Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Google launches an Android keyboard that makes it easier to type messages on larger phones

  • Feature lets users pick the keyboard tailored for the right or left hand
  • The handedness of the keyboard can be changed with the arrow button
  • Can display borders around keys so users more certain of what they tap
  • A one-handed keyboard app was launched for iPhones last month

With phones getting bigger and bigger, many people struggle to type on their screens with only one hand.
But an app for Android phones could help address this problem.
The new version of Google Keyboard, out today, features a one-handed mode and the ability to change the keyboard's height for your own preference.
The new version of Google Keyboard features a one-handed mode and the ability to change the keyboard's height to fit your own preference. There is also an option to display borders around the keys so users can be more certain of which one they are tapping
The new version of Google Keyboard features a one-handed mode and the ability to change the keyboard's height to fit your own preference. There is also an option to display borders around the keys so users can be more certain of which one they are tapping
The one-handed feature lets users pick whether they want the keyboard tailored for the right or left hand. 

It can be accessed with a long-press on the comma or on the search/enter button, and also through 'Settings'.
The handedness of the keyboard can be changed with the arrow button. There is also a quick way to toggle back to the full-sized version.
Another option will display borders around the keys so users are more certain of which key they are tapping.


New emoji and number pad button locations surrounding the space bar.
Opt-in and a setting for sharing snippets with Google to improve the keyboard for everyone.

One-handed mode. The handedness of the keyboard can be changed with the arrow button. There is also a quick way to toggle back to the full-sized version.
Long-press for hinted symbols.

Keyboard height setting, with 5 positions from short to tall. 

A new number icon next to the spacebar opens up a traditional phone-style number pad that's far easier to thumb at quickly along with the emoji keyboard, too.

Elsewhere, users have the choice of sharing 'small snippets' of input with Google to 'improve Google Keyboard for everyone.' 

The keyboard's height can also now be adjusted between five different choices ranging from short to tall, with 'normal' as the middle point between them.
This comes just over a month after a new free one-handed keyboard app from Microsoft was launched for iPhones.

The Word Flow app has a 'fan-like' keyboard that allows iPhone users to easily access the entire keyboard. 

Word Flow can then intelligently suggest the next word, autocorrect mistakes and learn over time. 

Users have the option to change the display to a more traditional look and feel, and even customise it by adding background pictures - something Apple's own iOS keyboard doesn't allow.

'It is a blazing fast keyboard that comes with free customization options and includes Arc mode for easy, ergonomic one-handed typing,' the Redmond software giant said.Daily Mail

Thursday, 4 February 2016

What next for Julian Assange?

As a UN panel is set to rule that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been "arbitrarily detained", what does it mean for him and how did it come about?

Who is he?

 Julian Assange, a highly-driven man with an exceptional ability to crack computer codes, set up Wikileaks - which publishes confidential documents and images - in 2006. He first made headlines around the world in April 2010 when the website released footage showing US soldiers shooting dead 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. His supporters see him as a valiant campaigner for truth, but to his critics, he is a publicity-seeker who has endangered lives by putting a mass of sensitive information into the public domain.

What's happened so far?

In 2012, Mr Assange took refuge in London's Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault claim, which he denies. He claimed asylum there after the UK Supreme Court ruled the extradition against him could go ahead - and has been there ever since.

Why is he in the embassy?

If he steps out of the embassy, he will likely be arrested. A warrant for his arrest is still in place in the UK. The 44-year-old fears that if he goes to Sweden, he will be sent to the US to answer charges of espionage relating to WikiLeaks' publication of secret US documents.

Why did the UN panel get involved?

In 2014, Mr Assange complained to the panel, saying he was being "arbitrarily detained" as he could not leave without being arrested. He argued that living in 30 square metres of the embassy with no sunlight or fresh air had taken a "significant toll" on his mental health.

Who is on it?

The UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - to give it its full title - is made up of legal experts from around the world. Established in 1991, it has made hundreds of rulings on whether imprisonment or detention is lawful, which have helped to influence governments to release people. High profile complainants have included Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who was released in Iran last month; former pro-democracy President Mohamed Nasheed, released in the Maldives last year, and Myanmar stateswoman Aung San Suu Kyi. Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world's worst human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. A decision against Sweden and Britain in favour of Mr Assange is likely to be controversial.

What is it ruling on?

It investigates whether states are in compliance with human rights obligations. In this case, it would have received submissions from Mr Assange and the UK and Swedish governments, before deciding whether the case amounted to arbitrary detention. The panel made its decision in December and has informed the British and Swedish government. It will formally announce its findings on Friday, but the BBC understands it will find Mr Assange has been "arbitrarily" detained.

What are its powers?

