Stories for Mar. 5, 2014

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In Brief

Capitalizing on the growing angst over privacy in today’s surveillance state, virtual operator FreedomPop has started selling a smartphone that routes all data traffic over a secure VPN and uses 128-bit encryption for VoIP calls and IP messaging. The device, which FreedomPop has dubbed the “Snowden Phone,” is actually a Samsung Galaxy S2 loaded with security software from Private Communications Corporation, which FreedomPop is pairing with a 500 MB, unlimited talk and text plan for $10 a month. Customers can change phone numbers as often as they like and even pay for the phone and service anonymously with Bitcoin.

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In Brief

More than two years after making its debut on Android and iOS, the Facebook Messenger app is now available for Windows Phone. Although Windows Phone already has built-in support for Facebook messaging, the dedicated app adds features like group chat, location sharing, picture messaging and stickers. It’s still missing some features from its iOS and Android counterparts, though, like voice messaging. Still, it’s another positive step toward closing the app gap between Windows Phone and the competition.

In Brief

In the two months since Overstock started accepting Bitcoin payment, the e-commerce giant has accepted $1 million worth of sales in the cryptocurrency. What’s more, the firm, which partnered with Coinbase to handle the payments, said late Tuesday it now expects Bitcoin-based sales of between $10 to $15 million this year, which is twice or three times what it originally estimated. It’s still a small proportion of Overstock’s revenue, but it comes as validation for Bitcoin during troubled times, particularly as Overstock and Coinbase noted how low Bitcoin transaction fees improve net profitability for the retailer.

Stories for Mar. 4, 2014
In Brief

Steve Mollenkopf became the third CEO of Qualcomm Tuesday, ending the reign of the Jacobs family over the 28-year-old business. Mollenkopf replaces Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, who will become the executive chairman as part of a transition plan that was announced in December. Paul Jacobs had risen to CEO in 2005 after his father and the inventor of CDMA, Irwin Jacobs, stepped down from the role. Qualcomm has managed to continue growing the company even as its CDMA technology has become a casualty of time and GSM networks, and Mollenkopf will see it expand beyond mobile into the internet of things.

On The Web

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is, as of today, available on Amazon GovCloud, the separate U.S. cloud region for workloads that must meet certain federal regulations and compliance requirements. RHEL has been available on other Amazon EC2 regions since 2011, and last year Red Hat made a free tier of RHEL service available to some qualified users. RHEL is seen as the standard Linux for enterprise accounts that need to show they are supported by their vendors for compliance and legal reasons.

In Brief

An e-commerce startup called Reflektion has raised an $8 million series B round of venture capital for its technology that helps retailers personalize the online shopping experience for consumers. Intel Capital led the round, and Nike and several private investors also pitched in. This seems like the latest thing in marketing — not just targeted advertising but entire tailored experiences for individual shoppers. It does add an Amazon-like recommendation experience, although one might fairly question whether most product catalogs are large enough to warrant it.

In Brief

The UK-based Wellcome Trust, the world’s second-largest funder of medical research behind the Gates Foundation, has launched a free online magazine called Mosaic that is dedicated to longform science writing. The site will be run by former Times science editor Mark Henderson — who was involved with a monthly science magazine published by the Times called Eureka, which was shut down in 2012 — and will publish a new 3,000-word piece on a scientific topic every Tuesday. In an unusual twist, the content will be free for anyone to use under a Creative Commons license, provided they include attribution.

Farmer seed are a major source of borrowing, in Pakkoku, Myanmar
photo: Courtesy of Venetia Tay

It’s an unprecedented moment in Myanmar’s history as the country opens up to financing, technology and connectivity. Will mobile payments play a role in transforming the country? Read more »

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