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Amazon Finally Goes Two-Factor

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

Amazon is making it a little, or a lot, harder for miscreants to make off with user accounts by adding two-factor authentication.

It has taken Amazon some time to fall into line on this. Two-factor authentication has become increasingly popular and common in the past couple of years, and it is perhaps overdue for a firm that deals so heavily in trade.

Amazon is treating it like it’s new, and is offering to hold punters’ hands as they embrace the security provision.

“Amazon Two-Step Verification adds an additional layer of security to your account. Instead of simply entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code in addition to your password during sign in,” the firm said.

The way that the code is served depends on the user, who can choose to get the extra prompt in one of three ways. They may not appeal to those who do not like to over-share, but they will require a personal phone number.

As is frequently the case, Amazon will offer to send supplementary log-in information to a phone via text message or voice call, and even through a special authenticating app.

It’s an option, and you do not have to enable it. Amazon said that users could select trusted sign-on computers that spare them from the mobile phone contact.

“Afterward, that computer or device will only ask for your password when you sign in,” explained the Amazon introduction, helpfully.

There are a number of other outfits that offer the two-factor system and you might be advised to take their trade and do your business through them. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook and many others offer the feature.

A website called TwoFactorAuth will let you check your standing and the position of your providers.



Amazon To Use Wind Farm To Power Web Services

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced that it will build and operate a 100-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Ohio that will power its current and future cloud service data centers.

The project, called the Amazon Wind Farm US Central, is expected to generate about 320,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind power per year beginning in May 2017; that’s enough electricity to power more than 29,000 U.S. homes a year.

While AWS’s latest wind farm is dwarfed by previously announced projects, it is still large compared to those typically built by non-utility businesses.

For example, one of the largest wind farms to be completed this year was the 300MW Jumbo Road wind project located about 50 miles southwest of Amarillo, Texas. The project was commissioned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary BHE Renewables, an electricity utility that sells power to Austin Energy. That wind farm cost more than $1 billion to build.

Amazon has launched a handful of wind farm projects and other renewable energy initiatives over the past two years as it moves toward a goal of 100% renewable energy use.

In April 2015, AWS announced that it was getting about 25% of its power from renewable energy sources; it plans to increase that level to 40% by the end of 2016.

In January 2015, Amazon announced a renewable project with the Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) in Benton County, Indiana, which is expected to generate 500,000MWh of wind power annually.

Along with the new Amazon Wind Farm US Central, Amazon said its renewable projects will deliver more than 1.6 million MWh of renewable energy into electric grids across the central and eastern U.S., or roughly the equivalent amount of energy required to power 150,000 homes.




FAA Task Force To Police Drone Registration

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A Federal Aviation Administration task force submitted recommendations for registering drone operators on Saturday, setting the stage for regulators next month to propose regulations intended to help reverse a surge in rogue drone flights.

A final version of the panel’s recommendations was expected to receive approval from 25 task force members on Friday. It would signal broad agreement among stakeholders, including drone makers, pilots, hobbyists and regulators, on a free and user-friendly registration process for recreational users of unmanned aerial systems, or UAS.

Registration is one of several steps the FAA and other government agencies are considering to address a disturbing rise in reckless drone use this year, including near-misses with commercial airliners near airports.

Officials are concerned that safety and security risks could rise in coming years as drone sales continue to soar, with more than 1 million drones expected to be sold in the United States this year.

The task force report was not expected to be released to the public until next week, according to people familiar with the matter. But they said the recommendations would require drone operators to register on a website or via a phone app, if they own UAS weighing as little as 8.8 ounces (250 grams), and attach their registration number to their drones.

“On Saturday, the task force will deliver its report to the Federal Aviation Administration,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a blog posted to a federal website on Friday.

“We will consider their recommendations and the public comments as we develop an interim final rule on registration, which will likely be released next month and go into effect shortly thereafter.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who announced the registration initiative last month, had charged the task force with completing its work by Friday.


Survey Says Amazon Is Top Destination For Online Holiday Shopping

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A majority of U.S. consumers plan to go to for most of their online holiday shopping, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, even after traditional retailers have collectively spent billions of dollars to try to capture Web demand.

The survey of 3,426 adults conducted from November 12 to 18 found that 51 percent plan to do most of their online shopping at Amazon this holiday season, compared to 16 percent at Walmart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy’s.

A little more than a quarter of respondents said they would use another retailer not listed in the poll.

The poll underscored the hurdles that traditional retailers faced in expanding online. Their own sales data this week showed that such efforts were falling short.