It does not have any formal influence over the British or Swedish authorities. The UK Foreign Office said Mr Assange had voluntarily avoided lawful detention and it still has an obligation to extradite him.

Mr Assange is likely to argue that the panel's decision is significant and adds considerable legal and moral force to the argument that he has been arbitrarily detained.

Is the UK government likely to budge?

No. A government spokesman said it had been "consistently clear" that Mr Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK. He was, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy, he added. "An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European arrest warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden," he said.

What's going to happen next?

Mr Assange earlier tweeted that he would hand himself over to the police at noon on Friday if the panel ruled against him, but if the decision went his way, he wanted his passport back and an end to efforts to arrest him.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Social Media 'home for all'

For individuals, social networking means sharing small moments and major events in life. For businesses, social media marketing can help build brands. For terrorist groups such as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, social networks increasingly are the tool of choice for delivering messages of hate and recruiting new members to their cause.

ISIS has exploited Twitter to send out propaganda on a regular basis, according to a Brookings Institute report, and attempts to shut it down have been unsuccessful for the most part.

At least 300 Americans actively supporting ISIS were using social media to spread propaganda on the terror group's behalf, according to a December report from The George Washington University Program on Extremism.

Government and corporate efforts have failed to silence the hateful rhetoric. The hacktivist collective Anonymous, which entered the fray last month, so far has functioned as little more than a nuisance.

Anonymous hackers made headlines in November, when they reportedly replaced an ISIS site with an ad for Viagra, but the barrage of ISIS posts, rants and propaganda has continued unabated.

One reason that it could be impossible to silence ISIS on social media is that as quickly as an account is shut down another one can be created.

"It is very much like a game of whack-a-mole," said Ben Fitzgerald, senior fellow and director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS.

"It is too easy to create another account or use an app that lets them hijack another account," he told TechNewsWorld.

Anonymous has taken credit for shutting down upwards of 5,000 Twitter accounts, but it "is unclear if all those accounts were truly from ISIS," said Fitzgerald.
Lack of Infrastructure

Another reason that the most notorious hacker collective in the world can't do much damage to ISIS in the digital arena is that ISIS doesn't have much in the way of high-tech operations.

"It is easier to go after IBM or Google-entities that have servers and corporate infrastructure where there is something to take down," explained Christopher Paul, senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation.

"Where is the ISIS infrastructure? They have none, so it makes it that much harder to take down," he told TechNewsWorld.

ISIS functions much like a federated network, with individuals going online at the behest of the would-be caliphate. It seems the group can't be taken down without taking down Twitter and all the other social media sites as well.
Recruitment Tool

News reports may have overemphasized the role social media has played in recruiting individuals to ISIS and other radical groups. In truth, ISIS is no more successful in using social media toward that end than any other organization, whether legitimate or illicit.

"You really have to go look for the ISIS message to find it," said Alan Webber, research director for national security and intelligence at IDC.

"Unless you are bent in that direction, it isn't going to show up on your feed," he told TechNewsWorld. "I know it doesn't pop up on my social feeds!"
The Devil You Know

However, ISIS isn't using social media merely to spread propaganda or as a recruitment tool.

Social media may have been a means of coordinating the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, according to reports.

"Social media sites are just one way that groups like ISIS run operations and even plan attacks," said CNAS' Fitzgerald.

That might seem like a good reason to work more strenuously to silence the group -- but it's "a double-edged sword," Fitzgerald suggested.

"On the one hand, we want to limit the propaganda and limit the lines of communication," he said, "but on the other hand, we want to be able to monitor their operations."

That has posed a longstanding dilemma for spy agencies tracking potential targets. If you identify a source and shut it down -- whether making an arrest or making a kill -- you lose intelligence.

"You have to do it in a way that is to your advantage," said Paul. "Shutting down a line of communication means you can't monitor it and perhaps [you'll] even send it deeper underground," noted Paul.
Going Dark

It's unlikely any efforts to silence ISIS would drive the group to the dark Web, however, which for the most part is not accessible using popular search engines and browsers.

"The vast majority of those who even have access to a computer are not that sophisticated that they could gain much by going to the dark Web," said Paul.

"That said, it is possible that some of the more tech-savvy ISIS hackers could communicate via the dark Web, but most would find the same trouble as the wannabe hacker in going to such places," he suggested.

It is also unlikely that ISIS-or other terrorist organizations-utilize the dark Web for the trading of goods or services.

"Criminal entities use the dark Web's markets, and while ISIS may certainly rely on black markets,it isn't clear if that really extends to the techno black markets," said Paul.

Communication among members of radical groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and others isn't limited to social media. The Paris attacks, for example, may have been discussed via the Sony PlayStation 4 over the PlayStation Network, according to reports.

