Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Local police get metadata dumps from cellular providers, spoof towers using Stingray devices (USA Today)
Local police get metadata dumps from cellular providers, spoof towers using Stingray devices — Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA — Police maintain that cellphone data can help solve crimes, track fugitives or abducted children — or even foil a terror attack.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry: An Oral History — In 1984, Mike Lazaridis, an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, and Douglas Fregin, an engineering student at the University of Windsor, founded an electronics and computer science consulting company called Research In Motion, or RIM.
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Christopher S. Stewart / Wall Street Journal:
Inside the Effort to Kill a Web Fraud ‘Botnet’ — Working With Law Enforcement, Team Cuts Off Servers for Zombie Computers — For months, investigators at Microsoft Corp. hunkered down in front of their computer monitors, patiently stalking the shadowy figures behind what the company says is a major Web ad-fraud machine.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Only a few years old, Node.js is quickly winning the hearts and minds of developers and the companies they work for. Shortly after application programming interfaces (APIs)—bits of code that let different software applications communicate—became popular and useful, companies sometimes found it sometimes difficult to manage them flexibly and to keep complex networks of applications working smoothly.
The result was frequent website crashes and breakdowns. While there are other options such as Erlang, Scala, Clojure and Go, so far, Node.js has been a very good at keeping APIs, and their related web services, up and running.Node.js Expands Its Territory
To help extend its reach into more Internet server and cloud computing environments, Joyent this week expanded its support for Node.js to nearly every operating system and infrastructure framework broadly available. Already used on Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Windows, Node.js will now also work on Linux, Solaris, OmniOS, and its own operating system: SmartOS.See also: Why Developers Should Pay Attention To Node.js
As Node.js usage grows, it's becoming a trusted component of load-bearing infrastructure. Companies like Walmart have made the switch to Node.js at the expense of other server-side frameworks such as Ruby on Rails.
“We have been approached by many corporate users who are rolling out production deployments at scale of Node.js,” chief marketing officer Ben Wen said in a blog post. “Often they are interested in support for their deployments, which we can now provide in a variety of environments, in private data centers or even in clouds that are not our own.”
Eran Hammer of Walmart labs recently came to the Node.js core team complaining of a memory leak he had been tracking down for months, Wen explained in a separate post. While the source of the leak was never identified, Walmart used Node.js to reduce the the memory leak from a couple hundred megabytes a day, down to a mere eight megabytes a day.
At a time when retail sites are running around the clock to satisfy online shoppers, these types of improvements can mean the difference between a Black Friday and a blackout.
When will mobile become ordinary?
I’d argue that it's already happening, based on new numbers from Flurry, the mobile analytics provider, that reveal how people used smartphones and tablets over last week’s Thanksgiving holiday.
Flurry CEO Simon Khalaf and I will be discussing this trend and others on Wednesday, December 11, at ReadWriteMix, our evening interview series held at Say Space in San Francisco.See also: Capturing The Mobile Moment
To hold you over until then, here’s a look at how mobile usage changed from the week before Thanksgiving to the week of Thanksgiving, based on app activity across Flurry’s network.
Chart by FlurryShopping Spreads Out
One key result is a much less dramatic spike in shopping usage. In 2012, mobile shopping was a novelty for most consumers. Now, smartphone adoption is higher, and consumers who may have downloaded a retailer’s app to grab a special discount last year are now returning. And they are shopping throughout the interstices of their days—including the downtime of a holiday like Thanksgiving—rather than waiting for special sale days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
The whole notion of Cyber Monday seems outdated. It was based on the notion that people did most of their online shopping from their work computers, where they had high-speed Internet connections. Now mobile broadband is nearly ubiquitous. There’s no reason to wait for Monday to get a deal.
This is about more than just e-commerce. The maturation of mobile usage is as profound a trend as its early surge of adoption. As consumers shift more and more of their time to mobile, and use it for a wider range of tasks, we’ll have to rethink how we deliver connected experiences.
Flurry's Khalaf has been tracking the changing landscape of mobile since its earliest days, which makes him an ideal person for me to quiz on what's coming next.Sign up: ReadWriteMix: Unlocking The Secrets Of Mobile With Simon Khalaf
Space is limited. Please reserve your place, and join us on December 11!
(Note: I'm also planning our ReadWriteMix event calendar for 2014. If you'd like to propose a speaker, please get in touch with me.)
