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Twitter Woes Continue, User Growth Rate Slows

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc’s shares continued to drop after the microblogging company said its number of monthly average users grew at the slowest pace since it went public in 2013.

“This is unacceptable and we’re not happy about it,” Jack Dorsey, who stepped in as interim chief executive on July 1, said on a call with analysts.

Twitter said it had 304 million core users in the second quarter, up from 302 million in the prior quarter.

Twitter’s struggles to increase its audience worries investors, who are focused on the company’s growth potential, and the latest figures did little to reassure them.

The data on users overshadowed the company’s second-quarter earnings and revenue, which exceeded expectations, and its bullish projections for future revenue.

Executives also made clear it would be a long process, and were candid about problems with the service.

“We do not expect to see sustained meaningful growth (in monthly active users) until we start to reach the mass market,” Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said on the call.

“We have not clearly communicated Twitter’s unique value. And as a result non-users continue to ask, ‘Why should I use Twitter?’ “Simply said, the product remains too difficult to use.”

Twitter recognizes “there is an issue that needs to be worked on,” Evercore ISI analyst Ken Sena said. “They were giving investors a sense of the challenge and I think the stock sell-off that you saw just reflected that.”

 

 

 

Nokia Unveils Virtual Reality Camera

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Finland’s Nokia, once the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, has debuted a spherical camera designed for making 3D movies and games that can be watched and played with virtual reality headsets.

The device, showcased at an event in Los Angeles, takes video and audio in 360 degrees with eight sensors and microphones, and is the first from Nokia’s digital media solutions business — one of its new focuses for future growth.

Nokia is going through restructuring after selling its mobile phone business to Microsoft last year and following that up with a proposed 15.6 billion euro ($17.2 billion) acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, which is set to boost its main network equipment business.

“We expect that virtual reality experiences will soon radically enhance the way people communicate and connect to stories, entertainment, world events and each other,” Nokia executive Ramzi Haidamus said in a statement.

In May, GoPro introduced a similar system using 16 cameras and Google’s software, while several other technology companies such as Facebook and Samsung have announced different plans to enter the virtual reality market.

Nokia is also planning to come back to the phone business by designing and licensing handsets once its deal with Microsoft allows it to do that late next year.

 

 

 

The NSA Plans To Stop Snooping Bulk Data

July 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The National Security Agency has said that it will end its access to most bulk data collected under a controversial surveillance program in November, but keep records for litigation purposes.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the bulk telephony data — the subject of leaks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden which shocked many in the US and abroad — would be destroyed “as soon as possible” to comply with a law passed by Congress in early June.

The statement said that during the 180-day transition period required under the USA Freedom Act, “analytic access to that historical metadata… will cease on November 29, 2015.”

But it added that “for data integrity purposes,” NSA will allow technical personnel to continue to have access to the metadata for an additional three months.

The NSA must preserve bulk telephony metadata collection “until civil litigation about the program is resolved, or the relevant courts relieve NSA of such duties.”

The data kept for litigation “will not be used or accessed for any other purpose, and, as soon as possible, NSA will destroy the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata on expiration of its litigation preservation duties.”

Courtesy-Fud

NSA To Lose Access To Bulk Phone Data In November

July 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. National Security Agency will no longer have access to the bulk telephone records data it has collected at the end of November, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced .

Congress voted in June to rein in the NSA’s mass collection of U.S. phone metadata, which includes information such as the timing and location of calls. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, then gave the NSA 180 days to wind down the program.

The Director of National Intelligence had been evaluating whether the NSA should maintain access to the historical data it collected after that 180 days is up. It’s now determined that access to that data will cease on Nov. 29.

After that date, the NSA must receive approval from the FISA court to request the data from phone companies on a case-by-case basis.

NSA personnel will have continued access to the historical data for an additional three months, “solely for data integrity purposes” to verify records produced under that new, case-by-case system.

The NSA will also need to preserve the metadata until civil lawsuits over the program have been resolved, or until “the relevant courts relieve NSA of such obligations,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Monday.

The metadata “will not be used for any other purpose,” and will be destroyed when the litigation is over, the office said.

