Ola Says Will Invest $20 Million on Safety Initiatives This Year

Taxi-hailing app Ola will invest $20 million (over Rs. 130 crore) by March, 2016 on various initiatives to ensure passenger safety.

The Bengaluru-based company has also introduced a new number masking feature on its app that does not disclose the customer’s mobile number to drivers.

“All driver-partners on the Ola platform are verified and licenced by the local authorities. They have to necessarily undergo the mandatory training at the time of on-boarding and subsequent feedback driven training from time to time,” Ola Chief Operating Officer Pranay Jivrajka said.

The new feature, too, comes as part of Ola’s commitment to allocate $20 million for safety initiatives over this year, he added.

While the number masking feature will reduce the risk of any untoward experience for passengers, driver-partners can save on their calling costs.

Ola will be able to closely monitor driver behaviour and conversations, resulting in a superior experience for users, he said.

Apart from number masking, Ola platform offers features like live GPS tracking, sharing of ride details, feedback and reporting during the ride as well as an in-app SOS button to ensure passenger safety.

“As a technology platform, we are committed to bringing scalable and sustainable programmes to ensure that user safety and security is always above everything else,” Jivrajka said.

Hungary Activists Race to Help Migrants by Smartphone

As migrants are shunted by countries between borders on trains and buses, a team of Hungarian activists are racing to send them accurate information, straight to their pockets on mobile phones.

“Bewildered people don’t know what is happening to them, they are starved of information sometimes deliberately, if it suits the authorities,” says Nina Kov, one half of a husband-and-wife team who dreamed up InfoAid, a free smartphone app available in six languages.

“We are sending anyone who downloads it the latest news on border closures, who is bussing from where to where, the latest asylum procedures, news on Hungary’s new laws and so on,” she told AFP during an interview in Budapest.

Enlisting the help of two friends to code the app, InfoAid was ready to go in two days around two weeks ago, the urgency triggered by what Kov calls “misinformation by the Hungarian authorities”.

Earlier this month, when migrants crowded onto a train in Budapest, many said later they thought it was going to Austria only for it to halt at a refugee camp not far from the capital.

“It is one thing that they were not getting proper information in Hungary, but to be apparently misled was really outrageous,” Kov says.

Since then, as events have moved rapidly on the ground from borders between Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and back to Hungary, the team have been scrambling to keep up, now working closely with Croatian activists.

Once users download the Android-based software to their phones, they can select one of six languages: Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, English and Hungarian.

“If we can find more translators we can add more languages. Greek is next in line so that activists there can let refugees heading north what to expect,” Kov said.

One of the two coders behind the app – 28-year-old Afghan-Hungarian Enys Mones, who Kov calls the “brains” of the operation – told AFP there are already 700 daily active users, and around 100 new ones every day.

“One user can then spread the word, so more and more people are getting real-time info,” Kov says.

A half-Hungarian born in Paris, 34-year-old Kov says her ethnic-German grandfather was forced to leave his home in Romania in 1946, while her Russian father swapped “anti-Russian” Hungary for France in the late-1970s.

“Everyone in Europe has refugee blood, if you look deep enough inside,” she says.

Apple’s iOS App Store Suffers First Major Attack

Apple Inc said on Sunday it is cleaning up its iOS App Store to remove malicious iPhone and iPad programs identified in the first large-scale attack on the popular mobile software outlet.

The company disclosed the effort after several cyber-security firms reported finding a malicious program dubbed XcodeGhost that was embedded in hundreds of legitimate apps.

It is the first reported case of large numbers of malicious software programs making their way past Apple’s stringent app review process. Prior to this attack, a total of just five malicious apps had ever been found in the App Store, according to cyber-security firm Palo Alto Networks Inc.

The hackers embedded the malicious code in these apps by convincing developers of legitimate software to use a tainted, counterfeit version of Apple’s software for creating iOS and Mac apps, which is known as Xcode, Apple said.

“We’ve removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software,” Apple spokeswoman Christine Monaghan said in an email. “We are working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps.”

