Are you ready for your close up? American Idol judge and pop star Jennifer Lopez certainly is. On the current series of the US talent show she has consistently wowed with her outfits, hair and ...
Are you ready for your close up? American Idol judge and pop star Jennifer Lopez certainly is. On the current series of the US talent show she has consistently wowed with her outfits, hair and makeup – and her style ethos is no different in her latest music video for On The Floor - released in the UK this week.
The swatting of football managers as if they are hapless flies is a familiar tale. The sack. It's the manager's lot.
Paul Ince became the 39th boss to be spat out of the revolving managerial door this season in the four English divisions when he left relegation-threatened Notts County on Sunday evening by mutual consent after merely five months at the helm.
So frequent are the dismissals that the reaction of many these days is to give a Gallic shrug of the shoulder and ask: Who will be next?
But what path will the 43-year-old former England midfielder be forced to follow over the next few months, or even years?
Of those managers shown the door this term, a few have hopped back onto the so-called managerial merry-go-round, yet many have been forced to spend the last few months reflecting, adjusting and biding their time until the next job comes along.
Paul Simpson, once hailed as one of England's brightest young managers, having guided Preston to the top of the Championship in 2006, falls into the latter bracket.
Four days into the new year, the former Preston and Carlisle boss was driving his wife, Jackie, back to the north west of England having on that January morning exchanged contracts on the sale of his Shropshire home and the purchase of a five-bedroom semi in Stockport.
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Paul Simpson Former Stockport County boss
It was meant to be a new beginning for the Simpson family and a new era for Stockport County.
Six months previously, newly-relegated Stockport (a club which had spent the previous season in administration) had been taken over by a consortium which had asked the 44-year-old to steer the League Two side through their five-year plan.
"It felt like fate," Simpson tells BBC Sport. "We'd decided to move back to Stockport to be closer to the family and then the club asked me to be their manager."
As the couple drove through the Shropshire countryside, Simpson's mobile phone rang with the number of one of the club's directors flashing on the screen. He answered.
"Is it urgent. Does the meeting need to happen today?" asked the manager. A sense of doom descended and so came the next question: "I take it you're sacking me?"
Stockport had won just three of their last 19 games under Simpson and were four points above the relegation zone, clinging to league football by their fingertips, yet the call still came as a shock.
With a hundred thoughts racing through his mind, the former Manchester City winger drove on until he arrived at Chester services to meet the director.
"There were no arguments," says Simpson of that meeting in the unlikeliest of settings just off the M56. "He said what he had to say. I said what I had to say and we both went our separate ways. It was put into the hands of the League Managers' Association (football bosses union) and Stockport County's lawyer, and I am hoping that this will be resolved in the next week."
Simpson was one of 10 managerial casualties that month and has since whiled away the hours decorating the new family home - "more DIY than I've done in my life", he chuckles - summarising for BBC Radio Manchester and, in what is the silver lining, spending time with his sons Joe, Jake and Dominic.
Yet, three months since his departure from Stockport, there's still an eerie silence around the home which the man who once led Carlisle from the Conference to League One in successive seasons is still getting used to.
"As a manager your phone is constantly ringing, whether it's agents, other managers, coaches or chairmen," he explains.
"For about a week after you've lost your job the phone continues to ring, but not as much as it used to. Then, about two or three weeks later you probably get one or two calls, just from your close friends. It's a massive change."
Simpson admits to a "feeling of failure" when he left Stockport, describing the moment as the biggest disappointment of his career.
"It taints your CV as people look at it and see what's gone on and it does put a bit of a black mark against you," says the man who, in 2006, was head hunted by Preston only for his tenure to be brought to a halt 17 months later.
"If you want to stay in the game you've got to be positive and believe in what you can do.
"It's getting tougher. The time you get given in the job is getting shorter and shorter and there's always younger talent coming through. There are lads in their early 30s who are managing at the moment, which is really good to see, but when you get to Championship and Premier League level people aren't prepared to take a chance on young English managers."
In 2003, Simpson completed a five-year sports science degree at Manchester Met University and is currently studying for a diploma in business management at Warwick Business School.
The studying is to ensure he becomes "the best manager I possibly can", but the mortgage on the new home has to be repaid and Simpson, who has managed over 400 matches, is painfully aware that there might have to be life away from the beautiful game.
"I'm confident I can do the job, I've shown that I can do the job, but, on the other hand, like many of my managerial colleagues, you do occasionally have doubts about whether you want to do the job again after such an experience," he says.
"You read about these managers who get sacked at Premier League level, and even in the Championship, reportedly getting huge pay offs.
"I got paid at the end of December on a normal wage and to this day I haven't received anything in settlement of my contract. My case is in the hands of the LMA. It is a concern.
