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Microsoft: Yes, We’re Bringing Back the Start Menu


Image: Mashable, Pete Pachal

In a surprise announcement, Microsoft said it would bring back the Start Menu to the Windows desktop. It’s not a part of the coming Windows 8.1 Update, but will come in a future upgrade.

Microsoft’s Terry Myerson showed off the new version of the Start Menu to an audience of developers at Build 2014 as he explained that users would be able to find apps via the menu. Users would also be able to run Modern (aka “Metro”) apps within windows on the desktop.

In a demo, Myerson showed that the new Start Menu looks similar to as it did in Windows 7, but it includes a minimized version of the Start screen right beside it.

The Start Menu’s return follows Microsoft’s announcement that apps across all its consumer platforms can now be “universal,” meaning they will run across phones, tablets and PCs with little to no re-coding.

For developers, universal Windows apps have clear benefits. It means a developer needs only create a Windows app once, then make minimal adjustments to them to optimize the experience for devices with different screens and capabilities, since the platforms share APIs, security and other resources.

For users, the benefit is a consistent experience across every device they have running Windows software. Another plus: You won’t have to buy the app again and again if you want it on both your phone and tablet.

Microsoft said the Xbox One would also be able to run universal Windows apps, although it didn’t give a timeframe.

Microsoft also announced new tools for to help develop apps across other platforms, introducing WinJS, or Windows library for javascript, an open-source resource that will help developers make Windows apps that work on the web, iOS and Android, too.

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Oracle Must Pay Google $1 Million in Legal Fees


Oracle’s legal woes aren’t over yet. On Tuesday a federal judge ordered the company to reimburse Google $1,130,350 in legal costs stemming from the high-stakes copyright battle earlier this year.

Google originally wanted Oracle to fork over more than $4 million to cover the expenses they racked up in the patent trial that Google ended up winning in May.

Oracle attempted to dodge the costs by claiming the trail was “a landmark issue of national importance,” but Judge William Alsup disagreed, saying Oracle did not place a heavy emphasis on copyright claims until late in the trial.

“While it is true that a copyright issue presented, copyrightability of APIs, was of great importance to the computer industry, this is not enough to deny costs,” Alsup said in his ruling. “Oracle did not bring its API copyright claim for the benefit of addressing ‘a landmark issue of national importance,’ but instead fell back on an overreaching (albeit somewhat novel) theory of copyright infringement for its own financial interests late in litigation.”

Judge Alsup called Oracle’s copyright infringement “ultimately overreaching,” and the company’s crafting of those claims led to increased media attention. He also pointed out that Oracle’s first damages report barely touched on copyright claims.

Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of the Java programming language and software tools. Oracle orignally sought $6 billion in damages. On May 23, 2012, a California federal jury ruled in Google’s favor, saying it did not infringe on Oracle’s patents in developing the Android system.

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Martian’s Smartphone Watch Will Make You Feel Like James Bond [HANDS-ON]


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Skype Fixing Bug That Sends Messages to Wrong Person


Skype announced on Tuesday it will be rolling out a fix over the next few days to correct a system bug that is sending private instant messages to the wrong recipients.

Following a series of reports from Skype users that their accounts were misdirecting messages to others on their contact list, the video-chat company will be releasing updated versions of Skype likely later this week.

The Skype versions affected by the bug that will receive an update as follows: Skype 5.10 for Windows, Skype 5.8 for Mac, Skype 4.0 for Linux and Skype 1.2 for Windows Phone.

“The hotfix addresses an issue that occurs only when a user’s Skype client crashes during a Skype IM session, which may in some cases result in the last IM entered or sent prior to the crash being delivered to a different IM contact after the Skype client is rebooted or logged in as a new user,” Skype said in a statement on its company blog. “Although we cannot determine precisely how many users may have been affected by this error, we believe the number is small given the very specific circumstances under which the error occurs.”

Skype also noted that not all versions were affected — users of Skype 5.9 for Windows, Skype 2.8 for Android and Skype 4.0 for IOS have not experienced any issues.

The company has also corrected an issue with File Sending on the desktop versions of Skype, which prevented users from saving files if they used a hard disk drive in FAT32 format.

BONUS: 10 Skype Chat Tricks for Power Users

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Zuckerberg’s Biggest Mistake? ‘Betting on HTML5’


In his first public interview since Facebook’s IPO, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that making big bets on HTML5 for its mobile apps was a “big mistake.”

Facebook was one of the first major companies to embrace HTML5 — not just as the basis for its mobile web experience, but also for its apps for iOS and Android.

