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Google’s Android operating system has certainly rocked the mobile industry over the last three years. With multiple manufacturers offering hundreds of feature-packed handsets around the world, the little green robot certainly has a lot going for it.

However, stiff competition from Apple and Microsoft, along with dozens of lawsuits coming from seemingly every direction, look to stop Android’s explosive growth dead in it’s tracks. How long can the mobile OS survive in this hostile industry?

Here’s a snippet from a recent report on the topic by FOSSPatent‘s expert analyst, Florian Mueller:

“Google’s cavalier attitude toward other companies’ intellectual property is starting to backfire in seriously harmful ways. Samsung is only the first Android OEM to suffer economic damage by not being able to launch products in certain markets. It won’t be the last. Motorola Mobility and HTC are also under pressure.”

Mueller is referring to an ongoing injunction in Australia that is barring Samsung from launching its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the country. Apple won a major court battle last week, extending the slate’s temporary ban for several more months. By the time Samsung is elegible to sell its tablet in Australia, the device will be nearly a year old.

The final decision will be the one to watch though, says Mueller.

“If Apple wins the Australian case at the end of the main proceeding, all Android-based products will effectively be shut out of the Australian market forever, unless Google or its device maker partners settle with Apple.”

We all know that Apple won’t settle. It’s not in the business of licensing its IP (Intellectual Property), and it certainly doesn’t need the money. It seems as if the company won’t stop until Android partners quit using Android all together.

But it’s not just Apple. Microsoft has also been using its extensive IP portfolio against Android handset-makers. HTC pays the Redmond-based company a $5 licensing fee for every Android handset it sells, and Samsung just hatched out a similar deal.

$5 per phone is a fairly large amount when you consider how small the typical handset-maker’s profit margins are. Not everyone has a Tim Cook. Why do you think Samsung and HTC were both in the conversation as possible webOS buyers? Between lawsuits and licensing fees, Android (the “free software”) is getting too expensive.

And it gets worse. Android’s biggest threat to its existence isn’t even a competitor, it’s Oracle. The company owns thousands of Java-related patents, and is taking Google and its mobile OS to court over several of them. Here’s an excerpt from a recent court brief:

“Oracle will prove at trial that Google deliberately chose to base its Android software platform on Java tecnology, seeking to develop and deploy Android rapidly and to capitalize on the large community of Java software developers… Google chose to take its chances and push forward with Java, helping itself to Oracle’s intellectual property without a license.”

So because of Android, not only are all of its major manufacturing partners involved in litigation, but now Google is too. To me, it looks like the company cut a lot of corners in a rush to get its mobile OS to market, and now it’s paying for it.

What’s your take on Google’s long list of patent woes?

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Why You Should Be Using Named Ranges In Excel

A named range is just a range (either a single cell, or a range of cells) to which you assign a name.  You can then use that name in place of normal cell references in formulas, in macros, and for defining the source for graphs or data validation.

Table of Contents

Using Named Ranges in Excel

For example, let’s look at a simple order form.  Our file includes a fillable order form with a dropdown to select the shipping method, plus a second sheet with a table of shipping costs, and the tax rate.

Version 1 (without named ranges) uses normal A1-style cell references in its formulas (shown in the formula bar below).

Opening the Name Manager window from the Formulas tab displays a list of the range names and the cell ranges they reference.

But named ranges have other benefits also.  In our example files, the shipping method is selected using a dropdown (data validation) in cell B13 on Sheet1.  The selected method is then used to lookup the shipping costs on Sheet2.

Without named ranges, the dropdown choices must be manually entered since data validation will not allow you to select a source list on a different sheet.  So all of the choices must be entered twice: once in the dropdown list, and again on Sheet2.  In addition, the two lists must match.

If an error is made in one of the entries in either list, then the shipping cost formula will generate an #N/A error when the erroneous choice is selected.  Naming the list on Sheet2 as ShippingMethods eliminates both problems.