"I'm enjoying having a bit of time out but us League One and League Two managers, we're not in a position where our compensation leaves us comfortable for the rest of our lives. There's going to come a point where I need to work again. I need to get out and work.
"I'm allowed to work, my contract gives me scope to be able to work, but I want to put closure on Stockport County before I move on and until my contract has been resolved I don't think there is closure.
"I've worked hard in the last eight or nine years to gain experience and knowledge and I just think it'd be a bit of a shame if I didn't continue to use it."
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Stuart Baxter Former Finland and South Africa boss
At least Simpson has managed to stay in the profession longer than most - research suggests 49% of all first-time football managers are never reappointed to a second managerial job.
Ideally, Simpson wants to remain in the North West, but many of his associates are looking beyond these shores and over the last 12 months the number of managers opting to bark orders from foreign dug-outs has doubled.
One of British football's most successful managerial exports is former Finland boss Stuart Baxter, who has spent 23 of the last 25 years working abroad.
The 57-year-old parted company with Finland in the autumn and is currently "chilling" in south Sweden, where he lives with his wife and two teenage children, before deciding what adventure to embark on next.
"We're in a period of a little panic in the British market, and a couple of markets," says the multilingual Baxter, who has enjoyed success with club sides in Norway, Portugal, Japan and Sweden.
"People are enquiring and saying 'look, we're at the bottom of the league at the moment and we want you to come in and keep us in the league'.
"But I don't want to put myself in a position where people would say 'his only serious job in the Premier League or the Championship was to take so and so down'. I've got to be a bit careful so I've said I'll wait until June.
"For me at the moment, the right thing is to recharge the batteries. I'm not diving in at the moment, I think that's the right thing to do, but is that easy? No it's not."
This is only the second time in his career that the former South Africa boss, who briefly returned to England to take charge of England's Under-18 and Under-19 teams in 2002, has left a job without having another one lined up.
He is confident he can return to club football and his desire to work with players to develop their skills is as strong as ever, but the experienced Scot admits he is worried that managing a football team is becoming akin to working on Wall Street.
"The emphasis is not on doing the work. The emphasis is on getting results because it's driven by money. It's like the stock market: it's based on fear and greed," he says.
"There are all sorts of situations with football clubs these days. It used to be, do they have any decent players? Does it have a good name?
"Now, you're talking about the owners, the budget, the playing staff and the training facilities. Taking a job is a much more complicated decision nowadays."
But even though the Sword of Damocles seems to be perpetually hovering over nearly every manager - 1,082 have come and gone since Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed at Manchester United in November 1986 - the sack, it seems, is not something they fear.
"There are calculated risks with every job," explains Baxter.
"If I'm standing on the touchline as the Finnish national coach and we're playing against Germany in Hamburg in the World Cup qualifier, the feeling when you hear the anthems being played, when it's a full house and you see the quality of players on the field and you've got a fantastic bench sitting opposite and you've got to try to outmanoeuvre them - that's the reward.
"It's a reward both on the evening and years later. I'll look back on that night and that will be worth so much more than working in a safe, secure job for two or three years."
At the Madejski Stadium
The same teams had been in the Championship's top six since January until Reading gatecrashed the party on Saturday - and the newcomers look like they intend to stick around.
Brian McDermott's team are the form horse in football's second tier as the Championship moves into the home straight and they must be considered as serious contenders to end a three-season wait to return to the Premier League.
Their victory over a dogged and determined Preston at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday evening was the Royals' fifth win a row. It was a doughty and forgettable match but produced the sort of victory that is crucial in any promotion campaign.
Reading are now undefeated in nine league fixtures and their run of form has come at a time when other, arguably more credible, promotion contenders have started to falter.
The Royals took the place of Nottingham Forest in the play-off zone and Billy Davies's
Burnley have lost three of their last four, Leicester have one win in seven and, just when Watford had climbed to eighth, the Hornets have fallen away after back-to-back defeats.
Encouragingly for Reading, their excellent sequence of results has come despite a series of injury problems. Key players such as Noel Hunt, Mikele Leigertwood, Matt Mills, Andy Griffin and Shaun Cummings have been sidelined, but with no apparent impact on results.
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu scored the winner against Preston a minute after his introduction and midfielder Jay Tabb told BBC Sport afterwards: "The manager told us after the game that he will use the entire squad between now and the end of the season. The quality of the squad at Reading is excellent and there is not much difference between the starting side and the second XI."
A big factor in Reading's success appears to be the togetherness that McDermott has engendered in his players. Royals skipper Mills summed up the mood in the squad when he said in Tuesday's matchday programme: "The results are more important than any single player. I know everyone would say we are in it together."