Sign up on Eventbrite for ReadWriteMix, an evening of drinks and conversation at Say Space in San Francisco, hosted by ReadWrite editor-in-chief Owen Thomas.
Following pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 23andMe—which retails DNA tests for mainstream consumers—has announced that it will continue its genetic testing service, but will no longer offer health-related interpretations of the results for consumers. The company emphasized both on its site and in its press release that the service might resume in the future if the FDA permits it.
23andMe said it will will continue to offer “both ancestry-related genetic tests and raw genetic data, without 23andMe’s interpretation.”
Image courtesy of Flickr user Derek Purdy
ReadWriteShop is an occasional series about the intersection of technology and commerce.
Consumers have always been on the look out for a good deal, from waiting in a downpour for a Black Friday sale to clipping pages of coupons at the expense of paper cuts.
The rise of flash sale sites and daily deals made limited-time-offers even easier to score, and as the popularity of Groupon grew, the Internet became saturated with marketplaces that let consumers procure goods and services at a discount.
The fad has now lost its luster. Fab.com, once heralded for its flash sales, had to restructure its business model in 2012, and eliminated one-fifth of its workforce this year. Daily deals sites LivingSocial and Groupon—the poster children for the online deals craze—came under scrutiny, and many pundits predicted the sites could crumble.
Alexander Zacke, founder and CEO of the e-commerce platform Auctionata, says that while flash sale sites can be exciting for consumers, they can also struggle as a business. “Flash sale sites tend to target a problem, grow fast in the early stage, and slow down rapidly,” he said in an interview with ReadWrite.See Also: How The Visual Web Is Changing Holiday Shopping
But in stark contrast to other e-commerce sites, Zulily appears to have avoided the fate of its predecessors and continues to be one of the top retail sites on the Web.
Zulily, the online retailer founded in 2010 that provides flash sales of products for moms, babies and kids, went public last month with an IPO that raised $253 million; its shares have since soared 68 percent over its opening price.It Pays To Have A Narrow Focus
Young people are the most coveted market in tech. In today’s ecosystem, tech companies like Facebook are vying for the younger demographic’s selfies and screen time to court advertiser dollars.
Unlike other online platforms, Zulily doesn’t care about appealing to tech-savvy youngsters; the company has the mom market cornered. Busy moms are extremely efficient at scoring a good deal.
In its initial public offering, the company noted that while women account for half of the online market, they account for over 60 percent of online purchases. And women aren’t just hopping online and looking for what they need, they’re headed to e-commerce platforms as a way of virtual window shopping.
“We believe moms are increasingly using e-commerce as a form of entertainment in addition to satisfying specific product needs,” the company said in its IPO document.
When it comes to e-commerce and daily deal sites, it’s a narrow focus that really drives the success of the company. For Zulily, it’s moms and kids. In the early days of Fab.com, it was haute-couture design.
But as the market and sites like Fab.com have learned, once companies began to expand their focus, success faltered. A recent example is when flash sales site Ideeli restructured its site to focus on women’s fashion and eliminated travel, kids’ and men’s categories.
The changes will add “a lot of incremental sales,” Ideeli founder and CEO Paul Hurley told Women’s Wear Daily earlier this year. “We think there’s a $1 billion business to build here.”Generate Excitement and Customer Loyalty
Because of the industry glut, consumer interest in flash sales has flattened. But Zacke contends that e-commerce platforms, like historically successful brick-and-mortar stores like Tiffany & Co., can combat indifference by continuously creating an exciting shopping experience.
One of the best parts of the shopping experience is the thrill you get purchasing something you want; you need to look no further than Breakfast at Tiffany’s to understand the excitement of shopping.
“If you go back to Fifth Avenue, all the highly successful stores target one specific audience with one specific product. Those businesses have been there forever because they’ve sold the same product,” Zacke said. “Create excitement around the product and it means you’re building trust among your consumers.”
And that trust and loyalty account for a significant part of online retailers’ revenue.
According to a report from RJMetrics, the top one percent of customers at online retailers spend as much as the bottom 50 percent combined, and return customers contribute up to 75 percent of revenue among online retailers.
