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Google puts Android on lock-down: Non-fragmentation contracts, standardized ARM chips, more

Google’s approach to Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of its OS designed for tablets, has drawn criticism recently over the search giant’s refusal to release the source code to OEMs; now, it seems, that could be part of a push to reduce fragmentation. According to DigiTimes‘ sources, Google is considering “standardizing” not only the Honeycomb software but collaborating with ARM to standardize the chipsets Android 3.0 will run on. Meanwhile, BusinessWeek claims execs from multiple big name companies have confirmed that Google now insists on “non-fragmentation clauses” from partners hoping to have the earliest access to Android code, limiting the changes they can make to the UI, services and apps, and even which companies they can partner with.

The exact nature of each of those standardizations is not spelled out, so it’s hard to say how the plans, if followed through, would sit with the open-source nature of Android at present. One suggestion the sources make is that it would mark a shift in Google’s strategies to something closer to Microsoft’s approach, where partners are limited in their access to the underlying code.

If true, the move could increase consistency and, with more boilerplate chips, smooth the upgrade process for device users. While Google is yet to comment, it’s interesting to note that in our discussions with ASUS yesterday at the launch of the Eee Pad Transformer, one of the company’s representatives pointed out that Google had been displeased with the custom battery-level wallpaper ASUS had developed, apparently suggesting that ASUS modified the core code in order to make it.

That fits with BusinessWeek’s multiple sources, which claim Google has been clamping down on OEM individualization. While project lead Andy Rubin argues limits have always been part of the Android contract – such as the criteria which must be satisfied if a device wants to sport “with Google” branding – the leaks suggest Google has recently tightened its policies. Facebook’s moves in Android have apparently been frustrated by Google’s demands to see all code tweaks, and it’s alleged that the company attempted to delay the release of Verizon smartphones that replaced Google search with Microsoft’s Bing.

LG, Toshiba and Samsung are all believed to have been affected by the new policies, and it’s alleged that the US Justice Department has received complaints over how Google handles Android and its OEM partnerships.

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Samsung installed laptop keyloggers claims researcher; Company launches probe

Samsung has been accused of installing keylogger software on its notebooks by security researchers, and has launched an investigation into the allegations. Mohamed Hassan claims to have discovered the StarLogger keylogger software on both a Samsung R525 and R540 notebook, each factory-fresh, when running basic scans. He says a Samsung tech support agent told him that “We just put it there to find out how the computer is being used.”

“This key logger is completely undetectable and starts up whenever your computer starts up. See everything being typed: emails, messages, documents, web pages, usernames, passwords, and more. StarLogger can email its results at specified intervals to any email address undetected so you don’t even have to be at the computer your[sic] are monitoring to get the information. The screen capture images can also be attached automatically to the emails as well as automatically deleted” Mohamed Hassan, Network World

Samsung has quickly responded, with spokesperson Jason Redmond saying “We take these claims very, very seriously” and that “We have no understanding of a relationship with [StarLogger developers de Willebois Consulting] and we have no prior knowledge of this software being on our laptops.” de Willebois Consulting is yet to comment.

Unsurprisingly, privacy advocates and their lawyers are already circling. If the installations were indeed at Samsung’s behest, then the company could face both civil lawsuits and challenges from states over consumer protection laws.

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Android To Dominate Google IO: Google TV, Chrome Fans Cry

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With only 1.5 months left until Google IO I’ve curiously been gathering my thoughts and predictions about what Google will announce. But articles on ChromeSpot and GTVsource suggest the writing may already be on the wall: out of 52 listed session titles, 15 contain “Android”, 2 contain “Chrome” and only 1 contains “Google TV”.

Some might find this incredibly surprising, especially considering Chrome OS and Google TV are considered two hot up-and-coming products. While Chrome Browser has enjoyed growth and success, we’re also eagerly anticipating the first publicly available Chrome Netbooks. The CR-48 Chrome Notebook is out there but only as a beta to a select test group. Meanwhile Google TV is in the marketplace and I’ve maintained it will take off once it gets a little Android Market loving.

The sessions are the sessions, there is no denying that, but Google will almost CERTAINLY have a few tricks up their sleeves come May 10th and 11th. We’ve already got word of one of those potential surprises courtesy of GTVsource and – unless we receive the red light – we’ll be sharing it with you tomorrow.

Until then… let’s hear some of your Google IO predictions for Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Google TV and anything else you have a hunch about such as the long-rumored Google Music service. And fret not GTV and Chrome Fans… great things await you.

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AT&T Expects to Let Go of Some Markets, Employees in Merger

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Some bad news has come out of AT&T’s Randall Stephenson. He shed some light on negative effects of the merger – something I bet they haven’t been trying to talk about – and admits that AT&T will have to drop a few pounds in the process should the FCC grant them T-Mobile’s hand in this very unorthodox marriage. (Yes, I know that joke. No, I won’t tell it… at least not here.)