Long and McDermott have a very close relationship. Photo: AP
Tabb, who spent several seasons at both Brentford and Coventry, added: "Credit must go to the sort of characters that the manager has got in his squad. At other clubs you hear players slagging each other off in training and even during matches I have heard players from other teams tearing into each other. That doesn't happen at Reading, we are 100% behind each other."
McDermott, who turns 50 on Friday, recently signed a new 12-month rolling contract and chairman Sir John Madejski acknowledged that his manager's star is on the rise. McDermott has been at Reading for a decade, working first as chief scout and then as coach of various youth teams and the club's reserve side before taking over the first team following the departure of Brendan Rodgers in December 2009. He is a friendly and affable manager who makes time to speak to his players on an individual basis.
"He can definitely mix it up and dish out harsh words if they are required," added Tabb. "But he seems to know how to handle every different situation."
McDermott seems to understand how to make his players feel wanted, even if they are not playing regularly. A good example is Brynjar Gunnarsson, who is out of contract at the end of the season and could have switched off months ago. However, he has remained committed and slipped in admirably at right-back after a series of injuries to the club's established players in that position. Likewise, Brian Howard could have gone out on loan but opted to stay and has started the last three games.
Reading have the division's in-form striker in Republic of Ireland international Shane Long. Until the end of October he had found the net just twice for Reading, both of them penalties. He now has nine goals in his last 10 league games and 20 for the campaign, making him the second highest scorer in the Championship.
Long recently suggested that the Royals could yet burst into the top two, and after defeating Preston his side are now seven points adrift of Norwich in seventh. Automatic promotion may be an unrealistic target but the fact Long is even talking about it speaks volumes about the confidence in the squad.
"There are seven games left and we want 21 points," said Long after Tuesday's victory. "Why not? We are capable of it?"
Long arrived at Reading from Cork as an 18-year-old in June 2005, initially living at McDermott's house as he adjusted to life in England. The two men apparently share a love of playing the guitar, although the manager readily accepts that he is second best in that department. Until this season Long had made more substitute appearances than he had starts but McDermott has shown a lot of faith in him and the striker has flourished over recent months.
"Things have changed around for me," added Long. "Now I am disappointed when I do not score but I do not take too much notice of what people might be saying because they tend to jump on the bandwagon."
He is fast and skilful, confident and direct. He plays on the shoulder of opposition defenders and likes to shoot early. Reading started with a 4-2-3-1 formation against Preston, and Long often pulled wide to create space for his team-mates. He was arguably more effective when the introduction of Mathieu Manset meant a switch to 4-4-2, although Long disappointed with a late effort when he only had Iain Turner to beat, shooting tamely at the Preston keeper.
Several Reading players stressed that they are trying to deal with each match as it comes as they attempt to climb to out of the division. In stark contrast, Preston are simply desperate to stay in the Championship. It took North End 13 attempts to win under manager Phil Brown but they travelled to Reading on the back of three straight victories.
At one point earlier in the year North End looked dead and buried, a gargantuan 13 points from safety. Last Saturday their win over Swansea helped them climb off the bottom for the first time in 20 games. Tuesday halted their progress and they remain eight points adrift of 21st place with seven games remaining.
However, Brown, who at one time was talking about in terms of an open-top bus parade if his side stayed up, is now sounding distinctly bullish about avoiding the drop. Optimism has returned and with it some badly needed belief.
"There are plenty of rays of sunshine as far as I'm concerned," said Brown after the Reading match. "We have just given a very good account of ourselves against a team that is looking likely to get promotion."
Even so I suspect that North End's revival may have come too late and the second tier's longest-serving side is heading towards League One.
Whether Reading will also be waving farewell to the Championship is an altogether different question, but they are undoubtedly the team with the greatest momentum at the most important time of the season.
Post categories: Football
| 23:43 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Wayne Rooney scored with a smile for the cameras rather than a snarl as he let his natual talent do the talking. And how eloquently it spoke as Manchester United set the platform for Champions League progress at Chelsea's expense.
The lens was Rooney's constant companion from the moment he emerged to warm up at Stamford Bridge until he departed in triumph after the goal that gave United a crucial away victory in the quarter-final first leg.
Rooney will be punished with a ban for his expletive outburst into a pitchside camera after completing his hat-trick in United's win at West Ham United on Saturday - so it was almost inevitable that fate decreed he would produce something to capture attention again at Chelsea.
The moment arrived 24 minutes into the contest when he showed touch and technique to steer in Ryan Giggs' pass. How would he react? The answer came as he smiled, slid and tumbled for the cameras before celebrating with arms outstretched in front of Chelsea fans gathered in the Matthew Harding Stand.
