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Flickering Hard Drive LED Can Be Used By Hackers

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The mostly ignored blinking lights on servers and desktop PCs may give away secrets if a hacker can hijack them with malware.

Researchers in Israel have come up with an innovative hack that turns a computer’s LED light into a signaling system that shows passwords and other sensitive data.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev demonstrated the hack in a YouTube video posted Wednesday. It shows a hacked computer broadcasting the data through a computer’s LED light, with a drone flying nearby reading the pattern.

The researchers designed the scheme to underscore vulnerabilities of air-gapped systems, or computers that have been intentionally disconnected from the internet.

Air-gapped systems generally carry highly confidential information or operate critical infrastructure. But the researchers have been coming up with sneaky ways to extract data from these computers, like using the noise from the PC’s fan or hard drive to secretly broadcast the information to a nearby smartphone.

Their latest hack leverages the LED activity light for the hard disk drive, which can be found on many servers and desktop PCs and is used to indicate when memory is read or written.

The researchers found that with malware, they could control the LED light to emit binary signals by flashing on and off. That flickering could send out a maximum of 4,000 bits per second, or enough to leak out passwords, encryption keys and files, according to their paper. It’s likely no one would notice anything wrong.

“The hard drive LED flickers frequently, and therefore the user won’t be suspicious about changes in its activity,” said Mordechai Guri, who led the research, in a statement.

To read the signals from the LED light, all that’s needed is a camera or an optical sensor to record the patterns. The researchers found they could read the signal from 20 meters away from outside a building. With an optical zoom lens, that range could be even longer.

It wouldn’t be easy for hackers to pull off this trick. They’d have to design malware to control the LED light and then somehow place it on an air-gapped system, which typically is heavily protected.

They’d also need to find a way to read the signals from the LED light. To do so, a bad actor might hijack a security camera inside the building or fly a drone to spy through a window at night.

However, the danger of an LED light being hijacked can be easy to solve. The researchers recommend placing a piece of tape over the light, or disconnecting it from the computer.

Verizon Bringing 5G To 11 U.S. Cities

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc has announced that it would begin offering its high-speed wireless 5G network to certain customers in 11 U.S. cities in the first half of 2017.

Verizon will begin pilot testing 5G “pre-commercial services” in cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The company had said last July that it laid out plans to conduct trials for its 5G network this year.

New 5G networks are expected to provide speeds at least 10 times and up to maybe 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks, with the potential to connect at least 100 billion devices with download speeds that can reach 10 gigabits per second.

AT&T Inc said in January that it planned to test its high-speed wireless 5G network for customers of its online streaming television service, DirecTv Now, in Austin, Texas.

New Qualcomm, Intel Modems Boasts LTE Speeds Greater Than 1Gbps

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

With every new generation of smartphone, LTE connections gain more speed. That’s because the devices have faster modems that can transfer data at previously unheard of download speeds.

The top modem providers are Intel and Qualcomm, whose cellular chips are used in the iPhone. Both have announced modems that will push LTE connections to speeds well over those of regular home internet connections.

Qualcomm unveiled the X20 LTE chipset, which can transfer data at speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. Intel announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, which can download data at speeds of up to 1Gbps.

However, cellular networks aren’t yet designed to handle such fast speeds. One exception is Telstra, an Australian telecommunications company, which has launched a gigabit LTE service for commercial use in that country.

Gigabit LTE will slowly start appearing in mobile devices and networks this year, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“This is making 4G what it was intended to be — a true wireless broadband solution,” McGregor said.

These performance bumps are important as users handle more data,  McGregor said.

“We’ve seen this with microprocessors for years,” McGregor said.

Qualcomm said its Snapdragon X20 modem will become available next year, and McGregor estimated it will be in devices soon after. Intel said its XMM 7560 is ready, but couldn’t say when handsets would come out.

Most users may not need LTE speeds of 1.2Gbps, especially when using apps like Uber, Snapchat and WhatsApp. But more PCs are getting LTE connectivity, and could use the speed for high-end applications.

Qualcomm, a modem pioneer, is trying to stay a step ahead of Intel in the rat race to rev up LTE modems. Intel is speeding up modem development as wireless connectivity becomes an essential part of computing, said Aicha Evans, senior vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group at Intel.

he new modems are also a stepping stone to 5G, the next-generation cellular network technology that Evans estimated could deliver speeds of more than 45Gbps. Beyond mobile devices, 5G will be used for machine-to-machine communications and will be a standard feature in a wide range of devices including PCs, robots, drones and internet of things devices.

