Plus Nokia's connected cars, Nissan's self-driving car promise, Dell's RT drop, and more

A burst of 14 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Nissan self-driving cars by 2020 >> What Car?

Nissan will have self-driving cars in showrooms by 2020, according to company boss Carlos Ghosn.

Testing of cars that drive themselves, dubbed Autonomous Drive, is due to start in Japan next year, leading to several models with the technology going on sale six years later.

The company claims that all of its Autonomous Drive models will be sold at realistic prices, and expects the technology to reduce accidents and help people with disabilities get on the road.

This doesn't seem to be linked to Google - which would mean competition, and so choice, and so use.

This is Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch: a blocky health tracker with a camera >> VentureBeat

Christina Farr:

At about 3in diagonally, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch is quite large. Although its screen is square, large bezels on the top and bottom give it a chunky, rectangular shape, with rounded corners.

The color is fairly basic — dark black and grey, although it may be enhanced in the final version. The wristband is clunky and masculine, large enough to hold speakers in the clasp. It's not heavy to hold, but it dwarfed my tiny lady wrists when I tried it on. Women may instead opt for a Misfit Shine, which isn't a watch but is a small jewel-like button.

The smartwatch prototype has Bluetooth to connect with the Galaxy S family of smartphones and tablets, although it may also connect to all Android devices. It also has Wi-Fi for Internet access, including e-mail, even when it's not connected to a smartphone, but I didn't see that in action.

Not forgetting the 3MP camera in the wristband. (This repeats the "10-hour battery life" spec seen last week.)

Report: After patent loss, Apple tweaks FaceTime — and logs 500,000 complaints >> Ars Technica

Apple has handed over its customer service logs from April through mid-August to VirnetX's attorneys. At the August 15 hearing, a VirnetX lawyer stated that Apple had logged "over half a million calls" complaining about the quality of FaceTime, according to Lease.

If that's accurate, the data will bolster VirnetX's arguments that its patents are technologically significant, hard to work around, and deserve a high royalty rate. The judge and lawyers present at the hearing didn't discuss numbers regarding what a reasonable ongoing royalty might be, but VirnetX is asking for royalty payments of more than $700m for the ongoing use of FaceTime, according to Lease.

Only one query on this: how do people complain about FaceTime call quality? It seems unlikely that people would make a Facetime call and then call Apple to complain.

Major TV torrent site TheBox.bz calls it quits >> TorrentFreak

One of the internet's most-loved torrent sites for TV show content has decided to call it quits. TheBox.bz, a private site with around 90,000 members, will close its doors on Saturday. The site's operators inform TorrentFreak that they aren't reacting to any particular threat, but with City of London Police and other interested parties watching over the site, trouble is only just around the corner.

BitTorrent is perfect for distributing all kinds of content, from movies to music and from software to backups. However, there is one particular type of content that users rarely seem to tire of.

TV show downloading is a very popular pastime among file-sharers. The ability to grab almost any show from the present or even distant past and watch it at a time and place of a user's choosing is a powerful lure.

They missed off "for free" as part of the attraction and "in breach of copyright" as part of the proviso.

A Brief History of Apple's iWatch >> Anil Dash

A brief timeline of Apple iWatch's entrance to the market.

September 10, 2013: As key members of the tech industry and trade press gather on a clear Tuesday morning, Tim Cook leads much of Apple's senior management in the introduction of a simple, wearable touchscreen device. Priced around $300, it immediately attracts complaints that it's too expensive, since wearable fitness devices are less than half the price; Supporters claim its support for a tightly-defined app platform differentiates it enough to justify the higher price.

Get some coffee. Enjoy.

As Android rises, app makers tumble into Google's 'matrix of pain' >> Wired.com

Ryan Tate:

Navigating the matrix of pain is certainly doable. One developer likens it to writing PC software in the 1990s, when a programmer had to test against a handful of versions of the Windows operating system, along with scores of possible hardware configurations. But it means that writing Android software is significantly more complex than writing apps for iOS, where Apple keeps hardware configurations to a minimum and where the vast majority of users run the latest version of the operating system.

And it's even more of a headache when compared to web technologies like JavaScript and HTML. These webby alternatives were supposed to replace native apps, letting developers write one version of software that runs on all devices. But consumers have largely rejected web apps.

Developers who brave the matrix of pain often have to make some compromises.

iOS and Android weaknesses allow stealthy pilfering of website credentials >> Ars Technica

The so-called same-origin policy is a fundamental security mechanism enforced by desktop browsers, but the protection is woefully missing from many iOS and Android apps. To demonstrate the threat, the researchers devised several hacks that carry out so-called cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks to surreptitiously download user data from handsets.