Target Corp said on Wednesday its digital sales grew 20 percent in the latest quarter, missing its expectations for a 30 percent gain. The discount retailer cited weakness in electronics demand.

A day earlier, Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported quarterly online sales growth of 10 percent, slower than its target growth in the mid-to-high-teens this fiscal year. Wal-Mart pointed to sluggish market conditions in China, Britain and Brazil, and said it fared better in the United States.

In contrast, Inc had posted a 28 percent jump in North American sales in its quarterly report last month.

“The Big Kahuna that continues to grab market share is Amazon,” said Craig Johnson, head of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. “Both Wal-Mart and to some extent Target have simply not kept pace enough.”

Johnson added that sluggish spending overall contributed to the weaker-than-expected online sales at Target and Wal-Mart, which also faced increased competition from other online retailers, such as Wayfair Inc.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 8 percent of adults said they plan to shop only online this year, compared to 6 percent a year earlier. The proportion of respondents who said they would shop mostly online remained steady at 17 percent.

All major retailers are investing in e-commerce.

Amazon Opens Bookstore In Seattle

November 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc has opened its first physical book store in Seattle, the company has announced.

The brick-and-mortar store, Amazon Books, is a physical extension of with books being selected based on customer ratings and pre-orders on

Popularity on Goodreads and curators’ assessments are also considered for short listing the books. The in-store and online prices of the books would be same, Amazon said on Monday.

The store will also have an option to test drive Amazon’s devices such as Kindle, Echo, Fire TV and Fire Tablet.

Amazon Books, which is located in Seattle’s University Village, will be open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, the company said.



Google Aims For Drone Package Delivery In 2017

November 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Technology titan Alphabet Inc the new holding company for Google, expects to begin delivering packages to consumers via drones sometime in 2017, the executive in charge of its drone effort said.

David Vos, the leader for Alphabet’s Project Wing, said his company is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders about setting up an air traffic control system for drones that would use cellular and Internet technology to coordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500 feet (152 meters).

“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” he told an audience at an air traffic control convention near Washington.

Alphabet and Inc are among a growing number of companies that intend to make package delivery by drone a reality. But drone deliveries are not expected to take flight until after the FAA publishes final rules for commercial drone operations, which are expected early next year.

Two years after initial research began, Project Wing was announced in August 2014 with a YouTube video showing a field test of its most viable prototype in Australia.

The prototype flown in Australia, 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide and 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) tall, shares the same four-propeller quad copter design as popular consumer drones, but the company said consumers can expect to see new vehicle types and shapes as the project unfolds.

Inside the United States, Project Wing has conducted testing with NASA.

Vos, who is co-chair of an FAA task force charged with coming up with a drone registry, said a system for identifying drone operators and keeping UAV away from other aircraft could be set up within 12 months.

“We’re pretty much on a campaign here, working with the FAA, working with the small UAV community and the aviation community at large, to move things along,” he said.

Vos said a drone registry, which the Obama administration hopes to set in place by Dec. 20, would be a first step toward a system that could use wireless telecommunications and Internet technology including cellphone applications to identify drones and keep UAV clear of other aircraft and controlled airspace.



Microsoft To Make It Easier For Counterfeiters To Get Genuine Windows

November 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will make it somewhat easier for machines running counterfeit copies of Windows to get legal as they upgrade to the newest edition, Windows 10, the company’s top OS executive said.

“We’ll offer a one-click opportunity to get Genuine via the Windows Store or by entering an activation code purchased elsewhere,” said Terry Myerson, who heads Microsoft’s Windows and devices teams, which were recently reorganized under the “More Personal Computing” umbrella.

“Genuine” is Microsoft’s nomenclature for a legal license to its software.

Myerson said that the move, which he called experimental, would debut “soon” in the U.S. and would be expanded to other markets if it works here. “We’d like to welcome as many of these customers as possible to the legitimate Windows ecosystem,” he added in a post to a Microsoft blog.

The company will not give away Windows 10 to those whose PCs are powered by a pirated version, sticking with the decision it made earlier this year after some considerable back and forth.

In March, Myerson was quoted by Reuters as saying that pirated copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 could be upgraded to Windows 10 under a just-announced free upgrade program that Microsoft later kicked off in July. At the time, Microsoft confirmed that Myerson’s comments to the wire service were accurate, leading to conclusions that the company was offering an unprecedented amnesty.

But within hours, the Redmond, Wash.-based company took back that confirmation, saying that although pirates could upgrade to Windows 10, the operating system would still be stamped as counterfeit.