The Snapdragon X20 LTE chipset is a CAT 18 modem and supports a wide range of cellular technologies that could make it work in most countries worldwide. The chip supports carrier aggregation and data transfers over multiple streams. It works with 40 cellular frequency bands and supports technologies like Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE broadcast.

Intel’s XMM 7560 is a CAT 16 modem and supports carrier aggregation across multiple spectrums. The chip maker has already readied its first 5G modem, and the company now says it has silicon ready for that chip.

Facebook Launches App For Smart TVs

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc is launching an app for smart TVs that will aid the social network’s users in being able to view its videos on a larger screens.

The app will roll out soon from app stores for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and Amazon Fire TV, the company said in a blogpost on Tuesday.

The blogpost also said users can scroll through their news feed and simultaneously watch videos on their timeline.

 Sound also fades in and out as one scrolls through videos in news feed now. Videos in news feed have previously played silently — one needed to tap on a video to hear its sound.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook was creating an app for TV set-top boxes that would bring the company closer to live video and video advertisements.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg during a post-earnings call said this month that the company expected a major ramp-up in hiring and other spending during 2017 as it invests in video and other priorities.

The company last year expanded its live video product, Facebook Live – a potential threat to broadcast television.

Is Wireless Charging Finally Making It To The Next iPhone?

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s next three models of the iPhone — the iPhone 8 and two updated versions of  iPhone 7 — will finally contain a long-awaited feature: wireless charging, according to an industry analyst with a track record of being right about the company’s plans.

The new iPhone models, which are expected to come in 4.7-in, 5.5-in and 5.8-in form factors when released later this year, will also sport a new 3D Touch feature and an OLED display, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, a financial analyst for KGI Securities.

3D Touch allows users to press harder on the screen to launch actions, such as replying to messages or animating live photos, instead of only selecting applications.

Kuo also expects the iPhone 8 — if that’s what Apple decides to call the new model (see artist rendering above) — to come in an all-glass case, with a flexible, “thinner form factor.”

Kuo, who reports on the Asia-Pacific region, is not just any analyst. The Apple-focused news website and community Cult of Mac, once called him “the most reliable voice on all things Apple…because his ability to accurately prophesy Apple’s future product plans is unparalleled.”

First reported by MacRumors, Kuo’s research note indicated that wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, which will require the iPhone 8  with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with “additional graphite sheet lamination” to keep it from overheating.

“While we don’t expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone,” Kuo wrote in his research note.

Previous MacRumors reports indicate the iPhone 8’s additional features could bump the cost of making the smartphone from 30% to 50% higher — pushing its sale to more than $1,000.

This is not the first time industry analysts have speculated that Apple is about to embrace wireless charging for the iPhone. Last year, market research firm IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7.

 

Do Mobile Games Need To Be Free?

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming, Mobile

Ever since Nintendo’s shares rocketed after the launch of Pokémon Go –  and despite the worldwide phenomenon not being a Nintendo product – and the surprise announcement of Super Mario Run, all eyes have been on the platform holder’s mobile strategy need to be free.

Analysts and even the mainstream media have been quick to comment on the potential for traditional games brands in the mobile space, but in all the excitement some people seem to have forgotten several publishers have already made their mark on smart devices with their best-selling IP.

Square Enix, in particular, has a very healthy mobile business thanks to ports of Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider and Dragon Quest games, new IP such as Heavenstrike Rivals, and the acclaimed Go series that has so far offered new takes on the Hitman, Lara Croft and Deus Ex series. The Go games are developed by the mobile team at Square Enix Montreal, led by head of studio Patrick Naud, who tells GamesIndustry.biz that Nintendo’s determined push into mobile further validates what the Japanese publisher has already been doing for more than half a decade now.

Naud goes on to observe that Nintendo’s efforts also illustrate what Square Enix has long since been exploring with its biggest properties: that these brands can help encourage more core players to investigate the gaming possibilities afforded by smart devices.

“Games like Mario will open the road for other big console IPs and get more core players to give mobile a chance,” he says. “Sadly, mobile doesn’t have the best image for some gamers – and I understand why. I’m one of those guys who plays both console and mobile, but you need to find positives that bring you to mobile and ideally open up your mind to playing more mobile games.

