Microsoft built a datacenter that sat on the bottom of the Pacific ocean for three months

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Our increased reliance on cloud-based services is forcing some in the datacenter industry to rethink their strategy. As you may know, it takes an incredible amount of energy to keep massive datacenters cool – so much so that companies like Facebook,Google and now Microsoft are experimenting with unconventional approaches to the common problem of heat.

Over the past year, Microsoft has been working on a research project known as Project Natick that involves operating a datacenter under water. In the case of the initial prototype, christened the Leona Philpot (named after a character from the Halo universe), Microsoft deployed it on the seafloor roughly one kilometer off the pacific coast.

The benefits of an underwater datacenter are aplenty. Aside from the obvious of using the cool ocean water to keep server temperatures under control, Microsoft says its underwater datacenters could be deployed within 90 days versus the two years it takes to build a datacenter on land.

What’s more, because much of the world’s population lives in urban areas near large bodies of water, latency could be delayed greatly compared to land-based datacenters that are typically built far away from populated areas.

As for the impact on the environment, Microsoft said they observed no heating of the marine environment beyond a few inches from the vessel.

Microsoft deployed Leona Philpot for a total of 105 days and said it was more successful than expected. One of the obvious concerns is a hardware failure as you can’t exactly send a technician out to the bottom of the ocean at midnight for a repair job. Fortunately, nothing went wrong during the trial. And with the slowing of Moore’s Law, servers will be replaced less often – another plus for the project.

Microsoft researchers are already designing a follow-up experiment that’ll be three times as large as Leona Philpot which measured eight feet in diameter.

Facebook is bringing more 3D Touch features to its iOS app

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One of the most popular features of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is their 3D Touch functions. With a light press, users can preview all kinds of content and even act on it without having to actually open it up. Facebook introduced 3D Touch support to its iOS app last October, but it was only used to access some quick actions from the homescreen. Now, however, the social network is bringing Peek and Pop controls into the app itself.

Facebook said that 3D Touch will work with “web links, profiles, pages, groups, events, photos, profile pictures and cover photos.” The idea is that previewing content in this way should let users know whether or not something is worth opening.

Facebook is also adding another quick action shortcut to the homescreen icon. Right now, the quick actions are mostly used to perform tasks such as writing a post and uploading or taking photos/videos, but the company is introducing a new action that will take users directly to their timeline.

Facebook says it’ll be rolling out these new features today, but only to a “small group of people.” All other iPhone 6s and 6s Plus users won’t get the updated 3D Touch support for a few more months.

It’s heavily rumored that Samsung’s next flagship Galaxy smartphone – the S7 – will have a pressure sensitive screen to give it the same functionality as the latest iPhones.

At the start of last month, it was reported that Instagram briefly tested a feature on the Android platform that imitated 3D Touch. By holding down on a thumbnail, it was possible to preview a photo without having to open the image up to the entire screen.

France tells Facebook it must stop tracking non-users and sending data to the US

facebook, france, privacy, tracking, cnil, cookies, safe harbor, data protection agency, ecj

Facebook has become the first major company to feel the fallout from the Safe Harbor agreement being ruled invalid last year after the French data protection authority gave the social networking site three months to stop some transfers of personal data to the United States. It also ordered the firm to stop tracking the browsing habits of non-users.

The 15-year old Safe Harbor agreement, which allowed US companies to easily receive information from European servers and avoid cumbersome EU data transfer rules, was ruled illegal in October amid concerns over US government spying.

The European Court of Justice gave companies certified under Safe Harbor three months to come up with an alternative data transfer pact – a deadline that expired last week. This means regulators – in this case it’s the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) – can start taking legal action against companies that still rely on Safe Harbor.

“Facebook transfers personal data to the United States on the basis of Safe Harbour, although the Court of Justice of the European Union declared invalid such transfers in its ruling of October 6, 2015,” the CNIL said in a statement.

The CNIL also said that Facebook’s use of cookies to track non-members of its site without informing them was a violation of French privacy law.

Facebook has claimed that it no longer uses Safe Harbor and added that it “has set up alternative legal structures to continue its transfers in line with EU law.” It seems that the CNIL isn’t convinced; the data protection agency has given Facebook three months to comply with its request or it could be fined.