 

 

Car And Pedestrian Collision App Coming Soon

July 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A safety system that links vehicles and smartphones to stop those heart-stopping near misses between cars and pedestrians could be standardized by the end of this year.

The technology involves smartphones broadcasting data over a short-range radio channel to nearby cars, so the cars can determine if a collision is likely. Unlike today’s radar-based systems, this has the ability to warn around blind corners and can alert both the driver and pedestrian.

It’s being developed by engineers at Honda and was demonstrated last week at the company’s new research and development center in Mountain View, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley.

In the demonstration that took place in a parking lot, a car was slowly cruising a row looking for a space. Ahead, and unseen to the driver, a pedestrian was walking between a car and SUV while listening to music, and was about to step into the path of the oncoming vehicle.

Seconds before the pedestrian could emerge and the two come close to collision, an alert sounded in the car: “Distracted pedestrian” and a warning appeared on the car’s LCD screen to brake. The pedestrian too got a similar alert, telling him to watch out. If the driver hadn’t hit the brakes, the car would have automatically come to a halt.

Honda has been working on the technology for three years and the first iteration is expected to be submitted for standardization around the end of this year, said Sue Bai, a principal engineer at Honda R&D, who has been developing it.

he communication takes place over a channel in the 5.9GHz band that is dedicated for intelligent transportation systems. That’s a frequency not used in current smartphones, but close enough that Qualcomm engineers were able to come up with a firmware modification so that it works on an off-the-shelf handset. No custom hardware is required in the phone.

 

 

Can OSX Make Macs Vulnerable To Rootkits?

July 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The software genii at Apple have redesigned their OSX software to allow malware makers to make designer micro-software that can infect Macs with rootkits.

Obviously the feature is one that Apple software experts designed specifically for malware writers, perhaps seeing them as an untapped market.

The bug in the latest version of Apple’s OS X allows attackers root user privileges with a micro code which could be packed into a message.

Security researcher Stefan Esser said that this was the security hole attackers regularly exploit to bypass security protections built into modern operating systems and applications.

The OS X privilege-escalation flaw stems from new error-logging features that Apple added to OS X 10.10. Plainly the software genii did not believe that standard safeguards involving additions to the OS X dynamic linker dyld applied to them because they were protected from harm by Steve Job’s ghost.

This means that attackers to open or create files with root privileges that can reside anywhere in the OS X file system.

“This is obviously a problem, because it allows the creation or opening (for writing) of any file in the filesystem. And because the log file is never closed by dyld and the file is not opened with the close on exec flag the opened file descriptor is inherited by child processes of SUID binaries. This can be easily exploited for privilege-escalation,” Esser said.

The vulnerability is present in both the current 10.10.4 (Yosemite) version of OS X and the current beta version of 10.10.5. Importantly, the current beta version of 10.11 is free of the flaw, an indication that Apple developers may already be aware of the vulnerability.

An Apple spokesman said that engineers are aware of Esser’s post of course they did not say they would do anything about it. They will have to go through the extensional crisis involved in realising that their product was not secure or perfect. Then the security team will have to issue orders, signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to an internal inquiry, lost again, and finally bury it in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.

Courtesy-Fud

Best Buy To Begin Selling Apple Watch In August

July 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple Watch will go on sale at stores of Best Buy Co Inc, the largest U.S.consumer electronics chain, starting Aug. 7.

The Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models will be sold at more than 300 Best Buy stores in time for the holiday shopping season, a spokeswoman for Apple Inc  said.

“Customers love Apple Watch, and we are thrilled to begin offering it at Best Buy,” she said in an email.

Best Buy is the first retailer to sell the watch outside of the Apple retail store.

“The Apple Watch is an important addition to an emerging product category, and we know our customers want it,” Jason Bonfig, senior category officer, said on the Best Buy website.

The company said the product will also be available on its online store BestBuy.com.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Apple watch was coming to Best Buy.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters earlier this month that sales of the Apple Watch had beat the company’s expectations. He said in the nine weeks since its launch in late April, the device had sold better than either iPhones or iPads over a similar period after their launch.

