Google says the majority of Chrome traffic is protected with HTTPS

Google has already used Cybersecurity Awareness Month to announced details of a new bug bounty program for Android apps, as well as a new Advanced Protection Program for G Suite users. Now the company has revealed that most web traffic in its Chrome web browser is protected by HTTPS.

The precise figures vary from platform to platform — with ChromeOS and macOS faring the best — but between 64 and 75 percent is now secured. Google humblebrags about the results of its mission to “secure the web, one site at a time,” after opting to mark non-encrypted pages as being insecure.

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Both ChromeOS and macOS now have more than three quarters of Chrome traffic protected by HTTPS, while on Windows the figure is 66 percent. For Android, the figure drops to 64 percent, but there have been increases in the use of encryption for all platforms.

Google highlights the following statistics:

  • 64 percent of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, up from 42 percent a year ago.
  • Over 75 percent of Chrome traffic on both ChromeOS and Mac is now protected, up from 60 percent on Mac and 67 percent on Chrome OS a year ago
  • 71 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default, up from 37 a year ago

The company says that its decision to mark non-HTTPS sites as insecure help to drive these figures up:

About a year ago, we announced that we would begin marking all sites that are not encrypted with HTTPS as “not secure” in Chrome. We wanted to help people understand when the site they’re on is not secure, and at the same time, provide motivation to that site’s owner to improve the security of their site. We knew this would take some time, and so we started by only marking pages without encryption that collect passwords and credit cards. In the next phase, we began showing the “not secure” warning in two additional situations: when people enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.

To encourage more site owners to migrate to HTTPS, Google points out that Let’s Encrypt — which it sponsors — is free. The company also says: “Google also recently announced managed SSL for Google App Engine, and has started securing entire top-level Google domains like .foo and .dev by default with HSTS. These advances help make HTTPS automatic and painless, to make sure we’re moving towards a web that’s secure by default.”


Nokia’s retro-inspired 3310 finally comes to the US

Adam Westlake – Oct 22, 2017


Nokia’s retro-inspired 3310 finally comes to the US

When Nokia parent company HMD Global announced the rebirth of the classic 3310 earlier this year, cellphone enthusiasts were left fawning over its cute design and focus on minimalism. Then came disappointment as it was revealed that the device would only support 2G networks, and wasn’t even coming to the US during its spring release. Well, Nokia has finally righted these wrongs, as a new 3G model is coming stateside later this month.

For those eager to pick up the new 3310 3G, you’ll be able to buy it starting on October 29th at retailers including Best Buy. Even better is that it will be priced at $60, which is practically pocket change in this smartphone era. The phone is limited to 3G, however, and will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile’s GSM networks, but it doesn’t work with CDMA, so don’t expect to use it on Verizon or Sprint.

MORE: Nokia 3310 hands-on

There’s little the new Nokia 3310 can do to stand up to smartphones in terms of features and hardware prowess, but it does excel at what it focuses on: being a small phone that can make and receive calls. There’s no touchscreen, no LTE support, and no apps — excluding the limited versions of Facebook and Twitter that come pre-installed. It does have a color screen at least, along with a 2-megapixel rear camera, MicroSD card support, and the classic Snake game.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of need the new 3310 fulfills, other than nostalgia. But if the idea of choosing a minimal 3G cellphone over a smartphone for a distraction-free day — something the previously covered Light Phone hopes to capitalize on — sounds appealing, then this could be the perfect fit.

Fiber optic lines can double as earthquake detectors

The slightest jostles could give away seismic activity.

Apple enabling emergency AT&T LTE in Puerto Rico using Google’s Project Loon balloons

Apple is working with AT&T and Google parent-company Alphabet to enable emergency LTE in Puerto Rico after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month. TechCrunch reports that Apple is issuing a carrier update this week using the service enable LTE Band 8 support. As 9to5Google reported earlier today, this emergency LTE is enabled by Alphabet’s X division using Project Loon.