“I hope that Mario did this. It’s sad to see so much negative press around it, particularly around the business model because I feel it’s a clever way to have people try the game first.”

“It’s sad to see so much negative press around Super Mario Run, particularly around the business model because I feel it’s a clever way to have people try the game first”

The backlash against Super Mario Run’s £7.99 price point, prompting scores of one-star reviews when the game launched, seemed baffling to many in the industry – myself included. While it’s undeniably more expensive than most premium games on the App Store, Square Enix had charged more than double that for mobile games. A casual glance through the firm’s catalogue shows ports of the early Final Fantasy games to range from £7.99 for FFII to a whopping £20.49 for FFIX. And its mobile business certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered. Why shouldn’t Nintendo charge that amount for its most valuable of IP?

Naud agrees, adding: “And I’d argue they’ve crafted a new epic Nintendo-like experience specifically for mobile. It’s Mario, and yes it’s inspired by the old Mario games, but there are new rules, new ways to play. In terms of level design and the way you play the game, it’s completely different to anything you’ve seen. You’ve got all the brains at Nintendo finding a way to play a Mario game on a phone, and it works, and it’s deep, it has the depth of all the Mario games. So yeah, it’s potentially worth more than what we usually pay.”

Now deep withing the rabbit hole of mobile pricing, the conversation turns to questioning why so many mobile users are less than keen on investing in quality games for their device. As Naud points out, people have been accustomed to paying £40 or more for new console game for decades, and yet they remain reluctant to spend far less on a mobile game? Why?

“When you go on your phone and you buy a game, you go to the app store, not the games store. They’re presented to people as an app. Apps are free”

“One key thing is mindset,” he suggests. “When you go on your phone and you buy a game, you go to the app store, not the games store. People who are willing to pay £15 for a game on Steam are struggling to pay a couple of quid for on mobile, sometimes for the same game. But what’s the difference? It’s because they’re presented to people as an app. Apps are free.

“We still need great games to push other great games. Whenever you have really good mobile titles, people go back to playing on their phones and realise there is some quality content on there. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re going to keep making great games, hoping that it encourages other studios to celebrate doing the same. If people start demanding better experiences, or raising their standards of what they expect to play, the market can evolve and we’ll have more premium games.”

That’s no small challenge to overcome. In addition to difficulties convincing players to actually pay for their mobile games, there is then the increasingly common expectation that games will be updated and supported for months, if not years to come – and for free. British indie Ustwo Games faced backlash of its own when it dared to charge £1.49 for the expansion to Monument Valley – a high-quality add-on that essentially doubled the game’s content.

But is kowtowing to this attitude, lowering prices to what mobile users expect rather than what publishers would rather charge actually harmful? The Go games Naud and his team have produced are all critical smash hits, so does selling them for less than a fiver not undervalue the work that goes into them?

“The exercise of distilling a brand down to its core essence and making a minimalist game out of it – that’s our big challenge”

“Yeah,” Naud acknowledges. “We could sell it higher, but if the market’s not ready for it… we need to be clever about it, crafting the proper experience and the proper amount of content for the price.

“There’s room for high-quality mobile games and they don’t need to be free-to-play.”

It’s easy to argue that this is why Square Enix, or indeed any other company, turns to ports of earlier releases or scaled-back takes on gameplay such as the Go series when bringing their big console IPs to mobile. Developing more comprehensive titles in the face of such resistance to invest must seem daunting and highly impractical. Square has, of course, dabbled in this with the release of Deus Ex: The Fall – a four to five-hour title that offers almost an identical experience to Human Revolution – but Naud says it is more to do with discerning between what console players think they want on mobile, and what they would actually enjoy.

“I’d argue that people do want to play console games on the go, but they won’t play the same type of experience,” he says. “People that are playing console games or even PC games are seated in their living room, with their nice couch, 7.1 surround sound, 60-inch TV – they’re going to play in a different way than if they were just going to play a five-minute session. So they might not play exactly the same game. That’s why I love the Switch, because it might be the middle ground that finally solves that.

“I assume most of the console players right now are also playing on mobile, but they’re really not playing the same type of experience because they’re not playing it at the same time. If you were to go from playing a first-person shooter on your TV – with that perfect set-up and your super-reactive controllers – to playing a similar game with a thumbstick on a touch screen… it will never be the same experience. Hence why we’re trying to craft experiences that are very much dedicated for mobile audiences and mobile phones.”