You can reference a named range when defining the data validation for a dropdown list by simply entering =ShippingMethods in the source field, for example.  This allows you to use a list of choices that are on another sheet.

And if the dropdown is referencing the actual cells used in the lookup (for the shipping cost formula), then the dropdown choices will always match the lookup list, avoiding #N/A errors.

Create a Named Range in Excel

Note that range names cannot include spaces, although they can include underscores and periods.  Generally, names should begin with a letter and then contain only letters, numbers, periods, or underscores.

Names are not case-sensitive, but using a string of capitalized words, such as TaxRate or December2024Sales, makes the names easier to read and recognize.  You cannot use a range name that mimics a valid cell reference, such as Dog26.

You can edit your range names or change the ranges they refer to using the Name Manager window.

Note also that each named range has a defined scope.  Normally, the scope will default to Workbook, which means the range name can be referenced from anywhere within the workbook.  However, it is also possible to have two or more ranges with the same name on separate sheets, but within the same workbook.

For example, you might have a sales data file with separate sheets for January, February, March, etc.  Each sheet could have a cell (named range) called MonthlySales, but normally the scope of each of those names would only be the sheet containing it.

Thus, the formula =ROUND(MonthlySales,0) would give February sales, rounded to the nearest whole dollar, if the formula is on the February sheet, but March sales if on the March sheet, etc.

To avoid confusion in workbooks having multiple ranges on separate sheets with the same name or simply complicated workbooks with dozens or hundreds of named ranges, it can be helpful to include the sheet name as part of each range name.

This also makes each range name unique, so that all the names can have a Workbook scope.  For example, January_MonthlySales, February_MonthlySales, Budget_Date, Order_Date, etc.

Two cautions regarding the scope of named ranges: (1) You cannot edit the scope of a named range after it is created, and (2) you can only specify the scope of a new named range if you create it using the New button in the Name Manager window.

If you create a new range name by typing it in the Name Box, the scope will default to either Workbook (if no other range with the same name exists), or to the sheet where the name is being created.  Therefore, to create a new named range whose scope is limited to a particular sheet, use the Name Manager “New” button.

Finally, for those who write macros, range names can be easily referenced in VBA code by simply placing the range name within brackets.  For example, instead of ThisWorkbook.Sheets(1).Cells(2,3) you can simply use [SalesTotal] if that name refers to that cell.

Why You Should Be Really Excited That Juno Is At Jupiter

On July 4, NASA’s Juno spacecraft fired its engines for the 35-minute orbit insertion burn. The spacecraft’s nearly five year trek to Jupiter ended and its orbital mission began. It was an exciting moment for space nerds, but the casual observer might not have been thrilled. After all, we’ve been to Jupiter a number of times, and most people can recognize its characteristic red spot and know at least a little about its major moons. But as familiar as Jupiter might seem, Juno is only the second ever dedicated mission we’ve sent to the gas giant, this time around we stand to learn as much as Jupiter as how the elements for life ended up on Earth.

Jupiter

Jupiter as seen from the Earth.

Jupiter is huge, well big enough to spot with the naked eye in the night sky. Because of this, astronomers been studying it for millennia, though we didn’t really start learning about the planet until the 17th century when Galileo turned a telescope on the planet in 1610 and found it hosts multiple moons. At the time, this was compelling evidence in favour of a heliocentric rather than geocentric system.

After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, exploring space with satellites and probes moved from the realm of science fiction to science fact, though planetary science came later. The 1960s were dedicated largely to landing a man on the Moon, which meant the first probes were sent to explore our own satellite. Among the first American lunar launches was the retroactively names Pioneer 0. It launched on August 17, 1958, and didn’t get anywhere close to the Moon because its launch vehicle exploded.

The Pioneer program went on, and though later probes also failed to reach the Moon they did gather data on solar wind, radiation, and cosmic rays. Then the eleventh mission of the program did something different. It went to Jupiter.