She did not say what steps iPhone and iPad users could take to determine whether their devices were infected.

Palo Alto Networks Director of Threat Intelligence Ryan Olson said the malware had limited functionality and his firm had uncovered no examples of data theft or other harm as a result of the attack.

Still, he said it was “a pretty big deal” because it showed that the App Store could be compromised if hackers infected machines of software developers writing legitimate apps. Other attackers may copy that approach, which is hard to defend against, he said.

“Developers are now a huge target,” he said.

Researchers said infected apps included Tencent Holdings Ltd’s popular mobile chat app WeChat, car-hailing app Didi Kuaidi and a music app from Internet portal NetEase Inc.

The tainted version of Xcode was downloaded from a server in China that developers may have used because it allowed for faster downloads than using Apple’s U.S. servers, Olson said.

Chinese security firm Qihoo360 Technology Co said on its blog that it had uncovered 344 apps tainted with XcodeGhost.

Tencent said on its official WeChat blog that the security flaw affects WeChat 6.2.5, an old version of its popular chatting app, and that newer versions were unaffected. A preliminary investigation showed there had been no data theft or leakage of user information, the company said.

Apple declined to say how many apps it had uncovered.

Ola Unveils Number Masking With Aim to Keep User Phone Numbers Private

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Taxi aggregator Ola on Saturday said that it has introduced number masking on its platform which will enable mobile numbers of customers to remain undisclosed to drivers.

The aggregator has integrated a cloud telephony solution, which sends an encrypted number to the driver whenever a customer books a cab.

Drivers calling from their Ola device will not be able to see the customer’s mobile number but will automatically be routed through the encrypted number, the company said in a release.

The number masking feature is active for driver-partners in all cities where Ola operates, it added.

(Also see:  Ola Reportedly Raises $225 Million From Falcon Edge Capital)

With this, calls made by the driver-partners can be traced by Ola from archived recordings at all times,Ola said.

The company’s driver-partners will not bear the cost of calls made to customers, since they would be routed directly through the device, the firm said and claimed that this was a first of its kind step in the industry towards ensuring complete privacy of user’s contact details.

Ola had earlier said that it has set aside $20 million (roughly Rs. 131 crores) towards safety initiatives in the current year.

“The number masking feature brings enhanced privacy for users, reducing the risk of any untoward experience for them. While driver-partners can save on their calling costs, we will be able to closely monitor drivers behaviour and conversations, resulting in a superior experience for users,” Ola COO Pranay Jivrajka said.

Marco Arment Pulls Leading Ad-Blocking App From App Store

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Tumblr co-founder Marco Arment, who developed the most popular paid ad-blocker on Apple Inc’s US app store, has pulled the product, citing concerns that the tool could hurt independent Web publishers.

In a blog post on Friday, Arment, wrote that he was pulling his “Peace” app because he does not feel that it is his role to decide what content is blocked.

“Adblockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit,” Arment wrote.

Arment did not respond to an e-mail and call requesting comment.

The controversy around ad-blocking software kicked up this week after Apple made it available on the new version of the iPhone operating system on Wednesday. Arment’s $2.99 ad-blocking app, Peace, was the No. 1 paid app in the United States over the past two days, according to Arment’s blog.

(Also see:  Ad-Blocking Apps on Apple iOS 9 Draw Blowback From Web Publishers)

According to Apptopia Inc, a Boston-based company that tracks app store downloads and revenue, the Peace app generated $113,521 in gross proceeds in the 36 hours it was live.

“Even though I’m ‘winning,’ I’ve enjoyed none of it,” Arment wrote in his blog. “That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market.”

Ad-blocking tools are designed to help Web pages load much faster by stripping out so-called scripts and trackers that are used to serve the ads.

However, many argue that such tools hurt publishers, particularly smaller ones, by forcing them to develop dedicated iPhone apps, rather than relying on mobile-friendly websites. Some have even suggested that using such apps amounts to theft that will all but destroy the Web as we know it.