Instead, Naud says the key is to “create an experience specifically crafted for mobile” taking into account how smartphone owners interact with their device, their play habits, their usage and so on. In addition to his earlier example of Super Mario Run – offering the depth of a core Mario platformer with a one-touch control system designed for smart devices – he offers Hitman as further proof of how console IP can be re-appropriated for mobile.

Deus Ex Go is the third example of Square Enix Montreal taking a console franchise and distilling its core elements to a mobile-appropriate experience

So far, Square Enix Montreal has taken two approaches with IO Interactive’s flagship IP. Hitman Go focuses on the slow, strategic aspect of planning your kills and utilising any opportunities that present themselves. Hitman Sniper, meanwhile, takes the sniping element along with the sense of puppeteering, manipulating events from afar to set up better kills.

While the latter was partly borne from the popularity of the Hitman: Sniper Challenge digital title that preceded Absolution, Naud reveals the concept also stemmed from the desire to create a new entry in the series “without the constraints of moving in the world”.

“Half the players on Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go discovered the game through the App Store”

“The biggest challenge when playing on your phone is navigation,” he says. “For Hitman, this was by far the smartest way to do it. And we’re still working on Sniper, we’re still updating the game on a regular basis and it’s been a – maybe not as big a critical success as the Go series, but on the financial side it’s been very successful.”

But it’s the Go series that, for Naud, really demonstrates the benefit of bringing blockbuster console IP to mobile devices: introducing the brands to a new audience.

“Half the players on Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go discovered the game through the App Store,” he said. “Regardless of whether they were already fans or not, that’s how they discovered them. They got to them because they were recommended by Apple, or their friends. We actually have way more mainstream players for the Go games than Hitman players.

“Any time we do a Go game, it needs to be a different take [on the series], it needs to feel like the original, big console IP but with its own personality. All the critical acclaim made it clear that we’ve succeeded for a third consecutive time.

“The art direction of all three games is completely different and yet the gameplay is somewhat similar. You understand the rules, you don’t need big tutorials, it’s not that complex. For us, the exercise of distilling a brand down to its core essence and making a minimalist game out of it – that’s our big challenge.”

To date, Square Enix Montreal has only been granted access to Western and former Eidos franchises: Hitman, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex. With Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and even Kingdom Hearts already establishing a foothold on mobile, could we see these Eastern IP receive the Go treatment?

“We’ll see,” says Naud. “Even if anything was in development, I couldn’t say anything – you know that. But we’re constantly thinking about what we could do next, what kind of projects we can work on, what we’ve learned from the Go games that can potentially take us in a new direction.”

Courtesy_GI.biz

Microsoft Allowing ‘Try-and-buy’ Trial Of Surface Hub

February 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s program that grants potential customers a chance to try out a Surface Hub for 30 days before purchasing it will start on Feb. 15.

The try-and-buy program is available only through Surface Hub resellers in North America, Asia, and Europe. A list of resellers can be found on Microsoft’s website.

The Surface Hub is a gigantic Windows 10 computer available with a 55-inch or 84-inch screen. The 55-inch model is priced at $8,999 and the 84-inch model is $21,999.

The computer is designed for collaboration, videoconferencing, and whiteboarding.  It runs a custom version of Windows 10.

It makes sense to try out a Surface Hub before plunking down a large sum to buy it. The Hub is different from a regular Surface tablet or PC, with a bit of a learning curve to get familiar with the large-screen computer.

But once mastered, Surface Hub could change the way people interact and collaborate in meetings.

Here’s how the try-and-buy program works: A reseller will install Surface Hub for a one-time fee, and you’ll be able to try it for 30 days. The fee may vary, and Microsoft couldn’t provide an estimate. You can then decide whether to buy it after 30 days.

So far, Microsoft has shipped the Surface Hub to 2,000 customers in about 24 countries. The try-and-buy program isn’t available through Microsoft’s retail stores.

The 55-inch model has a high-definition 1080p screen, while the 84-inch model has a 4K screen. One drawback is Intel’s old Core chips based on the Haswell architecture, which was introduced in 2013.

Other features include 128GB SSDs, 8GB RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and two full HD front-facing cameras. The Surface Hub also has a gigabit ethernet port, one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports. The display slots include HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort.

 

Is Nintendo Taking A Risk With The Switch?