Pioneer 10 launched on March 3, 1972, on a trajectory that would have it fly by Jupiter and then Saturn on its way out of the Solar System. Traveling at about 82,000 miles per hour, Pioneer 10 passed within 81,000 miles of Jupiter’s cloud tops on December 3, 1973. A year later, the twin Pioneer 11 spacecraft followed suit, passing just 13,005 miles above Jupiter’s clouds.

The Pioneers were the first to see Jupiter up close. It also gathered data. The Pioneer missions told us about Jupiter’s magnetic field, it’s tilt, its strong gravitational pull, the strong ring current distorts its magnetosphere, found that radiation in Jupiter’s environment is far greater than any radiation around the Earth, measured the depths of its cloud layers, and also found that Jupiter emits more heat than it receives from the Sun. These missions also found traces of a fine ring of particles around planet. All this was incredible, but it only scraped the surface.

Pioneer 10 at Jupiter

Pioneer 10’s closest approach to Jupiter.

Even before the Pioneers reached Jupiter, NASA had approved the next major Jovian mission: another pair of flybys with the twin Voyager spacecraft as part of their Grand Tour of the Solar System. Nearly two years after launching in the fall of 1977, the Voyagers reached Jupiter. Voyager 1’s closest approach came on March 5, 1979, and Voyager 2 followed on July 9.

The Voyagers discovered 3 new Jovian moons, found auroral zones at the planet’s poles, and confirmed that Jupiter does have very scant rings. This mission also revealed that Jupiter’s moons are just as enticing as the planet. As Voyager 1 turned around the take a parting shot of the gas giant, it caught active volcanoes erupting on Io. Not only was there more to Jupiter, there was more to its huge system of moons, too.

The problem with Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 was that all these missions were flyby. Not one could stay, falling into orbit around the planet to really get a good look at the gas giant. That dream wasn’t realized until the 1990s with the Galileo mission.

Jupiter’s Red Spot

A Voyager view of Jupiter’s red spot.

Galileo launched in the payload bay of the space shuttle Atlantis and was released on a winding trajectory to Jupiter on October 18, 1989. This was a two-part. The probe was designed to fly right into Jupiter, sending back data on the planet’s chemical composition and atmospheric structure, heat balance, lightning environment, and movement of energetic particles along its upper cloud layers as it plunged to its death. The Orbiter would have a longer lifetime, studying the surface morphology, composition, and magnetic and gravitational fields of Jupiter’s moons to ultimately understand how the system as a whole works.

Galileo revealed a lot of things including an intense radiation belt about 31,000 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops and winds traveling faster than 400 miles per hours in the atmosphere. It also found less lightning than expected, though what it did find was significantly more powerful than anything on Earth. Galileo also found Io was still volcanically active; its face had been resurfaced by erupting volcanoes since the Voyagers flew past it decades earlier. Galileo also evidence that Europa might have a subsurface ocean.

But Galileo also revealed that we really didn’t know Jupiter as well as we thought we did. The spacecraft found less water on Jupiter than the Voyager probes detected, which meant there was more to learn about its composition and makeup. This also meant that some leading theories about planetary formation were wrong, but without knowing what Jupiter was really made of there was no way to know which were right.

Sadly, Galileo couldn’t stick around indefinitely. Communications with the spacecraft ceased on February 28, 2003. The spacecraft came back to life briefly to transmit some final data as it plunged into Jupiter’s thick clouds on September 21.

The Galileo mission left us needing to know more about Jupiter, but NASA set its sights elsewhere and we were left with flyby missions. The Ulysses, Cassini, and New Horizons spacecraft all gathered data about Jupiter during flybys that sent them on trajectories to their primary targets of the Sun, Saturn, and Pluto respectively. But the next phase of Jupiter research wasn’t far behind.