That focus was based on the idea that HTML5 would be an easy way to develop for multiple platforms and screen sizes at one time, and that the overall experience would be similar to a native app. It did not account for stability or speed.

“The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native,” Zuckerberg said in an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt. “It just wasn’t ready,” he added.

Facebook has been focused on HTML5 for the last two years. When questioned about the lack of an official Facebook iPad app back in 2010, Zuckerberg famously responded, “the iPad isn’t mobile” — before clarifying that the company (then) saw HTML5 as a much better solution for delivering the Facebook experience to tablets.

In 2011, Facebook’s CTO Bret Taylor said HTML5 played a critical role in creating a consistent user experience across Facebook’s mobile sites and apps.

But the benefits of cross-platform development weren’t enough to outweigh the downsides of HTML5, which pulls in data much more slowly than native code, and is much less stable.

“It turns out, ‘good enough’ wasn’t good enough,” Zuckerberg said of the company’s HTML5-based mobile apps.

That would be why Facebook completely overhauled its iOS app last month.

Now, Zuckerberg says, Facebook is focused on continuing to improve the native mobile experience on iOS, as well as bringing a native app to Android.

Since the company had to spend so much time building its systems to process data efficiently for mobile apps, Zuckerberg implied that Facebook had lost time it could have spent focusing on bigger and better app developments.

Indeed, the mobile-first nature of Instagram was likely the most valuable aspect of the service, from Facebook’s perspective. Instagram offered one clear vision of what could be built with a native app approach.

This isn’t to say that Facebook won’t continue to do some work with HTML5, especially on its mobile website for non iOS and Android devices. Just don’t expect the company to get on the “write once, run everywhere” bandwagon again.

What do you think of Zuckerberg’s turnaround on HTML5 for mobile? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ymgerman

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Mashable Weekend Recap: 62 Stories You Might Have Missed


The weekend was dominated by the shocking story of a man who decided to kill a crowd of people in cold blood. As hard as that is to fathom, we pressed on here at Mashable, still searching for news and views of the tragedy that dwarfed all other stories.

Beyond that, we found all kinds of stories about a variety of topics — and we noticed one genre did particularly well: humor. So as you try to make sense of the senseless things that happened last week, take a look at this Weekend Recap, where you’ll see that there were plenty of good things going on at the same time.

Editor’s Picks

This Stunning Timelapse Space Video Will Astonish You

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Broadcast Your Tweets From Space With SkyCube [VIDEO]

Jack Daniel’s Sends the Most Polite Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever

Top 10 Pinterest Pins This Week

6 Apps You Don’t Want To Miss

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

News & Opinion

Google Stops Taking Orders for 16GB Nexus 7

Kodak Loses Patent Case to Apple and RIM

Afghanistan Activists Urge Use of Social Media to Fight Politics

Hulu Reveals Sleeker, More Advanced Player [VIDEO]

‘Permanent’ SIM Unlock For AT&T iPhones is Now Available

ChargeCard Means You’ll Never Again Be Stranded With a Dead iPhone [VIDEO]

Video of Alleged Theater Shooter Emerges Online

OUYA: Android Game Console’s Secrets Raise Questions

Japan Launches Robotic Supply Ship to Space Station

‘Will you visit me in prison?’ Asks James Holmes on Adult Sex Profile

Aurora Police Confirm via Twitter: Controlled Detonation a Success

What’s Next For Google’s Nexus Brand Of Devices?

Alleged Killer Effortlessly Bought 6,000 Rounds of Ammo Online [VIDEO]

Internet Urges Batman to Visit Victims of ‘Dark Knight’ Shooting

Google Puts Social Twist on Ramadan Traditions

Instagram May Soon Move to the Web [REPORT]

‘Lucky’ to Launch Pinterest-Like Aggregator for Style Content

University of Kentucky Football Tweets Become Billboards [VIDEO]

Man Finds Long-Lost Son, Ex-Wife via Facebook

Kickstarter Project Attempts To Bring Public Transit Maps Back to iPhone

Why Aren’t We Downloading Health Apps?

ArduSat Reaches Funding Goal, Prepares to Launch Satellite July 2013 [VIDEO]

Beirut Social Media Class a Hot Spot for Senior Citizens

Rising Number of Drones Dangerous for U.S.

‘Dark Knight’ Director Nolan Calls Shootings a ‘Senseless Tragedy’

Warner Bros. Pulls ‘Gangster Squad’ Trailer from Internet After Shootings

Zuckerberg’s Facebook Picture Hints at Walmart Partnership

Vermont Follows @Sweden’s Lead With @ThisIsVT

Kim Dotcom Compares Himself to MLK in New Song [VIDEO]

Weekend Leisure

Watch the First Teaser For the ‘Man Of Steel’ Superman Reboot

This Robot Will Out Dance You [VIDEO]

Are These the Best Etsy Shops in the World?

