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Sony’s FeliCa Smartcard Chip Is Gearing Up For Wearables

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re waiting for that multi-functional smartwatch of your dreams, Sony is working to add contactless payments to wearables with a new chip.

The electronics giant’s FeliCa Networks subsidiary is modifying its FeliCa contactless card technology, widely used in Japan for public transit and e-money payments, for wearables.

The company is designing a low-power chip that could be used in wearables such as smartwatches and smart bands, giving them contactless e-money or transit functions or access to restricted areas.

That would allow users to board a train or bus simply by waving a smartwatch near a chip reader, eliminating the need for a separate smart card.

“The wearables field is just beginning so we’re considering what users will want with this functionality as well as what degree of compactness and power savings it will have,” a spokeswoman for FeliCa Networks said.

The company is also developing FeliCa smartcards with small LCD screens and a touch interface that can display information when users swipe their fingers across the cards.

This “interactive FeliCa card,” still in the prototype stage, can show the remaining balance of money stored in the card, for instance, or payment history.

While about 45 million Android smartphones in Japan have had the FeliCa chip since 2012, iPhones do not support it. The LCD smart card could link with iPhones via Bluetooth so users could check their balances on their phones.

FeliCa Networks hopes to introduce the LCD smartcards in the year to April 2016.

One in two people in Japan has a mobile phone with NFC FeliCa phone functions, according to FeliCa Networks.

The company has shipped more than 236 million of its Mobile FeliCa chips as of December 2013, while Suica, a FeliCa-based smartcard for railways in the Tokyo area, can be used in 230,000 stores.

 

 

AMD Tumbles

July 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s debt load is causing huge problems for the chipmaker — this quarter it had another substantial loss. The tame Apple Press has been claiming that AMD’s woes are caused by the fact it did not move to mobile as was directed by the profit Steve Jobs. They claim, along with some of the dafter analysts, that mobile computing has replaced the PC and companies that stuck to the “old technology” suffered.

However that does not explain how Intel made a stonking profit mostly because of its PC chip sales while its mobile division bled cash. The insistence that mobile was a replacement technology, rather than a parallel development which would not have been noticed if the economy had not tanked, is evidence of how many analysts and hacks drank the Jobs’ kool aid.

AMD’s problems are a lot more obvious. Each quarter it has to pay $49 million to service its huge debt pile. If it did not have to do this the company would have reported a non-GAAP operating profit of $67 million. In fact AMD’s revenue rose 24 percent to $1.44 billion in the second quarter. The company said its third-quarter revenue would rise 2 percent, plus or minus 3 percent, from the June quarter. That would be about $1.47 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $1.44 billion in the second quarter and $1.57 billion in the third quarter.

AMD’s stock fell 15 percent in extended trade after the outfit said it had a net loss of $36 million in the June quarter, compared with a loss of $74 million, a year earlier. AMD has been expanding into non-PC markets like game consoles and low-power servers and it aims to obtain half of its revenue from those additional businesses by the end of 2015. It is also doing well in professional graphics.

Revenue in the Computing Solutions Group dropped 20 percent from a year ago, to $669 million, as microprocessor unit shipments declined. But notebook processor sales rose, while AMD sold fewer desktop processors and chipsets. GPU revenue declined as well, partially offset by a rise in chips sold into graphics workstations and add-on cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon.com Considering Unlimited E-book Subscription Offer

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com appears to be considering a $9.99-a-month e-book and audiobook subscription service dubbed “Kindle Unlimited.”

The as-yet-unreleased service would offer unlimited access to more than 600,000 book titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device, according to a test page that was briefly online. The test page was cached before it was taken down.

The test page was apparently first spotted by gigaom.com.

Amazon.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The test page notes that popular titles in Kindle Unlimited include books likeWater for Elephants and Life of Pi. It also includes the Hunger Games series and the Harry Potter series.

Book categories include science fiction, romance and mystery/thriller and suspense.

If Amazon does release this subscription service, it could be a big deal – not just for the company but for the e-books business.

“This could be a huge game changer in the publishing field, changing the economic model of the entire industry,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “There are going to be some sticky problems, like how to work out compensation between the myriad of large and small publishers, plus those who publish for themselves using Amazon as their sole distribution platform. But I think this could be wildly popular with readers.”

For avid readers, it would likely be popular.

“Amazon’s all-you-can-read Kindle buffet would reduce costs for a large number of readers, and at the same time, probably increase Amazon’s Kindle revenue,” said Olds. “While other e-book publishers will see the need to respond with plans of their own, Amazon’s sheer scale will make it difficult for them to come up with a competitive plan. Amazon already has a massive number of publishers and authors on their platform.”

 

Google Ends Real-name Requirement For Google+

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google+ may attract some new — and certainly anonymous — users after Google announced it was abolishing its real-names policy for the profiles in the service.

Since its introduction, Google’s social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.

“You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile,” the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.

While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don’t want to use their real name.

Google’s policy of trying to tie YouTube users’ accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.

For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.

“We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while,” the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to “unnecessarily difficult experiences” for some users, Google said, adding, “for this we apologize.”

In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.

“Translation: It’s safe to come out and play again comment trolls,” one person wrote.

To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push “better quality” comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.

 

IBM To Partner With Apple To Sell iPads, iPhones For Business Users

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

International Business Machines Corp will join forces exclusively with Apple Inc to offer iPhones and iPads loaded with applications geared at enterprise clients this fall, the company announced.

The announcement, just days before IBM releases its second quarter earnings, comes as the company attempts to shift its focus to software and services as its hardware unit continues to slump, and follows a string of mobile software acquisitions. The company hopes software sales will contribute half of its total profit by 2015.

The company will release more than 100 apps targeting industry specific issues in retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation and telecommunications IBM said on Tuesday.

“We wanted to focus on creating an absolutely irresistible workflow and processes and a design of apps that can be used by every user in the organization,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global business services told Reuters from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“We wanted to remove some of the existing barriers of mobile in enterprise,” she said adding that chief information officers worry about security, utilizing cloud and installing apps in mobile devices.

The partnership, which was six months in the making, will offer services geared at security, mobile device management and big data and analytics. The company also plans to develop cloud services optimized for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The devices will operate through wireless carriers chosen by the client, she said.

BlackBerry Ltd shares were down 3 percent following the announcement. The Canadian smartphone maker has increasingly targeted its secure software at businesses as part of an effort to turn the company around after losing ground to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co.

Apple and Samsung have steadily expanded their share of the mobile enterprise market in recent years, mostly at Blackberry’s expense, while Microsoft Windows phones have made little headway.

Increasingly, Apple’s expansion has been driven by employees bringing in their own devices and requesting corporate support, the so-called bring-your-own-IT trend.

Hooking up with IBM may help address lingering concerns about smartphone software security and data privacy, in the form of a veteran partner that’s led in enterprise IT for decades.

“This deal is a very targeted attempt by Apple with the help from IBM to focus on the enterprise, corporate market which has really been the main business of Blackberry,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

 

 

Is Apple Having Issues With Sharp?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

There is a spat brewing between Apple and its long term supplier Sharp. Sharp has been making Apple displays for ages and has an entire plant dedicated to this purpose. The manufacturing gear now belongs to Apple and Sharp wants to buy the equipment back for $293 million.

Apparently, Sharp wants to diversify its production and shift away from supplying only to Apple. Jobs’ Mob is amenable to the idea of selling the facilities but only if Sharp never sells anything to Samsung. Samsung mostly utilizes OLED screens in most of its products, so there is little for Apple to worry about. However some devices still use LCD screens and might have Sharp gear under the bonnet.

An agreement has not yet been reached and it seems unlikely as the manufacturer is not keen on accepting the blatant anti-competitive behaviour or as Apple would say “shrewed negotiation ability.”

Sharp does not want to piss off Apple. It is busy producing iPhone 6 screens for Apple and the Kameyama Plant No. 1 which is the one that Sharp wants to buy back, flat out.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Touch ID Patent Falters

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s application to trademark the name ‘Touch ID’ for its fingerprint scanning technology has been rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently the name already belongs to an outfit called Kronos, a US-based company that makes workforce management software.

The USPTO pointed out that granting Apple the patent for Touch ID may create confusion among potential users. Kronos’s Touch ID technology is also related to fingerprint recognition and has been doing rather well. It has had the trademark since 2001, while Apple’s application was submitted in January this year only.

The iPhone maker has six months to respond to the letter and provide an alternative. If Apple fails to do so, its application will be considered abandoned by the US patent office and the company will have to rename the feature. The Tame Apple Press gets all moist about the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which was billed as the “killer ap” on the iPhone 5S.  It is going on the iPad range in October.

The fact Apple could not be bothered to check the name was trademarked before it stuck it in the iPhone5S is probably going to cause it some problems. After all it had a few difficulties with the iPad name.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Rumored To Be Cutting Jobs Soon

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp is said to be planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the software giant moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The reductions, expected to be announced as soon as this week, could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering, Bloomberg reported.

Since absorbing the handset business of Nokia this spring, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall Street is expecting Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, which would represent Microsoft’s first major layoffs since 2009.

The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, the report said.

Some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other job cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization, Bloomberg reported.

Last week, Nadella circulated a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but deferred any comment on widely expected job cuts at the software company.

Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month, when Microsoft reports quarterly results on July 22.

 

SeaGate Releases Home Grown Linux OS NAS Devices

July 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Seagate has taken the the wraps off its first major foray into the NAS market.

The Seagate NAS and NAS Pro range will be marketed towards the growing number of small businesses, including SOHO, prosumer and startups. The basic Seagate NAS range has been designed for businesses of up to 25 people with the NAS Pro range targetting the up-to-50-staff market.

All aspects of the new products are created in-house including the new Linux based NAS OS 4, which Seagate’s Northern European Sales Director Edouard Doutriaux told The INQUIRER is aimed at giving customers “a premium experience without the need for the knowledge of a specialist IT department”.

The simple, flat interface minimises jargon but contains all the functionality of rival offerings including iSCiSi interfacing, RAID array and data encryption. In addition, a dedicated “SDrive” offers instant mapping of the NAS within a terminal’s Windows environment.

SDrive is also available for Windows, iOS and Blackberry from launch. Where drives are supplied, they will be dedicated Seagate NAS HDD drives, but Seagate’s SimplyRAID feature also supports mixed capacity drives without downtime.

NAS units are available in two and four bay editions, with a six bay edition added for Seagate NAS Pro. Capacities range from 2TB (2x1TB) for the basic NAS version up to 30TB (6x5GB) for NAS Pro, with diskless editions also offered. All editions share the same NAS OS 4 operating system.

Prices start a to $135 for a diskless standard edition and range up to $2000 for the 30TB pro version. All are available from Seagate now, with resellers coming online soon.

Earlier this year Seagate announced the “world’s fastest” 6TB hard drive, as well as a 2TB wireless portable hard drive.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

MediaTek Shows Off 64-bit SoC LTE Chip

July 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Mediatek has unveiled what it claims is the “world’s first” 64-bit octa-core LTE smartphone system on chip (SoC) with 2K display support.

Named the Mediatek MT6795, the chip is designed for use by high-end device makers for upcoming Android 64-bit mobile operating systems like the recently announced Android L, with support for 2K display up to 2560×1600 resolution.

The chip also features a clock speed of up to 2.2GHz along with Corepilot, which refers to Mediatek’s technology that aims to deliver higher performance per Watt to save power, thus increasing battery life on mobile devices while not sacrificing performance and bringing on board the power of eight cores.

The SoC also provides 4G LTE support, Mediatek said, as well as dual-channel LPDDR3 clocked at 933MHz for “top-end memory bandwidth” in a smartphone.

Mediatek VP and GM for Europe Siegmund Redl told The INQUIRER in a media briefing that the announcement is in line with the industry’s growth in the smartphone arena.

“There has been a discussion about ‘how many cores do you really need’ and what is the benefit [of octo-core],” Redl said. “Quad-core is pretty much mainstream today and application developers are exploiting the fact they can do multithreading and pipelining and parallel computing with handheld devices.

“This will not change with octa-core. When we started to introduce the first octa-core we were showing off a game with very intense graphics and processing that needed the support of multiple cores and again this is the way the industry is going; you bring out the hardware and the software development follows that and takes advantage of it and the user experience is a smoother one.”

The firm claims that the SoC features multimedia subsystems that support many technologies “never before possible or seen in a smartphone”, including support for 120Hz displays.

“With multimedia we raised the bar in terms of recording frames per second, such as slow motion replay with 480 frames per second, for much better user experience,” Redl added.

Multi-mode wireless charging is also supported by the SoC’s companion multi-mode wireless power receiver chip.

The Mediatek MT6795, dubbed the chip for “power users”, joins the firm’s MT6752 SoC for mainstream users and MT6732 SoC for entry level users. It’s the 64-bit version of the 32-bit MT6595 SoC that was launched at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, which features four ARM Cortex A17 cores and four Cortex A7 cores as well as Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series6 GPU for “high-performance graphics”.

Redl said that existing customers that use the MT6595 today for devices that are soon to be hitting the market can reuse the designs they have for the older chip as “they have a pin compatible drop-in with a 64-bit architecture”.

Redl said Mediatek will make the MT6795 chip commercially available by the end of the year, for commercial devices coming in early January or February.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Will Germany Regulate Google?

July 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

German officials are planning to clip the wings of technology giants such as Google through heavier regulation.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, the country’s Federal Cartel Office would be given powers to curtail Google’s influence, were it decided that it had got too big for its boots.

A document obtained by the newspaper says that under the new rules, technology companies would be treated and regulated like utilities such as electricity and water and subject to the same anti-competitive pricing laws governing their advertising.

Proposals to legislate the internet as a utility are at the heart of the debate that’s under way in the US right now, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coming under increasing pressure to classify ISPs as “Title II” utilities in order to protect net neutrality.

In Europe, a commitment to net neutrality is already in place, and any German legislation would only serve to further solidify the country’s commitment to avoiding technology strangleholds.

Full details of the 30-page document are yet to be released, with varying reports of its potential impact, ranging from “last resort” to “all out regulation”.

The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first high-profile victims of NSA surveillance, with some reports saying that the NSA hacked her mobile phone for over a decade.

Courtesy-TheInq

FCC To Spend $2B To Improve School’s Wi-Fi Networks

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has committed to spend $2 billion over the next two years on upgrading Wi-Fi networks at schools and libraries, despite questions from Republican commissioners about the source of those funds.

The FCC, in a 3-2 party-line vote last Friday, approved a plan to revamp the 17-year-old E-Rate program, which pays for telecom services for schools and libraries, by phasing out funding for voice service, Web hosting and paging services, and redirecting money to Wi-Fi. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had proposed a $5 billion budget for Wi-Fi, but Republican commissioners and some lawmakers had questioned where the money would come from.

Still, the E-Rate revamp approved Friday contemplates a $1 billion-a-year target for Wi-Fi projects “year after year,” Wheeler said. The commitment of $1 billion for Wi-Fi in 2015 means that “10 million students are going to experience new and better opportunities,” he added.

In past years, the money available for E-Rate Wi-Fi projects varied from year to year, with no money available in the past year, FCC officials have said. The new approach would give schools and libraries a better idea of what money will be available, they said.

But the budget doesn’t make sense, with only about $600 million in reserves in the E-Rate program, said Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai. “The numbers for the Wi-Fi didn’t add up,” he said. “Where will that money come from?”

The phaseout of obsolete telecom services in the E-Rate program will pay for the Wi-Fi program, said Jon Wilkins, the FCC’s acting managing director. The cost savings from phasing out voice and other old services will amount to $350 million in 2015 and will rise to $950 million in the fifth year of the program, he said.

Pai and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also criticized the E-Rate revamp as missing an opportunity to streamline the $2.4-billion-a-year program and take away some of the complexity for schools and libraries applying for funds. The program’s 17-page application scares off small schools and libraries that can’t afford to hire outside consultants to fill out paperwork, Pai said.

The FCC promised schools, teachers and students “E-Rate modernization,” Pai said. “They need real reform. What does the FCC give them today? The status quo.”

O’Rielly called on the FCC to develop a long-term plan for the E-Rate budget, paid for with fees on consumer telephone bills. He predicted the plan would lead to higher phone taxes.

 

Video Streaming Company RayV Acquired By Yahoo

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has purchased online video streaming company RayV with the aim of distributing content to more consumers, mostly through mobile devices.

RayV, founded in 2005, is focused on efficiently distributing HD-quality video to a global audience, with a focus on mobile.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Yahoo is focused on growing video users and monthly streams, and while we’re only getting started, we’re very focused on this in 2014,” Yahoo said in its announcement of the deal.

RayV’s service will improve Yahoo’s underlying technology infrastructure, and most of RayV’s employees will join Yahoo’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel.

A deal between Yahoo and RayV was in the works for at least a couple months, according to The Wall Street Journal. The acquisition comes as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is focused on giving people more of a reason to visit Yahoo’s site, partly through original online shows.

Yahoo’s Screen portal includes a range of videos including original news, as well as content from partners like Comedy Central, BuzzFeed and Saturday Night Live.

Yahoo recently announced that it would be airing the television show “Community” on Screen, after it was canceled by NBC earlier this year.

 

Chinese Using Scanners To Spy

July 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Security experts claim that a Chinese manufacturer has been installing malware in its hand-held scanners that steals supply chain data.

TrapX says infected scanners made by an unnamed Chinese manufacturer located in Shandong province have been sold to eight unnamed firms including a large robotics company. The manufacturer denied knowledge that its scanners and website-hosted software were infected.

Sixteen of the 48 scanners deployed at one firm were infected, TrapX found. They all successfully sought out and compromised host names containing the word finance and siphoning off the logistical and financial data. The report Anatomy of the Attack: Zombie Zero said:

“Exfiltration of all financial data and ERP data was achieved, providing the attacker complete situational awareness and visibility into the logistic/shipping company’s worldwide operations,”.

TrapX suspected the attacks dubbed Zombie Zero were backed by the Chinese government and were a bid to gain intelligence on either logistics firms or their customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Lenovo Ships First 4K Laptop

July 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Toshiba is not the only company offering a 4K laptop anymore; Lenovo has finally shipped its first 4K laptop, sporting a 5.6-inch screen, after months of delays.

The IdeaPad Y50 UHD laptop starts at $1,299.99 and is targeted at gamers. The 4K screen can display images at 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is the highest resolution available in laptops today.

The Y50 is cheaper than Toshiba’s Satellite P50T, which starts at $1,499.99. The P50T started shipping in April, but was temporarily pulled from Toshiba’s website, and is now available again.

Laptop screens have so far topped out at 3200 x 1800 pixels in Samsung’s Ativ Book 9 Plus, Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro and Razer’s Blade gaming laptop. TVs, monitors and cameras with support for 4K are already available.

Lenovo in January announced two 4K laptops — the Y50 and the 14-inch Y40 — but the initial units that shipped in May were missing 4K screens and instead came with HD screens. The Y40 model is not yet available with a 4K screen. Lenovo was having issues acquiring 4K displays, which delayed some laptops and monitors.

The Y50 has some of the latest PC technologies, pushing it into the class of a true gaming laptop. The $1,299.99 model has a Core i7 i7-4710HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics chip with 2GB of video memory, 8GB of DRAM and 1TB of hard-drive storage. The $1,599.99 model has the same Core i7 CPU, the GeForce GTX 860M with 4GB of video memory, 16GB of DRAM and 512GB solid-state drive storage.

The laptops have Windows 8, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an HDMI connector and two USB 3.0 ports.