Google engineers less polite than Eric Schmidt over NSA intrusions

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Following a report from the Washington Post exposing an NSA program called MUSCULAR that saw the organization secretly tap into Google and Yahoo severs and collect data, Google employees have taken to social media to express their frustration.

GigaOM has gathered comments from a couple Google employees with some being engineers that actually worked to protect the security of Google’s servers. Their comments aren’t exactly as tame as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s comments about the situation:

I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it’s no different – GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA.

We designed this system to keep criminals out. There’s no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we’ve got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.

Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement,  we therefore do what internet engineers have always done – build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined. — Google Engineer Mike Hearn referring to the leaked NSA slide above.

Another comment from Google employee Brandon Downey who says he “spent the last ten years of my life trying to keep Google’s users safe and secure”: Read more

Samsung leads U.S. smartphone growth, with a 1.2 percent quarterly rise

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Samsung’s market share in the U.S. smartphone market grew by 1.2 percent last quarter, to reach 24.9 percent. While its flagship S4 models got all the attention, Samsung advised last month that most of its global growth was in lower-end handsets.

Apple retained its lead at 40.6 percent, helped by ten days of sales of the iPhone 5s and 5c, but with slower growth. LG‘s share remained flat, while both Motorola and HTC lost out.

In platform terms, Android experienced a slight drop of 0.2 percent, but remains the clear leader … Read more

Google’s making it easier to book hotels from your mobile device

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Google’s Hotel Finder is now a little more mobile as the company has ported its desktop site to mobile-ready. Visit www.google.com/hotels and search for your destination by price, hotel class, user rating and distance. You can also look up hotel amenities, photos, reviews and locations on a map. Once you find the perfect match, you can jump right into any of Google’s booking partners and seal the deal.

You want to save more time you say? Well fine then, how about using Google Wallet to complete your reservation by looking for “Buy with Google” for any Google Wallet-ready partner. If you don’t have Google Wallet, have no fear as you can enter the payment info once you book your first hotel and Google Wallet will save your information so you don’t need to enter it back in every time.  Read more

HTC looks to introduce low-cost handsets, slash costs in hope of finding profit

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Poor HTC, they just can’t catch a financial break as the company warned its fourth quarter revenue will fall up to 15 percent below analyst estimates. The company briefed investors earlier today as it struggles to increase its estimated 2.6 percent of the global smartphone market.

HTC says they will look at releasing a broader product line, including more low-cost handsets as it aims for higher profitability into next year. “We’re looking at broader products in this quarter…we aim for higher volume into 2014 that will give better profitability,” company financial chief Chialin Chang said in the briefing, referring to more affordable smartphones. That move would be a sharp turnaround from HTC’s previous strategy of attempting to capture 20 percent of the high-end smartphone market in China.

Let’s be honest about HTC’s future and say that among other problems are marketing misfires that have cost the company mindshare. “Perhaps in the past we have not marketed ourselves that well,” Ben Ho, HTC’s chief of marketing, told Reuters in an October interview.

Is there anyone who ran out to purchase a HTC device based on the fact that Robert Downey Jr was peddling their products? I mean a tinfoil catamaran doesn’t exactly strike me as a winning formula for increasing sales. Ho would not rule out an increase to the marketing budget however, currently set around $1 billion. “We are in the process of tightening up and revamping a lot of things that we used to do.”

Unfortunately with the fourth quarter not looking to make things any better, HTC will need to explore more than just low-cost handset sales to try to win back the hearts and minds of customers flocking to Samsung products in droves. I’m not quite sure Iron Man is up to the challenge.

via Reuters

Google’s London HQ delayed by a year as the company asks for re-design

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Building Design Online reports that the opening of Google’s new London headquarters will be delayed by a year after the company asked the architects to come up with new designs - after the development had already been granted planning approval.

It has asked the architect to draw up a new design within the original floor plan that will push the boundaries of office design and better fit the needs of the local community [...]

A decision to overhaul the project is thought to have been made within the last week. As a result of the change in plans, the building’s completion date is thought to have been moved back from 2016 to 2017 …  Read more

Google launches Helpouts, paid one-on-one Hangouts that put you in touch with experts

As we reported previously, Google has just publicly launched a new platform for getting real-time help with any problem you might be facing. Helpouts is a new video chat service that lets you talk one-on-one with experts in a variety of fields such as art, fashion, healthcare, and gardening.

Some of the Helpouts are free while others will cost per session or per minute, depending on the topic and the expert. The chats are powered by Hangouts, but only involve two parties—you and your instructor. The instructors can set times that they are available for a Helpout, and users can book a session in advance. Instructors credentials, certifications, and experience are listed right on the booking page and users can leave reviews of their sessions.

It appears Google will at least partly be allowing providers on Helpouts manage their own experts. For example, TakeLessons, one of Google’s partners providing music lessons on Helpouts explained out it will offer services by tapping into the experts already using its own service:

Read more