“People can only handle so many deals before they crave that loyalty,” said Sarah Lang of RJMetrics. “It gets kind of tiring to chase the [Groupons] to get a massage. You can do three to five of them, and then consumers just want to go back to their favorite one.”Advertising Doesn’t Always Work
In order to generate return customers, retailers have to walk a thin line between exciting customers and over-advertising. Those of us who have subscribed to flash sale or daily deal sites can commiserate about the deluge of emails and notifications we’ve received from companies. In many cases, I’ve been forced to unsubscribe because I’ve been bombarded one too many times.
For e-commerce sites, email marketing can be a huge driver of traffic, and spammy emails can eventually deter potential buyers. In fact, when Google redesigned its Gmail service to place promotional emails into a separate bucket, online retailers saw a steep decline in emails opened by consumers.
Because marketing emails tend to fall into the gutter (or spam folders), e-commerce sites are trying something a little more old school. Companies including Fab.com and Zulily have attempted television commercials.
“They’re trying to make flash sales sites more relevant to the average individual, instead of being a one-off shop,” said Jerry Jao, CEO of Retention Science, an online customer retention automation platform.
By using video advertising through platforms like Hulu and mainstream television networks, e-commerce platforms can theoretically position themselves as the Internet’s version of Marshall’s or TJMaxx.They Just Keep Them Coming Back
Zulily rose above others because its offerings—inexpensive fashion for moms and kids— are things that parents will purchase over and over.
“How many super-cool clocks can you have in your apartment?” Jao said. “But I’m going to need baby clothes every two weeks.”
Like any retail business, the success of e-commerce sale sites have one job above all others: keep bringing customers back. By identifying a market that has a constant need and understanding the habits of customers, flash sales and daily deals can become a shopping staple, not just a flash in the pan.
The dirty little secret of Hadoop has been just how dull many of its tasks have been. By far the biggest use for Hadoop to date has been as a "poor person's ETL"—that is, a form of data integration, at the risk of oversimplifying—rather than all the big, sexy data science we see constantly hyped.
But that's changing. As a new Sand Hill Group survey reveals, a significant percentage of enterprises are moving beyond Hadoop's mundane past to leverage it for advanced analytics.Hadoop 101
This shouldn't be too surprising. Hadoop is still new to most companies, with 47% of respondents in Sand Hill Group's survey citing a lack of Hadoop skills, coupled with a shortage of talent to hire (21%) as top challenges inhibiting their Hadoop ambitions. It's impossible to move from beginner to expert in the few seconds it takes to download Hadoop.
Compounding this problem, Hadoop has not traditionally been the most approachable system to use. Enterprises have been willing to muddle through its complexities, however, because it so dramatically lowers the cost profile of a Big Data project, given that it's powerful open-source software running on commodity servers. While Hadoop is becoming easier to use, it still imposes a steep learning curve that requires time and experience to master.
So we're seeing enterprises that started with Hadoop as their "unsupervised landfill" now moving to more complex, and important, workloads, as 451 Research analyst Matt Aslett points out.
Until companies feel confident in a given technology, they're not going to start using it for mission critical applications. At one time it was anathema to use Linux in the data center, so it was used at the edge of the network for file and print servers and more pedestrian workloads. Now it would be anathema to not use Linux in mission-critical data center applications.Taking The Hadoop Training Wheels Off
We're seeing the same thing with Hadoop. The majority of enterprises are still kicking Hadoop's tires, running relatively small clusters of just five to nine nodes. But as this tire-kicking phase ends, the real work will be getting started.
While most every other workload will either decline or stay roughly constant going forward, Hadoop is expected to boom in advanced analytics workloads, as a Sand Hill Group survey showcases:
Even so, Hadoop remains somewhat mired in log data (61% of respondents are using Hadoop to store log data), followed by operational data used in CRM and ERP systems (53%). Very few companies are using it today for streaming, real-time data. Presumably this will change as enterprises look to put real-time data to use in advanced analytics projects. (More likely, they'll do what Criteo and others are doing by marrying Hadoop's advanced analytics capabilities with a NoSQL database for real-time data capture and response.)Enterprises Are Betting Big On Hadoop
Regardless, what we're seeing is a significant maturing of enterprise adoption of Hadoop. As the report notes:This almost-threefold increase over the 8.9% currently developing advanced analytics is emblematic of the larger shift towards initiatives that can have a transformational impact on the organization. It also conveys both the aggressive expectations for skill and experience development and the urgent need to mine the available data to improve business decisions and results.
