Author: <span class="vcard">John P. Mello Jr.</span>

Quantum Key Distribution Gets a Speed Boost

A method for scrambling data to protect it from the super powerful computers of the future has received a speed boost from a team of researchers from Duke and Ohio State universities and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The method uses quantum key distribution to guard data from prying eyes. The problem in the past with the technology is it's slow. Transfer speeds typically are measured in kilobits per second. However, the researchers found a way to increase key transmission rates between five and 10 times, bringing them into the megabit per second range.

Major Players Roll Up Sleeves to Solve Open Source Licensing Problems

Four big tech players this week moved to improve their handling of open source software licensing violations. Red Hat, Google, Facebook and IBM said they would apply error standards in the most recent GNU GPLv3 to all of their open source licensing, even licenses granted under older GPL agreements. "There is no procedure in the older GPLs that allowed a licensee to correct his mistakes," said Lawrence Rosen, former general counsel for the Open Source Initiative. "This will make everything consistent with GPLv3."

Risky Scripts Pose Threat to Web Surfers, Say Researchers

A popular technique used by website operators to observe the keystrokes, mouse movements and scrolling behavior of visitors on Web pages is fraught with risk. The technique offered by a number of service providers uses scripts to capture the activity of a visitor on a Web page, store it on the provider's servers, and play it back on demand for a website's operators. The idea behind the practice is to give operators insights into how users are interacting with their websites and to identify broken and confusing pages.

Facebook Messenger Promises Speedy Delivery of 4K Pics

Facebook on Tuesday raised the ante for messaging apps photo quality with the announcement of 4K support for Messenger. Starting Tuesday, "people can send and receive photos in Messenger at 4K resolution -- or up to 4,096 x 4,096 pixels per image -- the highest quality many smartphones support," wrote Facebook Messenger product managers Sean Kelly and Hagen Green. Although the need for speed in a messaging app and the size of 4K photo files would seem to be at odds with each other, that apparently is not the case with the Messenger upgrade.

New Firefox Runs Like a Rabbit

New version releases of browsers don't get the buzz they used to get, but Firefox Quantum is an exception. The latest version of the Mozilla Foundation's browser, released Tuesday, is all about performance. Firefox is twice as fast as it was a year ago, Mozilla claimed. It is not only fast on startup -- it remains zippy even when taxed by multitudes of tabs. "We have a better balance of memory to performance than all the other browsers," said Firefox Vice President for Product Nick Nguyen.

Marcher Malware Poses Triple Threat to Android Users

A three-pronged banking malware campaign has been infecting Android phones since the beginning of this year, according to security researchers. Attackers have been stealing credentials, planting the Marcher banking Trojan on phones, and nicking credit card information. So far, they have targeted customers of BankAustria, Raiffeisen Meine Bank and Sparkasse, but the campaign could spread beyond Vienna. The attack begins with a phishing message delivered by email to a phone, security researchers at Proofpoint explained.

iPhone X Delivers on Apple’s Promises and That’s Plenty, Say Reviewers

Reviews of Apple's next generation iPhone X have started appearing online, and for the most part, critics have showered praise on the product. "The iPhone X is clearly the best iPhone ever made," wrote Nilay Patel. "It's thin, it's powerful, it has ambitious ideas about what cameras on phones can be used for, and it pushes the design language of phones into a strange new place." The phone is so impressive, it almost seems unreal, Patel suggested. "At a glance, the iPhone X looks so good one of our video editors kept saying it looked fake."

Neural Nets Give Low-End Phone Pics DSLR Look

Researchers have found a way to use neural networks to create DSLR-quality photos from snapshots taken with low-end smartphones. A team of scientists at the ETH Zurich Computer Vision Lab recently published a paper describing a deep learning approach that uses neural networks to translate photos taken by cameras with limited capabilities into DSLR-quality photos automatically. "We tackle this problem by introducing a weakly supervised photo enhancer -- a novel image-to-image GAN-based architecture," they wrote.

Apple, GE Join Forces on Industrial IoT Apps

Apple and General Electric on Wednesday announced a new SDK for iOS that enables developers to create applications for Predix, an Internet of Things platform made by GE. Applications developed with the new SDK could give industrial operators more insight and visibility into the performance of their equipment and operations on an iPhone or iPad. For example, a worker who was notified of a problem by phone would be able to check it out immediately and even collaborate with others on the scene to address the problem.

Google’s Pixel 2 Earns High Marks in Spite of Dull Design

As Google's new Pixel 2 smartphones get ready to hit the shelves, reviews of the models have begun mushrooming online. While the new phones generally have received positive grades, many reviewers found the their design boring. "The Pixel 2 hardware is ho-hum," observed Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. "Google didn't take many risks in its design," he said. "The Pixel 2 is the only premium Android smartphone without an edge-to-edge display, two cameras, and support for fast gigabit LTE service."