Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The 64-bit Android question (TechRepublic)

By  September 29, 2014, 
Are you ready for 64-bit Android? Jack Wallen shares the information that's important to those interested in jumping on the newest bandwagon to hit the Android trail. 
64-bit Android
Apple already released the 64-bit iPhone. Was it more marketing than necessity? After all, one of the biggest benefits of 64-bit chips is the ability to make use of larger quantities of RAM -- over 4 GB, in fact. But what smartphone has over 4 GB of RAM? The applications that benefit the most from 64-bit processors are:

Fingerprint scanning
Facial recognition
Speech interaction
That is where the 64-bit switch gets flipped for more users. Or at least it should. Why? The more we depend on our smartphones, the more we depend on smartphone security and ease of use. Both speech interaction and facial/fingerprint recognition will become crucial to future iterations of mobile devices. That's where 64-bit can really shine.

But as the smartphone stands (on both camps), do 64-bit chips really matter (when they aren't sold with 64-bit-worthy amounts of memory)? There are other considerations:

Will battery life see significant improvement?
Do we, as of yet, have applications ready to take advantage of 64-bit chips?
Will 32-bit apps perform well on the 64-bit chips?
It's those last two questions that really have me concerned. First and foremost, when the Android 64-bit becomes available, will there be apps ready to take advantage of this? I'm certain all Google apps will shine. They have to. If Google can't have their stable of apps ready for 64-bit out of the box, the tech will fail... miserably. I have every confidence that all of the Google-branded apps will be ready to rock when the first 64-bit Android phone is launched.

But what about everyone else? How will the other millions of apps in the Google Play Store fair? When Apple first released their 64-bit iPhone, they readily admitted the 32-bit apps wouldn't fare nearly as well as they did on their native 32-bit hardware. For the past decade, mobile technology has relied on the 32-bit processor. Servers and desktops made the jump early on -- but think about the enormous number of 32-bit mobile devices that have flooded the market. Those devices will not run 64-bit apps. When the 64-bit devices come to market, if developers don't hitch a ride on the bandwagon, anyone purchasing a 64-bit Android -- thinking they are going to see unheard of performance levels -- will be seriously disappointed.

The good news? The ART runtime is already optimized to speak the 64-bit language. And Android L? You can bet it will be ready for 64-bit prime time. Ultimately, however, the question arises about whether or not you should be an early adopter. The answer to that question depends. If you're budget minded, you'll want to skip out on the early 64-bit releases. The HTC Desire 510 will be a low-end 64-bit device (powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor) that will likely see little, if any, performance over high-end 32-bit devices. It's not until you reach the Snapdragon 810-level chips that you'll see performance blow the roof. My guess is that this won't appear until the likes of the LG G4 arrives (probably May 2015). Android tablets powered by Nvidia's Tegra K1 dual-core 64-bit chip should also see some amazing speeds. These tablets should arrive before the end of 2014.

So, the best bet for users who really want to gain the most out of 64-bit architecture on Android is to wait for the first high-end devices to roll out. At that level, the performance should best just about anything available.

Are you ready for 64-bit Android? Will you drop your current device for the first 64-bit hardware when it arrives, or will you wait for something like the LG G4? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert

Monday, September 29, 2014

Your Devices Broadcast Unique Numbers, and They’re Being Used to Track You (HTG)

Your smartphone — and other devices that use Wi-Fi — broadcast a unique number when they search for nearby Wi-Fi networks. A device’s unique MAC address is sent along with “probe requests” that search for nearby Wi-Fi networks.
This tracking problem isn’t just theoretical. Advertisers in London used Wi-Fi-enabled garbage cans to track people’s movements around the city. The Wi-Fi specification wasn’t designed for a world where people carried Wi-Fi-scanning devices in their pockets all day long.

