Apple Recruits Developer of Secure Messaging App Signal

An undeterred Apple continues to put efforts on ramping up security and privacy aspects of its products and services. The latest testament of this comes in a hire that Apple made recently. The Cupertino-based company has recruited Frederic Jacobs, one of the key developers behind critically acclaimed encrypted messaging app Signal.

Jacobs sharedthe news with public on Twitter recently, noting that he has joined the iPhone maker as an intern. He will be working with the CoreOS security team. Given Jacob’s background, Apple is likely to utilise his expertise in ramping up the security of iMessage and FaceTime.

Apple Recruits Developer of Secure Messaging App Signal

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps available. The open-source chatting platform is also Edward Snowden’s messaging app of choice. Late last year, Snowden said that he uses Signal every day. The app has been developed by a non-profit organisation called Open Whisper Systems, which also provides its technology to companies such as Facebook.

Signal app offers the ability to encrypt messages when they are in transit, and ensures that a service provider cannot read the messages. In addition, your chat messages on Signal are secure even if your keys are stolen, and Signal’s code is open for anyone to independently verify. Its security design is also properly documented, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The news comes amid Apple’s ongoing fight against FBI and other intelligence organisations to protect the security and privacy of customers.

The is the second publicly known security related hire Apple has made in recent times. Earlier this month we learned that security firm LegdaCore, which has in the past found vulnerabilities in OS Xhad been acquired by Apple.

China to Launch Its First Micro-Gravity Satellite in April

China is set to launch its first micro-gravity experimental satellite in April, a media report said on Friday.

The Shijian-10 satellite arrived at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest Gansu province on Wednesday, ahead of its scheduled launch, the People’s Daily reported.

The Shijian-10 is the first micro-gravity experimental satellite in China designed for conducting scientific experiments in space, says Li Chunhua, deputy chief designer of the Shijian-10.

China to Launch Its First Micro-Gravity Satellite in April

It will perform a total of 19 experiments involving micro-gravity, micro-gravity combustion, space material, space radiation effects and space biotechnology during its 15-day mission.

At present, scientists all over the world are working on facilities to create micro-gravity conditions, such as parabolic aircraft, sounding rockets and other experimental platforms, which can provide a micro-gravity environment for a few minutes or less. But for longer studies, a satellite like Shijian-10 is a must.

The Shijian-10 is different from ordinary satellites in that it is returnable. After completing its mission, it will return with the results.

The Shijian-10 has unique shape, similar to that of a bullet.

In the launching process, it does not require payload fairing because the satellite itself takes on that protective role. Due to its short flight time, the satellite is equipped with chemical batteries instead of solar panels.

Microsoft to Release Windows 10 Mobile for OnePlus 2, Xiaomi Mi 5

Microsoft this week released a Windows 10 Mobile build for Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL. The Redmond, Washington-based company announced that Alcatel’s handset has become the first handset after Xiaomi’s Mi 4 and select Lumia handsets to support Windows 10 Mobile builds. It appears, the company plans to make Windows 10 Mobile builds for a number of other handsets including OnePlus 2, and Xiaomi’s recently launched Mi 5, according to a report.

Microsoft to Release Windows 10 Mobile for OnePlus 2, Xiaomi Mi 5: Report

Microsoft had released Windows 10 Mobile build for the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL on Wednesday. The company noted that it is currently only releasing Windows 10 Mobile builds for handsets that shipped with Windows 10 Mobile: the Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL, Lumia 550, and Lumia 650. Microsoft also said that it plans to expand support for Windows 10 Mobile to other devices.

But what about people who have an Android smartphone and try to check out Windows 10 Mobile? A report claims that the company is currently working with OnePlus and Xiaomi to release Windows 10 Mobile ROM for OnePlus 2, the upcoming OnePlus 3, and the recently launched Mi 5 smartphone.

To recall, Microsoft partnered with Xiaomi last year to test Windows 10 Mobile on its 2014’s flagship smartphone, the Mi 4. Xiaomi tested Microsoft’s mobile operating system internally, and in December, made the ROM publicly available for any enthusiast with a China version of Xiaomi Mi 4 handset.

As Microsoft curtails its effort in the device manufacturing business, it appears to be a smart move for the company to partner with Android manufacturers and give their users the option to try its mobile operating system without losing access to Android. What works for Microsoft is that it already hasmore than 70 Android OEM partners.