Is This the Electric Bicycle of Your Dreams? [VIDEO]

Munster Does the Doggy Paddle, Kind of [VIDEO]

Don’t Block These 10 Hilarious Twitter Bots

Never Miss a Notification With This Flashing iPhone Case [VIDEO]

NFL Team Enhances Season Tickets With Augmented Reality

EarTop Flow Makes Almost Any Audio Device Wireless [VIDEO]

Internet Flowchart Explains Why You Never Get Anything Done [COMIC]

10 Sharp Accessories That Celebrate the #Hashtag

World’s Worst Movie Gets a Retro iPhone Game

Epic ‘Indiana Jones’ Cover Will Knock Your Fedora Off [VIDEO]

12 Small Touches That Will Make ‘Borderlands 2′ a Big Hit

10 Emmy-Nominated Shows You Can Watch Online

Popular Personalities Send Fans Video Texts with Audingo

10 Weirdest Things for Sale on eBay

The Future of Feet: Biometric Shoe Insoles Revolutionizing Security [VIDEO]

10 Unforgettable Olympic Moments to Get You Pumped for London 2012 [VIDEOS]

Top 6 Comments on Mashable This Week

Helpful Resources

3 Reasons to Recruit via Talent Communities

40 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

5 Best Reasons to Recruit With Facebook Ads

Clothes Horse Wants to Help You Find Clothes That Fit

4 Ways to Manage Your Teen’s Texting

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Spixi Power Cord Untangles Your Life


It’s always the case. You reach into your bag for a single charger only to pull out a tangled set of cords. Your earbuds merged with your phone’s charger that also wrapped around your computer charger.

There are solutions. Aftermarket two-way retractable chargers have been around for years. You know, the ones that feel cheap, usually break and jam? This experience in frustration is about to change thanks to a nearly successful Kickstarter campaign.

Spixi is a one-way retractable charger from the mobile device accessories maker Escargot. Marketed as “a better way to charge and sync your iPhone and Android,” the charger was born out of the familiar frustration of tangled cords. Spixi is built from polycarbonate, what Macbook chargers are made from, and a thermoplastic elastomer cable that is sturdier and more eco-friendly than standard polyvinyl chloride. At two feet in length, you can connect the USB charger to your computer and still talk as you charge.

The proposed Spixi is about the width of an iPhone 4 screen at 2.25″ and the project has raised $28,403 of their pledged $30,000. The charger will be available for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4/S and Micro-USB powered phones.

How often are you untangling cords? Is Spixi a charger you’d likely use? Let us know in the comments below.

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Free Rides: The Story of the Smartphone Subway Hackers


Two mobile security researchers discovered that it was possible to hack certain subway cards for free rides. What’s worse, they think the trick isn’t too hard to reproduce — all they needed was a simple smartphone. However, it’s unclear who is to blame for this security hole.

Everything started when Corey Benninger, a mobile security consultant who works for Intrepidus Group, was traveling in San Francisco in 2011. At the time, he and his colleague and friend Max Sobell had started playing around with the Google Nexus S and near field communication (NFC), a wireless technology that allows devices to communicate and exchange data over short distances or through physical response.

As Benninger took the Muni bus in San Francisco, he noticed that their limited-use cards functioned with NFC, allowing commuters to simply place the card on a reader to pay for their rides. He had recently gotten his hands on one of the first NFC-enabled phones, the Nexus S, so he asked himself, “Can I scan that card with it?” The answer was yes.

When Benninger came back to New York, he started working with Sobell to see what they could do with the data accessible just by placing the card on the back of the phone. The Muni ticket they experimented on was a Mifare Ultralight card, a low-end card that used a chip by NXP, a Dutch company that produces a variety of Mifare cards. These contact-less cards can be used for transport tickets, hotel card keys and concert passes, among other applications.

Benninger and Sobell noticed that the bits that corresponded to the remaining trips were not only visible, but could be rewritten. The two, who tell Mashable that they are no “advanced developers by any means,” started working on an Android app. Initially, the biggest hurdle was that the Android SDK for developers initially didn’t support NFC-powered apps. But once that capability was added to the API, writing the actual app was easy.

“I think we put the first version of the application together in an evening, so it wasn’t all that complicated to actually write,” says Benninger.

And that means it wouldn’t be too hard for some ill-intentioned hacker to build a similar app and ride the subway for free. “I do feel it’s something that other people could duplicate fairly easily,” Benninger tells Mashable.