Project Loon deploys balloons from Nevada to Puerto Rico where cell towers have been destroyed to restore cellular service to areas without coverage. The deployment is still experimental in nature but should have a real world impact.

TC says the LTE Band 8 support will work on iPhone 5c and later running iOS 10 and later after the carrier settings update is installed (which first requires network access). Apple provided this statement to TC:

“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week. The update allows iPhone customers with iPhone 5c and later models running iOS 10 or higher, to connect to a provisional band on the AT&T network so they can be in touch with loved ones and get services in this time of need.”

Elon Musk: The Second Boring Machine is Almost Ready


For months, The Boring Company has been digging underground tunnels to facilitate tests of Elon Musk’s hyperloop system. Now, the company is preparing to introduce a brand new invention — a second boring machine.

Elon Musk has announced via Twitter that The Boring Company’s newest invention for tunnel excavation is “almost ready.” This, the second boring machine, will be dubbed Line-Storm, a moniker inspired by the poem “A Line-Storm Song” by Robert Frost.

Musk went on to respond to a Twitter user that asked whether The Boring Companywas a real enterprise. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO confirmed that it was, and stated that a physical tunnel is being created and is growing longer every day.

The tunnel being excavated by The Boring Company is a test site for hyperloop technology. Musk has already shared images demonstrating that the underground tract is large enough for a car to pass through.

Digging tunnels via conventional means would be a big obstacle for the introduction of underground hyperloop infrastructure. Musk is confident that — with help from their new machines — The Boring Company can perform the work relatively cheaply and efficiently. It remains to be seen what kind of advantages Line-Storm offers over its predecessor, the “Godot.”

Musk has previously stated that he’s received permission from a federal official to continue to expand his hyperloop project. With a working car elevator and this new tunneling machine, it seems like all the pieces for his vision for the future of transport are falling into place.

Hands On: LookUp 4.0 for the iPhone and iPad can make browsing a dictionary a pleasure

An updated design makes Lookout fast to use on your iPhone or your iPad, and it even has an Apple Watch implementation —but it is not the dictionary app for everyone.

You either look up a dictionary because you need to quickly check what something means or because you just relish definitions and the history of words. Newly updated LookUp 4.0 aims to satisfy both uses with a redesign that concentrates on speed and gorgeous presentation. Alongside photos or line artwork that every word definition displays, the app now names and defines anything you point your camera at.

While this camera feature is the standout new additions, the most significant in the longer term is version 4.0’s adoption of iOS 11’s drag and drop on the iPad.

Now when you’re reading or writing a document and you’re not sure about a word, you can drag it straight out of the word processor and into LookUp. Drop the word anywhere on LookUp’s window and it will search for its definition.

Or say you’re writing anything that extensively quotes from a dictionary, such as an academic article or a Dan Brown novel. Find the definition in LookUp, then drag it out to your word processor document.

Whether you find definitions by dropping words onto the app or just typing it into the search box the old-fashioned way, those definitions look superb. The app now has a very Apple Music-like layout of font and color which is clear and striking.

There are very few controls to get in the way of your reading the definition. LookUp offers only a few tools such as the options to mark a word as a favorite and to change the app from light to dark background on a schedule or automatically.

The tool you tend to use the most, though, is the pronunciation button: tap that and a very short audio clip plays so that you learn how to say the word.

Whatever the word is, you do also get a photo or a graphic illustrating it. Photographs are more helpful in that they show you what something looks like but the artwork is more appealing because it’s so very well done.

It’s an art deco style of illustration, all done by the app’s creator, and for what it adds to the design, this is a key reason to enjoy using this dictionary.

There is also an Apple Watch app where you can dictate the word you’re looking for – which could be handy when you’re not sure of the spelling.

Dictating some words into the Apple Watch app, dragging others into the iPad version and simply typing into the iPhone one: this is how you will use LookUp every day. The first day you use it, though, you’ll be trying out its Look Around to Search feature.