Why Your Devices Have Unique MAC Addresses

How (and Why) to Change Your MAC Address on Windows, Linux, and Mac
Each network interface on your computer or any other networked device has a unique MAC address. These MAC addresses are... [Read Article]
Each physical network interface — whether it’s a wired Ethernet card in a desktop PC or a Wi-Fi chipset in a smartphone — ships with a unique MAC address. This number is designed to be unique to the hardware. This lets networks you connect to identify the device.
For example, at home, you could adjust your home router’s settings to assign static IP addresses to your devices based on their MAC addresses. A network can easily track whether you’ve connected before and assign settings unique to your device. You can change a device’s MAC address in software, but very few people do this.
So far, so good. The problem is how Wi-Fi works and especially how the smartphones we carry around in our pockets work. This applies to laptops and tablets just the same when they’re scanning for Wi-Fi networks, too.

Wi-Fi Scanning Broadcasts the MAC Address

Unless you turn Wi-Fi off on your phone before you leave your house, your phone is automatically scanning for available Wi-Fi networks nearby as you move around. Smartphones and other devices typically use both passive and active discovery — they passively listen for Wi-Fi access points broadcasting to let nearby devices know they’re available, and they actively broadcast requests searching for nearby access points.
Due to the way Wi-Fi was designed, a device searching for Wi-Fi access points includes its MAC address as part of the “probe requests” it broadcasts to nearby WI-Fi access points. This is part of the Wi-Fi specification.
As you walk around, the smartphone in your pocket is broadcasting its MAC address for anyone within Wi-Fi range to notice. Unless you disable Wi-Fi, this is happening to you.

How This Can Be Used to Track You

Take the case of the garbage cans in London. Garbage cans were placed all over the city, and WI-Fi monitoring hardware was installed in them. Then, the garbage cans were networked together. When you walked by one of these garbage cans, your device would send probe requests with its MAC address and the garbage can’s sniffer would make a note of the MAC address and its location. When you walked by another garbage can, it would note your device’s MAC address and location again. This information could be combined to form a picture of your movements throughout the day. Advertisers would know the areas you visited and could try to target ads specifically to you. With enough Wi-Fi sensors joined together, it would be possible to track your smartphone’s complete movements over an entire day.
A store could place Wi-Fi sniffers throughout their store and log MAC addresses. Perhaps you spent some time in the electronics section before leaving for another section of the store — the store could display ads for electronics to you.

Apple’s iOS 8 Just Fixed This Problem

Apple just fixed this problem on iPhones (as well as iPads and iPod Touches) running iOS 8. iOS 8 automatically randomizes your device’s MAC address each time it scans for Wi-Fi networks nearby. This makes the broadcasted MAC address useless for tracking.
Other operating systems should follow in Apple’s shoes. Each network interface comes with a MAC address specified in its hardware, but this MAC address can be overridden — that’s how you can change your own MAC address. The leakage of a MAC address with Wi-Fi scanning isn’t actually useful for anything — it just allows easy tracking of a smartphone’s movements.
No, this isn’t an advertisement for Apple — they brought additional attention to this problem by solving it in iOS 8. Devices running iOS 7 and earlier broadcast their unique MAC addresses and can be tracked like devices running competing operating systems. Apple’s solution doesn’t have to be Apple-only — we’d like to see Android and Windows Phone implement it, too.

Yes, what Apple did is technically against the WI-Fi specification, but it’s a good idea anyway. We’re not aware of anything this actually breaks — aside from tracking systems, of course.
There are other ways to track a device — due to the way networks work, your unique MAC address will still be visible to a Wi-Fi network you connect to, but only the one you connect to. Cellular signals could also be used to track your device’s movements. However, there’s no good reason to have a device automatically broadcast a unique identifier all day.
Maybe we’re just trying to hold back the floodgates of ubiquitous digital surveillance and location-tracking, but we might as well try and not just give up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Solve Prison Crowding, Norway Goes Dutch (BusinessWeek)