February 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

You know a company has had a rough set of results when its CEO needs to publicly state that they represent the lowest extent of a slump, with a bounce surely to follow; this being essentially the line that Nintendo boss Tatsumi Kimishima attempted to soothe worried investors with this week. It didn’t exactly work; Nintendo shares, which had been trading at their highest levels in five years, dropped back below the 23,000 Yen mark for the first time since last September. The figures reveal sentiment; investors aren’t sold on the Switch, don’t really know what to make of Super Mario Run, and while they’re generally more positive on Nintendo than they were a couple of years ago, they’re feeling jittery and nervous about the firm’s prospects.

As well they should. In fact, 2017 is likely to be a rollercoaster of a year for Nintendo investors, and those nerves are likely going to get more and more jangled as the year rolls on. The reason for that is simple; Nintendo is taking risks, and they’re not the kind of risks that it’s easy to calculate an over-under on. That makes them into the kind of risks that investors love and hate at the same time – but mostly hate. If Nintendo’s risk-taking pays off, it might soar, but there’s also a strong chance it’ll all come crashing down, and the worst part is, nobody can accurately assess what the risk of either of those scenarios, or anything in between, may be.

There are essentially two major risks Nintendo is taking on. The first, of course, is Switch. The company is hoping for Wii-like sales of the device; almost anything would be an improvement over the Wii U, of course, but in reality it probably needs to hit 40 or 50 million to be considered a genuine success, while anything below 20 million would be enough of a disappointment to cast a pall over the company’s entire future in the home console business. Switch is a high-concept device, quite unlike anything else on the market; from the control system it affords to the mixed-mode portable/home console design of the system, it’s a genuinely unusual piece of kit (far more so than the Wii U was) and that alone will undoubtedly inspire a lot of early adopters to pick one up out of sheer curiosity. It could ignite the imagination of a wide swathe of consumers and become a must-have entertainment device, like the Wii before it. It could equally prove attractive only to Nintendo’s fanbase and sink into much-loved but commercially disastrous obscurity like the Wii U.

My personal guess is that it’ll do far better than the Wii U, but come nowhere close to the success of the Wii, but I’m at pains to call that a guess and nothing more. Anyone demanding that their forecast of the device’s performance is of more worth than mere guesswork is, bluntly, a bit of a charlatan. Not only is the market into which Switch is launching extremely poorly understood at the moment (find me a single soul who predicted pre-launch that PS4, at this point in its lifespan, would be outselling the mighty PS2?), with vast new differences emerging between different global markets and demographic groups, the device itself also has no clear analogues to which we might look for guidance. The strength of the Switch is that it’s Nintendo doing something genuinely different and distinctive from its competition – a metric on which the Wii U, ultimately, failed. The weakness of Switch is that that means success or failure, though clearly influenced greatly by traditional factors like software support, is impossible to pin down with a probability calculation.

Having one big, risky venture on the go would be enough to make investors jumpy, but Nintendo has another one running in parallel. The company has been told for years by its investors that it should be involved in the smartphone market, and indeed its recently relatively buoyant share price is largely the result of its initial announcement of a partnership to do just that with DeNA in 2015, and the launch of Pokemon Go last summer. As the company’s titles roll out, though, things are getting a little more grounded and sober, and investors are perhaps recalling that the market they’ve told Nintendo to dive into is one of the riskiest in the business. The first game title created under the Nintendo-DeNA partnership (discounting Miitomo, which wasn’t considered a game, and Pokemon Go, which was simply Nintendo IP licensed out to a different developer, Niantic) was Super Mario Run, which has been largely well-received critically but hasn’t set the world on fire otherwise. Eschewing the F2P business model and the various hooks and enticements it offers for player retention was taken as reassuring by the company’s vocal core fans, but has seen Super Mario Run fade rapidly from consumer consciousness. After a backlash over its $10 price, which laid out just how uphill the struggle for premium-priced mobile games is, Mario Run has managed around a 5% conversion rate and $53 million in revenue so far.