Juno at Jupiter

An artist’s concept of NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, and now that it’s arrived it’s promises to drastically change our understanding of Jupiter. Juno will whip through the Jovian system on an elliptical orbit, measuring the planet’s gravity environment, magnetic field, atmospheric dynamics and composition, as well as the interaction between its interior, atmosphere and magnetosphere. It’s an in-depth study that will ultimately help us understand Jupiter’s origin and evolution, which will in turn explain our own Solar System as well as distant ones.

Astronomers suspect that giant planets play a significant role in planetary formation. As a spinning ask of gas and dust begins coalescing into a solar system, the gas giants form first. They absorb material that might otherwise be absorbed or blown away by the host star, and as they become larger their formidable mass pulls on smaller nascent planets enough to have an impact on their final orbits. The lives of planets, asteroids, and comets can be shaped by a gas giant like Jupiter as much as they are by their host star.

When it comes to our own Solar System, current competing theories about planetary formation come with different predictions on the content of Jupiter’s core. By measuring this composition, Juno will be able to eliminate which theories are wrong, hopefully leaving us with a clear answer. And by measuring the amount of water and oxygen in the planet, Juno will shed light on how these heavier elements spread through our young solar system, possibly helping explain how elements necessary for life reached Earth. And because Jupiter-like planets are a common type of exoplanet found by missions like Kepler, understanding our own gas giant will give scientists a benchmark for studying distant solar systems. Extrapolating lessons learned from our own system, we might be able to better narrow down the search for systems capable of harbouring life.

So while Jupiter might seem familiar, this is only the second dedicated mission we’ve ever sent to the gas giant. And if everything works on Juno, the scientific payoff could be incredible.

Additional sources: NASA Pioneers 10 and 11; NASA Voyager at Jupiter; NSSDC Jupiter page; NSSDC Galileo results; NASA Galileo mission page; NASA Juno mission page; NASA Juno; NASA Juno Press Kit; NSSDC PIoneer 0.

Should Spammers Be Publicly Flogged?

The statistics are bleak, but far from surprising. According to a new report, American businesses spend a whopping $712 per worker, per year, in the battle against spam.

“This isn’t just a technology problem,” says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Massachusetts-based Nucleus Research, the firm that authored the report. Email has become such an integral part of how businesses operate that spam “is now a business problem.”

And the good guys aren’t winning. “The best VC money that has been thrown at developing filtering technology has not met the mark yet,” she tells Datamation.

The Nucleus report, based on a survey of 849 users, found the following:

• Users are spending more than 1 percent of their time tackling spam in their inboxes.

enterprise-wide spam filters, two out of three email messages are spam.

• American companies are losing more than $70 billion a year in lost worker productivity.

• Spam has risen sharply since Nucleus’s survey in 2004.

• Nine out of 10 users are frustrated by spam, with one in 100 appearing to be “at the breaking point.”

At the end of the survey, Nucleus asked users what punishment would be appropriate for spammers.

Eighteen percent said that spammers should see jail time, with more than fifty percent believing that junk mailers should be fined at least $1 for every spam.

The survey also provided an “Other” option for how junk mailers should be punished. The responses were – apparently in jest – quite macabre. They included “the death penalty, slow hanging, public flogging, psychological assessment, and other suggestions that are inappropriate to print.”

Concluded the report: “Spammers, watch your backs.”

Three (Flawed) Solutions

On average, people spend 16 seconds per message in deleting spam, according to the survey.

While this figure may sound high, Wettemann notes that it’s an average; though many workers delete spam instantly, some – shockingly – actually read them fully before realizing they’re from a Nigerian spam artist. (When Nucleus Research asked the same question in 2004, the average time was a 30 seconds. Fortunately, “People are getting more sophisticated,” she said.)

Although the report’s tally of the per employee cost of spam, $712 per year, also seems high, it’s down from a jaw-dropping $1,934 a year in 2004. (The dollar amount is calculated by figuring productivity loss as a percentage of a 2080-hour work year, at $30 an hour).