How to Tell Google Apart From Alphabet

Did you know that Google doesn’t actually work on driverless cars?

That’s right. In fact, that’s technically an Alphabet project.

Alpha-who? you might ask. Well, when Google underwent a big corporate restructuring last year, it spun off a number of its experimental projects into separate companies. Then it put all those companies, including Google, under an umbrella firm called Alphabet.

Take Google X, for instance – the development lab that’s responsible for researching everything from driverless cars to balloon-based Internet to drone deliveries. Google X isn’t owned by Google anymore. It’s owned by Alphabet. As part of the restructuring, it even changed its name to simply “X.”

If you find this confusing, you’re probably not alone. Alphabet’s so-called “Other Bets” may help create new platforms for data that Google can then use to boost its search and advertising business.

How to Tell Google Apart From Alphabet

Here’s a description of some of the major subsidiaries:

  • Alphabet: The big dog. The parent company for Google, as well as “Other Bets” including Nest,Google Fiber and X.
  • Google: One of several groups under Alphabet. Google contains many of the online services you know and use, such as search, Gmail, Android and Chrome.
  • GV, Google Capital: Alphabet’s investment arms. GV (formerly Google Ventures) invests in startups as well as later-stage companies, whereas Google Capital exclusively pours its money into slightly more established firms that are technologically oriented. For example, GV has invested in Medium,Slack and Uber. Google Capital has invested in Cloudflare, Glassdoor and Duolingo.
  • Calico, Verily: Alphabet’s biotech subsidiaries. Both are research and development labs that have hired scientists to pore over medical puzzles. Calico is focused on extending the human lifespan, whereas Verily is very interested in defeating disease.
  • Google Fiber: Alphabet’s Internet service provider, which gives Americans in select cities access to speeds of 1Gbps. It and Nest are two of the most financially successful subsidiaries among the Other Bets.
  • X: Alphabet’s research lab that’s responsible for its self-driving cars, balloon-based Internet and drone delivery experiments, among others.
  • Nest: Purchased by then-Google in 2014 for $3.2 billion (roughly Rs. 22,030 crores), Nest is betting big on the Internet of Things. It makes smart thermostats for the home, as well as Internet-connected security cameras and smoke detectors.
  • Jigsaw: Alphabet’s geopolitically oriented think tank. It’s responsible for projects such as a data visualization of the global arms trade and studies of cyberattacks around the world.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But the main goal here is to show what is – and isn’t – Google’s.

Indian scientists develop Hepatitis C vaccine

Bengaluru: A group of Indian scientists has developed a vaccine meant to treat Hepatitis C, a virus or infection that causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver.

According to the report in Times of India, the team from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, has developed a vaccine for HCV genotype 3a.

The scientists said the vaccine has shown promising results in preclinical studies and is customised for the Indian population.

It is said that several preclinical trials of virus-like particle (VLP)-based vaccine strategies are in progress throughout the world.

But in the present study, Professor Saumitra Das and his team generated gt3a hepatitis C virus-like particles (HCV-LP). According to the scientists, the vaccine they have created is a “molecular cocktail of virus-like particles that mimics HCV along with a bio-engineered adenovirus vector (viral vectors are tools commonly used by molecular biologists to deliver genetic material into cells), encoding the core and envelope proteins of HCV”.

The researchers then inserted those genes of HCV into the adenovirus vector so that it would provoke the immune system to produce neutralising antibodies against the hepatitis C virus, sates the report.

The Hepatitis C virus is spread through direct contact with infected blood. And among the many strains of the virus, HCV genotype 3a (gt3a) is the predominant strain found in the Indian sub-continent.

The discovery may come as a huge relief to patients and the the country as a whole that has about 12 million people suffering from chronic Hepatitis C.

The research, funded by the Indo-Australian Biotechnology Fund (IABF), department of biotechnology, Government of India, has been published in the journal ‘Vaccine’.

China’s Space Telescope to Displace Humans in Search for Aliens

China will move nearly 10,000 people to make way for the world’s largest radio telescope which promises to help humanity search for alien life, state media reported on Tuesday.

The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), nestled between hills in the southwestern province of Guizhou, is due to start operation this year.

