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Privacy-Centered Web Browsers, A Marketing Strategy?

Privacy is a great thing to invest in, but the moment it becomes a selling point rather than an actual tool that helps is just wrong Click To Tweet

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If we learned anything from conferences and events held by big tech companies, it’s that everyone’s banking in with privacy. Individually, web browsers like Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and Mozilla’s Firefox are all playing catch-up with who gets to show off their latest privacy features or who has the better software that keeps people’s information safe.

Recently, the Federal government started to crackdown how tech companies collect and distribute people’s personal information. Even though they’re about a decade late, they are trying to implement more laws and regulations with how data are handled in public spaces such as the Internet.

It may be true that the government still needs to learn and understand a lot from the inner workings of the Internet, but that’s not stopping the public from raising their concerns. With increasing awareness, people are demanding tech companies to stop exploiting their data.

As the issue of privacy is continuously tackled both by the law and the public, tech companies understand that confidentiality is today’s hot commodity. So, in different events, companies are announcing innovative measures in securing your data to gain public trust and approval.

Mainly, big tech such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all differentiating themselves from Facebook who has constantly been berated in public hearings and by tech experts for consistently breaching ethical privacy standards.

In reaction, Mark Zuckerberg has continuously made big claims of turning Facebook into a more safe and private space for its consumers. At the same time, the social media platform continues to fail to fulfill its promises.

The thing is, tech companies earn their dollars through targeted advertising, which is a lot more expensive than regular advertising. However, targeted ads require a ton of personal information collected through a specified period. Facebook does this well, but web browsers do so too.

In recent events, all the big tech companies have boasted that they’re improving how users experience the Internet through their browsers. One of the most obvious ones are changes in how advertisers find you through cookies.

In simple terms, cookies are tiny bits of information that you leave when visiting a website. Cookies can be used to let the website remember who you are, like save your username and password so you would be able to log in seamlessly on your next visit.

However, cookies can also be used to track actions made while using a particular website, which in essence helps the browser create your profile, including your interests, what you search, websites you visit, etc.

What browsers does next to your established profiles is to hand them off to advertisers. This is how you see certain ads on a page that seemingly aligns with your interests.

Tech companies, however, show off that web browsers now include specific blockers that prohibit the browser in creating your profile. This blockers purpose is to secure your activities, making it harder for advertisers to track you and cater ads.

In a sense, the move is a big leap towards a more secure internet ecosystem. However, these companies introducing a privacy-centric web browser are announcing the feature as if it’s a done deal. The inadequate emphasis on how to enable the blockers by accessing your settings menu is appalling. Users-wise, they hardly customize browsers based on secured privacy settings, instead goes with anything that was handed to them.

“By not changing the default, by making it optional, Google is relying on people not changing it,” Brendan Eich, co-founder, and CEO of Brave told Recode. “Chrome users may never know this is an option.”

This is where companies like Google and Mozilla veer away from Apple. Apple has been on the lead with this feature for years. Moreover, they have enabled these blockers by default. So from a perspective, paying more is getting more.

Privacy is a great thing to invest in, but the moment it becomes a selling point rather than an actual tool that helps people from getting exploited is the time when people should start realizing how big tech is only parading privacy over than implementing it.

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With Android Out, There Are Still Other Alternatives For Huawei

There are other alternatives for Huawei: they can use their own OS, use Linux-based Sailfish OS fork, or they can find a way to work with Android again. Click To Tweet

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There are other alternatives for Huawei after the Google ban: they can use their own OS, use Linux-based Sailfish OS fork, or they can find a way to work with android again.
Android is working to resume partnership with Huawei. Photo: Racchio | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

When Huawei was subjected to a witch hunt by the US government for allegedly aiding the Chinese government in its efforts to spy on the country, and as a pivotal player to potentially economically sabotage the country, an executive order was launched against the China-based tech giant that effectively forced U.S. tech companies to sever ties with Huawei.

And to comply with this, Google revoked Huawei’s license to use its open-source operating system, Android.

The ban from Google has brought Huawei’s future into limbo; making it uncertain for users, especially concerning security updates for their Huawei and Honor phones —or the general idea whether their devices will still be able to run altogether. Following the announcement, Huawei assured its users that all phones that were sold ahead of the banning and those that are already in stock will continue receiving updates from Android.

But now that more and more companies and U.S. tech giants are starting to enforce the ban against Huawei, what is left for Huawei to do to continue competing in the competitive global market of smartphones? What alternatives does it have in place of Android?

Does it still stand a chance?

Hongmeng, Huawei’s own operating system is on the move

One of the most obvious choice for Huawei to continue their business in the smartphone arena is to develop its operating system. And reports revealed that it has been doing so — as the Beijing company has already foreseen circumstances like a Google/Android ban.

Following the announcement of Google that it will be revoking Huawei’s Android license, rumors about a Huawei-exclusive operating system has been developed by the company since 2012. They called it Hongmeng.

