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Apple has a waiting list for law enforcement iPhone access requests May 10th 2013, 23:26
apple hqApple is putting law enforcement requests on hold, according to one judge. The company has created a waiting list for all the “unlock this device” requests it receives.

After repeat attempts to unlock a suspected drug dealer’s iPhone 4S, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reached out to Apple for help, as reported by CNET. Apple complies with law enforcement requests, like most big tech companies, to unlock devices or supply data. But, according to Judge Karen Caldwell handling the case, the ATF was told it would have to be placed on a waiting list along with all the other requests Apple receives.

The agent involved explained in an affidavit that it would be up to seven weeks before the request was fulfilled meaning Apple has its hands full with law enforcement aid. But it makes sense as smartphone data can be a pivotal part of the discovery process in a law suit.

Text messages, Facebook messages, emails, pictures, location-data and more would be available to anyone who had the unlocked phone. In the case of a drug dealer, law enforcement would of course want to look for any messages about transactions, or anything that could lead to further arrests in a drug ring.

Of course, this becomes a sticky matter when it comes to whether warrants are involved or not. It could then be considered an unreasonable search and seizure.

This might be a testament to how secure iPhones seem to be. This might also be a testament to how law enforcement might want to invest in more technical resources.

Apple HQ image via matteoartizzu/Flickr

Filed under: Mobile, Security

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apple hq

thumbnailFlying car crashes near elementary school in Canada May 10th 2013, 22:11
flying-car-crashA parachute-equipped flying car designed by a Florida-based company for the use of missionaries in developing countries has crashed in Canada, just feet from an elementary school about to have a sports day event.The car is a Maverick (slogan: “the flying car that does”) and is basically an ultralight open-wheeled buggy with a cloth exterior skin and a propellor on the back. It uses a wing-style deployable parachute for lift, and costs $94,000. Development of the car was funded by the Indigenous Peoples’ Technology and Education Center, and apparently the idea is that when the road in Borneo, Tanzania, or Peru runs out, the missionary can simply fly to his or her destination.

One model of the Maverick flying car Source: http://mavericklsa.com/specifications.html

One model of the Maverick flying car

Now, however, the company may need to revise its slogan.

Curtis Allen, a reporter for CTV News who was on the scene, told Jalopnik that the pilot took off in Vernon, British Columbia, and crashed around 8:45. He hit a school fence and — from the picture — a tree, which may have saved his life, according to Allen.

Flying cars have been in the news lately as Terrafugia, the flying car company from Woburn, MA, reported that it plans to build street-legal airplanes. The company is working on feasibility studies for the TF-X, which “will further increase the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of personal aviation.”

It’ll need to increase the level of safety quite considerably before the FAA and other governmental organizations think it’s a good idea to give the power of flight to every yahoo with a driver’s license.

The pilot and passenger walked away from this accident, but it is just one more reason why a Jetsons-style future is — and maybe forever will be — in the future.

An experimental flying car cashes in #Vernon, meters from an elementary school field. @ctvbc twitter.com/CTV_Curtis/sta…

— Curtis Allen (@CTV_Curtis) May 10, 2013

When I contacted the Maverick flying car company for a comment, an employee apologized and said “I don’t know anything about it.”

Image credits: Curtis Allen/Twitter, Maverick

Filed under: Gadgets, Mobile, OffBeat
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One model of the Maverick flying car

OpenKit hopes to head off Google with capable and open mobile social platform for games May 10th 2013, 19:00
open kit sign inDevelopers are speculating that Google is about to launch a Game Center for Android, or a meta app for games that will improve discoverability in the vast Google Play app store and make mobile games into a more social and lucrative experience.

So OpenKit is heading off that news with an announcement of its own: a universal social graph that makes games more social across both Apple and Google mobile platforms. The OpenKit technology will enable developers to create a common social network for their games regardless of what platform a user is on. OpenKit is on a fast-track effort because thousands of game developers were caught unprepared when Gree unexpectedly shut down OpenFeint, a mobile social platform, just before the holidays. They had no way to get their user data or code out of the platform and had to scramble to find an alternative.

Peter Relan, head of the YouWeb incubator that spawned OpenFeint, decided in December to create an open platform that developers could use to make their games more social. OpenKit was born (the company name and its open source project bear the same name) with the goal of providing common app services to game developers, who could simply integrate it and then focus on making their games.

“We’ll create a universal social graph for developers on mobile platforms,” Relan said in an interview with GamesBeat. “That’s important. I want to be able to play a game with my son, who is too young to be on Facebook. With OpenKit, I can send him an invite and play the same game. Players don’t have to worry, and developers don’t have to worry.”

With OpenKit, developers could integrate an applications programming interface (API) into their games that made it easy to set up social features such as leaderboards, user identity, and cloud storage. And they could do so with the confidence that the platform would be open. They wouldn’t be locked into it. They could take their data and code and move to another platform. And they would use it to help their games spread to other users via social means and then engage those users more readily. Players could issue challenges and get their friends hooked on the same game.

