How Google's AI-driven chat app, Allo is a Privacy trade-off

Posted by John Onwuegbu | September 22, 2016 |

Google's new AI-driven chat app, Allo brings the full power of Google Assistant, incorporating Google Now to provide a rather give-and-take offering of automatic generated responses called Smart Replies and other computer-generated suggestions, but ironically, it's all at your privacy trade-off.

Google believes that its AI-driven chat app, Allo can do a better job, thereby leaving it up to users to delete their own messages.

And as you may already know, Google Assistant isn't quite a big believer in privacy, been that the app is tied to your Android phone, it request for the usually expected permissions: the ability to access your contacts, and more.

Which data will be kept by them indefinitely, or at least until you manually delete them, instead of keeping it on their servers for only a brief period of time.

The company initially considered keeping messages in a "transient" mode, but testing Allo revealed that the Smart Reply technology worked better if it had a history of user messages to learn from.

Albeit, Allo provides an Incognito Mode, which offers end-to-end encryption, meaning data remain scrambled and unreadable when they pass through the company servers, but it has to be enabled by a user.

Facebook owned WhatsApp, and Apple's iMessage, have taken a different approach, and doesn't leave it up to users to delete messages or choose to enable encryption, as messages are encrypted end-to-end by default.

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Microsoft will be adding support for Google Drive and Facebook photos to its webmail service, Outlook.com, along with a fresh “attachments view” in conversations in the coming weeks, and will be listed as an option under the attachment icon, which features have already been made available for the Outlook app.

While the Outlook app for Android and iOS have had Google Drive integration for some time, the new integration to the webmail will work the same way as OneNote integration does on Outlook.com.

And the first time you use the Google Drive integration you’ll have to sign-in and authorize Outlook, after clicking on the “attachment” icon and then choose the service to use, you see a pop-up window showing your files.

Microsoft will also be adding a new “attachments view” for message threads, so when a user views a long message thread there will be an attachment icon at the top with the number of attachments that have been included in the thread.

The company also announced Dropbox and Box integration for Outlook.com earlier in the year.

Albeit, these functionalities that integrate other web services to Outlook.com is great for users, Microsoft's aim is to migrate all users to the refresh new interface of Outlook.com.

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While Apple had earlier made its hugely popular programming language, Swift, available as an open-source, and now it has also made it easier to learn, and to help that process, the company is set to launch an app, Swift Playgrounds on iOS to aid would-be developers into mastering the new convention.

Apple is set to release Swift Playgrounds on Tuesday on the App Store, albeit, it'll require iOS 10 and older iPads like the first-generation iPad Mini will not be able to run it.

Swift Playgrounds is rather a stripe down of the modern programming complexities with tools to provide guidance that gives people coding skills, and lets you learn by tinkering: making Swift Playgrounds the real deal for those interested in coding.

The app shows how a collection of commands are grouped into a single function that can be invoked over and over to control an animated character, Byte.

It comes with an introductory module and one that's more advanced, with Apple adding up new challenges periodically to make it engaging for students.

With "Get Started with Coding" workshops in English-speaking countries, Apple hopes to encourage uptake of the new learning convention this fall with more than 100 schools to offer Swift Playgrounds classes.

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Pokémon Go, the adrenaline rush augmented reality game is finally coming to wearables, as revealed by John Hanke, the chief executive at Niantic Labs. According to him, Pokémon Go is coming to the Apple Watch 2, along side new feature that tracks how far you need to walk before your Pokémon “eggs” hatch.

While the new feature of the game involves hatching virtual eggs, which require you to walk a certain distance to hatch.

Apple Watch will enable you to track the progress of your eggs as you’re on the go, and will also alert you when a Pokémon is nearby.

Meanwhile, Apple Watch isn't the only wearable launching with the ability to play Pokémon Go, as Nintendo on Thursday announced Pokemon Go Plus, a wearable that will be released on September 16 in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The Pokemon Go Plus connects via Bluetooth to your iOS or Android device to allow you know about any nearby Pokemon or Pokestops.

Albeit, European availability is yet to be confirmed, Nintendo's official website stated that the wearable will be released in "most countries".

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While Apple may be unveiling the iPhone 7 and the Apple Watch 2 at tomorrow's event, it's pertinent to get familiar with the two software (iOS 10 and WatchOS 3) set to power the next devices.

Apple lifted the curtain on iOS 10 and WatchOS 3 earlier in the year at WWDC, with the major new feature in iOS 10 as the update to Messages, and the opening up of iMessage to third-party developers.

Developers can also use Siri to control third-party software, meaning Apple's virtual assistant may soon be used in sending messages on Whatsapp, or to help place a call on Skype.

Siri has also gotten smarter, and will be able to anticipate what you might be typing, and/or help out when searching for a phone number buried in your address book.

Other areas in which improvements were recorded in the new OS, is Photo, iOS 10 uses facial recognition to automatically sort your photos into albums of people, places and events.

Apple Maps has now got alternate routes, an Uber functionality, including traffic info and points of interest, and giving Google a close match up in the navigation game.

And for WatchOS 3, it now provides quick access to battery life and settings for Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb and more.

Albeit, it isn't just about software for mobile devices, as upgrades to tvOS for Apple TV and MacOS Sierra, the new version of its desktop platform are expected, Apple will be keeping more focus on the Watch and iPhone 7.

