Audi announcing Android deal at CES 2014

At CES 2014 next week, Audi is expected to announce a new partnership with Google to use Android software in its infotainment systems.


Audi currently integrates Google Earth into its navigation system, and is rumored to be working on Android adoption. (Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

As previously reported on CNET, Audi and Google are expected to announce a partnership at the upcoming CES 2014 in Las Vegas concerning the use of the Android operating system as an infotainment platform in vehicles.

In past years, Audi has used CES to show off its high-tech development, from the first look at the new dashboard and infotainment system for the Audi A3 to last year’s display of components designed to enable autonomous vehicles. Although Audi issued a press release about the new Laserlight concept car it will unveil during CES this year, the expected Android announcement will probably not be accompanied by a live demonstration.

Audi’s current partnership with Google integrates Google Earth satellite imagery and Street View into Audi navigation systems. And while Audi’s current infotainment software is mature and well-developed, the company lacks much in the way of branded app integration.

Adopting an Android OS in the dashboard would make app integration easier.

This version of Android would likely bear little resemblance to that found on phones and tablets, as Audi would need to keep tight control over which apps could be installed to avoid liability issues. Likewise, Audi would want to make sure any apps installed in the car meet quality requirements.

It is also quite possible that the actual interface would not change from what’s in current Audi vehicles. Audi has spent a lot of effort developing its Multimedia Interface controller and associated touch pad. Audi’s cabin design would not be conducive to a touch-screen interface.

Audi would probably not swap its interface controller for a touch screen with the adoption of Android. (Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

None of this development signals better or worse integration with the type of phone a driver brings into the vehicle. Audi will want to remain agnostic toward a driver’s preferred phone.

Much of Audi’s infotainment development occurs at the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory near San Francisco, which enables close cooperation with Google. Current Audi models include a dedicated mobile data connection, used for Google Earth imagery and other connected information sources. Audi announced during last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show that it would build 4G/LTE connectivity into the new A3 model.

Any Audi vehicle using the new Android system will probably not being hitting the road for more than a year. The A3 is Audi’s biggest new launch in the US, and it uses software already developed and proven. The A4 is due for an update, but development on that model must be well under way by now. The larger models, the A6A7, and A8, would likely better coincide with a major infotainment software update in 2015.

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Apple details impressive Mac Pro environmental improvements over previous generation

Apple today released a new environmental impact report on its Apple and the Environment webpagedetailing improvements in the newly launched Mac Pro’s environmental performance. In the report, Apple notes the new Mac Pro meets ENERGY STAR® Version 6.0 standards and gets a Gold rating from EPEAT, but it also provides estimates for the Mac Pro’s lifetime greenhouse gas emissions (around 940 kg CO2e), power consumption, and material efficiency.

In a section outlining the power efficiency of the new Mac Pro with the chart above, Apple claims the new machine “consumes 68 percent less power in idle mode than the previous-generation Mac Pro.”

It also notes the new Mac Pro uses 74 percent less aluminum with packaging “consuming 82 percent less volume than the previous-generation” and weighing 84 percent less. Apple says that it allows it to fit nearly three times as many Mac Pros in a standard airline shipping container.

Apple’s ultracompact product and packaging designs lead the industry in material efficiency. Reducing the material footprint of a product helps maximize shipping efficiency. It also helps reduce energy consumed during production as well as material waste generated at the end of the product’s life. The enclosure and thermal core of Mac Pro is made of aluminum and copper, materials that are highly desired by recyclers.

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YouTube goes 4K, Google signs up long list of hardware partners for VP9 support



photo: LG

Add YouTube to the list of companies showing off 4K streaming at CES. But YouTube’s demos will be using Google’s own VP9 video codec.


YouTube will be demonstrating 4K video at CES in Las Vegas next week, with a twist: The Google-owned video service will be showing off ultra high-definition streaming based on VP9, a new royalty-free codec that Google has been developing as an alternative to the H.265 video codec that’s at the core of many other 4K implementations.

This isn’t the first time Google has tried to establish an open and royalty-free alternative to a commercial video format. Google’s VP8 video codec, which the company released in 2010, was supposed to become the default format for plugin-free video streaming and real-time communications, but those plans were thwarted by a lack of hardware support and fierce opposition from some companies with vested interest in established commercial video formats.

This time around, Google has lined up a whole list of hardware partners to kickstart VP9 deployment. YouTube will show off 4K streaming at the booths of LG, Panasonic and Sony. And on Thursday, YouTube released a list of 19 hardware partners that have pledged to support VP9, including chipset vendors like ARM, Intel, Broadcom and Marvell as well as consumer electronics heavyweights like Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba.

However, Francisco Varela, global director of platform partnerships at YouTube, didn’t want to frame YouTube’s use of VP9 as an either-or decision in a recent interview. “This certainly isn’t a war of the video codecs,” he said. Varela added that this was just a first announcement around 4K for YouTube, leaving open the possibility that YouTube could add H.265 support as well.

Instead, he emphasized how the use of the codec won’t just help YouTube to deliver higher resolutions at reasonable bitrates, but also reduce the amount of data necessary to stream regular HD videos by about half. This will help YouTube to improve video delivery and do away with buffering, said Varela: “By 2015, you’ll be surprised every time you see that spinning wheel.”