 

 

Apple Offering Free Beats Headphones For Back-to-school Promo

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple launched its annual back-to-school promotion in the U.S., switching the deal to a free pair of Beats headphones for customers who buy eligible Macs.

The promotion launched later this year than in the past: In 2014, for example, Apple started its back-to-school campaign July 1.

Buyers who purchase a qualifying Mac between now and Sept. 18 receive a $199.95 credit toward a a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones, which list for that amount. Alternately, the credit can be applied to a pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, which run $299.95, making the out-of-pocket expense $100.

The promotion launches today in Apple’s retail stores and participating authorized on-campus stores but won’t appear on the company’s e-store until Aug. 6.

9to5Mac.com first reported on the promotion earlier today.

This year’s back-to-school promotion gives parents of college students and incoming freshmen, and teachers and staff members of all grade levels — including K-12 — the credit when they buy a new iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. Unlike years past, iPads and iPhones do not qualify.

For the last four years, Apple has handed out gift cards and maxed the amount of the offer at $100. Before that, a more generous Apple gave rebates of up to $300 toward the purchase of an iPod Touch.

Educational discounts on the hardware also apply. MacBooks and MacBook Airs are reduced by $50 for parents of students and for faculty and staff. The discounts on other products are $100 on MacBook Pros, $100 to $200 on Retina 5K iMacs, $50 to $100 on iMacs, and $200 to $300 on Mac Pros.

 

 

 

Microsoft Set To Release Advanced Threat Analytics

July 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is very close to releasing Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) the security sure-up that it first announced three months ago.

ATA, or MATA as we called it for our own small amusement, is the result of three months’ real world testing, and the culmination of enough user feedback to inform a final release.

That final release will happen in August, which should give you plenty of time to get your head around it.

Hmmm. Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Analytics seems like a very good idea focused on the enterprise.

— Kevin Jones (@vcsjones) May 4, 2015

Idan Plotnik, who leads the ATA team at Microsoft, explained in an Active Directory Team Blog post that the firm is working towards removing blind spots from security analytics, and that this release should provide a strong and hardy tool for the whacking away of hacking.

“Many security monitoring and management solutions fail to show you the real picture and provide false alarms. We’ve taken a different approach with Microsoft ATA,” he said.

“Our secret sauce is our combination of network Deep Packet Inspection, information about the entities from Active Directory, and analysis of specific events.

“With this unique approach, we give you the ability to detect advanced attacks and stolen credentials, and view all suspicious activities on an easy to consume, simple to explore, social media feed like attack timeline.”

The Microsoft approach is an on-premise device that detects and analyses threats as they happen and on a retrospective basis. Plotnik said that it combines machine learning and knowledge about existing techniques and tactics to proactively protect systems.

“ATA detects many kinds of abnormal user behaviour many of which are strong indicators of attacks. We do this by using behavioural analytics powered by advanced machine learning to uncover questionable activities and abnormal behaviour,” he added.

“This gives the ability for ATA to show you attack indicators like anomalous log-ins, abnormal working hours, password sharing, lateral movement and unknown threats.”

A number of features will be added to the preview release, including performance improvements and the ability to deal with more traffic, before general availability next month.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Unveils ‘Send’ Mobile App

July 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft unveiled a mobile-minded alternative to email that’s focused primarily on short, quick messages.

Named Send, the new tool aims to deliver a simple experience much like that offered by text messaging or instant messaging software but without the need to know a co-worker’s mobile number or username. Instead, Send lets users quickly fire off a message to any co-worker using just their email address; no subject line, salutations or signatures are required.

“On my way,” might be one example, or “Are you in the office today?”

The app connects to Office 365 business and school email accounts to find frequent and recent contacts; users need only tap on one to start a conversation. A “Quick Reply” option allows for speedy responses.

That Office 365 connection, meanwhile, also means conversations are synced with Outlook, letting users continue them from anywhere. Messages sent using Send are treated internally like any other work email and comply with an organization’s email compliance policies, Microsoft said.