It’s for defining objects in front of you when you haven’t a clue what to search for. Picture husbands in supermarkets trying to work out what’s a cucumber and what’s a courgette. LookUp 4.0 uses Apple’s new LookAround tool which provides the developers of apps with image analysis.

LookUp’s implementation of this is slightly cumbersome to get started: you need to tap into the Search box as if you’re going to type a word. Once you’ve opened that Search box, though, you get a button to switch on this feature. Tap that and the app shows you whatever your camera is currently looking at.

Turn your phone’s camera toward some object and LookUp will over lay the image with the word that describes that item. It’s a single word and if you’re pointing at a lot of objects then it’s the one that the app decides is the most prominent in the frame.

Tap on the word displayed and you’re looking it up in the dictionary. So you just see the object, tap the word, get the definition.

However, while the makers claim an accuracy of around 70 percent you’re going to need 100 percent luck for it be useful. That’s in part because it depends so much on how clear the object is, what angle you’re looking at it and what else is in the background.

Ultimately, as fun as it is to try, it’s not a practical use for a dictionary yet. You can’t know that it got courgette’ wrong unless you already know that you’re really looking at a cucumber. You need to know what the right word is before you can know that the dictionary has got the right word.

That said, LookUp is about more than a straightforward definition. It does tell you more and it contains extra information such as text from relevant Wikipedia articles.

However, it can do this because LookUp is not a dictionary per se: it is really a viewer for Wiktionary, the Wikipedia-like dictionary. There are no word definitions actually within the LookUp app, they are all looked up for you on Wiktionary. Consequently the app dependent on that website and this can bring a range of small problems.

Clearly the biggest by far was when we spotted a definition that should’ve used a colon and instead had a semi-colon. Look, if you’re into dictionary apps, you know this matters.

What you definitely need to know is that an internet connection matters too: without one, LookUp won’t show you anything. With one, it will show you what Wiktionary says – including any errors. Sometimes those errors are odd choices by the makers of Wiktionary that mean it’s the lesser-known and lesser-needed definitions of a word that get sent to LookUp first.

That’s not LookUp’s error but it is something that reduces its worth. What it can be is a reason to just go directly to on your browser.

Go to the Wiktionary website once, though, and you’ll see why LookUp is worth getting —Wiktionary is not pretty. More than that, it’s ugly enough that it takes you time to find the definition you want.

If you’re the sort who sees dictionaries as something to wallow in rather than just checking you’re not using the wrong word, then TerminologyTerminology from Agile Tortoise is a better option. That has a full US English dictionary built in and is replete with links to definitions and etymology via the Oxford English Dictionary and others.

For a concise and gorgeous dictionary that you use to glance at definitions, however, LookUp 4.0 is very appealing. It costs $2.99 on the App Store.

Google’s plan to revolutionise cities is a takeover in all but name

Google’s self-driving cars are part of the company’s concept for cities more responsive to people’s needs.

 Google’s self-driving cars are part of the company’s concept for cities more responsive to people’s needs. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUM/REX Shutterstock

Last June Volume, a leading magazine on architecture and design, published an article on the GoogleUrbanism project. Conceived at a renowned design institute in Moscow, the project charts a plausible urban future based on cities acting as important sites for “data extractivism” – the conversion of data harvested from individuals into artificial intelligence technologies, allowing companies such as Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to act as providers of sophisticated and comprehensive services. The cities themselves, the project insisted, would get a share of revenue from the data.

Cities surely wouldn’t mind but what about Alphabet? The company does take cities seriously. Its executives have floated the idea of taking some struggling city – Detroit? – and reinventing it around Alphabet services, with no annoying regulations blocking this march of progress.

All of this might have looked counter-intuitive several decades ago, but today, when institutions such as the World Bank preach the virtues of privately run cities and bigwigs in Silicon Valley aspire to build sea-based micronations liberated from conventional bureaucracy, it does not seem so far-fetched.

Alphabet already operates many urban services: city maps, real-time traffic information, free wifi (in New York), self-driving cars. In 2015 it launched a dedicated city unit, Sidewalk Labs, run by Daniel Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York and a veteran of Wall Street.