Microsoft is able to streamline a get-legal move by pirates because of a recent change to the way Windows 10 activates, a process that pairs a device with a legitimate copy of the operating system.

The same mechanism will be used to activate a non-Genuine copy of an older version upgraded to Windows 10. Users will purchase a license, and thus a product key code, from Microsoft or third-party retailers like Amazon and, then enter it into Windows 10 to make their software legit.




Oracle’s New M7 Processor Has Security On Silicon

October 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Oracle started shipping systems based on its latest Sparc M7 processor, which the firm said will go a long way to solving the world’s online security problems by building protection into the silicon.

The Sparc M7 chip was originally unveiled at last year’s Openworld show in San Francisco, and was touted at the time as a Heartbleed-prevention tool.

A year on, and Oracle announced the Oracle SuperCluster M7, along with Sparc T7 and M7 servers, at the show. The servers are all based on the 32-core, 256-thread M7 microprocessor, which offers Security in Silicon for better intrusion protection and encryption, and SQL in Silicon for improved database efficiency.

Along with built-in security, the SuperCluster M7 packs compute, networking and storage hardware with virtualisation, operating system and management software into one giant cloud infrastructure box.

Oracle CTO Larry Ellison was on hand at Openworld on Tuesday to explain why the notion of building security into the silicon is so important.

“We are not winning a lot of these cyber battles. We haven’t lost the war but we’re losing a lot of the battles. We have to rethink how we deliver technology especially as we deliver vast amounts of data to the cloud,” he told delegates.

Ellison said that Oracle’s approach to this cyber war is to take security as low down in the stack as possible.

“Database security is better than application security. You should always push security as low in the stack as possible. At the bottom of the stack is silicon. If all of your data in the database is encrypted, that’s better than having an application code that encrypts your data. If it’s in the database, every application that uses that database inherits that security,” he explained.

“Silicon security is better than OS security. Then every operating system that runs on that silicon inherits that security. And the last time I checked, even the best hackers have not figured out a way to download changes to your microprocessor. You can’t alter the silicon, that’s really tricky.”

Ellison’s big idea is to take software security features out of operating systems, VMs and even databases in some cases – because software can be changed – and instead push them into the silicon, which can’t be. He is also urging for security to be switched on as default, without an option to turn it back off again.

“The security features should always be on. We provide encryption in our databases but it can be switched off. That is a bad idea. There should be no way to turn off encryption. The idea of being able to turn on and off security features makes no sense,” he said.

Ellison referred back to a debate that took place at Oracle when it first came up with its backup system – should the firm have only encrypted backups. “We did a customer survey and customers said no, we don’t want to pay the performance penalty in some cases,” he recalled. “In that case customer choice is a bad idea. Maybe someone will forget to turn on encryption when it should have been turned on and you lose 10 million credit cards.”

The Sparc M7 is basically Oracle’s answer to this dire security situation. Ellison said that while the M7 has lots of software features built into the silicon, the most “charismatic” of these is Silicon Secured Memory, which is “deceptively simple” in how it works.

“Every time a computer program asks for memory, say you ask for 8MB of memory, we compute a key and assign this large number to that 8MB of memory,” he explained. “We take those bits and we lock that memory. We also assign that same number to the program. Every time the program accesses memory, we check that number to make sure it’s the memory you allocated earlier. That compare is done by the hardware.”


If a program tries to access memory belonging to another program, the hardware detects a mismatch and raises a signal, flagging up a possible breach or bug.

“We put always-on memory intrusion detection into the silicon. We’re always looking for Heartbleed and Venom-like violations. You cannot turn it off,” the CTO warned.

“We’ve also speeded up encryption and decompression, which is kind of related to encryption. It runs at memory speed there’s zero cost in doing that. We turn it on, you can’t turn it off, it’s on all the time. It’s all built into the M7.”

Ellison claimed that running M7-based systems will stop threats like Heartbleed and Venom in their tracks.

“The way Venom worked, the floppy disc driver concealed this code. It’s the worst kind of situation, you’re writing into memory you’re not supposed to. You’re writing computer instructions into the memory and you’ve just taken over the whole computer,” he explained. “You can steal and change data. M7 – the second we tried to write that code into memory that didn’t belong to that program, where the keys didn’t match, that would have been detected real-time and that access would have been foiled.

All well and good, except for the fact that nearly every current computer system doesn’t run off the M7 processor. Ellison claimed that even if only three or four percent of servers in the cloud an organisation is using have this feature, they will be protected as they’ll get the early warning to then deal with the issue across non-M7 systems.

“You don’t have to replace every micro processor, you just have to replace a few so you get the information real-time,” he added.