It was an unashamed outpouring of happiness from Rooney, giving the lie to the suggestion that the joy has somehow been sucked out of his game by a year of frustration.
Rooney put on a sparkling performance in front of the cameras. Photo: PA
The frustration and anger at Stamford Bridge was all Chelsea's.
The frustration came from Fernando Torres as he stretched his goalless sequence since his £50m move from Liverpool to 619 minutes. The anger from the whole of Chelsea when Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco refused them an obvious penalty in stoppage time when Patrice Evra brought down Ramires.
If the goal brought release to Rooney and a smile of satisfaction to Sir Alex Ferguson, it only served to underline the contrast in fortunes with struggling Torres, paired uncomfortably and to little effect with Didier Drogba by Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti's team selection appeared to be a barely disguised attempt to find any formation that allows him to field owner Roman Abramovich's record purchase, even if it disturbs Chelsea's natural balance and forces the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka.
No such problems for United and Ferguson, who got his selection and tactics spot on, revolving around the return of Rio Ferdinand in defence, a rejuvenated Michael Carrick in midfield and the tireless Rooney up front.
If it was intimidation from West Ham's fans that fired Rooney up to the point where he boiled over, he was subjected to more of the same on and off the pitch at Stamford Bridge and thrived.
Rooney was greeted by a hefty kick on the foot by Michael Essien which was swiftly followed by another foul by Ramirea - all played out against the now customary background noise of pantomime booing.
The effect on Rooney was non-existent as he foraged dangerously up front alongside Javier Hernandez, dropped deep to help out in midfield and even appeared to be a constant buffer between the technical area and his team-mates, happy to receive and pass on a succession of messages.
It was a contribution that drew glowing praise from both managers as Ferguson said: "He played very well. We are pleased with his performance. It was tremendous. He played fantastically, as did all the other players."
Rooney's upturn in form can also be measured in the most important currency of all as Ferguson added: "He's now more regular in his goalscoring, which in the second half of the season is more important."
The beaten Ancelotti, whose future as Chelsea manager may hang on his ability to turn this tie around at Old Trafford next Tuesday said: "He's a fantastic player. It's not just now I am saying this, I have said it before, He played really well, scored a goal and worked hard for the team."
Rooney was not alone in his excellence. Rio Ferdinand cruised back into action for the first time since February while Michael Carrick showed glimpses of the player he was before he disappeared down a black hole of poor form following a nightmare in the 2009 Champions League final against Barcelona.
Ferguson's decision to award him a new three-year contract recently was greeted with scepticism, not only here but by a large number of Manchester United fans, but at Chelsea he at least showed welcome signs of the old qualities that have extended his stay at Old Trafford.
And in goal, the veteran Edwin van der Sar produced more evidence that he should reconsider his decision to retire at the end of the season. A model of composure, he showed an elasticity that defied his age to save brilliantly from a late Torres header while everything else stuck in those reliable hands.
Chelsea's protests at the final whistle were an outpouring for what may be another lost Champions League opportunity. There was genuine and understandable fury at that late, ignored penalty claim but also the knowledge that the latest quest to clinch the missing trophy in their collection is once again in danger of failure.
The Drogba-Torres partnership failed to produce a goal. Photo: Reuters
And at the heart of Wednesday's loss was the latest chapter in Torres's fruitless search for the form he enjoyed at Liverpool. It is not for the want of trying, but Torres cuts the figure of a man stretching out for something that remains tantalisingly out of reach - in this case his form and the old snap and acceleration that made him so coveted.
Drogba and Torres may have exchanged glances but they barely exchanged a pass. Chelsea are more suited to a 4-3-3 formation with their current personnel but Ancelotti was clearly unable to resist the temptation to play both Drogba and Torres.
And while Drogba has been the more potent this season, could it be that Ancelotti simply could not take the risk of leaving Abramovich's landmark purchase languishing on the bench for a match of such significance?
Ancelotti raised eyebrows when he finally altered his system, choosing to remove Drogba when Torres looked the more likely candidate to be substituted.
It is a dilemma that has to be resolved, whether it is by Ancelotti or someone else, and it must be assumed Torres is the future rather than Drogba given Abramovich's willingness to sign off such a huge deal.
Ancelotti must solve the same equation again next Tuesday - and if ever there was a night he needs to get the formula right, it is at Old Trafford.
Ferguson was keen to preach caution and Chelsea are not out of the fight to face Inter Milan or Schalke in the semi-final - they have too much quality to be dismissed so lightly - but United's position of strength with victory and an away goal bred confidence and optimism among their camp.
With players of influence such as Ferdinand returning to the fold, United are still in the hunt for a repeat of their historic 1999 treble of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.