“Ad blocking hurts publishers, prevents businesses from communicating and competing, reduces the diversity of voices in digital media, and hinders consumers from obtaining important information about products, services, even politics and culture,” wrote Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, in an e-mailed statement. “All it does is empower the biggest companies, which are the only ones that can afford to end-run the roadblocks and toll gates.”

Some 20 million people used ad blockers last year, up 40 percent from a year earlier, resulting in $22 billion in lost advertising revenue, according to a study by Adobe and PageFair, an anti ad-blocking tech company.

As of Friday afternoon, two other ad-blockers were the No. 1 and No. 4 most popular apps in the US app store.

Uttar Pradesh to Get ‘M-Sakhi’ App Aimed at Improving Maternal Health

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A mobile application ‘m-sakhi’ will be launched in five districts of Uttar Pradesh from October, to streamline and supervise the work of ASHA, ANM and anganwadi workers in the state.

The efforts by Accredited social health activists (ASHA), Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM) and anganwadi workers will now be supervised through multimedia-enabled ‘m-sakhi’ application and the ‘m-sehat’ programme.

The move is aimed to front line health workers in improving maternal, neonatal and child health. Qualcomm, providing technical support to the project, has signed an agreement with state agency State Innovations in Family Planning Services Agency (SIFSA) and National Health Mission through ‘IntraHealth’.

“m-sakhi was launched in November last year as a pilot project in Badagaon block in Jhansi district. From next month, a detailed project ‘m-Sehat’ would be launched in Kannauj, Bareilly, Sitapur, Mirzapur and Faizabad districts in which m-sakhi would also be included,” Country Head of IntraHealth, Laboni Jana said.

Senior Manager of Qualcomm, Anirban Mukerjee said that ASHA and ANM workers would be given application equipped mobile phones during training.

The work done by frontline workers would reach senior officers through dashboard, which would facilitate supervision at block and district levels, he said.

Mukerjee added that anganbari workers would also be associated with “m-sakhi” project.

Google Play Music for Android Updated With Improved Chromecast Integration

Google Play Music for Android is now receiving an update that primarily brings improved Chromecast integration. The latest version v6.0.1995S is now available to download or update via Google Play.

The app listing notes some of the overhauled Chromecast integration including gapless or no break of playback in between songs alongside gapless playback support now enabled over Cast. Another major addition is that it continues music playback even if the phone is turned off or if the user left with the media device.

Google Play Music back in June besides adding free tier for its music streaming service also added several changes in its app, bringing it up to version 6.0.

The updated Google Play Music app brought Playlists and Radio moved inside the My Library option in the navigation drawer. New options namely New Releases and Browser Stations were added. Both the free users and the All Access subscribers received the access to the new curated stations. Also, while the free users would see ads on the service, the All Access users would not see the same while streaming music.

An earlier report claimed that Google at its rumoured September 29 event might reveal the second-generation Chromecast streaming device alongside the two Nexus smartphones. Citing leaked internal documents, it added that the new Chromecast may receive Spotify support – a music streaming service.

The leaked document suggested that Chromecast platform would soon be able to support the popular Spotify music streaming service that has been absent from the list of partners. This would come in addition to the company’s own Google Play Music streaming service for the Chromecast. The HDMI streaming player already supports Netflix and Pandora.

Uber Expands SafetiPin Partnership to 4 More Indian Cities

Taxi hailing platform Uber is expanding its partnership with SafetiPin, a map-based mobile safety app, to reach up to 50 cities globally, including Bengaluru, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Noida.

Earlier this year, Uber had partnered SafetiPin to run a pilot to generate safety scores for various locations in Delhi. The pilot was then extended to other global markets, including Bogota, Colombia and Nairobi, Kenya.

“Uber is unveiling a global partnership with SafetiPin that will expand its reach to up to 50 cities, including cities in Africa, South America and Asia,” Uber said in a statement.

This new partnership begins September 21, with Bengaluru, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Noida, it added. Uber said the pilots in Delhi and the other two cities were still ongoing but did not share any details.