“You’ll see us making more chips based on security, to secure our cloud and to sell to people who want to secure their clouds or who want to have secure computers in their datacentre. Pushing security down into silicon is a very effective way to do that and get ahead of bad guys.”

SuperCluster M7 and Sparc M7 servers are available now. Pricing has not been disclosed but based on normal Oracle hardware costs, expect to dig deep to afford one.



Now Walmart Wants In On Drones For Home Deliveries

October 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc have applied to U.S. regulators for permission to test drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and checking warehouse inventories, a sign it plans to go head-to-head with Amazon in using drones to fill and deliver online orders.

The world’s largest retailer by revenue has for several months been conducting indoor tests of small unmanned aircraft systems – the term regulators use for drones – and is now seeking for the first time to test the machines outdoors. It plans to use drones manufactured by China’s SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd.

In addition to having drones take inventory of trailers outside its warehouses and perform other tasks aimed at making its distribution system more efficient, Wal-Mart is asking the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to research drone use in “deliveries to customers at Walmart facilities, as well as to consumer homes,” according to a copy of the application reviewed by Reuters.

The move comes as Inc, Google and other companies test drones in the expectation that the FAA will soon establish rules for their widespread commercial use. FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said in June that the agency expected to finalize regulations within the next 12 months, faster than previously planned. Commercial drone use is currently illegal, though companies can apply for exemptions.

The FAA will review Wal-Mart’s petition to determine whether it is similar enough to earlier successful applications to be fast-tracked, or whether it would set a precedent for exemptions, requiring regulators to conduct a detailed risk analysis and seek public comment, agency spokesman Les Dorr said. The FAA normally aims to respond to such petitions in 120 days. Amazon has said it would be ready to begin delivering packages to customers via drones as soon as federal rules allow.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Toporek said the company would move quickly to deploy drones depending on its tests and regulations.



Amazon To Add 100,000 Jobs To Tackle Holiday Season

October 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc announced that it will be adding 100,000 seasonal jobs across its network of fulfillment and sorting centers in the United States to meet increased customer demand during the holiday season.

Amazon has hired more than 25,000 full-time employees since August to prepare for the 2015 holiday season, the company said in a statement.

“Following last year’s holiday season, tens of thousands of seasonal employees found regular, full-time roles with Amazon,” said Mike Roth, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations.

The company had created 80,000 seasonal jobs last holiday season.

Amazon has more than 90,000 full-time employees across its more than 50 fulfillment and 20 sortation centers in the United States.



Uber, Shopify Team Up For Same-day Delivery Service

October 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc announced that it was partnering with taxi-hailing service Uber to help merchants deliver goods to customers on the same day in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

Shopify said the UberRUSH delivery service will be available to its merchants in the three cities immediately.

U.S. department stores such as Kohl’s and Macy’s Inc offer same-day delivery services via a tie-up with Deliv, an Uber-like startup that contracts drivers to pick up ordered items from stores and deliver them to customers.

The agreement with Uber is the latest in a series of major tie-ups announced by Ottawa-based Shopify. Last month, it inked a tie-up with the U.S. Postal Service, making it more attractive for smaller U.S. retailers to use its software to power their e-commerce sites.

Just prior to that, also made Shopify its preferred partner for smaller vendors that are seeking to sell their goods via the online retailing giant.

Although the rapid delivery services appear to compete with Amazon’s own speedy shipping options, the tie-ups with Uber and USPS will not put Shopify on a collision path with Amazon said Brennan Loh, Shopify’s head of product partnerships, who added that smaller vendors would still look to sell their products via Amazon due to its much broader reach, in comparison to their own portals.

“We are trying to alleviate as many pain points as merchants face when running their business,” said Loh. “The partnership with Uber is sort of another step in that direction.”

Shopify merchants can provide their customers with an option for UberRUSH delivery, the company said. Merchants can request an Uber pickup and both the customer and merchant can track the exact location from pickup to drop-off from Shopify.

Re/code reported last month that Uber was planning to tie-up with retailers and fashion brands.



Chip & Pin Cards Responsible For Netflix Subscriber Slowdown?

October 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video-streaming service provider Netflix Inc reported third-quarter U.S. subscriber growth below its own forecast, blaming a transition to chip-based cards for the miss.

Shares of Netflix, known for its original shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”, plummeted about 15 percent after the bell, before finally reversing most of the loss to trade down 2.4 percent.

U.S. credit and debit card companies have been shifting to chip-enabled cards ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline mandated for the switch.