Many firms are becoming ever more proactive in their battle against spam. However, this more aggressive filtering has a downside: “a growing number of legitimate messages are blocked as spam or deleted,” the report found.

The survey found three spam filtering methods that are common among enterprises:

• A confirmation process which delays the message until the sender confirms that it is a legitimate message.

• A quarantine strategy in which spam is placed in a directory to be reviewed by recipients.

• A delete strategy that automatically removes messages that the filter judges to be spam, without user review.

Each of these approaches has its pitfalls. The confirmation strategy slows down communication, at least initially (once correspondents become trusted, they aren’t subject to this step).

In the quarantine strategy, Nucleus found that users spend an average of 4.5 minutes a week reviewing messages – a minor expense that adds up over hundreds of workers. The costliest strategy, based on survey findings, is to delete apparent spam; staffers spend an average of 7.3 minutes per week searching for valid emails that have been lost.

In short, an ideal solution that bears no cost doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

In lieu of finding the prefect spam filter, business can demand greater accountability from related parties. Notes Wettemann: “Businesses need to go to their ISPs and the carriers of the spam, and have them take a closer look at ‘What are they doing at the overall infrastructure level?’ And maybe the FCC needs to be taking a closer look at how those public resources are being regulated and managed.”

Why Data Security Should Be A Key Feature Of Your Digital Signage Cms

With thousands of cyberattacks happening every day, the possibility of your business being a target isn’t a question of if, but when. Many digital signage network operators have learned the importance of high-level security the hard way.

Not taking cybersecurity seriously can quickly become a nightmare, so it’s critical to choose a digital signage software solution with reliable built-in security.

Tight security protocols are especially important in sectors such as government, financial services and healthcare, which deal with confidential information. But any organization using network-driven digital signage should ensure their virtual doors and windows are locked to intruders.

Safe information

Endless statistics in recent years point to a steady rise in cyberattacks — from malware and phishing to ransomware attacks that force organizations to pay bribes in order to restore access to blocked data and platforms.

Data breaches come at a high price, costing companies worldwide an estimated average of almost $4 million. Another report, from IBM Security, put the U.S. number at $8.2 million.

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Along with the traceable cost of restoring hacked networks, there are substantial costs that are tougher to measure, but still tangible — such as the damage to a company’s relationships with customers and partners, its reputation, and lost existing and new business. According to RiskIQ research, cyber crimes cost organizations $2.9 million every minute, and major businesses lose $25 per minute as a result of data breaches.

The rise in cyber risks has businesses prioritizing data security and reviewing the plans and measures they already have in place. Governments at all levels, as well as their associated agencies and departments, are also enacting stricter data and privacy protection regulations to further protect consumer data. Healthcare systems and even utility companies have been subject to crippling and costly cyberattacks.

In the EU, companies that ignore the relatively new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) can be fined, facing up to a 4 percent penalty on annual sales.

Major organizations make headlines, but smaller businesses are also at risk — and arguably more exposed. A Fortune 500 company often has the resources and funding to manage an attack, but a hack can wreck a smaller business.

A recent IBM security report found that a cyberattack costs a business with 500 employees or less an average hit of $2.5 million — too high a cost for many smaller businesses to absorb.

Validated protection

In theory, any technology vendor can say it enforces security procedures just by requiring login credentials to access the software. But that’s bare-bones security.

To optimally protect its customers from threats on their digital signage networks, Samsung has developed stringent security measures for its display technology.

MagicINFO 9, the latest iteration of Samsung’s long-running content management system (CMS), was tested by the International Standards Organization (ISO), which offers today’s mostly widely recognized and used security standards. After extensive review by BSI, an independent, globally trusted organization, MagicINFO was ISO27001 and ISO27701 certified — a first for the digital signage industry.