The app, called UltraReset, basically resets the empty card, tricking it into thinking there are still trips left.

Collin Mulliner, a postdoctoral researcher who focuses on mobile security and is familiar with the hack, agrees. In a phone interview with Mashable, Mulliner explains that all the two researchers did was take advantage of a “lousy engineered system” using “no fancy equipment” but a regular phone. Before NFC phones like the Nexus S, explains Mulliner, you needed a card reader, a laptop and the appropriate software. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. Now? You just need a smartphone with NFC and an app. Then you just “copy and write the data back” because these cards “have no security,” he says.

“Those NFC phones are kind of really easy to use,” Mulliner says. “So it just lowers the bar for people who want to commit fraud to a very, very low level.”

On another trip, this time in New Jersey, the two researchers noticed that the New Jersey PATH train used the same technology. Curious, they tried to use their app with the PATH’s Smartlink limited-use card. As they expected, it worked. You can see a video of their experiment below, and the researchers have written a blog post on Intrepidus’ website.

Benninger and Sobell contacted both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PATH) months before releasing their findings to the public, which they did at security conference EUSecWest, held in Amsterdam on Sept. 19. They’ve also been in touch with both agencies to advise them on remedies and fixes. They didn’t want to make life easier for a potential hacker, so they decided not to release the app that resets the card, only the one that allows the user to read the data on the Ultralight Cards. When they informed the two agencies, they said their goal was to make sure they were aware of the issue and could work to fix it, or at least monitor their system to spot potential abuses.

NXP, the manufacturer of the chip, first addressed the issue in a statement released to NFCWorld. Noting that the researchers hacked only Mifare Ultralight cards, the company said that this model “provides only basic security features, such as one-time programmable (OTP) bits and a write-lock feature to prevent rewriting of memory pages, but does not include cryptography,” something that newer and safer Mifare cards offer. NXP also stated that a newer model, the Mifare Ultralight C, has been equipped with added security, “anticipating the widespread adoption of NFC-enabled phones and, consequently, possible attack scenarios.”

However, Martin Gruber, the senior director of automatic fare collection at NXP’s Mifare tells Mashable that the chips present in the tickets is actually built to provide enough security. Problem is, that security was not implemented correctly in these two instances. That’s why the hack was so easy to pull off. “How complicated it is to open the door if the door is open and it is unlocked? How difficult it is to steal a car when the door is open and the key is inside?” asks Gruber.

Gruber explains that, as chip manufacturers, all his company can do is provide security features that then need to be implemented by the transport agencies and the ticket distributors who design the whole system. He stresses that the Ultralight chip has enough security to prevent easy attacks like the one Benninger and Sobell did, but for some reason, those features were not used in the Muni and PATH tickets.

Warned by the two researchers, the two transportation agencies involved are working on solutions, but it’s unclear who is responsible for the security hole.

John Goodwin, spokesman for the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), tells Mashable that they were aware of the limited-ride cards’ vulnerabilities and notes that, at this point, is only a “potential hack.” Asked who is responsible for implementing the security that NXP claims their cards are equipped with, Goodwin says the MTC simply buys stocks of cards from their contractor, who is responsible for implementing the entire system. In this case, the contractor is Cubic Transportation Systems, a San Diego-based company, part of defense contractor Cubic Corporation.

Mashable contacted Cubic for comment, but the company, which initially seemed disposed to talk, didn’t respond to further calls and emails.

Every day, roughly 700,000 people use the Muni system in the Bay Area. And of those, only 23,000 use a limited-ride card like the one hacked by Benninger and Sobell. In the last few months, the transportation authority has been monitoring the system for abuses, but it only spotted one anomalous transaction. Goodwin didn’t have more details about it, but said the next step is to develop tools to detect abuse in real time. Long-term potential solutions, says Goodwin, could involve replacing the card, shortening the validity period and, thus, giving potential hackers less time to take advantage of it, or eliminating limited-ride cards altogether.

The PATH transit authority did not answer our requests for comment but released a statement to ZDNet: “The PATH rail system has not experienced such fraudulent activity on its SmartLink Cards to date, but we are discussing the issue with our card vendor.”

This is not the first time serious security flaws in major transportation systems have been exposed. In 2008, three researchers from MIT discovered four major security flaws in the Boston subway and, particularly, in the tickets called CharlieTicket and CharlieCard — another two Mifare subway cards that use NFC technology. The breaches were so serious that, when it was announced that the three students would present their findings at the famous hacker conference Defcon, the Boston transportation authority sued the students and obtained a gag order that prevented their presentation.