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Pokemon Go's next big update lets you walk the Pokemon

Posted by John Onwuegbu | September 01, 2016 |

The record-breaking augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, latest app version has been mined to reveal that players will soon be able to take their favorite Pokemon down for a walk.

Pokemon GO Buddy system data, which was first unraveled on AeonLucid’s PogoProtos, the biggest Github repository for analyzing Pokemon GO traffic, shows that changes are already present in the code base, and could be getting the underway in the next update.

The code made it clear about how Pokemon could walk alongside a player, with others able to fly along and/or sit beside a player.

While the most recent update to Pokemon Go is the Appraisal feature, which teaches players on their Pokemon's battle readiness, ability to walk Pokemon is perhaps the second big, recent addition coming to the game.

It's expected that the app will receive the entire data package from the server side, similar to how walked egg distance is updated.

Also sighted are two new functions in the Network Requests code base: SetBuddyPokemonMessage and GetBuddyWalkedMessage, albeit, actual implementation is currently missing but their naming clearly indicates the intent.

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Mozilla has launched an online website scanner to check web servers to ensure they have the best security settings in place, dubbed Observatory, the tool initially used in-house by Mozilla security team, but now has been expanded and made available for other web administrators.

It follows the hugely appreciated SSL Server Test from Qualys’ SSL Labs, which rates a website’s SSL/TLS configuration and highlights its weaknesses.

Albeit, Mozilla’s Observatory scans for a wider range of security mechanisms, unlike the SSL Server Test, which only checks TLS implementation.

The Observatory code is open source, with its API and command-line tools available for administrators who want to perform large number of websites scan internally and/or periodically.

The scan can include: Content Security Policy (CSP), HTTP Public Key Pinning, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), redirections, subresource integrity, X-Frame-Options, X-Content-Type-Options, X-XSS-Protection, and Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS), among others.

The test results usually come with links back to Mozilla’s web security guidelines, with implementation examples to enable website administrators to more easily understand the issues detected during the scan.

While the results may not be uncannily accurate for some site—wide test, after all, as the security needs of those sites are pretty more complicated, the adoption of these standards will make developers, system administrators, and security professionals more familiar with them.

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Google announced brand new messaging apps, Duo and Allo back in May, with the later as a smart messaging app aimed to make conversations easier and more expressive, and Duo, simply a one-to-one video calling app.

While, private messaging is now the current norm, with WhatsApp announcing in April about its employing end-to-end encryption by default for all users, making it virtually impossible for anyone to intercept private conversations.

Beta testers have disclosed that the preview version of Allo also features end-to-end encryption (using the Signal protocol) with unique identity keys for each individual users.

Albeit, Google disabled end-to-end encryption by default, and require users to switch to an “incognito mode” within the app, if they want end-to-end encryption via the Signal protocol.

As one possible side effects of the end-to-end encryption for conversations is that Google Assistant doesn't work in it.

Allo's incognito chats can have an expiry time just like Snapchat, with a small timer on top next to the recipient's name and photo, with a blue indicator for the expiration time.

Interestingly, Allo seems bit of a complicated take-on self-destructing message apps, but things are expected to change from the test preview versions and when the final release is out.

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Microsoft has clearly demonstrated absolute embrace of open source, as it announced on Thursday that Windows PowerShell - a task automation and configuration management framework is breaking out of the aged restrictions of Windows and going open source.

With PowerShell GitHub page to allow developers to download binaries of the software, as well as to have access to the app’s source code, the company will also release alpha versions of PowerShell for Linux (Ubuntu, Centos and Redhat) and Mac OS X.

While developers who already commands proficiency with Microsoft’s scripting language will be able to bring them to new platforms.

Microsoft's move to open up the product has made the skills of Windows administrators even more marketable, as well as possible for Linux users to get access to additional set of tools that can be useful to manage a variety of systems.

The company also announced the release of the PowerShell Editor Service, including support for debugging, albeit, support for other editions will be coming in the future.

The open sourcing of .NET programming frameworks in 2014 is perhaps what paved the way, by making the codes of PowerShell available on Linux and Mac OS X.

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Microsoft has rolled out a new app for Android and iOS, that makes two-factor authentication (2FA) easier and simple by unifying its former authenticator apps: Azure Authenticator and Microsoft Account, with a new version called Microsoft Authenticator.

Before now, Microsoft two-factor authentication apps are somewhat complicated, making something that's supposed to ease login even more complicated.

While authenticator app isn't quite a novelty, the new app really does something anyone using Microsoft’s platform will appreciate.

When a user tries to log into a Microsoft account, instead of requiring you to enter an authentication code on your PC, the app will pop-up an alert to let you authorize the login with a tap on your mobile device.

Albeit, Google rolled out a similar feature on Android and iOS for Google accounts, Microsoft Authenticator on Android is aimed at enterprise-users and will be handy for Microsoft-powered applications.

The company, however, seems to have reserved the best feature, ability to log in to a nearby computer with a single tap, which is coming first to Windows 10 Mobile once the beta version of the new Microsoft Authenticator goes live.

The app is now available on iOS and Android, with the Windows 10 Mobile app arriving as soon as it exits the internal beta.

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