To be clear – that’s not bad, it’s just unremarkable, and not really what investors had hoped for when they pushed Nintendo towards mobile. The company’s next launch, Fire Emblem Heroes, arrived this week and uses the more established business model for mobile titles; a few months down the line we’ll also have an Animal Crossing title on mobile. The thing is that despite the popularity of these franchises and the pedigree of their development teams, their success simply isn’t assured – even the very best mobile developers have had trouble replicating their greatest successes or even being consistently successful with their titles. Many of the world’s biggest mobile game companies are essentially sustained by one huge, evergreen game, and show no evidence of knowing how to bottle that lightning; the reality is that it’s a hugely fickle, difficult market where, even if you produce a brilliant game, external factors (including a pretty big dose of luck) play an inordinately large role in success. Nobody should doubt the quality of the games Nintendo will launch on smartphones, but nobody should consider a gigantic commercial hit to be a sure thing, either.

All that being said, the point here isn’t that Nintendo is going in the wrong direction; it’s that it’s facing a risky, bumpy year ahead, and that’s going to play merry hell with the firm’s relationship with its investors. Since, unfortunately, the media remains convinced that stock markets are magically possessed of grand insights unattainable to mere humans, like a modern-day Oracle of Delphi – where the reality is that stock markets, in their short-term motions at least, are just the sum total of a load of largely not terribly well informed people charging around in blind mob panics – we’re going to see a lot of context-free stories this year about Nintendo’s share price plunging or recovering as the balance of risk seems to sway one way or the other. The reality behind that is that at least in the next few months, the actual nature of that risk profile is going to be utterly obscure to everyone – even to Nintendo itself.

Right now, the wrong direction for Nintendo would be the direction it was headed in two years ago; competing head-to-head with Sony and Microsoft with a home console that was poorly differentiated from the competition; pretending smartphones hadn’t upended its market; making some of the best software in its history for some of the least-played hardware on the market. The right direction is one that changes that path, and change means risk – especially when the only avenues of change available to you involve innovation, untested ideas, and a tough, poorly understood market.

Buried in Nintendo’s statements this week is cause for great optimism; the success of Pokemon Sun/Moon, which are already among the best-selling installments in the series, was built upon the use of Pokemon Go as a marketing and awareness vehicle, allowing Nintendo to reactivate older consumers of the franchise and change the demographic profile of its audience. As a test run for its future strategy of building struts of mutual support between mobile and console titles, it’s been damned near flawless; sure, it got lucky with a timely implementation of AR tech and a lovely marriage of IP to gameplay, but the underlying business strategy has also played out as well as could be hoped. These are the things to watch for in the next year. Ignore the markets; with any company as highly exposed to risk as Nintendo is right now, share price movements will be exaggerated and hypersensitive, even to rumour and falsehood. Watch, instead, for evidence that Nintendo’s actual plans – the things it wants to sell, the consumers it wants to cultivate and the ways it wants to link together its IPs across platforms and approaches – are coming together or falling apart. Only that will tell us whether Nintendo is really going to bounce back, or if Kimishima’s certainty that it’s already hit rock bottom is going to be tested.

Courtesy-Fud

FCC Makes First Move Towards 4K TV Broadcasting

February 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Federal Communications Commission has taken the first step toward the eventual implementation of over-the-air terrestrial 4K television broadcasting in the U.S.

The FCC published a proposed regulation that would allow TV stations to begin broadcasts using the ATSC3.0 format, a newer version of the digital transmission format used today.

ATSC 3.0 uses an IP data stream, so it’s much more flexible than current broadcast standards. Using the system, broadcasts can simultaneously send several video streams of varying bandwidths and additional streams of data.

Proponents of the technology say this would enable 4K broadcasting and is a way to rapidly disseminate public safety information, but whether such services will be offered is up to individual broadcasters.

The document, a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM), is a statement by the FCC of an intended new regulation. It’s the start of the regulation-forming process and can be shaped by comments and pressure from the public and industry.

As proposed, the regulation will allow the voluntary use of ATSC3.0. To receive the new format, upgrades will be required to televisions and reception equipment, so the FCC proposes allowing TV stations to continue broadcasting in the current version 1 format. Cable TV companies won’t be required to carry ATSC3.0 signals, and broadcasters will still need to abide by public interest obligations.

The proposed regulation doesn’t mandate that TV set makers begin including ATSC3.0 tuners in their products.

The availability of the notice itself is notable. Previously, the FCC published NPRMs internally ahead of monthly meetings, and they only became public after commissioners had voted on them.

“Lobbyists with inside-the-Beltway connections are typically able to find out what’s in them,” he said in a statement. “But the best that average Americans will get is selective disclosures authorized by the Chairman’s Office — disclosures designed to paint items in the most favorable light. More often, the public is kept completely in the dark.”