There are signs of momentum and purpose about United that have eluded them for much of the season. The campaign remains full of rich possibilities even though Ferguson himself appears to consider this to be a squad in need of an expensive summer overhaul.
And with Rooney rediscovering his touch in front of goal, there may be even more photo opportunities before the season ends.
| 00:56 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 16:03 Written by Administrator
Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as an associate editor at Mashable.com and Bartz is news editor at Psychology Today.
(CNN) -- South by Southwest is a long, winding "spring break!" (yelled in frat-boy fashion) for tech nerds and music fans alike. The fest has since wrapped, leaving attendees with glowing memories, emotional and physical scars and suitcases bursting with ripe clothing.
While it would seem instinctive to offer up some netiquette wisdom from the tech set down in Austin (they packed the Texas capital for SXSW Interactive), we decided instead to pick some band kids' brains from last weekend's music fest.
After all, musicians nowadays have to be much more plugged into the digital realm than their predecessors -- even if they are just spending a goodly amount of time stream-of-consciousness tweeting (cough Kanyecough).
Without further ado, here are 10 tips from acts both up-and-coming and better-known, and an accompanying soundtrack to see you through the learning.
1. Get a room, not a wall.
"I've never been a fan of PDA on my PDA... Especially when a girlfriend will just post a '<3' on her boyfriend's wall. It's even weirder when the boyfriend puts a '<3' in the comments of that wall post."
-- Robert Perlick-Molinari, French Horn Rebellion
2. Don't make your friends look bad.
"[I hate] getting tagged in super ugly, sweaty photos on Facebook."
-- Eric Victorino, The Limousines
3. Don't encourage mundane rambling.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
"Inane status updates about food [are annoying] ... And even more perplexing are the comments ('you should eat that carrot' or, invariably, 'yum'). It's the need to engage and validate that initial watery stool of thought that really makes me long for the day when there is a 'really?' button next to the 'like' one."
-- Kip Berman, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
4. Don't be a creeper.
"A random friend request with no message or supplemental explanation of where we met or how I'm supposed to know this person is unfair. I'm always happy to be someone's friend, especially to learn more about what they're doing musically, but have a heart and first tell me who you are!"
-- Kiran Gandhi, label manager, Rhythm & Culture Music DC
5. Don't torrential-tweet.
"Twitter drives us crazy. Too many updates, and if you're in a band, you have to constantly tell the world what you're doing all the time. Boring."
-- Megane Quashie, Black Cherry
5. Say it once, then shut up.
"The 'broken record syndrome' is difficult to avoid while promoting yourself or your business through an outlet as vast as Twitter or Facebook. Still, repeating yourself on your business's blog or in a tweet can quickly label you as a neophyte and alienates your current and future followers."
-- Eric Hehr, Gold Motel
6). Don't be a vain pain.
"[I hate] when people retweet compliments about themselves. If you did that in real life, you'd be sitting alone at the lunch table, eating mystery meat."
7. Take a joke.
"The typed word can often be taken out of context, and the actual tone of what is written cannot be determined. As a band we have a lot of 'in jokes' between ourselves and as such will often put daft messages on each others' walls on Facebook or in messages between each other on Twitter.
The problem is that other people will then see these messages, and they don't understand that it's just a joke between ourselves and that we don't mean it seriously."
-- Paddy Considine, The Lines
8. Being passive-aggressive makes your friends plain aggressive.
"Indirect tweets about a specific person -- say, an ex-girlfriend who is always going out of her way to tweet catty things about her ex without mentioning his name -- [are annoying]. A la, 'Someone thinks they can do anything they want.' It's so lame."
9). Don't be a spam bot.
"When someone sends a Facebook message to you and 30 other people and you're constantly getting replies from a ton of people you probably don't know ... I feel all popular, like I'm getting all these personal messages, but that's not the case at all!"
-- Christina Schroeter, Family of the Year
10). Don't be a faceless troll.
"[I'm not into] anonymous bloggers that only blog about things they dislike."
-- Sarah Jaffe
Columnists' Note: Hey, at least we're not anonymous!
Bonus deep thought:
"Many stories I hear that begin with, 'Oh my God, so the other day on Facebook ... ' are immediately interrupted by the concession, 'I'm, like, hardly ever on Facebook, but anyway ...'
It seems people utilize the exact same pre-emptive defense for stories about things they saw on television, which begs the notion that the former has fast attained both the stature and social stigmas of the latter."
-- Ben Lovett of Lovett
A new Google-funded study of browser security by security research firm Accuvant Labs crowned Chrome the champion of security features, and ranked Firefox below Internet Explorer in terms of protection available from web-borne threats. Predictably, Microsoft and Mozilla have different opinions on what makes a browser secure, and why Accuvant's findings are off base. All of this got us thinking about which browser is the most secure, and whether the security features listed in studies like this even matter to the rest of us.