Strict screening

International judges reviewed 114 information security items and 114 personal information security items, as well as 49 additional requirements regarding personal information handling and processing. BSI, which granted the certification, is the most recognized organization in the field of ISO27001 and ISO27701 testing and validation.

The requirements of ISO 27001 and ISO 27701 certification ensure MagicINFO meets the highest levels of data protection, providing peace of mind for solution providers and end users alike. MagicINFO’s ISO-validated encryption and authentication tool sets give customers the necessary confidence to process and store personally identifiable information (PII) on their digital signage platform.

One goal of effective cybersecurity is to restrict and carefully manage access to the OS of digital signage media players, locking down the OS so it can only run the services that the playback device needs.

The central content management app also needs to be locked down, moving digital signage content, schedules and commands across the network with the help of encryption, and ensuring unauthorized parties can’t push content to screens.

Apart from software, the other security threats are physical; displays and their supporting hardware are accessible to anyone who can get in through the ports on the media player. As a best practice, your team should physically block access to display panel buttons and ports, as well as other electronics that are part of your digital signage solution.

Peace of mind

In choosing the right digital signage management platform, factors such as user experience and scalability are important, but one of the first things solution providers and end users should check is whether the platform’s secure. ISO’s sign-off ticks that box.

Find the right signage solutions for your needs among Samsung’s versatile range of innovative and secure business displays. And if your organization hasn’t made the leap to digital signage yet, explore how corporate offices are using display technology to produce dynamic, engaging content for workers and clients alike.

The Buzz About Google Buzz

Google’s latest social media experiment came to life on Tuesday in the form of Google Buzz: a social media sharing service built into your Gmail window. Buzz will let you share photos, links, videos, and status updates through your Gmail inbox or your mobile device’s Web browser.

But before you get going, here are some early impressions from around the Web about Google Buzz.

Google Buzz is not that new

The biggest difference between Google Buzz versus Windows Live and Yahoo profiles is that Google creates an autofollow list of people for you, while you have to explicitly authorize others to connect to you on Windows Live or Yahoo.

Google Buzz is open, except when it’s not

Google said they want Buzz to be wide open in terms of data portability, but right now that doesn’t seem to be the case. At its most basic level, Google Buzz looks like it’s going to be a self-contained silo where your messages get trapped. For example, you can’t broadcast anything out to your friends on Twitter or Facebook from Buzz. So if they want to see something you’ve sent out they have to get it in their Gmail inbox or watch your activity on your Google profile. I’m not sure why that’s the case — and to be fair the Windows Live and Yahoo versions do the same thing — but if Google wants Buzz to be open, why is everything so self-contained?

Buzz is an inbox monster

Another option is to manually create a Gmail filter, and push Buzzes out of my inbox as LifeHacker has done, but there has to be a better way.

Why do I need new Buzzes in my inbox? Why can’t Buzzes just go straight to the dedicated tab and skip the inbox altogether? That may defeat some of Google’s intent with Buzz, but as Rose points out, “When Buzz starts feeling like a task (email), that bothers me.”

Confusing friends

ReadWriteWeb has an interesting piece discussing Google Buzz’s somewhat confusing and murky autofollow feature. Similar to Google Chat, Buzz is supposed to automatically sign you up to follow the Gmail users you e-mail and chat with the most.

That’s an interesting and helpful idea, since it makes it easier for me to build a new network rather quickly. However, it also means I’ll end up following people I may or may not want to connect with on Buzz. As one anonymous source told RWW, “the people that you email and chat with the most may not be your closest friends or the people that you want to share and connect with.”

Despite these complaints, Buzz is earning praise, too. The location-based features in Google Buzz for mobile are getting a lot of attention, and the fact that Buzz doesn’t force your status updates into 140-character messages could be great for people who complain about that limitation on Twitter. It’s too early to say whether Google Buzz will be a winner or not, but it will certainly be interesting to see how this service develops over time.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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