Provincial officials have vowed to relocate 9,110 residents living within five kilometres of the listening device by September, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The relocations will “create a sound electromagnetic wave environment”, it cited a top regional official named Li Yuecheng as saying.

Residents will receive CNY 12,000 ($1,800 or roughly Rs. 1,25,000) in subsidies for their troubles, with some getting extra support for housing, it said.

China's Space Telescope to Displace Humans in Search for Aliens

FAST, built at a cost of CNY 1.2 billion, will dwarf the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world’s largest radio telescope, which is some 300 metres in diameter.

Xinhua earlier cited Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, as saying that the telescope’s high level of sensitivity “will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy”.

In the past China has relocated hundreds of thousands of people to make way for large infrastructure projects such as dams and canals. Many complain of poor compensation.

The area surrounding the telescope is remote and relatively poor. Xinhua earlier said it was chosen because there are no major towns nearby.

As well as upping investment in astronomy, Beijing is accelerating its multi-billion-dollar space exploration programme, with plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually a manned mission to the moon.

Sony IMX318 22.5-Megapixel Camera Sensor Launched for Smartphones

Sony on Tuesday revealed its new IMX318 CMOS Exmor RS image sensor for smartphones. The Japanese company touts its latest camera chip as the industry’s first stacked CMOS image sensor with built-in hybrid autofocus (as fast as 0.03 seconds) and 3-Axis electronic image stabilisation (EIS).

The Sony IMX318 CMOS Exmor RS image sensor features a 1/ 2.6-inch stacked CMOS image sensor with 22.5 effective megapixels (5488×4112 pixel count). The company says it will start shipping the sensor in May (Q2 2016) this year, which is around the same time when the Sony Xperia Z6 is rumoured to launch.

Sony adds that the IMX318 includes industry’s smallest unit pixels, which measure 1.0um, due to which the image sensor boasts a compact size while retaining the 22.5 effective megapixels. With the sensor, the end users can “capture image stills of those decisive moments reliably in high quality, as well as high resolution video without fear of blur.”

Sony IMX318 22.5-Megapixel Camera Sensor Launched for Smartphones

The IMX318 is said to be the successor to the IMX230 (1/ 2.4-inch sensor with 1.12um unit pixel size), which has been used in Sony Xperia Z5. The smartphone however, ties up with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ for the best camera phone as per DxOMark, an image quality-rating website. Sony has made it clear that smaller pixel size does not hard the image quality in any manner. “To accomplish this, Sony employed manufacturing technology that improves light utilisation efficiency, as well as circuit design technology that eliminates noise, a root cause of deterioration in image quality.”

As for its video capabilities, the latest camera sensor corrects not only camera shake, but also lens distortion for better output. In addition, since the image stabilisation processing takes place within the hardware of the image sensor, less power is consumed from the handset. Sony says that since the sensor enables smooth video recording, it can be used in other products as well such as drones. The sensor can record 4K resolution videos at up to 30fps, full-HD resolution videos at up to 120fps, and HD videos at up to 240fps.

Sony, in a blog post, said that it adopted the MIPI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) Alliance’s latest C-PHY 1.0/D-PHY 1.2 specifications for its IMX318 CMOS Exmor RS image sensor. “With this interface, the IMX318 is able to achieve more power efficient and faster data transmission from the image sensor to the application processor,” says the firm.

Apple Pay to Go Live in China on Thursday

Apple Inc’s Apple Pay mobile payment system will be available in China from February 18 for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) customers, bank representatives said in social media posts on Tuesday.

The technology giant had previously said the system would launch in China in early 2016, making it Apple Pay’s fifth country as it accelerates development of a planned new revenue stream. ICBC is China’s biggest lender by assets.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on ICBC’s posts on the projected launch. The lender is set to be joined by a raft of peers: Apple’s China website lists 19 Chinese lenders as official Apple Pay partners, and state media reported two other lenders will also go live with the service from February 18.

Greater China is Apple’s second-largest market by revenue, but the company faces an uphill battle to match that prowess quickly in mobile payments.

Apple Pay to Go Live in China on Thursday

Apple Pay’s beginnings have been less than auspicious in other markets, including scepticism from retailers in its home market. But in China, Apple Pay’s issue will be how to compete with dominant and entrenched players, serving shoppers well used to paying for goods and services with their handsets.