He told the Wall Street Journal that AT&T would have to divest some markets in order to bring all of those T-Mobile customers over meaning a few of you might have to join up with Verizon or Sprint once it’s all said and done. Randall couldn’t state which markets would be affected which is understandable as the deal hasn’t even been approved yet.

They also regret to inform everyone that some employees will have to be let go as the two entities merge. It’s a common nasty side-effect of mergers in any industry but it never does sit right with us whenever we hear some folks will be out of a job in this troubled economy.

Stephenson did attempt to make this episode more cheery, though, as he states that the merger would make AT&T’s network more reliable and customers may even experience price drops on voice and data plans because of it. We’ll hold our breath on that claim until AT&T actually goes to integrate all of those new customers and contracts, though.

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Dungeon Defenders: First Wave Now Free to Play on the Android Market

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The folks at Trendy have just dropped us a note letting us know that their highly popular action RPG Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is now a free game for all to play and enjoy in the Android market. The news comes to us in light of the launch of Google’s native in-app payments system for Android.

Trendy is now banking on in-app purchases to make money since Google’s made it easier for users to carry out micro-transactions. The game itself has remained the same so if you were holding off on trying it out due to its $5 price tag then you’ll want to head over to the Android market. [Note: web-based market does not yet reflect this change. Search for it using the Android market application on your phone.]

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Google Introduces +1 Button on Desktop Search Engine [Video]

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Google’s continuing to make their search engine – and other tools – more social and personal to you by introducing a simple “+1 button”. The premise is very simple: if you find something you like while searching, hit the button and your friends will know that it’s something cool or something that you like and is worth taking a look at if they end up searching for something similar.

Simple enough, right? And yes we know this is only for the desktop version of Google Search for now but we’ll assume Android will be getting some +1 love in the future. (They did it for something as complex and cool as Instant, so why not?) Check out a quick demonstration video above.

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Fiber Optics: Past Copper

Most of the active connections to this globe spanning network we all love to hate come in the form of cable or DSL. Modulated electric signals get transmitted over metal wires, coaxial or twisted pair respectively. These technologies transmit the internet as most experience it. Verizon has begun to break down this model with it’s FiOS fiber optic lines, but they have been really slow to roll out. They’ve only managed to cover 10% of the households in the United States. AT&T isn’t doing much better at getting Fiber to the people, U-Verse (where most AT&T fiber customers fall under) has even fewer subscribers than FiOS. Fiber-optics, while ten or a hundred times faster than the connection you’re probably using, isn’t available most places, yet. We wrote about Google’s Fiber Project earlier today.

Data speed is like oxygen, right? Oxygen you take for granted until it disappears. And then it becomes everything.

Cable and DSL weren’t originally designed to transmit and receive digital signals. Originally it was all just the system of copper lines that transmitted analog signals for commercial telephone systems. DSL takes advantage of some property of electromagnetism that I don’t entirely understand to send the signal through the field surrounding the twisted pair. Cable internet, likewise, was bolted-on to the Cable TV system after-the-fact.

It’s not there already because the physical infrastructure that would actually funnel all of the clips of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to millions of computers through laser beams just doesn’t exist. The beams are not there yet. This allows for some really smart and creative business minds (a.k.a. Google) to have an opportunity to fill these gaps, demand seems to be growing just a little bit faster than the old telecom giants are able to keep up. This is why this project is so important, this allows Google to begin investing some real capital into the Real Stuff that makes up the internet. This market has massive barriers to entry, and Google is taking the leap over the wall.

It’s not all on the telecoms to make these changes to the US network. The Federal government has gotten involved in spreading high-speed access. They have a website that promotes, “Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century.” As a part of the National Broadband Plan those fine folks put together this interactive map of broadband coverage throughout the US.

Note though, Google’s entire project hangs on the approval of KC’s Board of Commissioners. I wonder how many telecommunications lobbyists linked with AT&T and/or Verizon made appointments, phone calls, or visits down to KC’s City Hall today?

This could give Google the leg-up it needs to start building it’s own broadband empire in infrastructure, the only place it matters. Google has been looking to open large parts of the US telecommunications networks, starting with the FCC Auction for the ~ MHz spectrum last year. They have been unsuccessful thus far. It doesn’t really matter that much to consumers which company gets to provide them with fiber. That’s a battle that’s going to be fought in board rooms and City Council meetings over the next decade or so. But the best part of this whole project, if it goes through… This will link the entire town of Kansas City together with hair-thin fibers of glass and laser beams, and that’s a step in the right direction.

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4G: What does this really mean?

Texas resident, Keith Geissler, contacted the Better Business Bureau when he found that his ATRIX 4G was only pushing around 300kbps up the tube instead of the expected 5.5mbps.

The ATRIX is a HSUPA-capable device, and we currently are performing the testing and preparations necessary to ensure that, when we turn this feature on, you will continue to have a world class experience.