Chat rooms, forums, message boards and other forms of online communication are prime methods for engaging in illicit communications, in part because they are easy to access yet difficult to monitor.

"We don't know all the ways that [ISIS] communicates," said IDC's Webber.

"This isn't new, and it is really a centuries-old problem, as it is harder to monitor all the communication, but a lot of it is right out in the open," he added.

"Throw in veiled speech-such as 'delivering a package,'" and interpreting the chatter gets more complicated, noted RAND's Paul. That could mean delivering an explosive device just as easily as it could mean taking a turkey to grandmother's house.

"Simple code words only make it that much more difficult to monitor," he said.
Paired With Human Intelligence

Even when the bad guys are monitored, the amount of information obtained is limited. Anonymous likely will be unsuccessful in defeating ISIS, because even if the group somehow were silenced online, that wouldn't budge it from the territory it controls.

Nor would silencing ISIS likely eliminate the potential for future Paris-style attacks.

"We can't fall into this false idea that we could just fight the group with technology alone," said CNAS' Fitzgerald.

"We can't simply throw big data at the problem-no more than we can just bomb them into submission," he added. "To stop these groups, or at least stop future attacks, efforts will have to be paired with traditional human intelligence, and the balance will always change."


Monday, 7 December 2015

Social-Media Sites Face Pressure to Monitor Terrorist Content

Facebook Inc. typically counts on its 1.5 billion users to report offensive content, but last week, the social network went looking for it.

On Thursday, Facebook removed a profile page used by one of two people suspected of killing 14 people the previous day in San Bernardino, Calif. A spokesman said the page violated Facebook’s community standards that, among other things, bar posts, photos or videos that support terrorism or glorify violence. The suspect, Tashfeen Malik, had published a post around the time of the shooting, but Facebook declined to disclose its contents.

Facebook declined to say how it found the profile and determined its authenticity.

The move underscores the growing pressure on sites such as Facebook, Alphabet Inc. ’s YouTube and Twitter Inc. to monitor, and sometimes remove, violent content and propaganda from terror groups. It is unclear how closely each company works with governments, how frequently they remove content and how it is identified.

“When it comes to terrorist content, it’s certainly a tricky position for companies, and one that I don’t envy,” said Jillian York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of international freedom of expression, in an email. “Still, I worry that giving more power to companies—which are undemocratic by nature—to regulate speech is dangerous.”
All three companies employ technology to scan for images related to child sexual exploitation. Hany Farid, chair of the computer-science division at Dartmouth College, who helped develop the system, said he expected it to be expanded to other types of questionable content.

But that is a challenge for several reasons. The child-exploitation scans employ a database of known images, created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There is no similar database for terror-related images.

In addition, disturbing images often appear in news content, and social-media companies don’t want to become news censors. At a September town hall meeting, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg cited a widely shared photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old refugee who died fleeing Syria and washed ashore in Turkey as an example of an image that might have been deemed inappropriate by a computer algorithm, but shouldn’t have been censored.

That leaves social-media companies making difficult judgment calls. In 2014, YouTube quickly removed videos of the beheadings of two American journalists by Islamic State. Twitter adopted a similarly passive approach to the same images, which remained on the service until reported by users.

In August, Twitter quickly took down video of two Virginia TV reporters who were gunned down during a live news broadcast.

A Twitter spokesman declined to say whether it has suspended any accounts related to the San Bernardino shooting incident. The spokesman declined to comment when asked if Twitter is re-evaluating its policy in light of Facebook’s approach to those shootings.

The volume of material on social-media sites is a challenge. Some 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The online-video site doesn’t remove videos itself, waiting for users to flag content as objectionable. The site has had a “promotes terrorism” flag for several years. It hasn’t changed this approach recently, according a person familiar with the situation.

YouTube has given roughly 200 people and organizations the ability to “flag” up to 20 YouTube videos at once. That includes the U.K. Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit which has been using its “super flagger” authority to seek reviews—and removal—of videos it considers extremist.

Facebook has quietly become more aggressive in removing such content, privacy experts say. In 2012, Facebook said fan pages glorifying a shooter who opened fire in a Colorado movie theater didn’t violate its terms and services because they weren’t a credible threat to others. But last year, it removed pages honoring a gunman who killed six people at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Ms. York discovered last year that informational Facebook pages for ISIS, Hamas and other terrorist groups were taken down. The pages included information from Wikipedia and weren’t promoting terrorism, Ms. York said, adding that it was her “first clue” that the company was scanning posts pre-emptively and censoring the terror-related ones.

Facebook said it has “hundreds” of people on its community operations team, which vets content reported by users from four offices world-wide. User reports are graded so more serious ones, including those involving terrorism, are handled first