For Netflix, the switch meant that many of the older cards on its file no longer worked as the companies gave new cards to their customers, leading to “involuntary churn,” as Chief Executive Reed Hastings put it in a letter to shareholders.

“It’s just the dumbest thing I’ve heard,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett said the issue around the chip cards is particularly confusing, given that these cards have been around for a bit.

“It begs a million questions,” he said.

Netflix said on Wednesday it added 0.88 million U.S. subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with its forecast of 1.15 million.

“The slowdown in U.S. subscriber growth was particularly disappointing because one would expect that since Netflix just raised rates last week, this number would have been strong,” said Crockett.

Netflix increased the subscription rate for some new members earlier this month by $1.00 a month to $9.99 in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Internationally, Netflix added 2.74 million subscribers, compared with its projection of 2.40 million.

Netflix, which is also battling competition from streaming services such as Inc’s Prime Video service and Hulu, has been aggressively building its overseas presence.

The company said it was in the “early stages” of its China entry and said it was “still learning a lot”.

Netflix said in July its plans to enter China in 2016 could be delayed.

Netflix is being “more adventurous” on the news side, company executives said on a post-earnings conference call.

The company added it was not looking at live sports as an offering currently.


Facebook Moves Into E-commerce With Shopping Feature

October 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc wants its users to buy clothes and other products from their mobile phones without ever leaving its app.

In an effort to move further into e-commerce and compete with Amazon Inc’s retail offerings, Facebook announced that it is testing several ad features that allow users to shop directly through its app.

Few users make purchases on mobile phones because it is slow and cumbersome, but Facebook hopes to win over more ad dollars by smoothing the process. Mobile purchases make up less than 2 percent of all retail sales, according to research firm eMarketer.

“We’re looking to give people an easier way to find products that will be interesting to them on mobile, make shopping easier and help businesses drive sales,” said Emma Rodgers, Facebook’s head of product marketing for commerce.

Among the new features are ads that take a user through a specific brand’s products without redirecting them to another site. For example, a user who clicks on an ad from a boutique could see an expanded page that displays numerous clothing items.

Businesses on Facebook will also be able to display products for purchase directly on their own pages. And users will be able to purchase products directly on Facebook through a “buy now” button that will be more widely available.

The 1.5-billion-member social network has also added a new section on its app that takes users directly to a shopping page where they can browse among numerous brands from a select group of small businesses that will gradually expand.

“From Facebook’s perspective, they’re addressing a pain point for retailers,” said Catherine Boyle, an analyst at eMarketer. “They will attract serious ad dollars with this offering.”


Alibaba Adds Second Data Center in Silicon Valley

October 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Continuing the expansion of its AliCloud cloud computing business, Alibaba Group is adding a second data center in Silicon Valley.

The Chinese company said the data center will span over 10 cloud services including Elastic Compute Service, offering scalable computing services, an Analytic Database Service that provides real-time, high-concurrency online analytical processing, and a Cloud Monitor System using an open platform for the real-time monitoring of sites and servers.

Alibaba did not respond to a request for more information on the new data center.

The company said earlier this year that it was investing US$1 billion in its cloud computing business.  It launched its first data center in Silicon Valley in March, confirming its ambitions to enter the U.S. market.

The new data center is designed to accommodate the cloud and big data requirements of customers in the U.S. West Coast for the next three to five years, the company said. Alibaba has been targeting Chinese enterprises in the U.S, but it eventually wants to also attract U.S. firms there.

The launch of a data center in Silicon Valley enables Internet companies in China to expand their businesses in North America, Simon Hu, president of Alibaba cloud computing, said in May. Beyond that, the strategy would be predicated on consumer demand, the executive said ahead of the launch of the second data center in California.

Although smaller than some of its peers like Amazon Web Services, the company is rated by analysts as the largest cloud services provider in China,  and has the opportunity to expand its business in Asia and other markets as some of its Chinese customers expand their operations outside China.



Target To Match Amazon, Walmart Online Prices

October 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Target Corp says that it will match its online prices with more than two dozen online competitors including and Wal-Mart Stores Inc from Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The change in policy is a huge change for the fourth-largest U.S. retailer, which until now only matched prices at its own stores and not at online rivals, AP said.

Target is increasing the number of online rivals that it will match from five to 29, including for the first time stores that require membership, such as Costco Wholesale Corp and Sam’s Club.

Target will now allow 14 days, up from seven days, for shoppers to get a price adjustment, AP said.

This is the company’s latest move under Chief Executive Brian Cornell, who has sought to narrow the retailer’s focus to a handful of product lines where Target believes it has an edge on quality and price while also investing to catch up with rivals online.