whats known and unknown

Google confirms major camera improvements are coming to Android


Code uncovered last week suggested that Google was at work on a new Android camera API. It looks like that code was correct, as Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirmed the forthcoming update to CNet on Monday.

“Android’s latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports raw and burst-mode photography… We will expose a developer API [application programming interface] in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality,” Scigliano said.

This means that support for features like burst-mode and capturing in RAW file formats is already built into Android. An update to the camera API will make these functions available to makers of camera apps.

The code uncovered last week also showed support for face detection and “removable” cameras. Scigliano didn’t touch on those features, but it looks like burst-mode will be a major focus. According to Scigliano:

The core concept of the new HAL and future API…

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Troll wins Newegg encryption patent case, threatening web firms that protect customers


Just as the web is clamoring for more encryption, a Texas jury has set a terrifying precedent for companies that want to deploy it. Late Monday, the jury said online retailer Newegg was infringing on a patent that supposedly covers such security techniques. The court ordered Newegg to pay $2.3 million in damages, essentially for the sin of protecting its e-commerce transactions from online criminals.

U.S. Patent 5412730 (the ‘730 patent) was filed in 1992 by and granted in 1995 to one Michael Jones, at the time of a company called Telequip. It now belongs to TQP Development, an outfit established by Erich Spangenberg for the sole purpose of extracting cash from companies that allegedly infringe on its claims. Such outfits are officially known as “non-practising entities” and unofficially as “trolls”.

TQP has already used the patent to wring around $40 million in settlements out of Amazon(s amzn), Microsoft(s…

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iBuyPower reveals a Steam Machine prototype that won’t break the bank


The challenge of manufacturing a PC/console hybrid is a really stiff one: How do you develop a console with enough power to push high-end PC graphics without running the cost of the device above consumer’s expectations? While Steam Machine creator Valve has detailed a prototype with impressive guts — including an Nvidia(s nvda) Titan graphics card — that has the potential to cost more than $1000 retail.

But, according to the Verge, third-party hardware developer iBuyPower has revealed a Steam Box prototype to be released sometime in 2014 that strikes that balance, offering a good-quality system for the price of $499 — the same cost as the Xbox One(s msft).

The system, which is said to be roughly between the sizes of the PlayStation 4(s sne) and the Xbox One, has an AMD(s amd) CPU and an AMD Radeon  R9 270 graphics card,  which will be able to…

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How OpenTable competes with the telephone


Studies show that consumers are more impatient than ever when it comes to application performance. According to the New York Times, a subsecond difference in response time is enough to send a prospective customer to your competitor’s website. But what if your competitor is the phone? OpenTable finds that performance is even more important when the frame of reference is the speed and reliability of a landline. Convincing millions of people to make their restaurant reservations online or on a mobile app instead of over the phone required OpenTable to build an application that was unsurpassed both in user experience and in performance.

Watch the interview with OpenTable’s Performance Lead, Alan Novitskiy, to find out how OpenTable keeps its end users choosing apps over phones with application performance management (APM).

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Survey: What’s next for wearables?


The new class of wearable technology includes everything from smart watches and glasses to fabrics and fitness bands. In order to map the future for these devices, we ask you, readers, to share your thoughts on this market: the challenges, most prominent companies, and which devices will prove most promising.

Note: Survey results will be posted on Gigaom Research (subscription required). For survey participants who are not subscription holders, email research-info@gigaom.com for a copy of the results.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

Image courtesy of flickr user Br3nda

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Role of fiber operators in NSA surveillance scandal falls under greater scrutiny


The New York Times has published further details of an NSA operation that involves spying on the fiberoptic cables running between the data centers of companies such as Google(s goog) and Yahoo(s yhoo). The piece highlights the role played by Level 3, the company that runs such cables for Google and Yahoo. Level 3 has already been identified as one of the telecommunications firms working with the UK’s NSA partner, GCHQ. These fiber connections are crucial to the affair, as they may provide a way for the NSA and GCHQ to effectively tap into major web firms’ systems without their cooperation.

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Docker goes broader — supporting more Linux distros out of the box


Docker, the popular container technology that, in theory, lets developers encapsulate their apps and run them on bare metal, virtualized and private or public cloud environments, now supports nearly all the major Linux distributions right out of the box.

Before now, the Docker 0.7 release supported Debian and Ubuntu Linux,  but now Red Hat(s rhat), Suse and Gentoo are added to the mix, the company said. To be clear, developers could run Docker on the other Linux distros before, but that required them  to do some contortions using AnotherUnionFS or AUFS and then recompile their kernel which, let’s face it, could be complicated and not all that invigorating. And, by doing so, they could endanger their RHEL support contract coverage.

The beauty of Docker is that it lets developers keep using the languages and frameworks of their choosing but then deploy their application widely. In that regard, many view it as…

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Fraud problem makes Facebook more attractive to online advertisers, say ad insiders


Digital marketers, weary of online scams, will start placing more ads on Facebook(s fb) rather than run the risk that their ads will be shown to robots instead of actual people.