How Was the Study Performed?
Accuvant looked at three browsers for its study: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. All three were tested and examined running in 32-bit Windows 7, and the research was wrapped up in July of 2011, so the current release versions of each browser at that time were the ones included in the report. Accuvant says they left out other browsers, like Safari and Opera, to save time, but they do plan to update their findings on the big three as more data becomes available and each development house improves on their application.
Accuvant's study of browser security is probably the most comprehensive performed to date, even though other browsers and OSes weren't included. The researchers will be happy to tell you that they look deeper than bug-trackers and vulnerability lists, and try to get a bit more information about what makes a browser secure or vulnerable to threats—both current and in the future. Part of that effort led the researchers to examine how each browser performed when an intruder already had access a machine with each browser installed, and how much information they could obtain.
What Did the Study Find?
Accuvant researchers determined that Google Chrome had the most new and effective security features aimed at protecting users from malicious code and scripts embedded in web pages, or automatically downloaded and executed as part of the sites they visit. They examined three major areas:
In all three areas, Chrome came out on top. The researchers tied Chrome with Internet Explorer in Sandboxing and JIT Hardening, but point out that Chrome was just a bit better in both areas. In all three areas, Firefox got the lowest marks. In other areas however, all three browsers tied, and in one area at least, URL Blacklisting, all three browsers got poor marks, although the researchers again pointed out that Chrome did better than the other two—just that none of them did blacklisting very well.
Ultimately, Accuvant's researchers gave Chrome the top spot, with Internet Explorer right behind it. They pointed to Google's ability to build Chrome from the ground up, from scratch, without having to deal with legacy code or shoehorn in older capabilities the way Microsoft and Mozilla have with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Essentially, according to the research team, Chrome is the most secure because Google was able to write it with a fresh perspective and security in mind, without baggage to bring along.
What Do Mozilla and Microsoft Say About This?
Mozilla's Director of Firefox Development, Johnathan Nightingale, responded to the study in in an article at Forbes, and said "Firefox includes a broad array of technologies to eliminate or reduce security threats, from platform level features like address space randomization to internal systems like our layout frame poisoning system. Sandboxing is a useful addition to that toolbox that we are investigating, but no technology is a silver bullet. We invest in security throughout the development process with internal and external code reviews, constant testing and analysis of running code, and rapid response to security issues when they emerge. We're proud of our reputation on security, and it remains a central priority for Firefox."
Similarly, Microsoft pointed to a study by NSS Labs that showed Internet Explorer dominating all of its rivals—including Firefox and Chrome—at protecting user systems from malware. However, just as the Accuvant study was sponsored and commissioned by Google, NSS Labs' studies are often paid for by Microsoft, so there's plenty of skepticism to go around.
How Impartial Is the Study?
Accuvant is a well-respected security and research firm, and they've gone to great lengths to make not only the full text of the study available, but also the tools used and the supporting data behind the study in case other researchers want to examine their findings.
Google and Accuvant both explained that even though they commissioned the study, they knew that if the results were in their favor, that fact would cast doubt on the merits of the result. Accuvant explained in an article at Ars Technica that Google gave them more than a wide berth to do the research, and insisted that the study be an impartial look at the state of browser security. Accuvant, for its part, has also put its reputation on the line, stating the study is representative of their company and its quality of work, and they stand behind it.
Whether Google was so open about the study being independant because they knew the testing methodology and the fact that their codebase put them at an advantage is another story, but as of now, no one's criticising Accuvant's results or methodology. The real question however, is how much should you or I care?
Does Any of This Matter? What Should I Do?
In the end, the study is important, but the real lynch-pin of browser security is—and always has been—the user behind the keyboard. Chrome may be on top now, but Microsoft and Mozilla will make changes to address as a result of the findings. Accuvant's methodology assumes your system is compromised, and also assumes that you have no other protection besides the browser's own security features to protect you, both of which aren't likely true for most users. In the interim, this study will wind up being used as cannon fodder in the browser wars, with one browser's fans firing it at another's without ever bothering to read it.
For the most part, browser security is a matter of user responsibility. Make sure you surf responsibly, and use SSL whenever possible. Don't accept, run, or even download anything if you're not sure what it is or why you were prompted to download a file, and only keep the extensions and add-ons running that you need on a daily basis.
HP has finally decided the fate of webOS today, and it's an open one: the platform will be contributed to the open source community. The company says that it will be an "active participant and investor in the project," and that its ultimate goal here is to accelerate development. In other words, it doesn't want to pump the amount of money into webOS that would be required to make it fully competitive, so it's looking to the public to help make that happen.