AT&T hasn’t quite gotten their act together as quick as they had hoped with this one. Sometimes the real answer is that these systems are technically the bleeding edge, and it’s not some conspiracy to keep you from achieving your top speeds on the wireless internet. Here’s a little help discerning the technical specs from behind the marketing malarkey surrounding the wireless broadband available on the market.

3G, 4G, LTE, HSPA, WiMax

I could go into a Wikipedia-esque discussion of all of the various mobile data standards since the dawn of mobile data standards, but I’d rather not. I’m going to focus on disambiguation of a few of these key terms and let you know what you really need to know. If you haven’t heard of LTE, HSPA, or WiMax before, don’t be alarmed. They’re just protocols to govern wireless and mobile data transmission. They set standards so that your device can talk to any similarly equipped cellular tower

It makes it easier that these technologies are already cleanly divided along service provider lines. LTE has been deployed in the US by Verizon and MetroPCS. WiMax is the realm of Clearwire and Sprint. AT&TMo are known to use HSPA to provide their broadband. Of course these lines are shifting with the shakeups going on in the market, but that’s how things are currently arrayed.


What is HSUPA? Does it make sense that it was turned off? Should we clamor for AT&T’s summary execution? HSUPA is a part of the HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) wireless telecommunications protocol. It’s the part that lets you upload quickly. The HSUPA (The U stands for Uplink) works along side HSDPA (Downlink) to provide the whole protocol, HSPA. Get it? Really, the fact that this portion of the system was delayed is not really a surprise to anyone who has ever imagined the amount of real infrastructure that goes into producing the end-user-experience we expect. Honestly, whenever a telcom rolls out an upgrade project of this magnitude, it’s hilarious if anyone doesn’t expect delays in something. HSUPA was where the slack had to be this time, no big deal. Hey, AT&T, just let us know what the deal is before we have to go to the Better Business Bureau.

What’s up with all of these G’s? How many G’s do I need again?

The G designation on all of these various technologies is a generational marker by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Most smartphone users are more than happy with their current 3G connection. It allows for mobile e-mail browsing, web-surfing, and some amount of streaming video. I’ve enjoyed Netflix on my iPhone with no hiccups. With all that the 3G is able to deliver, it’s still all about the 4G. Or if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, the 4th Generation of Mobile Telephony Standards. None of the technologies available on the market can currently hang with the ITU’s 4G requirements. The ITU set “peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 Megabits per second for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 Gbps for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).”

LTE vs WiMax vs HSPA

WiMax and LTE are standards that come from different organizational origins. WiMax comes from the side of the IEEE, known for bringing you the collection of standards we dub Wi-Fi. This standard Wi-Fi connection is governed by a set of protocols collectively known as 802.11. WiMax is governed by a set of protocols collectively known as 802.16. LTE is a product of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), spawned from the international GSM standard. “Work on LTE has been going on since 2004, building on the GSM/UMTS family of standards that dates from 1990″

My friend, Robert Evans, recently sang of the death of WiMax. The standard has had a good run of it since they’ve had NTT DoCoMo of Japan coming after it since 2004. What? You don’t remember when NTT DoCoMo called for LTE or Long Term Evolution, to become the international standard for wireless communication? Neither did I. Even with six years in the making, the long term goals of LTE have not yet been made manifest, as the standard is still considered to be a third generation communication technology as it’s currently deployed. Full fourth generation wireless transmissions will be coming out this year with specifications like the LTE Advanced.

We will continue to see increased transmission speeds and decreased latency via wireless over the next few years, regardless of the protocol in which the packets are scribed.

Read more about what’s going on with your wireless at Android Community.

[via Gadget Lab]

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Boxee Box To Get May Firmware Update With iPad Support

Boxee has just confirmed a May update for its Boxee Box that will include support for streaming content to iPads. Firmware updates for the device will follow every three months to bring more bug fixes and new enhancements to the service.

The update scheduled for May will include an improved on-screen display with better video controls, a faster loading web browser with enhanced scrolling, favorites, and history. The languages supported by Boxee’s Box has expanded to include core European languages Hebrew, Russian, Swedish, Arabic, and Turkish.

But perhaps most anticipated of the May update, is support for Apple tablet devices with a Boxee for iPad app. This would let users stream content from their Boxee Box to their iPad. The update will come to certain users first for testing, with full roll out coming soon after that. We’ll keep you updated

[via Boxee]

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Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview Update 1 is out

The Lion just purred.

Apple pushed out an update to the Developer Preview of the next Mac operating system today. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview Update 1 is available via Software Update and is the first update since the Developer Preview first came out on February 24, 2011.

The update is minuscule -- 2.2 MB -- and according to the update notes "This update is required to redeem downloads of Mac OS X Lion seed builds from the Mac App Store." There you have it -- future updates of the seed builds will be done through the Mac App Store and not Software Update.

The update follows recent reports that Apple was set to deploy a Golden Master release of the operating system, which means that the feature set for Lion could be close to being cast in stone.

TUAWMac OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview Update 1 is out originally appeared on TUAW on Wed, 30 Mar 2011 19:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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