That was one conclusion of an ad industry breakfast in Manhattan, titled Bagels and Bots, where executives last week explored the pervasiveness of botnets — networks of corrupted computers that provide an easy way for criminals and hackers to defraud big brands out of billions of dollars. Here are some new numbers, and the implications for advertisers.

Online ad exchanges a fertile ground for fraud

Scammers, who have been present since the early days of online advertising, are adept at finding new ways to cheat the ad industry. One of the latest tricks involves directing millions of bot visitors to “ghost sites” — which contain a thin scrip of “content” but few real readers — and then collecting money…

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Smart bike lock Lock8 clears Kickstarter goal and picks up extra funding


With car-sharing becoming so popular that it’s attracting patent trolls, it’s a logical extension to the concept to have app-enabled bike-sharing schemes, too. And wouldn’t you know it? Here come two at once.

BitlockA couple of a weeks ago, a San Francisco outfit called Mesh Motion hit its $120,000 Kickstarter goal for its Bitlock product. And on Tuesday, British-German outfit VeloLock said it had passed its own £50,000 ($81,000) Lock8 Kickstarter goal ahead of schedule, and also picked up additional funding from Horizon Ventures and Otto Capital.

Both Bitlock and Lock8 are bicycle locks that rely on smartphones rather than physical keys to unlock them. And both smartphone apps allow the sharing of the bike with friends and, in theory, through commercial bike-sharing schemes.

However, there are significant differences – in a nutshell, Lock8 ($149, shipping in July 2014) is a more advanced device than Bitlock ($129, shipping…

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Podcast: In a connected world, what is the future of play?


My seven-year-old daughter has LEGOs, Barbies, an assortment of stuffed animals and a Kindle Fire that she plays with on a regular basis. But when our children ask us for tablets instead of toys, what does that mean for the future of play? In this week’s podcast we explore this idea with Michael Rosenblatt the CEO of The Seamless Toy Company (the Rosenblatt interview starts about 19 minutes in).

We’ll talk about Atoms, the connected building toy Seamless has just started shipping and why letting kids combine the digital and physical worlds could be the future of play without changing the nature of play. The show also sees the return of my colleague Kevin Tofel as we discuss the Revolv home hub and the pros and cons of connecting light bulbs, light switches and outlets.

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Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary broke ratings records by enlisting the internet


For fans of a madman in a blue box, last Saturday was pretty epic. Doctor Who, perhaps the iconic British science fiction series of the last century, celebrated its 50th birthday with a special anniversary episode that was shown simultaneously around the world on TV and in movie theaters.

Add a live simulcast pre-and post-show event that unfolded online and on TV, as well as a massive social media campaign, and you got record-breaking television ratings around the world, including 2.4 million viewers on BBC America (which increased to 3.6 million following an encore screening later in the day).

All of that didn’t happen just by virtue of the show’s history — it was a clever combination of multiple platforms to create a truly global event. Here’s how it was done:

The actual premiere

The aniversary episode, titled “The Day of the Doctor,” featured current series star Matt Smith…

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Revolv gets $4M for its universal hub aimed at the smart home


Revolv, the Boulder, Colo. startup that’s building a hub to unify all the connected devices in your home, has raised $4 million led by The Foundry Group. American Family Insurance and several existing investors also participated, bringing the startup’s total funding to $6.7 million.

Revolv, which launched its hub two weeks ago, makes a device that “speaks” several different radio protocols used inside home automation gear. The company offers an app that lets users control their many devices –from Hue light bulbs to Sonos music systems and connected wall outlets — in one place. Users can also set conditional rules that can set off certain scenarios when a person gets near their home or at a certain time of day. For example, I’ve set up the Sonos in my daughter’s bedroom to come on at 8:15 every night with her lullaby playlist. I can also add an instruction…

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Black Friday deal: Two HP Chromebook 14 options for $100 off or more


We still have a few days to wait for Black Friday ads to appear, however the details of those details are leaking out. And those looking to buy an HP(s hpq) Chromebook 14 will have at least two money-saving options.

Staples(s spls) may have the sweetest deal: It will sell the Chromebook for $179.

Staples Chromebook 14

Meanwhile, Best Buy(s bbuy) will be selling the $299 edition of HP’s Chromebook 14 for $199 while including a $30 Google Play Credit.

Best Buy Chromebook 14

Both devices use the same Intel(s intc) Celeron chip and come with 16 GB of flash storage and 100 GB of free Google Drive storage.

This post was updated at 12:32pm to remove mention of the Intel Haswell chips as these Chromebooks appear to use the prior generation chip.