So, from Thursday, Pai is publishing NPRMs as they are available to FCC commissioners. The ATSC3.0 proposal, and one allowing AM radio stations more freedom in siting FM transmitters, were the first two under what Pai said is a trial.

If successful, he said the new transparency policy will “give the public much more insight into the commission’s activities.”

Slack Unveils New Messaging Product Targeting Big Businesses

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack Technologies Inc, a Silicon Valley messaging and collaboration software company, is making a strong push to expand its business by offering technology to some of the largest businesses in the country.

Slack has unveiled a new product designed for big companies such as International Business Machines Corp, Capital One Financial Corp and PayPal Holdings Inc. The Slack Enterprise Grid is set up for companies with hundreds of thousands of employees and strict compliance requirements.

The development marks a striking evolution for a four-year-old messaging platform that started out as a tool used by a handful of entrepreneurs and was quickly adopted by media companies and startups.

Slack is a platform where employees can send messages, collaborate, organize and share files. The technology also integrates with a wide variety of business software – such as Salesforce.com Inc and Skype – so employees can do all their work within Slack.

The technology had been designed for teams or small groups of employees. But with additional security and regulatory approvals, Slack can sell its enterprise product to big financial and health care companies, said Noah Weiss, who heads Slack’s search, learning, and intelligence group. IBM, Capital One and PayPal have been using it for months.

Andrew Braccia, a partner at Accel Partners who provided Slack’s first venture investment, said Slack’s big-business strategy is “just a very natural progression of the company.”

“It worked for 50 people, and it scaled up to working for thousands if not tens of thousands of people,” Braccia said.

The new product provides another line of revenue for Slack, which was valued at $3.8 billion at its last private financing round a year ago. The company has raised more than $500 million from venture capitalists.

Slack is projecting about $150 million in annual revenue, Weiss said, based on its most recent monthly revenue. Its customers include 38,000 paying companies.

Slack started as a messaging system that co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield used to collaborate with colleagues as they built a gaming company, Glitch, which never took off.

 

Facebook Sets Sights On Television Set-top Boxes

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc is developing an app for television set-top boxes, including Apple Inc’s Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The world’s biggest online social network is also in discussions with media companies to license long-form, TV-quality programming, the Journal reported on Tuesday.

Facebook declined to comment.

An app for set-top boxes would bring Facebook closer to live video and video advertisements.

Getting advertisers to buy more video ads is key to Facebook’s continued revenue growth as such ads fetch higher rates from advertisers than text or photo-based ads.

Live video is also becoming a highly competitive feature on social platforms, with companies competing to stream major sports events and exclusive video components from high-profile events such as the Oscar and Grammy awards shows.

In April, Facebook expanded its live video product, Facebook Live – a potential threat to broadcast television, giving it prominent placement on its app and rolling out features to make it easier for users to search and comment in real time.

Intel, Google’s Android IoT Partnership Growing Stronger

February 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel may have ended Android’s operating system on smartphones and tablets devices, but the company’s partnership with Google on Android for the internet of things is growing stronger.

Google’s Android Things, a slimmed-down version of Android for smart devices, will be coming to Intel’s Joule 570x computer board.

The combination will allow makers to cook up Android-based gadgets or smart devices for use in home, retail, or industrial settings.

The Intel board adds a lot of processing and graphics muscle to projects. With 4K graphics capabilities, the 570x is good for devices with screens or computer vision, like robots and drones. Intel demonstrated a bartending robot that used the board at its annual trade show last year.

A standout feature in Joule 570x is a RealSense 3D depth camera, which can recognize objects and measure distances. The board has an Atom T5700 processor, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16GB of storage, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Right now, only three boards — Raspberry Pi, Intel’s Edison, and NXP’s Pico i.MX6UL — support Android Things.

On paper, the Joule 570x has better specifications than the Raspberry Pi 3. But it could also be overkill for Android Things, which can also work on work on sensor devices that require only basic processors like Quark on Intel’s Edison.

Putting Android Things in more devices will help Google effectively compete with Amazon’s Alexa, the voice-assistant technology that is being used in more gadgets and home appliances.

Last week, Google hinted that makers will be able to build devices with the company’s machine-learning technologies like voice and speech recognition, which are mainly based in the cloud. Google’s will bring its TensorFlow APIs (application programming interfaces) to makers later this year.