Dutch prisons have more guards and support staff than criminals
Dutch prisons have more guards and support staff than criminals
Norwegian prisons are the most luxurious in the world. The country’s newest high-security facility, Halden, opened in 2010 and features cells outfitted with windows, private bathrooms, and flatscreen TVs. A low-security prison outside Oslo, on Bastøy Island, offers a sauna and tennis courts; inmates wear street clothes and are free to roam as they please among the cottages where they live and the buildings where they work and eat.
This year the government plans to invest as much as $690 million to renovate and upgrade prison facilities. The goal is to rehabilitate the country’s roughly 3,600 prisoners by letting them live somewhat normal lives while serving their time, an approach that’s resulted in one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world.
There are now more convicted criminals than prison beds, however, leaving about 1,300 people waiting until space opens up before they can serve their sentences. “They have been convicted in court, and we don’t have a prison place for them, so they are waiting while they continue to live in their homes and walk on the streets,” says Vidar Brein-Karlsen, a state secretary at Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security. “It’s hard for us to accept.”
Norway’s solution? Send the convicts to the Netherlands, where the government announced plans last year to close 19 prisons because there weren’t enough inmates to fill them. The proposal, released in early September, would transfer a few hundred convicts to Dutch facilities, where they would be supervised by Norwegian authorities, says Brein-Karlsen. High-risk prisoners, including Anders Behring Breivik, who massacred 77 people in 2011, would stay in Norway. If the plan is approved, transfers could begin next year.
Prisoner transfers are relatively common in the U.S., where federal inmates are often moved around the country. Four states send some of their prisoners to serve time in other states. According to a report released last fall by the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership, at least 10,500 state prisoners were held last year outside the state where they were convicted. Hawaii and Vermont each send inmates more than 2,000 miles to Arizona, where they’re housed in private prisons run byCorrections Corp. of America (CXW).
Moving prisoners across jurisdictions is rarer in Europe, where language and cultural barriers make the transfers hard. Human-rights law could be a stumbling block. “If you simply see prisons as places of punishment and containment, this might seem reasonable, but it clearly states in UN standards that prisons have a function in terms of rehabilitation,” says Frank Warburton, director of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London. “So Norway’s borrowing of U.S. practices is extremely worrying.”
About 550 Belgians are already housed in Dutch prisons under a program started in 2009. Belgium pays about $52 million annually to rent the detention space, according to the Dutch Ministry of Justice. The Dutch Parliament would need to approve a bilateral treaty with Norway before any transfer could occur, but lawmakers appear open to a deal. “If the Netherlands can keep jobs this way, we support the plans,” says Gerard Schouw, a member of parliament for the liberal D66 party.
A measure to send Norway’s extra prisoners to Sweden failed earlier this year because the two countries couldn’t agree on a bilateral treaty that would change laws to allow the move. Norway’s Labor Party, the largest in opposition, has signaled it may support the government’s proposal as a temporary solution to prison bed shortages. “What’s most important is that Norway builds more prison cells,” says Kari Henriksen, a Labor politician on the parliamentary justice committee.
The bottom line: Norway has about 3,600 prison cells but almost 5,000 criminals who need to serve time. The solution: export.
With Josh Eidelson and Corina Ruhe
Mohsin is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Oslo.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Retirement Funds Are Loading Up on Stocks Again (BusinessWeek)

Americans got a cruel shock in 2008 when the stock market fell, blowing a big hole in their retirement savings. It made people realize that having lots of stock right before they retire may not be such a good idea. But now portfolios have recovered, memories have faded, and soon-to-be retirees are embracing stocks again.
The move to stocks is not driven by performance-chasing investors—at least, not the ones you’d think. Target-date funds, the premixed portfolios that are managed according to an anticipated retirement year, account for about 20 percent of retirement plan assets, and fund managers are shifting investors out of bonds.
Overall, the mix of stocks and bonds in a target-date fund favors stocks for investors with years of future earnings ahead of them, then gradually increases the allocation to bonds as the target date gets closer. But there’s no consensus on exactly what the debt/equity split should be when people near retirement. The lack of clarity probably explains why fund providers keep changing their minds. The figure below,based on calculations (PDF) by investment research company Morningstar(MORN), shows how much the most popular family of target-date funds, the Fidelity Freedom Funds, has altered its allocation over the years.