Varela said that he expects VP9 hardware decoding to come to PCs and mobile devices first, and that first TVs supporting the format should ship by 2015. This would not just benefit YouTube, but also other video services that are looking to deliver their streams more efficiently. “This is important for the entire ecosystem,” he said.

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Skype social media platforms hacked by ‘Syrian Electronic Army’

Skype’s blog was among the social media platforms hacked by the group

The social media platforms of Skype have been hacked by a group claiming to be the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA).

The group posted anti-surveillance messages, including a message telling people not to use email services of Microsoft, the owner of Skype.

It claimed “they are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments”.

The hack comes after recent revelations about surveillance programmes being run by US intelligence agencies.

“Don’t use Microsoft emails (hotmail, outlook). They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments,” the hackers posted on Skype’s Twitter account and its blog.

The post has since been removed.

Skype acknowledged that it had been hacked but said that “no user information was compromised”.

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which says it supports President Bashar al-Assad, has been behind recent hack attacks on the New York Times and Twitter.

The SEA has also targeted various other media companies, including the BBC, CNN and the Guardian.

Surveillance concerns

Last year, whistle-blower Edward Snowden leaked documents which detailed the extent of surveillance programmes carried out by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

According to the documents, the agencies had “backdoor” access to the servers of nine major technology companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

All the companies named have denied their involvement.

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How intelligence is gathered

How intelligence is gathered
  • Accessing internet company data
  • Tapping fibre optic cables
  • Eavesdropping on phones
  • Targeted spying

In Microsoft’s case, the Guardian newspaper claimed the documents showed that the NSA had access to most of Microsoft’s flagship products including Hotmail,, Skydrive and Skype.

The NSA reportedly said in the documents that it had improved its oversight of Skype so much that it could now collect three times as many calls from the service than before.

Even before Skype was bought by Microsoft it was providing information on some of its users through the surveillance programme known as Prism, the report had claimed.

Since the revelations, Microsoft has teamed up with seven other leading technology firms to form an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group.

The group which includes Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, has called for “wide-scale changes” to US government surveillance.

It has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice “undermines the freedom” of people.

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Confirmed: Snapchat Hack Not A Hoax, 4.6M Usernames And Numbers Published

by  (@catherineshu)

A site called has saved usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and made the information available for download. In a statement to us, SnapchatDB says that it got the information through a recently identified and patched Snapchat exploit and that it is making the data available in an effort to convince the messaging app to beef up its security. We’ve also reached out to Snapchat.

SnapchatDB said:

Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.

We used a modified version of gibsonsec’s exploit/method. Snapchat
could have easily avoided that disclosure by replying to Gibsonsec’s private communications, yet they didn’t. Even long after that disclosure, Snapchat was reluctant to taking the necessary steps to secure user data. Once we started scraping on a large scale, they decided to implement very minor obstacles, which were still far from enough. Even now the exploit persists. It is still possible to scrape this data on a large scale. Their latest changes are still not too hard to circumvent.

We wanted to minimize spam and abuse that may arise from this release. Our main goal is to raise public awareness on how reckless many internet companies are with user information. It is a secondary goal for them, and that should not be the case. You wouldn’t want to eat at a restaurant that spends millions on decoration, but barely anything on cleanliness.

Earlier we speculated that SnapchatDB might be a hoax meant to call attention to the app’s security issues but, as it turns out, it’s real–at least one member of our editorial team has been affected. A reader also told us he found his own number, that of several friends and Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel in the list. On Hacker News, several people have had trouble downloading the data files (I just got an error message for both of them, but that may be because of high traffic), but a Jailbreak subreddit user who saw the list said that only numbers in some parts of the U.S. have been published so far. If you have not been able to download the list, you can use this site created by developer Robbie Trencheny to see if your username was included.

SnapchatDB said it “censored the last two digits of the phone numbers” in order to “minimize spam and abuse,” but it might still release the unfiltered data, including millions of phone numbers.

The Next Web did a WHOIS lookup on SnapchatDB’s domain and found it was created just yesterday on December 31. The registrant’s name is protected, but its mailing address and contact number are both listed in Panama.

SnapchatDB screenshot 2The site appears to have been created in response to recently identified flaws in Snapchat’s security. Last week, ZDNet published an article on how white-hat Gibson Security researchers had tried to alert Snapchat to ways that hackers would connect usernames to phone numbers for user in stalking, but were ignored. Gibson Security then published the exploit publicly on Christmas Eve.

The firm said that hackers could use two exploits to gain access to users’ personal data, including their real names, usernames and phone numbers, through Snapchat’s Android and iOS API. Snapchat did offer a public statement, but as TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote, it wasn’t very satisfactory because it did not offer details on how its countermeasures would work, such as rate limiting, bad IP blocking, or automated systems that scan suspicious activity. Snapchat said:

“Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do.”

The Gibson Security report and SnapchatDB are both reminders that even in an ephemeral messaging service, it would be a mistake to be lulled into a sense of security about the information that you do have stored with the app. “People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with,” SnapchatDB stated on the site.

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