“Protecting the privacy of the people who use Facebook is at the heart of everything we do. We … look forward to engaging with the CNIL to respond to their concerns,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Facebook isn’t having an easy time in Europe at the moment; in addition to mounting problems in Germany, the CNIL’s anti-tracking order follows a similar demand made by a Belgian court last November.

India blocks Facebook’s Free Basics Internet service

facebook, india, mark zuckerberg, ban, net neutrality, social network, free basics, zero-rating, facebook free basics

Bringing the rest of the world online is proving to be tougher than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg likely bargained for. Telecom regulators in India have banned the social network’s Free Basic service as part of a larger ruling in favor of net neutrality.

That realization isn’t entirely surprising as some in India have resisted the initiative for nearly a year now.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ruled that no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. Or in other words, it effectively bans the practice of zero-rating in which end-users aren’t charged for using select applications or Internet services.

Facebook’s Free Basics is just that, a free service that offers access to select news and health sites, Wikipedia and of course, Facebook itself.

Regulators argue that such programs favor select services over others and that under net neutrality, all online services should be treated equally. Facebook, meanwhile, maintains that the goal of Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform.

Zuckerberg and company are no doubt disappointed by the development but it’s not the end of the road for Free Basics. The service is currently available in 36 countries around the globe, helping to bring Internet access to more than 19 million people that Facebook says wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to get online.

WhatsApp now has more than a billion active monthly users

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Instant messaging client WhatsApp has joined the one billion user club. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed the milestone on the social network, congratulating co-founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum on the achievement.

If you recall, Facebook acquired the mobile messaging app for $19 billion nearly two years ago. Since that time, Zuckerberg said the community has more than doubled with 42 billion messages, 1.6 billion photos and 250 million videos being exchanged each day.

WhatsApp has come a very long way since launching in 2009. When we startedcharging its growth in late 2013, the service already had more than 400 million active monthly users. Eight months later, WhatsApp crossed the 600 million active monthly user milestone before eclipsing 700 million just five months after that.

Perhaps what’s most impressive of all is that WhatsApp currently has just 57 engineers on its team (and the backing of Facebook, of course).

In January 2015, WhatsApp finally added a desktop web application to supplement its mobile-first offering and last month, the service dropped its $0.99 annual subscription fee. A buck a year isn’t much in the eyes of the consumer but more importantly, it eliminated the need for a credit card – a real barrier for some, especially younger users.

These are the most liked / least liked tech CEOs

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be experiencing pushback in some regions as he tries to connect the rest of the world to the Internet but in the US, he’s still garnering plenty of “likes.”

In a recent Morning Consult poll, 48 percent of registered voters said they view the Facebook boss favorably. Roughly four in 10 respondents (39 percent) said they had a favorable opinion of Apple chief Tim Cook although those results may be skewed a bit in the wake of Apple’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption.

The publication said most of the other respondents either didn’t have an opinion of Cook or didn’t know who he was. Apparently the latter scenario is rather common as 31 percent of people didn’t know who Zuckerberg was while 59 percent had never heard of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Ironically enough, Zuckerberg is also the least liked tech CEO as 21 percent of those polled said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s only slightly worse than Cook as 17 percent viewed him unfavorably. As far as ratios go, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t do so hot as only 16 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of him versus 19 percent that didn’t (the other 65 percent either didn’t have an opinion or didn’t know who he was).

The poll was conducted on February 24-25 among 1,935 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others unite to support Apple in its court case against the DoJ

apple, iphone, microsoft, facebook, twitter, hacking, department of justice, box, backdoor, court case, goolge, alphabet, san bernardino shootings, san bernardino, amicus brief, apple support

Rivalry between massive technology firms can be pretty extreme at times, with many of them launching lawsuits against each other on a regular basis, so it’s rare for big companies to show support for their competitors. But nothing has united the tech community quite like Apple’s battle with the Department of Justice .

Now, it’s been revealed that several of these companies are planning to do more than just lend their vocal backing; Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft, along with several others, are planning to file a joint amicus brief supporting Apple in its court case.

During the continuing saga of Apple’s refusal to help authorities unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, many big industry names, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, voiced their support for the Cupertino company.

It’s argued that what Apple is being ordered to do – essentially, build a backdoor to its own technology – is a step too far and sets a troubling precedent. Koum even said that “our freedom and our liberty is at stake.”