Last year, the cab-booking platform had drawn flak following public outrage after one of its drivers allegedly raped a 26-year-old executive in Delhi-NCR.

The company has, since then, undertaken a number of initiatives, including partnership with background-screening firm First Advantage and introduction of a panic button. Under its partnership with SafetiPin, Uber connects its network of driver-partners who can choose to assist SafetiPin in mapping the safety parameters of a city while driving. Driver-partners are equipped with an outward-facing mobile device that records photos and GPS information for SafetiPin.

“Data collection for each city is expected to take approximately two months. SafetiPin will then analyse various safety parameters in each photo, and assign a safety score to the area where each photo was captured,” it said.

This information is shared with SafetiPin users as well as local governments to help everyone make smarter decisions around safety, it added.

Windows 10 Xbox App Update Adds New Social Features And More

Windows 10 Xbox App Update

Microsoft has this week, as promised, released a new update for its Windows 10 Xbox App providing gamers with it a number of new features, tweaks and enhancements.

The latest Windows 10 Xbox App update adds a new real-time Friends list presence and real-time Activity Feed updates. As well as the new game progress comparison feature and console text entry.

Microsoft explains a little more about the features within the Xbox App on Windows 10 September Update that has rolled out today.

• Real-time Friends list presence. Your Friends list will automatically refresh with your friends’ on/offline status and the apps and games in which they’re currently engaged – including whether the game they’re playing can be joined via multiplayer or party.

• Real-time Activity Feed updates. No need to hit refresh to see new Activity Feed items; keep the Xbox app open and your Activity Feed will let you know when there are new items to view, comment on, like, or re-share.

• Game progress comparison. Feeling competitive? Discover how you stack up against your friends on specific game progress by visiting the Achievements section of your profile and selecting ‘Compare.’ You’ll enjoy a side-by-side comparison of your selected friends’ progress on games you’ve recently played, including game completion percentage, Gamerscore and Achievements earned.

• Console text entry. We’re also bringing one of the most requested features from Xbox Feedback to the Xbox app on Windows 10 – the ability to use the Xbox app for text input on Xbox One. You will now be able to use the Xbox app and other inputs compatible with Windows devices – keyboards, touch keypads, and the like – to enter text in search boxes and more on Xbox One.

Learn Windows 10’s touchpad gestures for laptops

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Microsoft changed Windows for the better when it introduced trackpad gestures in Windows 8. The new gestures made controlling your PC a far more fluid experience, helping you get things done more efficiently without the need for mouse-like buttons at the top of the touch area.

In Windows 10, Microsoft improved on Windows 8’s foundation. Beyond integrating existing gestures, the company added new touch controls and dumped items that wouldn’t make any sense in Windows 10, like swiping in from the right edge for the Charms bar (since Windows 10 doesn’t have a Charms bar).

The only requirement for using these gestures is that you have a precision touchpad, so some older laptops won’t be able to use them.

If you’re not sure if your touchpad supports gestures, open the Settings app and go toDevices > Mouse & touchpad. Under the “Touchpad” heading it will say “Your PC has a precision touchpad” if you can swipe and tap instead of clicking.

  • Select an item: Tap on the touchpad

  • Scroll: Place two fingers on the touchpad and slide horizontally or vertically

  • Zoom in and out: Place two fingers on the touchpad and pinch in or stretch out.

  • Right-click: Tap the touchpad with two fingers, or press on the bottom right corner

  • Open Task View: Place three fingers on the touchpad and swipe up (away from you).

  • Show desktop: Place three fingers on the touchpad and swipe down (towards you). Reverse the movement to get all your windows to return.

  • Switch between open windows: Place three fingers on the touchpad and swipe right or left (this is the same as pressing Alt + Tab).

  • Drag an open window: Double-tap and then drag from the title bar

  • Open Cortana: Tap the touchpad with three fingers. If you’d rather this gesture opened Action Center instead, you can change this default in Settings > Devices > Mouse & touchpad.