China is the world’s biggest smartphone market. By the end of 2015, 358 million people, more than the population of the United States, had already taken to paying by mobile phone, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Dominating those payments are China’s two biggest Internet companies: social networking and gaming firm Tencent Holdings Ltd and e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, through its Internet finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.

Tencent operates WeChat Payment, while Ant Financial runs Alipay.

Apple Pay has also struggled to gain traction with banks in some countries. In Australia, the four main banks are holding out against the new entrant. The company in Britain faced resistance from big banks over fees before relenting.

Earlier on Tuesday, China’s state radio reported on its website that China Guangfa Bank Co Ltd and China Construction Bank Corp said on social media they would also launch Apple Pay on February 18.

A China Construction Bank spokesman declined to comment, while Guangfa could not be reached for comment.

Telegram Update Brings Improved Voice Messages, Secret Chats, and More

Telegram, a popular instant messenger, has started rolling out an update to its Android and iOS apps. The update adds several new features along with some improvements and tweaks.

The update on Android (v3.5.1) and iOS (v3.5) brings Voice Messages v2.0, which now has a new interface with waveform visualisations. It also has a new player, enabling users to listen to long voice messages and switch to other media or chats at the same time.

The update makes it easier for Telegram users to record and listen voice messages with raise-to-speak and raise-to-listen functionality. This means that now when a chat window is open, users can simply pick up their handsets and bring it close to their ear (as if taking a phone call), and hear the new voice messages or record a new one after the signal. “This feature involves plenty of behind-the-scene magic with proximity sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers. It works well with most modern devices, but is still experimental. Some phones may require arcane intervention from our devs,” addsthe company blog post.

Telegram Update Brings Improved Voice Messages, Secret Chats, and More

Furthermore, time-bound Secret Chats feature has also been updated. The Secret Chats 3.0 now includes detailed link previews, reply option to a specific message in group chat, adding photo and video captions, sticker sharing, inline bots, and gif image support. “We’ve also improved key visualisations to make secret chats immune to potential alien invasions.”

In addition, a bunch of updates have been added in different sections inside Telegram. Users can now decide who can add them to groups and channels with granular precision. Supergroup creators can now change admins who can add new members in a group. A Supergroup can include up to 1000 members. New animations have been added to attachments and the ‘Image Search’ option now sits in the ‘Photo or Video’ section.

For iOS devices, users can now share any photo, video, audio, document or location to any Telegram chat or channel directly from default apps like Contacts, Maps, Voice Memos and Photos. They get the ability to share content to multiple chats or channels at once. iPad users with external keyboards get hotkey support as well. For Android, the updated Telegram app introduces additional photo-editing tools – rotate, fade, tint and curves. “We’re not done with updates this month – more features and good news are coming very soon to a Telegram Messenger near you,” says the blog post.

Internet Shouldn’t Be the Monopoly of a Few, Says Communications Minister

Lauding the telecom watchdog’s decision on discriminatory pricing, Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said Internet is one of the finest creations of the human mind and it should not become the monopoly of a few.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in a much-awaited regulatory order on Monday had said that no service provider would be allowed to charge “discriminatory tariffs” for data services on the basis of content.

Internet Shouldn't Be the Monopoly of a Few, Says Communications Minister

“We very much appreciate this decision of Trai whereby differential tariff in case of data services has been rejected. The view of our government from the beginning has been very clear, which I have also articulated in the Parliament, that is, Internet is one of the finest creations of human mind and it should not become the monopoly of few,” Prasad told reporters in New Delhi.

“Differential pricing on data, whether it is Free Basics or any other mode, is plainly not acceptable,” the minister said adding that the Internet “must be available without discrimination.”

The watchdog has also called for a fine of Rs. 50,000 per day for each act of contravention, subject to a cap of Rs. 50 lakh.

Prasad further said the government fully respected the freedom of expression and discourse on social media and Interned adding that “Our government is committed towards digital inclusion.”

He said that the government was expanding Digital India into every “nook and corner of the country, and taking extraordinary steps to empower the people through technology, to create a knowledge economy, the very concept,” in order to bring about digital inclusion.

The sector regulator’s move was seen as a setback to offerings such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero.