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Slack Acquires Screen Hero

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack, the IRC-for-businesses company, has acquired screen-sharing collaboration startup Screenhero with an eye toward adding valuable new communications capabilities to its software.

The deal, which was for an undisclosed sum of cash and stocks, sees Screenhero’s six-person team joining Slack to add screensharing, video chat and voice conferencing to the company’s core enterprise chat room service.

Screenhero is designed to let big teams work together like small teams and has found a dedicated customer base with developers, help desk workers and anybody else who has to work together.

That’s a smart alignment with Slack’s own sales pitch. In fact, Screenhero CEO and co-founder Jahanzeb Sherwani said that 50% of Screenhero’s own customers are also Slack customers, even as both companies made use of each others’ products interally. He added that the company was “under no pressure to sell,” but decided that cozying up with Slack would allow Screenhero to do more with its core concept faster.

It sounds like a match made in “in a Reese’s factory,” quipped Slack CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

Under this deal, Screenhero will continue to operate as a separate entity, and people can use it as they always have been. But eventually, Sherwani said, all of its features will make it into Slack and the standalone product will be discontinued.

Butterfield said that it’s just a natural progression for Slackas it goes after “bigger and weirder” companies. You can still use whatever external services you’d like for video, voice and screen sharing, per Slack’s emphasis on supporting as many services as a customer might want to use with slick native integrations. But Butterfield wants to ensure that out of the box, Slack customers get something broadly useful for collaboration without having to go through the effort.

 

 

 

Microsoft Attempting To Attract More Mobile Users With Freebies

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp made its popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications available,free of charge, on Android tablets, further signifying its drive to attract as many mobile customers as possible using its software.

It also released an app for its popular Outlook email program to run on Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, hoping to attract the millions of users familiar with Outlook from their work desktops.

The new releases are the latest gambits in Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella’s attempt to wrest back the initiative in the battle for mobile users, where Microsoft has fallen behind Apple and Google Inc.

Nadella broke with decades of tradition last March by releasing a free, touch-friendly version of Office for Apple’s iPad, before such software was even available for Microsoft’s Windows devices.

By giving away its industry-standard Office apps on Apple’s popular iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, Microsoft is looking to build up a base of users which it can later persuade to sign up for Office 365, the full, Internet-based version of Office starting at $7 a month for personal users.

Microsoft has been offering test versions of the Office apps on Android for almost three months, but Thursday marks the first day they are available as finished products from the online Google Play app store.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the key elements of Microsoft’s top-selling Office suite of applications, have been a hit on Apple’s mobile devices, with 80 million downloads since last March, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to release new, touch-friendly versions of its Office apps for Windows devices later this year when it releases the Windows 10 operating system.

The new Outlook app, based on a popular app made by Acompli, which Microsoft bought in December, will allow iPhone and iPad users much easier ways of linking email to calendars and working with file attachments. Microsoft is also releasing a test version of the Outlook app for Android users.

 

 

Is Qualcomm Losing Steam?

January 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm is one of the most successful companies to come out of the smartphone revolution that’s taking place. That’s because their mobile chips are powering many of the devices currently on the market.

The company’s successful strategy was once again confirmed by the latest financial statements with profit estimates between $26 and $28 billion for the full fiscal year. But not everything’s rosy inside Qualcomm as the company did mention they recently lost “a large customer”.

Who could that be? Why, none other than their frenemy, Samsung. Qualcomm’s statement seems to corroborate an earlier report that said Samsung would no longer be sourcing the high-end Snapdragon 810 chip from Qualcomm.

According to the original report, which seems to be all but confirmed now, Samsung experienced overheating issues with the high-end silicone and decided to drop it from its upcoming Galaxy S6 flagship.

Qualcomm’s execs on the other hand said their chip works exactly as intended and they offer proof of that the fact the Snapdragon 810 has already been confirmed to be in LG’s next flagship, and is expected to show up in a number of other devices including the unannounced HTC M9.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Courting The Enterprise With New ‘WorkMail’ Service

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc ramped up its attempts to woo corporate clients by announcing an email and scheduling service that will compete with Microsoft Corp and Google Inc .

The service, dubbed WorkMail, will launch in the second quarter and has been developed by the company’s cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services (AWS). It highlights Amazon’s efforts to convince deep-pocketed companies, called enterprises in tech parlance, to shift more of their work to AWS.

Launching an email and scheduling service is likely the first step toward a broader suite of Amazon tools to gain corporate clients, analysts said. For example, Google’s Gmail offers many other services beyond email and calendars including file-sharing and video conferencing.

AWS has spent the last couple of years trying to get corporate clients on board because big businesses spend more on data centers than startups, who were the initial focus of its business. But there are concerns that Amazon is spreading itself too thin, given its other sizeable investments in areas like Hollywood-style production and consumer devices.

“Email is a Trojan Horse into the enterprise,” Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said. He added that email is a $1 billion opportunity for Amazon given the popularity of AWS and Amazon’s willingness to sacrifice margins for volume.

If Amazon adds more services for companies, it could bring in about $10 billion more in extra revenue, Sebastian said.

 

 

DEA Has A Program That Tracks Cars Moving Across The Country

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program to track cars close to the U.S.-Mexican border has been gradually expanded nationwide and is regularly used by other law enforcement agencies searching for criminal suspects.

The extent of the system, which is said to contain hundreds of millions of records on motorists and their journeys, was disclosed in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Much of the information disclosed to the ACLU was undated, making it difficult to understand the growth of the network, which is different from the cameras used to collect traffic tolls on expressways.

One of the undated documents said more than 100 cameras had been deployed in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. The cameras snap each vehicle that passes, recording its license plate, the direction of travel and the time. Some cameras also snap a picture of the driver and passengers.

It was set up in 2008 and was opened to other law enforcement agencies in May 2009. Two years after it was launched, the system helped the DEA seize 98 kilograms of cocaine, 8,336 kilograms of marijuana and collect $866,380. Its use was also expanded to the hunt for cars being driven by suspects in child abductions, rapes and other crimes.

But it’s unclear if there is any court oversight of the network. The ACLU said that any federal, state or local law enforcement agent that had been vetted by the DEA could conduct queries on the database.

Records on cars that don’t generate a “hit” in law enforcement investigations are said to be stored for six months — a period the ACLU said was “far too long.”

 

 

AMD’s Summit Ridge Processor Details Leaked

January 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s first 14nm processors are codenamed Summit Ridge and they are reportedly based on an all-new architecture dubbed Zen.

Information on the new architecture and the Summit Ridge design is still very sketchy. According to Sweclockers, the chips will feature up to eight CPU cores, support for DDR4 memory and TDPs of up to 95W.

Summit Ridge will use a new socket, designated FM3. This suggests we are looking at A-series APUs, but there is no word on graphics and the eight-core design points to proper FX-series CPUs – we simply do not know at this point. It is also possible that Summit Ridge is a Vishera FX replacement, but on an FM socket rather than an AM socket.

Of course, AMD Zen should end up in more products than one, namely in APUs and Opteron server parts. The new architecture has been described as a “high-performance” design and will be manufactured using the Samsung-GlobalFoundries 14nm node.

As for the launch date, don’t hold your breath – the new parts are expected to show up in the third quarter of 2016, roughly 18 months from now.

Courtesy-Fud

Yahoo To Spinoff Shares In Alibaba

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc plans to spin off its 15 percent stake in China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , caving to demands to hand over to shareholders its prized e-commerce investment valued at roughly $40 billion.

The move to spin off the Alibaba stake satisfies a persistent investor demand, but could also ratchet up pressure on Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer to make quicker progress in strengthening Yahoo’s struggling media and advertising business.

“It’s not going to be easy from now on,” said B. Riley and Co analyst Sameet Sinha. “She has to perform now. There’s nothing shielding her.”

Shareholders feel that Yahoo and its stake in Alibaba would be worth more separately, as long as the Alibaba shares are not subject to the standard 35 percent tax rate that would be incurred from selling the shares.

Yahoo is worth approximately $45 billion. That includes its Alibaba stake of nearly $40 billion, meaning the current Yahoo share price assigns little value to the core business. Some investors believe the email, website and other operations are worth between $7 billion and $8 billion.

Yahoo, which is trying to reverse a multi-year decline in revenue, has faced increasing investor pressure more than two years after Mayer took the reins to lead a comeback plan.

Yahoo said its board of directors has authorized a plan to spin off the stake, tax-free, into a newly formed independent registered investment company. The stock of the company will be distributed pro-rata to Yahoo shareholders and the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2015, Yahoo said.

The new entity will include Yahoo’s 384 million shares in Alibaba as well as an unspecified “legacy, ancillary” Yahoo business, the company said.

 

 

 

 

Auto Industry Helps Texas Instruments Bottom Line

January 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Texas Instruments appears to have done rather well thanks to a growing demand for chips from the car industry.

The company posted fourth-quarter revenue of $3.27 billion, up 8 percent from the year-ago period and slightly above what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street predicted by reading their tarot cards.

This was mostly because TI deepened its focus on analogue and embedded chips which are in demand from carmakers, telecom companies and industrial customers.

Revenue from Texas Instruments’ largest market, “industrial,” grew a bit in 2014, while revenue from its communications market expanded as wireless carriers installed next-generation base stations.

TI has been winding down its unprofitable wireless business and refocusing on analogue and embedded chips. Factories that Texas Instruments bought at relatively attractive prices in recent years and the chipmaker’s robust sales force give it an advantage over smaller competitors.

The company’s fourth-quarter net income rose 61 percent to $825 million. Earnings per share were 76 cents.

Texas Instruments forecast first-quarter revenue of between $3.07 billion and $3.33 billion.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $3.26 billion for the fourth quarter and $3.19 billion for the first quarter.

 

Courtesy-Fud

Dropbox Acquires Startup Pixelapse

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox, never one to shy away from an acquisition, has purchased startup Pixelapse, which provides a GitHub-like version control service for “tens of thousands” of visual designers. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“Our new development efforts will be focused on bringing the same kinds of collaboration and workflow experiences that you’re used to in Pixelapse over to the core Dropbox product,” said the company’s traditional “hey we’ve been acquired” blog post about the deal.

The way Pixelapse works is simple and familiar to anyone who’s used a version control service like GitHub before: Visual design project files get stored in a dedicated folder. Make a change to a project asset, and those changes get synced to the cloud, where they’re viewable from a cloud interface. There’s even an activity feed to see who worked on what within a team.

If you or anybody else (the client you’ve shared the project with, the boss in charge of the project, or just the rest of the project team) wants, they can go back and view the entire history, comparing revisions and rolling back changes if necessary. You can even show off the history of a project to the public with an embeddable code widget.

If that sounds a lot like Dropbox’s existing version control, just tailored to a very specific vertical — namely, designers — collect your prize at the door. From Dropbox’s perspective, this is a shrewd move that enhances the platform’s appeal with a project management feature that developers love but designers could never access. The startup’s origins stem from co-founder Min Ming Lo’s time as a design intern at Google, where nobody had any idea what assets belonged to whom or how to give feedback.

For existing users, never fear. Pixelapse promises on its website that the service is safe for at least another year and that it’s still accepting sign-ups, which is a good omen given that so many similar deals of this type see immediate service shutdown.

 

 

Adobe Patches Flash Player Again

January 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It’s patch week again for Adobe Flash Player, and this time the update is designed to fix a critical security bug in the much-maligned browser’s multimedia plug-in.

Flash Player has been updated to version 16.0.0.296 to solve the vulnerability previously identified in the APSA15-01 Security Bulletin. The bulletin now contains information about the new version.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 was released with auto-update enabled on 24 January, two days earlier than the expected distribution date.

The standalone release was released on 26 January, as Adobe anticipated in the original bulletin, and users or sysadmins can download the full exe/msi installer straight from the official site.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 is now available for Internet Explorer and the plug-in based browsers on Windows and Mac systems.

A new version (11.2.202.440) is available for Linux operating systems and Oracle Solaris on the same page that provides the Windows/Mac versions.

Adobe is also said to be working with the company’s “distribution partners” to make the update available for those browsers that embed the Flash plug-in, namely Internet Explorer 10 and 11 and Google Chrome.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 is meant to end the exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability classified as CVE-2015-0311, for which a working exploit was already circulating in the wild.

Successful attacks via drive-by downloads were confirmed against machines running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below.

The bug “could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system”, Adobe warned in the original security bulletin.

Installing the updated version of the Flash Player plug-in is recommended.

The new Flash Player release contains no new features apart from fixing the CVE-2015-0311 bug.

Courtesy-TheInq

New Internet Browser Vivaldi Launches

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Well known software developer Jon von Tetzchner has launched a new internet browser, offering an interface for high-volume users who “have problems fitting all their open tabs on one screen”, he said in a Reuters interview.

Known as Vivaldi and available on desktop computers from Tuesday, the browser’s initial launch covers the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

“A mobile phone and a tablet version are in the pipeline. We are working on it, but they won’t be out until they’re ready,” said von Tetzchner, who owns 90 percent of the company’s shares and has paid for the development.

“At some point it will need to fund it self and to reach that point we will need a few million users. I have no doubt that we will reach that number quite easily,” he added.

With features like personalized notes, bookmarks with small screen shots and speed dials with options for multiple groups and folders, Vivaldi hopes to attract high-volume users.

Despite tough competition from the likes of Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Corp’s Firefox and Opera Software’s browser, von Tetzchner believes there is still room for more.

“We welcome everyone, but this is first of all a browser for people who expect and need more,” he said. “There is without a doubt a demand for this type of browser even though I don’t expect it to take more than a few percent of the total market.”

Vivaldi has signed a few affiliation deals ahead of the launch and is in talks with several potential partners for functionalities like search and online shopping.

“We have made several deals and have started a dialogue with others. But because some of these are potential competitors, we’ve wanted to go live with the browser first.”

Named after the 18th century composer Antonio Vivaldi, the name carries an inescapable reference to von Tetzchner’s previous role as co-founder and long-time head of browser and mobile phone technology firm Opera Software.

 

Gas Stations Vulnerable To Cyberattacks

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Over 5,000 devices used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be hacked from the Internet by malicious attackers.

These devices, known as automated tank gauges (ATGs), are also used to trigger alarms in case of problems with the tanks, such as fuel spills.

“An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system,” said HD Moore, the chief research officer at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. “Tank gauge malfunctions are considered a serious issue due to the regulatory and safety issues that may apply.”

Earlier this month, Moore ran a scan to detect ATGs that are connected to the Internet through serial port servers that map ATG serial interfaces to the Internet-accessible TCP port 10001. This is a common set-up used by ATG owners to monitor the devices remotely.

“Approximately 5,800 ATGs were found to be exposed to the Internet without a password,” Moore said. “Over 5,300 of these ATGs are located in the United States, which works out to about 3 percent of the approximately 150,000 fueling stations in the country.”

Rapid7 decided to run the scan after being alerted of the problem by Jack Chadowitz, the founder of Kachoolie, a division of BostonBase that provides secure tank gauge access services.

Chadowitz had already developed an online service where ATG owners, particularly those using “a Gilbarco/Veeder Root TCP/IP card or a TCP/IP to serial converter such as those commonly available from Digi or Lantronix,” can check if they are at risk.

Some systems provide the capability to protect serial interfaces with a password, but this functionality is not commonly enabled, according to Moore.

 

 

SAP Sees High Profit Potential In Cloud

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

European software giant SAP could eventually see its software delivered via the cloud deliver higher profit margins than its traditional packaged software, its finance chief told a newspaper.

“Such contracts become profitable over time. In the long term, they can definitely become more profitable than our classic license sales,” Luka Mucic told the Euro am Sonntag business weekly in an interview.

SAP said last week its push to deliver cloud-based products via the Internet – which allow customers to access powerful remote data centers for processing and storage – would dampen profitability until at least 2018.

Unlike the packaged software SAP has been selling for decades, for which clients pay a immediate license fee, cloud-based software is generally paid for by subscription over time, but most of the costs for the software provider are upfront.

Mucic said such contracts were loss-making for the first year of operation.

To strengthen its position in the fast-growing cloud market, SAP agreed in September to buy cloud-based travel and expenses software maker Concur for $7.3 billion in cash, its biggest takeover ever.

The company issued a triple-tranche, 2.75 billion-euro ($3.08 billion) bond in November to help finance the deal.

Mucic said SAP might add another, smaller tranche, perhaps as soon as the first half of this year, but said otherwise the company had no need for further capital.

“We are just examining whether this would be advantageous for us,” he said.

 

 

Hacker Forum Working To On Evolving Malware

January 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Notorious malware kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM have been uncovered in a hacker forum as evolved versions, developed with advanced functionality, according to researchers at Trend Micro.

A threat response engineer at Trend Micro, Michael Marcos, said that he uncovered the malware while examining the Arabic language on a bogus “computer enthusiast site”, called dev-point.com forum.

“One of the notable topics in the forum talked about new malware ‘kjw0rm’ and a worm named ‘Sir DoOom’, which both came about after the release of the Njw0rm malware source code in the same forum,” he explained.

The Njw0rm’s source code was leaked in May 2013. The evolved kjw0rm is currently available in two versions, both of which have advanced infiltration and infection mechanisms.

The first Kjw0rm V2.0 appeared initially on the forum in January 2014, while the updated 0.5X version and new Sir DoOoM malware followed in December.

The V2.0 malware is the most basic of the three and reportedly hides itself in bogus files within infected systems.

“The propagation method of this malware targets all folders in the root directory of the removable drive,” read the advisory.

V0.5X follows a developed version of the same tactic, and Sir DoOoM adds an anti-virtual machine capability.

“[V0.5X] obfuscated some portions of the malware code. The malware author utilises an obfuscator tool that converts characters to hex values, adds filler functions, and performs computations that make analysis more difficult and time-consuming,” explained Marcos.

“[Sir DoOoM] also has an anti-virtual machine routine. It first searches for a list of the installed programs in the affected computer.

“If this variant found itself in a computer where a virtual machine program is installed, it will uninstall and terminate itself from the affected system. This prevents analysts testing to determine malware behaviour.”

Trend Micro senior engineer Bharat Mistry told V3 that the variants are dangerous as they add several advanced functions.

“Previous versions were there mainly for password stealing from browsers. As the malware has evolved, after the initial infections it now has the ability to download and execute Visual Basic code [VBS],” he said.

“VBS is a powerful coding language and can be used to interact directly with the operating system on the infected device.

“Also it now has the ability to recognise if it is being used in a security testing environment known as a sandbox by looking for the presence of a virtual machine.

“Finally the replication has also advanced with the use of hidden files on removable storage devices such as USB sticks.”

He added that the new powers could be used to mount a variety of attacks.

“The malware can be used to perform a number of different functions, including download, installation and execution of additional files or tools to potentially gain administrator or privilege credentials,” he said.

“Once this is gained hackers then have the ability to move laterally in the organisation and start looking for crown jewels or simply advertise that a point of presence has been created in a organisation that could then be ‘rented’ out to perform attacks, such as DDoS.”

Kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM’s appearance follows the discovery of several evolved attack tools. These include the defence-dodging Skeleton Key malware and the advanced Cryptowall 3.0 ransomware.

Courtesy-Theinq

Cablevision To Launch Wi-Fi Phone Service

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Cablevision System Corp said that it would launch in February a wireless Internet phone service to give customers an alternative to more expensive data plans from cellular companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The “Freewheel” phone service, which runs on any WiFi connection, is an attempt by Cablevision to retain and potentially add subscribers at a time when cable companies are losing out to lower-priced, bundled TV and Internet services from telecom firms.

Cablevision said the phone service was the first of its kind to be launched by a cable company and aims to tap users seeking to download unlimited amounts of data on their mobile phones using WiFi, which is less expensive than a cellular connection.

Such services could pose a challenge to traditional telecom carriers. Currently, carrier Republic Wireless and Massachusetts-based startup Scratch Wireless offer users similar services that use WiFi to control data costs.

“There has been a dramatic shift in how consumers use their mobile devices: today, it’s all about data, and WiFi is now preferred and clearly superior to cellular,” Kristin Dolan, chief operating officer of Cablevision, said in the statement.

Cablevision, controlled by New York’s Dolan family, has been investing in its “Optimum” WiFi network since 2007, setting up over 1.1 million WiFi hotspots or access points in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Cablevision’s WiFi phone service will be offered at $29.95 per month and $9.95 per month for subscribers of its “Optimum Online” service. It will be available exclusively on the Motorola Moto G smartphone that users will have to purchase, the company said.

The $180 Android phone will be sold to “Freewheel” users without a contract at a discounted price of $99.95, it added.