Send is now available free for iPhone through the Microsoft Garage in the U.S. and Canada. Versions for Windows Phone and Android are coming soon, as are additional IT controls. Currently the app works with Office 365 business and school email accounts, but Microsoft plans to make it more broadly available in the coming months, it said.

 

 

 

Microsoft To Open Source Radio Code

July 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has begun to open source some more of its code, this time for the Microsoft Research Software Radio (Sora).

“We believe that a fully open source Sora will better support the research community for more scientific innovation,” said Kun Tan, a senior researcher on the Sora project team.

Sora was created to combat the problem of creating software radio that could keep up with the hardware developments going on around it.

The idea behind it is to run the radio off software on a multi-core PC running a basic operating system. In the example, it uses Windows. But then it would.

A PCIe radio control board is added to the machine with signals processed by the software for transmission and reception, while the RF front-end, with its own memory, interfaces with other devices.

The architecture also supports parallel processing by distributing processing pipelines to multiple cores exclusively for real-time SDR tasks.

Sora has already won a number of awards, and the Sora SDK and API were released in 2011 for academic users. More than 50 institutions now use it for research or courses.

As such, and in line with the groovy open Microsoft ethos, the software has now been completely open sourced, with customizable RF front-ends, customizable RCB with timing control and synchronization, processing accelerators and support for new communication models such as duplex radios.

The Sora source code is now up on GitHub. Use cases already in place include TV whitespace, large scale MIMO and distributed MIMO systems.

Microsoft has made a number of moves towards open sourcing itself over the past year. Most notably, The .NET Framework at the heart of most Windows programs was offered up to the newly created .NET Foundation.

It was announced yesterday that Google is releasing its Kubernetes code to the Linux Foundation to set up a standardized format for containerization.

Courtesy-Fud

HP Goes After Security In Smartwatches

July 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

HP has released a study suggesting that anyone who uses a smartwatch is offering their wrist to vagabonds, criminals and privacy probers.

Blam! HP ain’t messing. “You got a smartwatch?” it says. “Then damn, son, you are in trouble!”*

A report apparently straight outta HP finds that the smartwatch lets us all down by not doing encryption right, not considering privacy and using second rate authentication.

In the current threat market, this would be a pretty much a full house of problems and pretty bad form on the part of providers like Apple.

Security firm Bitdefender has wrapped itself around the study, and describes the threat as “extreme” in its reporting of the HP smartwatch horror story.

The INQUIRER has not been able to find the report, but it has found mention of it. We shall turn to what we can while our inquiries hang in PR purgatory.

ESET has its own report on the study and offers advice on securing wearable technology, including smartwatches, on its website.

The security firm quotes from the report, saying that HP security personnel are fretting about increased adoption and the rising tide of threats.

“Smartwatches have only started to become a part of our lives, but they deliver a new level of functionality and we will increasingly use them for sensitive tasks,” Jyoti Prakash, country director for India and south Asia at HP Enterprise Security Products, is quoted as saying.

“As this activity accelerates, the watch platform will become vastly more attractive to those who would abuse that access, and it’s critical that we take precautions when transmitting personal sensitive data or bringing smartwatches into the workplace.”

The best practice if a zombie has bitten your arm and infected you with a virus, for example, would be to chop it off. Your arm, that is.

Here, we suggest that perhaps you consider what you share, where you share it and what you share it on as your best response.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Walmart Buys Out Chinese E-commerce Yihaodian

July 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc acquired full ownership of Chinese e-commerce firm Yihaodian.com, buying out the 49 percent stake that it did not already own to accelerate its push online, the U.S. retail giant announced.

The investment will help Wal-Mart target China’s fast-growing online market at a time when largely brick and mortar retailers are feeling the pinch of competition from online rivals and a slowing of the world’s second-largest economy.

Wal-Mart’s move also comes after China said last month it will allow full foreign ownership of some e-commerce businesses, with the goal of encouraging foreign investment and the development and competitiveness of the sector.