Other companies said to be included in the joint amicus brief include Amazon, Yahoo,Twitter, and cloud computing business Box. “The second the FBI unlocks this device, any sophisticated bad actor will move to another more secure device,” said Box CEO Aaron Levie. “We land squarely on the side of more security and more encryption.”

Some organizations are considering joining the amicus but haven’t yet committed to it, according to Buzzfeed. These include Slack and the trade group Internet Association. The deadline to file a friend-of-the court brief is March 3, and we’re likely to see several more firms and privacy groups joining the amicus brief before then.

Facebook’s Canvas brings full-screen interactive ads to its mobile platform

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Facebook has just launched a new feature that will allow advertisers to display full-screen ads on the social media site’s mobile platform. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though; users have to click on an advertisement for it to take up the entire screen.

Facebook unveiled the feature, called Canvas, back in September last year. The company calls it an immersive experience for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products. Once a user taps on a News Feed ad connected to Canvas, the smartphone’s entire screen will be taken up with interactive elements related to the product that the users can swipe through. These include videos, animations, carousels, catalogs, and tilt-to-view images.

Canvas utilizes the same technology that is used to display photos and videos quickly in the Facebook app. The company says that ads using Canvas load as much as ten times faster than they would on the “standard mobile web.”

Facebook has assured users that the introduction of Canvas doesn’t mean they will see more ads appearing in the mobile app.

The company stated the repose to Canvas has been pretty positive, with 53 percent of users that open one of these ads sticking around to view at least half of it. Some of the top ads are recording more than 70 seconds of view time per user.

Big names already using Canvas include Target, Wendy’s, Universal Orlando, BMW, Macy’s, and Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Facebook said it is looking at ways to expand the feature to its other apps, such as Instagram.

Providing that Facebook sticks to its word and doesn’t increase the overall number of ads it pushes out on the mobile platform – and viewing the full-screen experience remains optional – Canvas seems like a good way for advertisers to show off their products without being annoyingly invasive.

Instagram finally gets around to adding two-factor authentication

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It has taken way longer than it should have but Instagram is finally rolling out the option for two-factor authentication.

TechCrunch first learned of the development from a tipster that spotted two-factor authentication in testing. On Wednesday, the social network confirmed with the site that it is indeed rolling out the added layer of security. Here’s how it’ll work.

Instagram will let users register a phone number with their account. Anytime someone tries to log into your account using your username and password, you’ll receive an authentication code on your phone that must be entered to grant access to the account. That’s not a problem if it’s you trying to get in but for an unauthorized user, it’ll pretty much stop them in their tracks.

While a welcomed addition, one has to wonder why it has taken so long for Instagram to get with the act – especially considering the fact that parent company Facebook added two-factor authentication nearly five years ago.

As the publication correctly explains, someone that gains unauthorized access to an account could delete your photos, harass your friends and send them spam. For an individual, such behavior may very well fall under the category of a minor inconvenience but to a celebrity or a major brand, it can be downright damaging.

It’s not uncommon for celebrities or other public figures to lose thousands of followers as a result of a security breach. For those that use Instagram as a source of income, a hack could cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Nintendo opens pre-registration for its first mobile title, Miitomo

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Nintendo is now accepting pre-registrations for its long-awaited debut mobile app,Miitomo.

To get started, you’ll first need to create a Nintendo Account – the company’s new multi-platform account system – by using an existing Nintendo Network ID, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter account or by creating a standalone account.

There’s not much that can be done with a Nintendo Account just yet although pre-registering for Miitomo will score you some Platinum Points (virtual money) that can be used when Nintendo’s new reward service launches alongside Miitomo.

Nintendo provided details about Miitomo late last year, the first of five mobile titles we can expect between now and March 2017. Developed in collaboration with DeNA, Miitomo is more of a social networking app than a true game as it allows users to create Mii avatars which then interact with others in the Nintendo universe.

Miitomo will utilize the free-to-play model meaning it’ll offer in-app purchases for things like outfits for Mii characters and so on.

Interestingly enough, Nintendo’s first mobile app doesn’t lean on iconic characters like Mario or Link. That may be a mistake according to some but in the same respect, Nintendo may simply be playing it safe on its first outing. If we don’t see the usual cast of characters by the second or even the third title, then yeah, there’s probably reason for concern.