The company has been testing the new OS on selected devices under closer door and closed environment. The source also said that the testing was accelerated for the new operating system to be ready for situations just like this.

One massive problem with this option, however, is that since it is a new operating system, it may be a challenge for Huawei to create an applications environment as robust as that of Android. But Huawei also has a solution to this problem: to release its own App Gallery.

A report from Bloomberg has said that the Chinese phone maker has been sweet-talking developers and networks to get on board. The story says that Huawei is offering considerable amounts to developers and systems to install their app store in new phones. While it is still unclear if the new app marketplace will be for all new phones or if it will be exclusive to its models only, this seems like a sound solution for Huawei’s predicament.

Even if Huawei can convince developers to develop apps for its OS and app gallery, another challenge is to make sure that porting apps on its OS becomes sustainable for developers to update. To survive this, Huawei should be able to sell enough phones and create enough demands for the developers to earn from it and prevent them from abandoning the platform altogether.

Or they can use Sailfish OS Fork

Another viable OS alternative for Huawei instead of the Android operating system fiasco is tapping into the Linux-based open-source operating system Sailfish OS Fork. Some reliable reports suggest that Huawei might use an existing smartphone OS named as Sailfish OS on its smartphones and tablets. Sailfish OS can be used as a base to develop the new Aurora OS for international Huawei smartphones.

And Huawei is seriously considering this OS as an Android alternative. Huawei CEO Guo Ping discussed the possibility of using Sailfish OS on Huawei devices with Konstantin Noskov, the minister of digital development, communications, and mass media of Russia.

One primary advantage of using Sailfish OS Fork over Huawei developing its OS is that this Linux-based operating system is also compatible with most Android apps. This means that Huawei does not need to create an entirely new app ecosystem for users to use their apps. At present, Sailfish OS is installed on only four devices, namely Sony Xperia X, XA2, XA2 Plus, and XA2 Ultra.

And since privacy is one of the most talked about issue in the tech world today, another advantage of the Sailfish OS Fork is precisely that. The OS does not store nor use user data against their consent and also, Sailfish OS only stores data to run its services and not sold to third-party services.

Android can find a way to work with Huawei again

The thing about Android OS that makes it a complicated venture when it comes to Huawei is that, although the operating system is open-source — meaning anyone can use it freely for their project — the source code is still licensed by Google, an American company that is required to comply with the Huawei ban EO. But reports suggest that Google is against this decision and is working on finding ways to continue working with Huawei amidst the controversial legislation. For one, Google has urged the US government to lift the ban against the Chinese smartphone manufacturer — citing security threats can be more viable with the policy.

In the short term, the company has secured a temporary license to continue to supply software updates to existing phones. The permit allows Huawei to take action “necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.” The license will also allow Huawei to maintain its existing network equipment, and to receive security vulnerability disclosures. Reports suggest that Android is working to extend this license.

With these moves from Google and Android, it is possible that companies can find a workaround that would allow them to work with Huawei in the future indefinitely; but this remains uncertain.

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The ‘Flying-V’ Could Be The Game-Changer In The Airline Industry

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KLM's Flying-V Concept Plane | Photo From: TUDelft

The future of aircraft lies in the development of V-shaped and fuel-efficient airplane known as the “Flying-V” created by Justus Benad — in an attempt to improve the sustainability of air travel.

Airlines are creating ways to lessen environmental hazard. Recently, the Virgin Atlantic used to recycle waste to power a commercial flight — an innovative approach to combat excessive use of fuel. Boeing and JetBlue resorted to creating hybrid electric planes with a hybrid propulsion system built in one of the genset and multiple electric motors and system architecture with distributed drives.

And today, the Netherland’s KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is taking another approach for commercial flights.

The development of a V-shaped or “Flying V” is getting a lift from the Dutch National Carrier who pledged to fund the project. The idea to modernize aircraft comes from the creative mind of Justus Benad, who was then a student at the Technical University of Berlin. Researchers from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, or also called as TU Delft, later on, developed the idea.

What does the new aircraft offer?

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the flag carrier for the Netherlands. Its headquarter’s located in Amstelveen, and a part of the Air France-KLM group, as well as, a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. It was founded in 1919, which makes it the oldest airline in the world operating under its original name. Up until now, it utilized several major commercial flights. True to its word “Bridging the World,” KLM wants to connect the world with its innovative approach in aircraft services. 

Flying-V gives a radical new approach to an airplane’s overall design. It targets to put passenger seats inside the plane’s wings, and it could mainly decrease the amount of fuel needed for flights by a substantial 20 percent. It will use less fuel than the Airbus350-900 while carrying a similar number of passengers. The Flying-V will seat 314 while the Airbus A350 seats between 300 and 350.

TU Delft expressed that the institution has been flying these tube and wing airplanes for decades, but it looks like the configuration is reaching a plateau in terms of energy efficiency, Project Leader Roelof Vos told CNN.