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Fisker’s bankruptcy filing reveals high-profile creditors from Washington, Valley, Hollywood


Beleaguered electric car maker Fisker Automotive finally filed for bankruptcy late on Friday, many months after expected, and over a year since it made its last car. While the bankruptcy has been expected for a long time, this is one of the first times the public has been able to see Fisker’s very long list of creditors — 669 pages long, with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 creditors.

Creditors are individuals and companies to which Fisker owes money, so the list includes vendors as well as investors. It could also include people that put down deposits for cars and never received a car, or people who bought a car from Fisker and for whatever reason are still owed money. At this point it’s hard to tell which creditors are involved with what part of the business and for how much, but what we do know is that there are a…

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Video: A first look at Tablo, a DVR for cord cutters


Tablo wants to offer cord cutters a DVR that records free HD TV, and then streams it to iPads and other mobile devices. The device hasn’t launched yet, but co-founder Grant Hall stopped by our office to give us a first look.

Show notes for this episode:


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Harman, Placecast test in-car radio ads that know where you are


When your car is connected, your car stereo is too. That means it isn’t just your navigation system getting your GPS coordinates, but also potential radio advertisers trying to sell you concert tickets or toasted sandwiches.

Harman’s Aha Radio and location-based advertising firm Placecast are testing out a new ad format on vehicles embedded with Aha’s internet radio and content streaming system, which includes several newer Ford(s f), Chrysler, Toyota(s tm), Honda(s hmc), Subaru and Porsche vehicle models.

The long of the short of it is that when Placecast’s geofencing technology detects you’re near an advertising partner’s retail store or restaurant, Aha will insert an audio and visual ad into its internet radio stream that will give you the option of receiving an email coupon for goods or services. The companies are testing the new ad format out with sandwich chain Quiznos in U.S. cities. As Placecast and Aha…

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Japan’s exam-taking robot does alright on mathematic test run


An artificial intelligence system under development by the Japanese government and several technology companies successfully answered 4 of 10 math questions on a sample college entrance exam, according to a press release from project member Fujitsu on Monday. The grand goal of the project, known as Todai Robot for short, is to pass the University of Tokyo entrance exams by 2021 (currently between 80 percent and 90 percent for the first-stage exam, and then 30 percent to 40 percent for the second, more-difficult stage) using algorithms that are efficient enough to run on a laptop computer.

Fujitsu is leading the project’s efforts at passing the math portion of the exam, and it tested out the current version on practice exams administered by a popular college prep academy called Yoyogi Seminar. According to the press release, “[T]he artificial brain of Todai Robot automatically solved two out of four University of Tokyo…

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Right on time, Qualcomm opens pre-orders for its Toq smartwatch


We already heard that Qualcomm’s(s qcom) Toq smartwatch would be available around December 2, but it’s possible some could wear one before then. The Toq is now available to pre-order for $349 directly from Qualcomm in black, and there’s mention of a white edition coming soon as well. Qualcomm says the watch orders will be delivered in one to three weeks.

toq watch front

At $349, I don’t expect the Toq to compete with more readily available, less expensive alternatives. You can buy two Pebble smartwatches and still have $50 left over, for example. But Qualcomm isn’t looking to get a Toq on every wrist; at least not directly.

The Toq is more proof-of-concept to showcase Qualcomm’s technologies: Its low-powered but capable chips and the unique Mirasol display. Mirasol is interesting because it’s a color screen that uses little energy. As I noted earlier this year:

Mirasol uses reflective…

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HTC One Max review: Bigger isn’t always better


The HTC One is probably my favorite Android(s goog) phone ever. Its combination of a stunning display, gorgeous industrial build and top-notch specs make it a formidable device more than seven months after it first came out. I’m not a huge fan of HTC’s overbearing Sense software, but there’s always the Google Play edition if you want to escape it completely.

It makes sense, then, that a supersized version of the HTC One – the 5.9-inch HTC One Max— should be just as good, right? Only it isn’t. After all, seven months is a long time, especially in the smartphone world. While the One Max is plenty powerful, it doesn’t quite measure up to Samsung’s latest “phablet,” the Galaxy Note 3, which offers improved performance and a better camera. And perhaps more importantly, thanks to solid multitasking and a built-in stylus, the Galaxy Note 3 makes a case for…

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UltraViolet for iOS: how to make the most of your digital movies


Digital movie libraries were once located solely on the hard drive of one’s computer. Occasionally DVDs came with either an iTunes or a Windows Media file to unlock. Now you get redemption codes that will add movies to a cloud based movie library of the seller’s choice, not yours. The chances of maintaining an iTunes only approach to your cloud based movie collection dwindles with each new release.

iTunes Digital Copy

The trend with new movie releases seems to be heading exclusively towards Ultraviolet digital copies. As an example, the Lords of the Ring collection I purchased just last year came with a digital copy that is now part of my iTunes library whereas The Hobbit’s digital copy has found its way into an UltraViolet library. It seems like Bilbo and Frodo have different destinies after all.

The following will look at the different ways of obtaining a digital copy of a…

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