Doctoroff’s background hints at what the actual Google Urbanism – as opposed to its theoretical formulations – portends: using Alphabet’s data prowess to build profitable alliances with other powerful forces behind contemporary cities, from property developers to institutional investors.

On this view, Google Urbanism is anything but revolutionary. Yes, it thrives on data and sensors, but they only play a secondary role in determining what gets built, why, and at what cost. One might as well call it Blackstone Urbanism – in homage to one of the largest financial players in the property market.

Since Toronto has recently chosen Alphabet to turn Quayside, a 12-acre undeveloped waterfront area, into a digital marvel, it wouldn’t take long to discover whether Google Urbanism will transcend or accommodate the predominantly financial forces shaping our cities.

Sidewalk Labs has committed $50m to the project – mostly for hosting a year-long consultation after which either party can exit. Its 220-page winning bid provides fascinating insights into its thinking and methodology. “High housing costs, commute times, social inequality, climate change and even cold weather keeping people indoors” – such is the battlefield Doctoroff described in a recent interview.

Alphabet’s weapons are impressive. Cheap, modular buildings to be assembled quickly; sensors monitoring air quality and building conditions; adaptive traffic lights prioritising pedestrians and cyclists; parking systems directing cars to available slots. Not to mention delivery robots, advanced energy grids, automated waste sorting, and, of course, ubiquitous self-driving cars.

Alphabet essentially wants to be the default platform for other municipal services. Cities, it says, have always been platforms; now they are simply going digital. “The world’s great cities are all hubs of growth and innovation because they leveraged platforms put in place by visionary leaders,” states the proposal. “Rome had aqueducts, London the Underground, Manhattan the street grid.”

Toronto has already given Alphabet the job of developing part of its quayside.
 Toronto has already given Alphabet the job of developing part of its quayside. Photograph: Ikonica/Getty Images/Radius Images

Toronto, led by its own visionary leaders, will have Alphabet. Amid all this platformaphoria, one could easily forget that the street grid is not typically the property of a private entity, capable of excluding some and indulging others. Would we want Trump Inc to own it? Probably not. So why hurry to give its digital equivalent to Alphabet?

Who determines the rules by which different companies get access to it? Would cities be saving energy using Alphabet’s own AI systems or would the platform be open to others? Would its self-driving cars be those of Waymo, Alphabet’s dedicated unit, or those of Uber and any other entity that builds them? Would Alphabet support “urban net neutrality” as actively as it supports net neutrality of the conventional type?

In reality, there is no “digital grid”: there are just individual Alphabet products. Its bet is to furnish cool digital services to establish complete monopoly over data extractivism within a city. What passes for the efforts to build the “digital grid” might, in fact, be an attempt to privatise municipal services – a staple feature of Blackstone Urbanism, not a radical departure from it.

Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.

This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.

For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains. The original spirit behind Uber was quite similar: away with the rules, tests and standards, let the sovereign consumer rank the drivers and low-scoring ones will soon disappear on their own. Why not do this to landlords? After all, if you are lucky to survive a house fire, you can always exercise your consumer sovereignty and rank them down. Here the operating logic is that of Blackstone Urbanism, even if the techniques themselves are part of Google Urbanism.

Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).

Normally these trends mean that for most of us things will get worse. Alphabet’s pitch, though, is that new technologies can help us survive, if not prosper, by using self-tracking to magically find time in the busy schedules of overworked parents; by making car debt obsolete as car ownership becomes unnecessary; by deploying artificial intelligence to lower energy costs.

Google Urbanism shares the key assumption of Blackstone Urbanism: our highly financialised economy – marked by stagnating real wages, liberalised housing markets that drive up prices due to persistently strong global demand, infrastructure built on an opaque but highly lucrative public-private partnership model – is here to stay. The supposedly good news is that Alphabet has the sensors, networks and algorithms to restore and maintain our earlier standard of living.