The design is going to imitate the A350’s 65-meter (213 feet) wingspan — enabling it to use the existing airport infrastructure.

Fuel for life

On Monday, KLM announced that aside from putting passengers in the plane’s wings, the fuel tanks and cargo hold will be placed there as well. The new configuration that TU Delft proposes has seen some synergy between the fuselage and the wing. The fuselage activity adds to the lift of the airplane and creates less aerodynamic drag.

Such innovation was needed as a stepping stone to greater efficiency, while technology was still being developed to create large-scale electric airplanes without compromising the environment. Aviation is contributing about 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions, and the industry is still growing, so the company needs to provide more sustainable airplanes, added Vos.

Electrified airplanes, on the other hand, can be too heavy and it can’t fly people across the Atlantic on electric planes. The world needs new technologies that reduce fuel burn differently, and Flying-V is the answer. Its increased fuel efficiency is mostly the result of its aerodynamic design.

Researchers plan to fly a scale model this September, Vos said — while a mock-up of the newest cabin design will be available for the public to view at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in October. The viewing activity is also a part of KLM’s 100th-anniversary celebration.

For the meantime, the design is set for arduous testing. The said University had numerical testing and preliminary wind tunnel tests. The latter needs to be done several times with high-speed and low-speed wind tunnels to establish the airplane’s efficiency.

The finished product is expected to enter the service between 2040 and 2050.

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Can Huawei Compete With Google? Only Time Can Tell.

Huawei's next move is to compete with Google as it's poised to launch its own OS and App Gallery. But will the company succeed? Only time can tell. Click To Tweet

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Huawei's next move is to compete with Google as it's poised to launch its own OS and App Gallery. But will the company succeed?
Huawei is the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer in Q1 2019. Photo: alerii Ilnitskii | Creative Commons | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

When Google revoked Huawei’s Android license practically banning it from receiving future software updates and support from Android and Play Store, the China-based company’s future was placed in limbo as the company struggles to stay afloat following the controversial Google decision. But it seems that Huawei is up for a vengeance: if they can no longer use Android’s platform and could integrate with Google Play Store, they will make their own, practically competing against Google.

The revocation of Huawei’s license follows after the heightened crackdown by the U.S. government on Chinese companies. Previously, the Trump administration has been lobbying to its allies to ban Huawei’s 5G technology citing that the Chinese government can use the company for espionage and economic sabotage.

Competing against Android is not a first for other tech giants. Apple has been successful in running its OS and app store, but Microsoft was not as lucky. But the future is bright for Huawei to succeed in this feat, considering that it is now the biggest phone manufacturing and distribution company in the world. Huawei accounted for 19% of the worldwide smartphone market and became the second largest smartphone manufacturer, overtaking Apple, in Q1 2019.

In order for this to work, Huawei should work fast…very fast.

Huawei’s hope is to launch its own operating system. Some reports have mentioned that Huawei is already working with its own operating system as they have already forecasted that such thing as a Google ban will happen in the near future. The tech giant has developed Hongmeng, Huawei’s own operating system, since 2012 and they are said to be poised to release it anytime soon, reports say. The company has been testing the new OS on selected devices under closer door and closed environment.

Nonetheless, it is still unclear whether Hongmeng will be the official name of the OS from Huawei. Experts note that even if Huawei can successfully launch its operating system, the company will still be faced with the challenge of establishing an app ecosystem. It would take Huawei a lot of time to build apps that are compatible with the new operating system.

But Huawei also has a solution to this problem: to release its own App Gallery. A report from Bloomberg has said that the Chinese phone maker has been sweet-talking developers and networks to get on board. The story says that Huawei is offering considerable amounts to developers and networks to install their app store in new phones. While it is still unclear if the new app marketplace will be for all new phones or if it will be exclusive to its models only, this seems like a sound solution for Huawei’s predicament.

China is a lucrative market and exposure to the difficult app market has provided the Chinese company much leverage on developers and networks to encourage them to support its venture; an advantage that Google, Apple, and Microsoft cannot exploit. Whether this incentive is enough for Huawei to pull this goal off or not is something only time can tell.

It is also said that to make things easier during this transition, Huawei is offering developers new tools to tweak their apps to run on its phones, meaning they can be ported over with minimal effort. It can be remembered that this is a similar strategy employed by Microsoft when it released the Windows OS, but it turned out to be ineffective in the long run as Lumia sales stalled over time.

Even if Huawei can convince developers to develop apps for its own OS and app gallery, another challenge is to make sure that porting apps on its own OS becomes sustainable for developers to update. To survive this, Huawei should be able to sell enough phones and create enough demands for the developers to earn from it and prevent them from abandoning the platform altogether.

With all that it’s work, Huawei’s plans are doable and could work, but it needs effort, much of it, and financial incentives to encourage key stakeholders to get on board.

Will this turn out in favour of Huawei? If Huawei works hard and works fast, it’s possible. But then again, only time can tell.

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