent of all mobile malware targeted the Google OS in 2012, based on a new report from the firm. That was up from 66.7 percent in 2011 and just 11.25 percent in 2010.
The fourth quarter of 2012 was particularly bad, it said, with attacks on Android spiking to account for 96 percent of all mobile malware.
It would be easy to make the case that malware is gravitating toward Android because of its growing popularity -- but what then would explain the lack of malware heading toward Apple's iOS, which is just about as popular as Android?
A trifling 0.7 percent of mobile malware targeted Apple's platform, F-Secure found.
There are obvious differences between Android and iOS. For starters, Apple is known for keeping tight control over its system.
"Android is a far more open system, and it is becoming the most popular platform in the world,cloudmark researcher Andrew Conway told LinuxInsider, "so it is naturally the one that the bad guys will attack."

The Overseas Factor

There are other factors that are fueling the rise of Android malware, such as growth in the number of overseas users.
"Android has been a massive malware magnet for some time now, largely because it is used heavily in China and Eastern Europe, and both piracy and side-loading are rampant there," Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle group, told LinuxInsider.
"It is almost like Google is fueling a massive upswing in criminal activity on their devices, albeit unintentionally, through their free model," he said. "This is crippling security efforts like Samsung's Knox, which can't hope to secure data on a platform that itself resists being secure."
There are other problems with Android devices, Lamar Bailey, director of security research and development for nCircle, told LinuxInsider.
OS updates sometimes don't get to users quickly enough, he said, and sometimes they don't get there at all.
"Google may send out an update, but it's pretty much up to the hardware and carrier vendors to get these to users," noted Bailey. "Android phones are hitting the market so fast they are out of date within a few months, and the handset vendor and the carrier both want you to upgrade often -- they're not focused on security."
Another problem is the lack of oversight in the Android app store, he added. Anyone can write an app and submit it to Google Play, even someone with no security knowledge at all.
"This problem is compounded by users that aren't even considering security when they shop for apps," said Bailey. "They are only looking at functionality and reviews. For hackers, the app store is basically paradise, because they can upload a malicious app and infect thousands of devices with very little effort, or attack popular apps with weak security."

More Questions Than Answers

Despite the eyebrow-raising numbers -- 79 percent! 96 percent! -- the F-Secure report raises almost as many questions as it does answers, said Daniel Ford, chief security officer atFixmo.a
"This report didn't talk about how they collected their data or what the sample size was," he told LinuxInsider. "It doesn't discuss in detail which version of Android is attracting the most malware and why."
Malware has been on the rise since, well, forever, said Ford. "I can't really say there is anything new about the findings in this report.

Intel Inside iPhones, iPads Would Let Apple Kick Samsung Out

Intel Inside iPhones, iPads Would Let Apple Kick Samsung Out

The latest rumor involving Apple: It is in talks with Intel to have that company make the chips for iOS devices. That job currently belongs to Samsung, which is battling Apple in retail over smartphone sales, and in the courts over patent issues. The move could help lower costs for Apple while also giving the company deeper access to Intel's famous chip manufacturing expertise.

Intel's reported plans to provide more contract manufacturing of processors are renewing speculation that it will seek a deal with Apple to make chips for its iPads and iPhones, according to published reports. That could leave Samsung, which makes chips for iOS devices, out of the picture.
"This is very good news," said Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research Global Equities Research. "It should have happened two years ago."
Negotiations between Apple and Intel about a mobile chip deal are ongoing, Reuters reported Thursday, citing people who have knowledge of the talks.
The report appeared a week after Sunit Rikhi, vice president and general manager of Intel's custom foundry division, said the chipmaker would be ramping up operations to accommodate a major mobile customer.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
"The Reuters piece is highly speculative including the assertions about Apple," Intelspokesperson Chuck Mulloy told MacNewsWorld. "As is our normal practice, we don't comment on speculation like the Reuters piece."

Faster Time to Market

A move to Intel would speed up the time it takes to manufacture chips for its iPhones and iPads, said Doug Freedman, an analyst withRBC Capital Markets in New York City.
Freedman stirred the rumors about an Apple-Intel pact two months ago. In a research note, he said the deal would involve Intel making Apple's iPhone chips in exchange for Apple using Intel processors in the next generation of iPads.
"When you move to Intel's manufacturing process, it is, at a minimum, nine months ahead of anything available in the general purpose foundry market," Freedman told MacNewsWorld.
Not only would that improve Apple's time-to-market for its mobile products, Freedman said it would also give Apple a nine-month head start on using technology like 14 nanometer chip design.

Filling the PC Gap

Intel is a recent possible option for Apple; in the past, it didn't allow outside companies access to its manufacturing processes. However, the ailing PC market may be forcing Intel to change its ways.
"Intel is looking for ways to leverage the investment it's made in leading edge manufacturing technologies," Freedman said.
Another factor making Intel a more attractive mobile partner for Apple is the chip maker's increased focus on power efficiency for its products.
"In the past, Intel's processor technology was tailored to high performance computing and not applicable to low-powered, battery-operated devices," Freedman said.
"As the PCs and ultrabooks are pushed into lower and lower power form factors, Intel's processor technology is now well-suited for battery-powered devices," he added.

Lower Costs

Delivering its mobile business to Intel would relieve another pain point for Apple: Doing business with rival Samsung.
"Why should Apple be funding their prime competitor's R&D?" Chowdhry asked.
By having Samsung make processors for its iOS devices, Apple is putting its intellectual property at risk, he added. That won't be the case if Apple's chips are produced in the United States by Intel.
Apple could also reduce the cost of producing its chips with an Intel deal. "Costs will be five to 10 percent lower than they are now," Chowdhry estimated. "You don't have to incur the costs of flying your executives half-way around the world and you don't have to spend on transportation costs to bring the chips back to the United States."