OpenKit will essentially duplicate some (but not all) of the services that OpenFeint delivered, such as the ability to identify users, authenticate their accounts and passwords, store their information on the Internet-connected data centers known as the cloud, and embed push communications in a game. Many of those features are headaches for developers, so OpenKit will provide cloud-based backend services that take the chores off the developers hands. The features are critical because they will enable “frictionless user acquisition,” or a cheap way to find new users.

That’s the long-term goal. For now, OpenKit is testing more limited features. In March, OpenKit launched its closed beta with features including cloud storage, achievements, universal authentication, Unity plug-ins, and leaderboards. Google could offer these features as well, but it would have no interest in making games on its platform interoperable with those on Apple platforms.

Relan said that OpenKit will allow players who are on iOS or Android to interact with each other across platforms. They won’t be tied to Apple, which has its wall garden in the form of Game Center, or Android, which is expected to have its own form of Game Center soon, based on rumors about next week’s Google I/O event.

Relan said the company plans to develop “smart invites” so that the platform will detect the invitee’s device and present the right app from the right app store in the invitation.

“We are taking away the developer nervousness about the platform,” Relan said.

More than 1,500 developers are testing the service, and more features will be added before June.

“We are doubling down on this theme of removing friction: With iOS and Android equally prevalent among users, they need to be able to interact socially with each other regardless of what device they use,” Relan said. “Developers will also come out ahead because there will be frictionless sharing and inviting which will lead to more downloads for their games and apps.”

Filed under: Business, Games, Mobile, Social

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open kit sign in

The mobile testing challenge: How to improve your UX and prepare for the future May 10th 2013, 16:41
MobileBeat 2013 July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CAEarly Bird Tickets on Sale

Mobile Design

It’s one of the biggest headaches for mobile developers and organizations launching mobile initiatives, and one where the most capital can be wasted: mobile testing.

Since testing can amount to as much as 10 percent of a mobile development budget, this headache can quickly avalanche into a disaster without the right direction and tools.

So what options are available to help companies get through this frustrating period before launching a mobile application? It’s easiest if you consider the four types of testing — unit, functional, data, and user experience — as building blocks that can be put together to create more comprehensive testing.

Unit testing: the basics

Put simply, unit testing is about testing individual functions in isolation. By testing each part of an application on its own, developers can detect problems before they reach the tester and ensure that QA and uniformity are part of the process from the beginning.

Functional testing: going through the motions

As a mobile “tester” goes through each motion in a test case, functional testing monitors the behavior of the application by examining the inputs and returns from each action that was called by the user — every swipe, tap, input, and other gesture.

As any developer would tell you, a poorly written defect is frustrating, and understanding what a tester did to produce an error is important. Using a concept we call “restrospection,” you can visually track what testers do and record a complete history of their actions that include lifecycle events.

Data testing: validating and integrating

With data testing, a mobile developer is looking to ensure integration quality and to validate the data before it reaches the application. This is one of the more critical steps for developers, as it can be a major hold up for mobile applications if backend systems are live but not functioning as expected, using a different version of code, or are undergoing development or updates themselves.

There’s nothing like opening up 50 or 60 tickets from testers when a backend system isn’t working like it should. So the holy grail here is to validate the data before it reaches the application, regardless of whether backend systems are live.

UX testing: getting it right the first time

There are several approaches to user experience testing out there that focus on text overruns/the location of a specific object on the screen including image comparisons using screenshots; but in my opinion the best approach is to do a user interface (UI) testing layout that focuses on the how items are aligned on a page.

When combined with a powerful mobile visualizer, you can truly compare and contrast the changes a developer has made to the layout of a mobile application. Further, user experience done well can help developers eliminate the challenges posed by using human testers.

The multi-channel problem: what’s coming down the road

As businesses start to move towards a multi-channel mobile strategy that aligns everything from a website to mobile apps to kiosks, they’re also going to need a way to test apps for all these channels. But if you thought just building a multi-channel app was hard, try finding a good way to test it.

At my company, one of our clients reported that prior to working with us, they spent a third of their launch timeline on testing. That’s just not going to be feasible as we move into a world where consumers and organizations want updated, fully functional mobile presences at the drop of a hat.

The reality is there are a plethora of products on the market that do portions of testing, but they often require you to buy separate testing suites for each channel — one for web, a bolt-on for mobile, etc. You also have to buy these tools from separate vendors, which adds the complexity of making sure they integrate and communicate well with each other.

What we’re going to see is a radically new and different approach to mobile testing. It’s an area ripe for innovation, where mobile testing will become significantly more automated. This will enable developers to leverage smaller building blocks earlier and give them the ability to build larger, consistent, and repeatable tests that are less costly and catch bugs early.