Benninger and Sobell warn that their hack doesn’t expose the same kind of serious flaws, but it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed. And the problem may not be limited to San Francisco and New Jersey. The same Ultralight cards are used all over the world, from Madrid to London to Rio the Janeiro.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Telstar Logistics, Corey Benninger

Update: an earlier version of this article referred to Collin Mulliner as a “Ph.D student” when, actually, he is not anymore. The article was corrected and now refers to him as a “postdoctoral researcher.”

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Will Visual Portfolios Replace Traditional Online Resumes?


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Pathbrite

Quick Pitch: Pathbrite offers students and young job seekers a way to present their accomplishments holistically online.

Genius Idea: The digital platform lets users construct visual portfolios by pulling in representative pieces — pictures, links and published work — of themselves into one place.

From online media to search, the web is becoming more visual. Online resumes may be next for a makeover.

Pathbrite is a San Francisco-based startup working to replace one-dimensional, text-based resumes with visual portfolios online with easy-to-spot contact information. Like with, users can link their Pathbrite page to various social network accounts.

Portfolios are attractive, clickable and full-bodied on Pathbrite. By adding content they’re proud of on one web page, users can show recruiters why they’re special. Featured articles, writing, pieces of code, design projects and videos are encouraged.

Pathbrite is a place online where users can display things they’re proud of, but wouldn’t typically include on a traditional resume or Linkedin profile. Depending on what job you’re applying for, pictures of big accomplishments such as finishing a marathon, winning an award and pictures of family would show your interests, dedication and skill. It’s up to you.


Bold pages immediately catch the eye. All of the content is laid out in photos and linked subheads. If individuals choose to dive further within a portfolio, they are just clicks away from watch a video, downloading a resume, or visiting a web-based work.

Pathbrite, called a “next generation portfolio product,” lets users make sure their online personas are different from others.

“It makes it easy for learners of all ages to showcase the best work they’ve done,” Christopher Gray, Pathbrite chief product officer, tells Mashable.

Users can incorporate anything uploaded from their desktop, YouTube, Vimeo, badges from the Khan Academy and links. Pathbrite portfolio makers will be able to import content from Facebook, Dropbox, Linkedin and Flickr soon.

“It’s a great complement to a resume,” Gray said. “Using this to tell the whole story is a great way to help someone get the job.”

Portfolios can be managed over a lifetime, says Gray. It’s a way to curate your own online persona. While recruiters are Google searching you, this portfolio is a chance to tailor what’s found out about you, in addition to other online accounts. Pathbrite also makes it incredibly easy to connect. The Pathbrite account can be connected with an email, telephone number, website, Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ways to Make Your Design Portfolio More Appealing to Employers

Pathbrite was founded by CEO Heather Hiles originally as a secure multimedia-sharing platform. Clients soon found this was great way to present themselves online. In March, the platform made a full transition into a personal portfolio hub.

The startup is fully dedicated to helping 18-to-25-year-old students and young job seekers achieve their goals.

“Our guiding principle is, it should be impossible for someone to make makes a portfolio that looks bad,” Gray says. “We make it easy for people to focused on experience. People can put their best foot forward.”

In the next year, Pathbrite is working on developing native iOS and Android phone applications. Currently, the web platform is viewable as on mobile browsers and is available as an iPad app.

In the short-term future, the team is also working on adding new templates for custom displays. Plus, Pathbrite is working with other websites for content integration.

Pathbrite targets students, school admissions officers and employers to help make the real-world connections.

“We’re committed to helping learners find that path forward,” Gray says. “Our goal is to help people plan where they’re going.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, vicky_81

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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Toyota’s Self-Driving Car More of a Smart Co-Pilot

LAS VEGAS — Are we ready for self-driving cars? Google’s got some competition on the road these days. Toyota introduced its Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle at the 2013 International CES.

We got a chance to catch up with Jim Pisz, corporate manager of North American business strategy for Toyota to learn a little more about the car and why they’re building it. As it turns out, while Toyota is on the road to developing an autonomous-driving car, they’re really most interested in what they learn from the car.

Pisz says this Lexus-branded car is a research vehicle with a wide range of tech. That includes LIDAR, which is a group of lasers spinning 10 times per second, creating a 360 degree, birds-eye view of what’s around the car. That works along with radar on the front and sides, high-def cameras and multiple GPS devices. The thing is literally bristling with tech. All this collective wizardry determines the car’s exact location, as well as the location of vehicles and objects around it.

While the goal, he says, is for the car to recognize, process and react, Toyota believes an autonomous car is not a driverless car, at least initially and for the foreseeable future.

More CES 2013 Coverage