Storage Analyzer: A Must-Have App That Has No Business Being Free

Storage Analyzer: A Must-Have App That Has No Business Being Free

Storage Analyzer can analyze your SD card, external SD cards, USB storage devices and system partitions. It can order content by size, number of files, date or name. It sees the space used by applications using App2SD -- the .android_secure folder. It can include or exclude folders from the mediascan of the Android Gallery. It filters out content you're aware of to make the rest more noticeable. It deletes unnecessary data.

I've been running into major headaches with file-storage memory on my Android tablet. If you too have been having problems getting files to fit on your device, it may not be that your device's memory or SD card is full, but that phantom files are hogging resources.
I'm usually -- carefully -- buying cheap gear. In the device business, that usually means limited on-board memory. I justify these self-imposed memory limits to myself by arguing that I generally stream media and don't use file-sharing. Therefore, I don't need much memory. I believe myself.
Of course, we all know that this memory Scrooge-ery doesn't work. You need as much memory as you can get your hands on. Or do you?
Mission Possible
I got to find out the other day when I was trying to perform a simple, lean PDF download from a Web browser. The minuscule file failed to download. Reason: Memory was full. This had happened a few times and was beginning to turn into an irritation.
A file exploration with the stock-file manager and then Root Explorer -- which requires root -- didn't find any voluminous files that could be using resources. There were no photo albums or movies on the device, and I'd already cleared out the topographic map tiles I hoard.
I was about ready to do an onerous factory reset when a Web-based search prompted my discovery of LeveloKment's free Storage Analyzer tool in the Google Play Store.
The app promised to identify bulky, space-consuming files and folders.
Would Storage Analyzer let me identify an outsized, space-hogging file that was making a device useless? The answer is, yes it did.
Within a few seconds of install and launch, it had identified an overweight DCIM image thumbnail. The multiple-gigabyte file had taken on obese proportions and was in need of gastric surgery. A simple file delete got rid of it, the device didn't blow up, and I was able to continue. Nice job.

Impressive Features

Unlike other storage optimization apps -- like Kalyani's SD CARD Storage Optimizer Pro, for example -- LeveloKment's Storage Analyzer searches for bloated files across partitions. That means it looks in hard-to-find SD Card partitions, obvious SD cards, and on the system itself. That results in a better chance of finding the corpulent file. A quirk in Android file structure means that multiple SD card partitions can be used -- all named "SD Card."
Files can be ordered graphically by size with this app, so it's amazingly easy to see where the problem is.
For those rooted, root options allow file size-readings in the data folder. A simple "use su rights" check box gets you superuser rights and lets you into the troublesome folder.
Data folders can hold file chunks left over by removed apps, so it's a good source of space- liberation. Even if you're not rooted, you might be able to free-up space by checking data folders on your accessible SD card or cards.
For my purposes, all I needed was the large file-size functions. However, included features that may come in handy sometime include ordering by the amount of files, copying and moving, and including or excluding folders.

In Conclusion

This is one of those must-have apps for anyone who has owned an Android tablet or smartphone for a while. Redundant files accumulate with time. Before going out and buying a new device because memory is full, or even investing in an upgraded SD card, run LeveloKment's Storage Analyzer.
You may not need more memory, or a new device. LeveloKment -- you need to charge for this.

Want to Suggest an Android App for Review?

Is there an Android app you'd like to suggest for review? Something you think other Android users would love to know about? Something you find intriguing but aren't sure it's worth your time or money?
Please send your ideas to me, and I'll consider them for a future Android app review.
And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments

How to Move Into Your New Rented Office 365

How to Move Into Your New Rented Office 365

Many PC users have become familiar with Microsoft's suite of Office applications in their workplaces but have not taken advantage of it at home, due to its steep price. Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a cloud-based version designed specifically for home use. It includes all the familiar applications, and users can rent it for just $9.99 per month or $99 per year.
Office 365 Home Premium, the 2013 Windows 8 version of Microsoft's latest version of its Office product, amusingly remains a suite of applications that run under the Windows desktop -- as in earlier, non-tiled versions of Windows.
Although Office installs quick launch tiles, each core element, like Word or Excel, is an application, not a ballyhooed app. Go figure.
Major differences from earlier Office versions include heavy SkyDrive cloud integration and Skype Voice over IP telephony. Cloud functionality allows full-featured Office applications to be streamed to any Internet-connected PC. With its personalization features, your settings are remembered wherever and whenever you sign in.
For the first time, there is no software-loaded CD for purchase -- you can only get Office 365 Home Premium online. Any store-bought product ultimately pulls the software from the Internet. Online-only ostensibly allows for continual version upgrades -- and presumably reduces the manufacturing costs.
Office 365 Home Premium is the first version to be launched in this rentable format. Other versions, including office Home & Student and the products geared for business, can be purchased outright only.
You can try Office 365 Home Premium for a month for free; you can buy it for US$99.99 per year or $9.99 a month. The one-subscription license is for five PCs or Macs and multiple Windows 7.5 and higher phones and tablets. PCs can be running Windows 7 and higher; Macs can be operating Mac OS X 10.6 or higher.
The license includes version upgrades.
Office applications within this version will install depending on device; they include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. Access previously was bundled only with pricey business versions.
You can try Office 365 Home Premium for a month for free; you can buy it for US$99.99 per year or $9.99 a month. The one-subscription license is for five PCs or Macs and multiple Windows 7.5 and higher phones and tablets. PCs can be running Windows 7 and higher; Macs can be operating Mac OS X 10.6 or higher.
The license includes version upgrades.
Office applications within this version will install depending on device; they include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. Access previously was bundled only with pricey business versions.


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