Raj Koneru is the CEO at mobile and multi-channel application platform provider, Kony Inc. Since founding Kony in 2007, Raj has spearheaded the development and continued innovation of the Kony platform. Raj has also co-founded several other businesses, including Intelligroup (NASDAQ: ITIG), Seranova (NASDAQ: SERA) and iTouchPoint, which was sold in 2005.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Filed under: Mobile

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The DeanBeat: Why Nintendo should have bought Ouya and other might-have-beens May 10th 2013, 15:00
ouya hardwareYou have to love the game business and the beauty of competition. As Nintendo’s fortunes sink in the video game console business, Ouya’s fortunes are rising with its $15 million in venture funding. It is conceivable that the console business could become a four-horse race.

ouya screenFor years, the oligopoly has been ruled by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. When one of them got too arrogant, it fell of its perch, and another would step forward to grab the throne. But then Apple came into the business with the iPhone and threw that cycle into disarray. Nintendo ruled the roost when the Wii launched in 2006, but Microsoft cut off its motion-sensing advantage with the launch of Kinect in 2010. And, after selling nearly 100 million Wii consoles, Nintendo came back last fall with the Wii U, the high-definition console with a tablet screen to control it. Nintendo appeared supremely confident just before the Wii U launch.

Against the might of Nintendo, Ouya seemed like an ant. Sure, it had raised $8.6 million in crowdfunding on Kickstarter, but to put out a real game console in lots of retail stores takes a huge investment. It had no credibility even with all of the support from indie game developers who didn’t have the cash to make big-budget console games.

Now the scales may be tipping.

Ouya has been lifted by premiere Silicon Valley venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Mayfield Fund. Both are lending their credibility; Kleiner’s Bing Gordon is joining the Ouya board. Their money will let Ouya make more consoles that will seem like a bargain to console fans — at $99 for the hardware and tons of free-to-try Android games.

If Ouya hits its targets, it may be able to raise more money as it needs it. Julie Uhrman, the chief executive of Ouya, told GamesBeat, “What I love about Bing is that he is not constrained by conventional thinking and is a great supporter of game developers.”

We’re not sure what the valuation was, but Ouya just got a lot more expensive as a potential acquisition. Nintendo should have grabbed it while it had the chance. Nintendo, meanwhile, had its window to sell Wii U game consoles during the last six months. It had a shortage of hits, and the big games from top publishers either didn’t materialize or didn’t sell well. Nintendo generated some good digital revenue through the app store on the Wii U platform, but it hasn’t had a huge breakout hit on that front.

Now the Wii U is dead in the water. Nintendo sold 3.45 million Wii U consoles as of March 31, and since December, Nintendo sold just 390,000 Wii Us. That’s a horrible start for a new game console, and it must be viewed in this context: Apple sold 56 million iPhones and iPads in one quarter.

As Apple was gathering steam, Nintendo was resting on its laurels and watching the money come in from the Wii. It squandered a chance to do something about the situation. Somehow, with the design of its new console, Nintendo whiffed, and it is in the process of moving from No. 1 in consoles sold in a generation to No. 3 or maybe even No. 4.

Apple is being chased by Google’s Android, and Ouya is riding on that wave, too. Console kingmakers Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard appear to be pulling the plug on Wii U versions of their games. Activision Blizzard isn’t making a Wii U version of Call of Duty: Ghosts, and EA isn’t making a Wii U version of Battlefield 4.

Gordon said in an interview this week, “My own take on Nintendo is that the Wii was a spectacular head fake.” But Microsoft’s Kinect and its Xbox Live service have staked out the high end of the game business. Sony, by comparison, “is starting to look like the new Sega of the game business,” Gordon said. That means that it may soon exit hardware, as Sega did with the ill-fated Dreamcast.

Nintendo ruled in cartoon-style 2D games made by game masters like Shigeru Miyamoto, but Nintendo is losing fans of cartoon games to the tablets and smartphones, Gordon said.

“Once you have a tablet, there is not much reason to buy a Nintendo,” Gordon said. “What they have left is the Miyamoto exclusive box. If you want his games, then you spend the $300 on whatever Miyamoto makes. But that’s a box for tens of millions, not hundreds of millions.”

The question now is what should Nintendo do to right its ship. The odds are strong that it will have to be something drastic — something as disruptive as the Wii U was. Or something as risky and crazy as buying Ouya. Or one of the many variants of gaming on Android, such as GameStick or Green Throttle Games.

Maybe Nintendo could get rid of hardware and make its software available on all platforms, as EA and Activision are doing. Wherever it goes, it will face competition. And that’s a good thing. It would be nice if Nintendo can find that expanding part of the game market that no one has discovered yet — the blue-ocean strategy that Satoru Iwata, the chief executive of Nintendo, has embraced in the past. In that strategy, it’s best to swim out far into the ocean where no competitors are rather than swim into the red ocean where sharks are feasting and fighting for scraps.

Nintendo will have its chance to be heard at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show in Los Angeles in June. I hope Iwata can figure this out. Otherwise, it will remind me of the words of Kurt Vonnegut from the novel Cat’s Cradle: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘it might have been.’”

Filed under: Business, Games, Mobile, Social