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TMCNet:  Boot up: Almunia row, Canada's open data win, mapping Sochi, and more

[February 13, 2014]

Boot up: Almunia row, Canada's open data win, mapping Sochi, and more

(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team Google's Almunia deal said to be criticized by EU officials >> Businessweek European Union Antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia's deal to resolve a three-year-old dispute with Google was criticized by two EU officials at a meeting today, according to two people familiar with the matter.


Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner, and Michel Barnier, who leads financial-services policy, told Almunia at a regular meeting they were unhappy with his handling of last week's settlement, said the people who declined to be named because the talks were private.

"We had a very long debate which shows that there are a lot of concerns and questions," Barnier told reporters today in Brussels. "We haven't finished our work on this subject." The deal has to be approved by the other commissioners too.

Swartz, Manning, and Snowden: when programmers scrape by >> The New Yorker Rusty Foster: The difference between a "crawler" and a "scraper" is subtle, but typically a crawler is smarter about the links it follows, what it downloads, and what it leaves uncopied. For the most part, though, "crawling" is just scraping with a fancier name, and Google created one of the world's most valuable companies in part by being better at scraping than anyone else. Google was incorporated in 1998, and by 2002 its Web-scraping "Googlebots" were so ubiquitous and voracious that, in a short story titled "Robot Exclusion Protocol," the programmer and writer Paul Ford imagined one trying to index his bathroom. Some have suggested that Google's recent acquisition of the smart-device maker Nest Labs is effectively an effort to scrape real-world data about our homes and lives, to add to the company's trove of information about us, which now includes information about the Web pages we visit, our e-mails, the books we read, our shopping habits, and more.

The short story is great.

Why open data was the best $3m investment in Canada's 2014 budget >> Cantech Letter If Open Data strikes you as long on concept, short on results, you need not leaves the confines of Canada to witness one of the best and most widely cited examples of its relevance. In 2010, public policy expert David Eaves described "…a well documented but little known story about how open data helped expose one of the biggest tax frauds in Canada's history." By accessing Canada Revenue Agency records, a colleague of Eaves discovered that the CRA was being duped by fake charitable receipts -in a big way. When all was said and done, it was revealed that sketchy charities were bilking Canadians out of a billion dollars a year. That was .6% of the entire annual budget of the Federal Government, notes Eaves.

Strange bedfellows: Microsoft could bring Android apps to Windows >> The Verge Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans tell The Verge that the company is seriously considering allowing Android apps to run on both Windows and Windows Phone. While planning is ongoing and it's still early, we're told that some inside Microsoft favor the idea of simply enabling Android apps inside its Windows and Windows Phone Stores, while others believe it could lead to the death of the Windows platform altogether. The mixed (and strong) feelings internally highlight that Microsoft will need to be careful with any radical move.

Could Microsoft clone the Google Play APIs and intercept calls from apps on the phone and provide its own services? Trouble is, it would be forever playing catchup to Google. That's once you've got past the problem of implementing the Dalvik VM on Windows Phone.

Tablet hourly usage study: iPad dominates, Surface users more active during working hours >> Chitika The graph shows the iPad miles ahead, with Android tablets at a quarter of the use, and the Surface in the low single digits. However, there's also a "normalised" graph comparing each hour to its peak: While no tablet experiences its volume peak during working hours, Microsoft Surface RT and 2 users generate a slightly greater share of their collective daily traffic between the hours of 12-5 p.m. ET as compared to iPad and Android tablet users. The results support the idea that Microsoft's tablets are generally used more frequently during working hours as compared to its major competitors in the space, but it's important to note the similarities in all three usage patterns, and that any differences in the precise online activities between user bases cannot be discerned from these data (e.g. e-mail, watching videos, etc.) Chitika says the difference is statistically significant; the data (which applies to North America only) was collected over two weeks at the end of January 2014. It's also not split out to RT and Pro - which would have been useful to know.

Are there really lots of vulnerable Apache web servers? >> Netcraft The most recent security vulnerabilities affecting Apache were addressed in version 2.4.5, which included fixes for the vulnerabilities described in CVE-2013-1896 and CVE-2013-2249. Depending which Apache modules are installed, and how they are used, earlier versions may be vulnerable to unauthorised disclosure of information and disruption of service. The previous release in the 2.4 branch (2.4.4), also addressed several cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in various modules; such vulnerabilities can severely compromise a web application by facilitating remote session hijacking and the theft of user credentials. Nonetheless, millions of websites still appear to be using vulnerable versions of Apache, including versions which are no longer supported.

TL:DR "yes".

At Sochi Olympics, crowdsourced OpenStreetMap trounces Google Maps >> Wired Science If you're looking for detailed maps of the Olympic sites around Sochi, Google maps may not be your best bet. OpenStreetMap, the crowdsourced Wikipedia of cartography, looks to have much better coverage of the Olympic sites, as the images in this gallery show.

The region outside Sochi where the Olympic ski and snowboard events will be held is virtually a pale green blank on Google maps, for example. The maps here come from the fun and fabulously time-sucking Map Compare tool on the website of Geofabrik, a German company developing commercial uses for OSM data. The Olympic park along the coast, and even downtown Sochi are also covered in more detail in OSM (although with some features that appear on one map but not the other, it's not clear which is more accurate — at least not without being there).

OpenStreetMap is a modern wonder. (Apple's map of the area is pretty much bereft of detail; Nokia HERE's is OK. Puzzling why Apple doesn't just take OSM's content outright.) Mobile phone market, excluding China, will see no growth this year >> Investors.com Apple and Samsung continue to soak up all the industry's profits, [Tavis] McCourt [of analysts Raymond James] says. Apple claimed 87.4% of phone earnings before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter, he said. Samsung took in 32.2% of industry profits. Because their combined earnings were higher than the industry's total earnings as a result of many vendors losing money in Q4, Apple and Samsung mathematically accounted for more than 100% of the industry's earnings.

A year ago, Apple accounted for 77.8% of mobile phone industry profits, followed by Samsung with 26.1%, McCourt said.

"It remains unclear to us where any non-Chinese vendor outside of Apple and Samsung will obtain the profits necessary to re-invest in the business," McCourt said. "The mobile device market continues to look like an Apple and Samsung market in the developed world, with Chinese-based vendors continuing to take share in emerging markets." The fourth-quarter total for Apple and Samsung comes to 103.9% in 2012 and 119.7% in 2013. Both companies' profits in that period were roughly flat, so the rest of the business seems to be getting worse.

Taiwan suppliers concerned about competition from China in 2014 >> Digitimes Since China-based supply chain players already achieved significant improvements in both product design and quality, many vendors have started turning to place their orders with these players.

China-based electronics manufacturing service (EMS) provider BYD is one of the players that has been aggressively striving for orders. In addition to smartphone orders from Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Huawei, BlackBerry and High-Tech Computer (HTC), the company has recently landed orders for Intel's education tablets, Acer's entry-level smartphone and Hewlett-Packard's (HP) tablets.

Intel has also turned to promote China suppliers for component purchasing and has relatively improved these suppliers ability to land orders.

With consequent long-term implications for Taiwan's economy.

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(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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