There will be hiccups along the way, of course, but as Hadoop enthusiast Floyd Strimling posits, "Hadoop bent the storage and compute cost curves to allow everyone to analyze data. There is no going back."
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Streaming music gets one thing right. Services like Pandora, Rdio and Spotify are amazing for the consumer, and in that singular way, the music industry hasn’t been better in … probably ever.
At long last, we have the celestial jukebox we dreamed of a decade and a half ago. Nearly any song is at our fingertips in seconds and that privilege costs far less than what an album used to, if it costs anything at all.
This bubble of end-user bliss comes at the expense of almost everyone else, from artists right down to the people who pioneered the idea of renting music over the Web to begin with. How long can it last?License To Ail
Streaming services are ailing. Pandora, the giant of its class and the survivor at 13 years old, is waging an ugly war to pay artists and labels less in order to stay afloat. Spotify, in spite of 6 million paid users and 18 million subscribers who humor some ads in their stream, has yet to turn a profit. Rhapsody axed 15% of its workforce right as Apple’s iTunes Radio hit the scene. On-demand competitor Rdio just opted for layoffs too, in order to move into a “scalable business model.” Hmm… no one wondered about that business-model bit in the beginning?
Meanwhile, Turntable.fm, a comparatively tiny competitor with what should have been viral DNA, just pulled the plug on its virtual jam sessions this week—and it just might be the canary in the coal mine.Not-So Disruptive Disruptors
Streaming services rely on a weird conceit, but it's not a new one. Like record labels, these companies can’t exist—they literally have no product—without musicians. Yet hardly any musicians are pleased with the advent of digital streaming, and understandably so—they were already screwed by greedy record labels back when people went into actual brick-and-mortar stores and walked out with albums; so screwed in fact, that it's entirely possible to sell four million albums and not make a cent. Meanwhile, record labels are happy to throw their weight behind anything that isn't the old iTunes model, even if it's Apple's own Pandora copycat.
In our already thoroughly broken pre-digital music system, many, many people got paid before the artist themselves. Digital music services elbowed their way into a crowded room, cut what seemed like a good deal with the major labels and started handing music out. And now there’s not enough money to go around. Who’s surprised? Everyone except the record labels. Huh.
(via The Root)A Broken Model
These companies just aren’t bringing enough cash in compared to what they pour out in royalties. Ironically, approximately no one thinks that streaming services pay enough to license the music that they rent out to listeners, except the companies themselves, of course.
Poor them, shouldn’t they pay less? But for every Rihanna-level talent that gets paid out $3 million annually (that's to her label, not the artist herself as Spotify might like you to think), there are a thousand artists furious at music’s brave new business model. And even Rihanna is pissed, though that anger is arguably misdirected.
Beyond their broken business model, these companies share a lot of dubious promises to investors, shareholders and artists. Rdio hopes to get in the black by luring in more ad-supported subscribers. Spotify promises that when it scales up to 40 million paid users—it’s currently at 6 million—that artists will get paid five times what they make from the service today (the math works out, but that 40 million figure is a big “if"). Pandora, unprofitable and crippled by royalty fees as its user base grows, promises that mobile ad revenue can offset the revenue it’s hemorrhaging.The Cockroach Lives On
For digital music to really be disruptive, it needs to change something—not just add another cook to the kitchen.
Considering how artists have suffered under the thumb of the major labels (now down to Sony, Warner and Universal), they're rightfully suspicious of anyone willing to hop into bed with their trifecta of sonic overlords. As an avid music listener, I have to believe that music-distribution platforms like Pandora, Spotify and their ilk are less evil than the stalwarts of the recording industry. But as they continue to spiral, it seems that these would-be digital disruptors might have underestimated the business savvy of the guys who've been running the show for decades.
The label lords have seen the likes of Napster come and go. As soon as streaming services start becoming more trouble to deal with than they're worth—or a bigger player comes along and cuts a better deal—they're happy to starve you out.
Ultimately, the record labels are still calling the shots. And upstarts like Spotify, Rdio and the rest are learning that lesson the hard way, calling for sympathy while the shot-callers wring them out. In this old game, the dealer always wins. That is, unless you're a company with an excellent poker face and deep pockets to boot—and only Apple, Google and Amazon spring to mind as that kind of player.
After the rest of the hands are dealt? Winner takes all. Game over.