As for Enyo — the app framework that underpins webOS 3 and the TouchPad — HP says that it will be contributed in the "near future" along with "the remaining components of the user space." There's no specific verbiage in HP's press release about what won't be contributed, but PreCentral has learned that patents related to webOS will remain under HP control "to protect developers."
It remains to be seen what (if any) hardware HP directly produces for the newly-opened operating system, but it says that today's move creates "the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices," so it certainly expects someone to fill those hardware shoes — and in this model, of course, anyone will be welcome to do so.
The move feels similar to the one that Nokia made several years ago in the creation of the Symbian Foundation to foster open source development of that platform, and that didn't work out too well — it later shuttered the organization, brought Symbian's development back in house, and ultimately announced its long-term phase-out in favor of Windows Phone. Of course, HP isn't a mobile company the same way Nokia is, so it isn't as immediately critical that it find and implement a successful mobile platform. Either way, webOS's fight for relevance is a long, uphill one.
HP has also posted a brief set of FAQs about today's move. Regarding the future of HP-branded webOS hardware, the company says that it will "explore the viability of putting webOS on devices, just as we do for other leading operating systems" — in other words, it doesn't sound like there'll be much favoritism here when it comes time to select a mobile platform (or a printer platform). It also doesn't sound like we should expect any new devices any time soon. For current owners, though, the good news is that they'll "continue to receive software improvements and updates in the future."
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:46 Written by Administrator
We may not have jet packs yet, but pretty soon plastic will be a thing of the past. At least in our wallets, that is.
The technology that will bring us part of the way there is near-field communications (NFC), an exciting tool that lets devices exchange information with one another when in close proximity. So far, its main use has centered on payments, specifically point-of-sale terminals at retailers. In fact, you probably have a credit card from your bank with an NFC chip in it.
The next frontier for those little chips is in smartphones. Like wallets, these have become something people carry around with them everywhere they go. More importantly, mobile application stores have warmed users to the idea that the phone can have a direct line of credit with your bank account and some of the same cards you're carrying around.
For nearly a year now, a mix of patent filings and third-party reports have pointed at Apple adding NFC to its devices, specifically the iPhone. But none has managed to offer a clear, well-supported stance of what Apple is really up to. CNET talked to two NFC experts about the current mobile payments landscape, and they spelled out some of the hurdles Apple faces not only in putting NFC chips into devices but also in setting up the infrastructure and partnerships to make it a reality.
Before delving into the nitty-gritty though, it's worth understanding why would Apple would even venture into NFC in the first place. The simple answer is that it's an enormous business opportunity.
"Electronic payments in the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve was $40 trillion in 2010," David Eads, who leads product marketing for Kony Solutions told CNET. "So for every 1 percent of mobile payment adoption that happens of that number, that's $407 billion in transactions."
Eads, who has a background in the mobile payments industry, founded the mobile consultancy Mobile Strategy Partners and held positions at mFoundry and Tealeaf Technology. He explained that the big ticket item in that magic $407 billion number was the "interchange" revenue, which is where various parties get a cut from fees. That can run anywhere from $4 billion to 6 billion on each $407 billion chunk. It also makes things more competitive among the various parties that take fees, since retailers can choose the card or payment provider they want to support.
Following the money
"Groupon doesn't make 2 percent of the ticket. They make 50 percent of what's paid," Todd Ablowitz, who is the president of the Double Diamond Group, another company that does consulting for the electronic payments industry, told CNET. "Everyone is chasing that promotional revenue, and that's where the focus is going to be," he continued.
That everyone includes Google, which recently added support for NFC in its Android OS though has not yet offered up its payment tools for retailers or developers. Near the end of last year, Google came close to buying Groupon and has since refocused its efforts on social deals with its Google Offers platform. There's also Facebook, Amazon, and start-ups like FourSquare, Gowalla, and Loopt, which have carved out deals with retailers to attract mobile phone users with coupons and discounts.
Discounts and deals could be putting the carriage in front of the horse though. The core of the technology centers on getting NFC chips into phones and NFC-capable point-of-sale units to flush the market, not to mention getting the underlying systems in place to make sure those two sides of the equation work from place to place and from phone to phone.
So what's holding all this up then? Part of it has been a chicken and egg problem: putting NFC chips in phones is neat, but if there are no scanners to use them, who wants to put them in the phones? Likewise, if there are barely any NFC devices, what's in it for a retailer to upgrade their point-of-sale hardware with an NFC-capable system?