In 2002, following the stock market bubble, the fund for someone five years from retirement was about 34 percent stocks. By 2006 it held about about 53 percent. In 2010 it had fallen again, to 48 percent. Today, Fidelity would put someone five years from retirement into a fund that’s 62 percent equities. Other companies, including Pacific Investment Management (Pimco) and J.P. Morgan Asset Management(JPM), are boosting the equity allocations in their target-date funds.
This latest rebalancing seems to be prompted by fears that bond prices are due to fall once the Fed raises interest rates. Equities might be more volatile, but they seem like a better bet right now. At the same time, no one really knows what’s going to happen. Others are forecasting an alternative scenario in which bond prices will stay high and stocks are overpriced. The disagreement—and the last 10 years—illustrates exactly why chasing market returns is a bad idea. If investors had stuck with the conservative 2002 strategy, they would’ve been spared big losses in 2008. If they had kept the more aggressive strategy from 2006 on, they would’ve seen bigger gains during the recovery.
From a long-term investor’s perspective the stock market is always risky and can fall at any moment. Five years of high returns doesn’t mean the stock or bond market is any more or less risky than it was in 2009. A target data allocation is supposed to achieve a well-balanced portfolio, not time the market.
There might be good reasons to change the allocations. If people are living longer and delaying retirement, increasing equity exposure for 60-year-olds is a sensible strategy. But basing it on market expectations defies tried-and-true investment advice. The target-date fund managers claim market forecasts are only part of the reason they’re shifting toward equity. They also cite increased risk tolerance. Unfortunately, most investors aren’t any better at timing when to worry about risk.

Schrager is an economist and writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @AllisonSchrager.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Free Mamograms---Mamografías Gratuitas : October 18, 2014

Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa to offer free mammograms

(MIAMI-DADE  COUNTY,  FL)  – Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa  will offer a Free Mammogram Event on Saturday, October 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at her District 6 Office located at 1000 SW 57th Avenue.

“Preventive  care is key to keeping our community healthy,” Chairwoman Sosa said.  “As a survivor, I know first-hand the importance of early detection, and  I  want  the  women  in  our  community to have the opportunity to get screened regardless of income.”

Services  will be provided to women who are between 50 and 64 years old, do not  have  health  insurance,  meet  federal  income guidelines and live in Miami-Dade  or  Monroe  County.  Pre-registration  is required and space is limited, so call 305-470-5634 to schedule your appointment.

WHO:               Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa

WHAT:             Free Mammogram Event

WHEN:             Saturday, October 18 from 9 a.m. to noon

WHERE:           Chairwoman Sosa’s District 6 Office, 1000 SW 57th Avenue

                                DISTRITO 6

                          10 de septiembre del 2014
                      Manuel Orbis Jr., 786-804-0925   manuelo@miamidade.gov

             La Presidenta Sosa ofrecerá mamografías gratuitas

(MIAMI-DADE,  FL)  –  La  Presidenta de la Comisión del Condado Rebeca Sosa ofrecerá  mamografías gratuitas el sábado, 18 de octubre entre las 9 a.m. y el mediodía en su oficina del Distrito 6, ubicada en 1000 SW 57 Avenue.

"El   cuidado  preventivo  es  clave  para  mantener  saludable  a  nuestra comunidad",  dijo la Presidenta Sosa. "Como sobreviviente del cáncer, yo sé de  primera  mano  la importancia de la detección temprana y quiero que las mujeres  de  nuestra comunidad tengan la oportunidad de hacerse las pruebas sin importar sus ingresos."

Los  servicios  serán  ofrecidos a mujeres entre las edades de 50 y 64 años que  no  tienen  seguro  de  salud, cumplen con los requisitos federales de ingresos  y  viven  en  Miami-Dade  o  el  condado  de Monroe. Es necesario inscribirse  de antemano. Por favor llame al 305-470-5634 para programar su cita.

QUIÉN:            La Presidenta Rebeca Sosa

QUÉ:                Mamografías gratuitas 

CUÁNDO:        Sábado, 18 de octubre entre las 9 a.m. y el mediodía

DÓNDE:           La Oficina del Distrito 6, ubicada en 1000 SW 57 Avenue