Android Things is still in preview, and a final version of the OS hasn’t been released. The OS previously went by the name Project Brillo, and a release date for a final version of the OS isn’t available.

Android Things is also one way for Google battle Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core, Ubuntu’s Snappy Core, and other Linux-based embedded OSes. Billions of IoT devices will ship in the coming years, and there’s an OS battle raging in the area, much like the OS competition in the PC and server markets.

 

Cisco Rolls Out Fix For WebEx Vulnerability

January 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco Systems began rolling out a patch for a critical vulnerability in its WebEx collaboration and conferencing browser extension that could allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code on computers.

The company released a patched version of the extension — 1.0.7 — for Google Chrome and is working on similar patches for the Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox versions.

The vulnerability was found by Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy and stemmed from the fact that the WebEx extension exposed functionality to any website that had “cwcsf-nativemsg-iframe-43c85c0d-d633-af5e-c056-32dc7efc570b.html” in its URL or inside an iframe. Some of that WebEx functionality allowed for the execution of arbitrary code on computers.

Cisco tried to fix the problem in version 1.0.5 by restricting the sensitive features only to the *.webex.com or *.webex.com.cn domains. That didn’t solve the problem completely because any cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability on those domains could be used to bypass the restrictions.

XSS is one of the most common types of vulnerabilities on the web, and webex.com has more than 500 defined subdomains. Chances are high that multiple XSS flaws exist on those websites and, in fact, Ormandy found one and proved a bypass of the initial patch.

Cisco added further restrictions in version 1.0.7 of the WebEx extension that appears to block all known bypass methods.

“It looks like they correctly handle Mac and Windows, and have also added some verification on GpcInitCall/GpcExitCall/etc so that functions have to match a RegEx,” Ormandy said. “This looks like a huge improvement.”

Ormandy added that he doesn’t currently know of any way to defeat the new patch, so users should upgrade to the latest version as soon as possible.

The Chrome WebEx extension alone has around 20 million active users, so the risk of attacks is high, especially since details of this vulnerability have been public for days. IE and Firefox users who have the extension installed should disable it until a fixed version is released for those browsers.

Did Apple Ship The Airbuds With A Bluetooth Problem?

January 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple is finding that its much delayed, expensive wireless headphones shipped with a fault.

iPhone owners of AirPods are finding that not only do the Airpods look like tiny earrings, they also have a habit of randomly disconnecting and reconnecting during calls. This of course makes the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus less useful as a phone and more like a broken iPod.

The Tame Apple Press say that the problem only effects a small number of users. However, Apple has acknowledged the problem which means that it is much wider than the Tame Apple Press is admitting. Apple only acknowledges a problem after many months of soul searching, denial and self-flagellation.

One of the difficulties for Apple is that it delayed the launch of the AirPods were so late that it was starting to get to be joke. Jobs’ Mob told us that it was because it needed more time to ensure the earpieces had reliable connectivity. Apparently that problem was because both earpieces were having difficult receiving audio at the same time, which is a bit of a bummer if you are trying to listen to stereo.

Now it looks like whatever Jobs’ Mob did the super cool headphones, whose design they nicked from Oral B drop connection phone calls.

The Tame Apple Press points out that they NEVER lose their connection when used to listen to music or anything else. It points out that the problem ONLY happens on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus phones and every Apple fanboy should have upgraded to the iPhone 7 anyway.

MacRumors replicate the problem if the phone was connected to a Fitbit Blaze or an iWatch, suggesting a more general conflict with other Bluetooth devices.

Unpairing and then repairing the AirPods does not appear to solve the problem, neither does rebooting nor resetting the iPhone. Until Apple offers a solution, users are advised to use only one AirPod for conducting calls, as the dropouts only seem to occur when both earpieces are in use.

Otherwise they could be sensible and crush the tiny dildos, smash the iPhone and get a nice bit of natty Chinese technology which has the same functionality, more reliably for half the price.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Expands Presence Of Dash Button

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has added its popular Dash button to its website and mobile app, making it easier for shoppers to purchase their favorite items such as peanut butter, detergent and paper towels.

The online retailer launched its thumb-sized Dash button in 2015, allowing Prime members to re-order products such as Tide detergent, Huggies diapers and Gillette products by pushing a button.

Prime customers can create virtual dash button on “millions” of Prime eligible products on Amazon, the company said in a video.

  The online retailer said that it was also automatically creating virtual Dash buttons for products that are frequently purchased by customers.

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