As my colleague Elinor Mills pointed out in her story about NFC and mobile wallets last month, the GSMA, a trade association representing the Global System for Mobile Communications industry, began pushing handset makers to start including NFC chips in their phones back in 2008, with the end goal of having it be standard practice by late 2009. As we've seen with phone hardware, we're just now getting to the point where NFC is becoming a checkbox feature on phones that aren't geared toward specialty markets or professions.
In the interim, all manner of companies have sprung up and jumped in to fill the void, some offering SIM and MicroSD cards with build-in NFC chips, while others offered up stickers containing chips that can be affixed to the back.
At this point, it's not a cost issue with the actual hardware, Eads explained. For something like a point-of-sale system, the extra NFC hardware costs around $5, which is a drop in the bucket when you're paying $200 or more for a swiping machine. "The cost is being passed into the merchant," Eads said. "They can keep the same price point and help the units move faster." Even so, it might be a hard sell for a business with an already-functioning set of point-of-sale machines to upgrade.
All told, there are more than 750,000 point-of-sale terminals that support NFC in the U.S., according to Eads, who says most of those can be found in fast food restaurants, and in places like Wal-Mart Stores and Walgreens. Eads says that amounts to less than 1 percent of the total number of point-of-sale terminals across the United States. Overseas, in places like Japan and Korea, NFC-capable terminals are more common.
Apple's clear way to pay
That "clear way" is the Apple ID system, which now has more than 200 million users signed up to use, all with credit cards or other payment options linked to those accounts. During the iPad 2's unveiling earlier this month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs claimed that the 200 million number made it one of the largest online payment providers in the world. More importantly, it was something customers could use not just in iTunes, but in the iBooks application to buy e-books, and in the App Store to purchase applications.
"By Apple adding NFC to the phone, they're really just extending the phone's payment abilities to the checkout, to be able to make that last leap to the phone to the point-of-sale device," Eads said. "That's the only piece Apple is missing."
So what would it take to get there? Will Apple simply partner with some of these existing point-of-sale hardware makers or go its own way with boxes that go out to retailers? According to Ablowitz, it's unlikely to go the latter way.
"The world of retail does not happen at the same speed as the consumer," Ablowitz said. "You can get consumers to pitch their cell phones and get a new one, or pitch their Walkman and get an iPod. Getting retailers to change their business practices, you need a return on investment. They don't do it just for cool."
Further proof that Apple would opt to partner over starting from scratch can be seen by looking at the way the company has already approached payments with its own products, Ablowitz offered.
"They haven't been trying to their own consumer payment application, they've been partnering with whatever you have in your wallet today on iTunes. So it's a fallacy to think that they'd be unwilling to work with a player," Ablowitz said. "They just know the difference of when they should build, and when they should partner."
That brings us to one of the last hurdles, which are the carriers. They continue to be the gatekeepers for the data connection that feeds devices like the iPhone when they're outside of a Wi-Fi network. More importantly, there's a contractual agreement that dictates what phones that run on those networks can and cannot do, which companies like Apple are required to adhere to.
Apple is credited with helping to change the balance of power between device manufacturers and carriers by taking control not only of things like application distribution but also things like system software updates, marketing, and design. Even so, NFC represents another battleground where Apple is up for a fight.
"Carriers recognize through the NFC trials for the last number of years in the mid-2000s that this is wildly popular with consumers," Albowitz said. "Once consumers try an NFC payment, it's been one of the best responses you will ever see from a consumer product. The carriers recognize that. They know that there's an enormous amount of commerce there, and they don't want to miss what they missed with the App Store."
One thing that sets NFC apart is that your phone doesn't have to be on or even connected to a carrier's network to have it work with NFC readers. The technology can also be set to require a PIN or password code to authenticate its use. That security decision, Ablowitz explained, was still something that was up to the payment provider. But there's a greater level of control being given to the carriers with NFC chips as far as security goes.
"The NFC that's in some of the Android phones--like the Samsung phones at Mobile World Congress--the carriers will have full control over that NFC chip," Eads said. "They'll be responsible for the secure element." Eads compared the arrangement with the certificate authority for HTTPS, which can offer Web site owners a way to verify themselves to users, and offer a secure connection. "The carriers will have control over that, and they will take a cut of the transaction."
How much of a cut would that be? And would Apple simply opt to find a way around that? Those two details in particular have likely been a sticking point in bringing any payment platforms to market. In Apple's case, this also represents a particularly important issue given the company's propensity for control, as well as releasing the same product in all markets. With something like the iPhone, Apple would be unlikely to want to manufacture a version of the device that was had a hardware feature in some places but not others.
"What needs to happen with Apple, is much bigger than a simple chip," Ablowitz offered. "They have to make a business decision to bring a service to market. That's every bit as big as iTunes was, or iBooks. They have to deal with the approach for how you get people's payment types onto the phone."