The Toronto proposal is still vague on who will pay for this urban utopia. It acknowledges that “some of [the project’s] most impactful innovations are major capital projects that will require large volumes of reliable offtake to be financeable”. Short of that, it might become the urban equivalent of Tesla: a venture propelled by infinite public subsidies that derive from collective hallucination.

Alphabet’s appeal to investors lies in the modularity and plasticity of its spaces; there is no function permanently assigned to any of their parts. Much like in the early cybernetic utopias of eternally flexible and reconfigurable architecture, there is no function permanently assigned to any of its parts. Everything can be reshuffled and rearranged, with boutiques turning into galleries only to end up as gastropubs – as long as such digitally enabled metamorphosis yields a higher return.

After all, Alphabet is building a city “where buildings have no static use”. For example, the centrepiece of the proposed neighbourhood in Toronto – the Loft – will offer a skeleton structure that “will remain flexible over the course of its lifecycle, accommodating a radical mix of uses (such as residential, retail, making, office, hospitality and parking) that can respond quickly to market demand”.

Here lies the populist promise of Google Urbanism: Alphabet can democratise space by customising it through data flows and cheap, prefabricated materials. The problem is that Alphabet’s democratisation of function will not be matched by the democratisation of control and ownership of urban resources. That’s why the main “input” into Alphabet’s algorithmic democracy is “market demand” rather than communal decision-making.

Instead of democratising ownership and control, Alphabet promises participation, consultation and new ways to track the vox populi – measured automatically via Alphabet’s extensive sensory network. The company even hails Jane Jacobs, everyone’s favourite urbanist, lending some credibility to the thesis that the kind of small-scale, highly flexible urbanism preached by Jacobs is quite compatible with Wall Street’s growing interest in real estate and infrastructure.

In many cities, market demand is precisely what leads to the privatisation of public space. Decisions are no longer taken in the political realm but are delegated to asset managers, private equity groups, and investment banks that flock to real estate and infrastructure searching for stable and decent returns. Google Urbanism would not reverse this trend, it would accelerate it.

The utopian, almost anarchist dimensions of Google Urbanism would be something to celebrate if most residents were in charge of their own spaces, buildings and infrastructures. Since this is not the case and such spaces are increasingly owned by private (and often foreign) investors, a radical departure from the highly bureaucratic, stifling and capital-constraining system of zoning laws or building regulations is likely to give us the paralysing horror of the Grenfell Tower rather than the reassuring uproar of a Vermont townhall.

Aside from the institutional investors shopping for entire city blocks, Alphabet understands the real audience for its cities: the global rich. For them, the narratives of data-driven sustainability and algorithmically produced artisanal lifestyles – Sidewalk Labs even promises “a next-gen bazaar” replenished by local communities of makers – are just another way to justify rising values of their property portfolios.

That Alphabet’s “urbanism as a service” might not appeal to the residents of Toronto does not matter. As a real estate project, its chief goal is to impress its future missing residents –above all, millions of Chinese millionaires flocking to Canada’s housing markets. Doctoroff was not equivocating when he told theGlobe and Mail that Alphabet’s Canadian venture “primarily is a real-estate play”.

Alphabet’s urban turn also has a broader political significance. The courting of Alphabet by Canada’s politicians along with the bidding war that has erupted over Amazon’s second North American headquarters – some cities have offered it incentives to the tune of $7bn to relocate there – suggest that, despite the growing backlash against Silicon Valley, our political classes have few other positive (and, as importantly, cash-positive) industries to draw upon.

This is clearly the case with Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who has recently pitched his country as “a “Silicon Valley, plus everything else Canada is”. In one respect, he is certainly right: it has been Canada’s pension funds that turned real estate and infrastructure into the lucrative alternative assets they are today.

Let us not have any illusions about Google Urbanism. One has to be naive to believe that the emerging urban alliance of the technology and financial industries would produce results detrimental to the latter. Blackstone Urbanism will still be shaping our cities even if Alphabet takes over their garbage disposal. “Google Urbanism” is a nice way of camouflage this truth.