The most serious of the attacks worked on both iOS and Android devices and required only that an end-user click on a booby-trapped link in the official Google Plus app. Behind the scenes, a script sent instructions that caused a text-editing app known as PlainText to send documents and text input to a Dropbox account controlled by the researchers. The attack worked against other apps, including TopNotes and Nocs.

April 2013: What tens of millions of Q10 sales mean for BlackBerry ?? CrackBerry.com

"We expect several tens of millions of units", said a confident BlackBerry CEO on camera. That's a huge statement to make, and from what we've seen of the man so far, he is a man of action. He is not one to exaggerate and make crazy promises.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I think the Q10 is monumentally important as a cash cow for BlackBerry over the next year.

Signs so far are that's not the case. The scary part though is the end of the post:

If BlackBerry 10 sells north of 5 million per quarter (remember we now have the Z10 and the Q10 selling), I think analysts will be forced to massively raise their numbers.

And we all know what that means to the stock, don't we?

The stock tanked two months later when the quarterly results came out: BlackBerry had shipped 2.7m BB10 phones and made an unexpected loss.

This is why there aren't enough women in tech >> Valleywag

Last Friday, Valleywag published a post about the tech sector's increasing abuse of the term "culture fit" as a way to discriminate against potential hires who don't match the pattern of a successful startup employee. It prompted an outpouring of responses from readers about their own abysmal experiences with the euphemism.


Wall Street Journal digging reveals very weak Q10 demand >> CrackBerry.com

Chris Umiastowski says that Crackberry.com's own data relating to long-tail searches agrees: the BB10 phones haven't been a hit.

It's actually hard to hit Google, search for anything related to BlackBerry, and not find a CrackBerry result near the top. As Kevin [Michaluk] points out, the surge of new visitors related to the Z10 and Q10 launch traffic has now disappeared. Traffic is back to where it was prior to the launch of BlackBerry 10. There's still a BIG audience on CrackBerry, it's just not growing the way you'd expect it to grow if a lot of people were buying and using their BlackBerry 10 phones on a continued basis (conversely, CrackBerry's sister site AndroidCentral.com is seeing this type of long tail growth on the back of the launch of the S4 and HTC One).

Why Apple and Google can't sync right — and don't care if you suffer >> ReadWrite

Matt Asay:

I've dumped iCloud for everything but synchronization of Notes from my MacBook Air to my iPhone and iPad. It mostly works. Sometimes. Cloud is Apple's Achilles Heel.

Which is why I have turned to Google to handle synchronization of my most important data across devices. But even Google's sync has started to falter, though in its case the problem seems to have less to do with technical ability and more to do with political maneuvering. 

Phablets account for 30% of all smartphones in India, 67% smartphones priced below $200 >> BGR India

Rajat Agrawalj:

Phablets or smartphones with displays between 5in and 6.99in accounted for 30% of all smartphones shipped in India in Q2, 2013, according to the latest IDC figures. Phablet shipments increased 17 times year-on-year with smartphone shipments hitting 9.3m units compared to just 3.5m units in Q2, 2012. The magic formula for India seems to be having a sub-$200 smartphone with a large display and dual-SIM slots.

Local vendors continue to dominate the Indian smartphone space with Micromax shipping over 2m smartphones in the quarter making it the second largest player with a market share of 22% behind Samsung's 26% share. IDC claims that local vendors now account for over half of the total smartphone market in India.

It's not a big market in volume terms, but the choice of phablets seems to point to a trend: countries with low PC penetration go for maximum screen sizes along with connectivity. Anecdotally, the Galaxy Note is very popular there.

Nokia unveils its connected car platform: Here Auto — Tech News and Analysis

Nokia head of location and of commerce and Here EVP Michael Halbherr – who will be speaking at GigaOM's Mobilize conference in October — recently shared the Finnish phone maker's broader connected car vision, which will eventually include autonomous driving and integrating the vehicle into future "smart city" networks. Today's release of Here Auto is its first step down that path.

It's hardly the self-driving car, but it's Nokia entry into the growing field of internet-linked entertainment and navigation systems.

Dell drops $299 Windows RT tablet, cheapest offer now $479 >> ITworld

From mid-August:

Shoppers who tried to buy a Windows RT tablet at Dell's website Friday morning would have seen one listed for US$299. By the end of the day the cheapest tablet came bundled with a keyboard for $479.

Dell made several changes to the RT offers on its website. By Friday evening it had eliminated all the options for a standalone tablet and now only sells the product, called the XPS 10, bundled with a keyboard.

In some ways it bucks a recent trend. Dell has been lowering prices for its Windows RT tablet since May, after the company admitted it was selling poorly. When it was introduced last October, the XPS 10 was priced at $499, and it had dropped to $299 in May.

Two likely reasons: keyboards may make more profit for Dell (so make them non-optional); Windows RT is a car crash.

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Charles Arthur

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