“[Yihaodian's] local experience, combined with Walmart’s global sourcing and our strong local retail presence and supply chain will allow us to deliver low prices on the products customers need in new and exciting ways,” Neil Ashe, head of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division, said in a statement.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, added the purchase of the stake would help accelerate its e-commerce business in China and boost coordination between its physical and online stores. It did not disclose the price paid for the stake, which was bought from former executives and financial services group Ping An.

Wal-Mart’s Asia head Scott Price told Reuters earlier this year that online retail was important to help tap China’s younger generations and that the firm would increasingly look to weave together its online and offline presence in the market.

Wal-Mart, France’s Carrefour SA and Britain’s Tesco PLC have all seen sales growth slip over the last five years in China, losing market share to local rivals, according to consumer analytics firm Kantar Worldpanel.

The U.S. retailer also announced on Thursday that company insider Wang Lu will take the helm at Yihaodian. The e-commerce firm’s CEO and Chairman had quit earlier this month “to pursue their next venture”.

 

 

 

ZTE To Offer High-end Axon Smartphone In U.S.

July 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese mobile brands don’t normally stir much interest in the U.S., so when ZTE teased its newest smartphone, the Axon, it initially didn’t mention the company at all.

The company’s online promotions in advance of the launch featured a mysterious high-end Android device. The marketing scheme paid off, according to Adam Zeng, CEO of ZTE’s mobile devices business, sparking media interest. It even caused some to wonder if the product was Korean-made, since Chinese brands have a low-end image to U.S. consumers, according to Zeng.

ZTE was happy to clear up any preconceived notions. “Chinese brands can also come out with top-tier products,” Zeng maintained.

The Axon is a premium handset that the company claims can rival flagship phones from Apple, Samsung and LG.

It is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in early August, and is already available for pre-order, with a no-contract price of $449. That’s about $200 less than an iPhone 6 when bought without carrier subsidies. But consumers are still getting the latest in smartphone technology.

For the Axon, this includes a 2560 by 1440 screen, an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 4GB of RAM, all fitted in a sleek metal case with leather on the back cover.

Zeng noted that it took ZTE 18 months to develop the product. The company wanted to make sure it had everything, such as the ability to shoot 4K video, and a rear-facing camera with dual lenses.

ZTE kept pushing the phone’s launch date back to include more features, Zeng said. It also tapped talent from North America, hiring Seattle-based design firm Teague and former BlackBerry employees to help build the product.

ZTE has been expanding in the U.S., although competition remains stiff. In this year’s first quarter, it was ranked as the U.S.’s sixth largest smartphone vendor, with a 4.5 percent market share, according to research firm IDC. Industry leaders Apple and Samsung, on the other hand, have a combined market share of 62 percent.

 

 

 

 

HP To Use Wind Power

July 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP has proclaimed that it will buy 12 years of wind power from SunEdison and use it to run a new data centre in Texas.

The firm’s embracing of the wind market follows similar commitments from Facebook, which is planning to run its newest centre, the fifth so far, on wind power alone.

HP said that the 12-year purchase agreement will provide 112MW of wind power sourced from SunEdison and its nearby facilities.

The company said that 112MW could power some 40,000 homes, and will save more than 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.

HP added that the deal puts the firm well on the way to meeting its green goals this year, five years earlier than the 2020 previously stated.

The renewable energy purchase is a first for HP and will power the new 1.5 million square foot data centre in Texas.

“This agreement represents the latest step we are taking on HP’s journey to reduce our carbon footprint across our entire value chain, while creating a stronger, more resilient company and a sustainable world,” said Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president and chief progress officer for corporate affairs at HP.

“It’s an important milestone in driving HP Living Progress as we work to create a better future for everyone through our actions and innovations.”

SunEdison, which HP calls the “world’s largest renewable energy development company”, is predictably excited to be the provider chosen to put the wind up HP servers.

“Wind-generated electricity represents a good business opportunity for Texas and for HP,” said Paul Gaynor, executive vice president, Americas and EMEA, at SunEdison.

“By powering its data centres with renewable energy, HP is taking an important step toward a clean energy future while lowering operating costs.

“At the same time, HP’s commitment allows us to build this project which creates valuable local jobs and ensures Texan electricity customers get cost-effective energy.”

Courtesy-TheInq