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China Further Restricts Internet, Blocks VPN Access

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China is further tightening its grip on access to the Internet by blocking services that allow users to get around government censorship.

Several foreign-based operators of virtual private network (VPN) services said Friday that access to their services in China had been disrupted as a result of the crackdown and users are facing a harder time getting to some foreign websites.

Virtual private networks work by establishing an encrypted pipe between a computer or smartphone and a server in a foreign country. All communications are sent inside the pipe, effectively shielding Internet traffic from government filters that determine whether a site can be accessed. VPNs are used by Chinese citizens to get to external news sources and by resident foreigners and businesses for day-to-day communications.

StrongVPN, a commercial provider that operates a network of servers around the world, said users in China had recently begun experiencing connection problems to some of its sites. Comments alongside a company blog post indicate the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.

Another VPN provider, Golden Frog, told customers they might have more success connecting to services in Hong Kong or The Netherlands than those in the United States or Australia.

The Chinese government appears to be using two techniques to disrupt service, said Andrew Staples, a spokesman for Golden Frog. One, deep packet inspection, examines the data in Internet packets to try to determine if it’s a VPN connection. The other, IP blocking, shuts off traffic destined for the Internet addresses used by VPN servers.

 

 

Microsoft Unveils Hologram Visor

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp surprised the tech world with the unveiling of a prototype hologram visor that can bring the Minecraft video game, Skype calls and even the landscape of Mars to three-dimensional life.

The veteran tech pioneer, which long ago lost the mantle of the world’s most inventive company, is making a bold play to regain that title in the face of stiff competition from Google Inc and Apple Inc.

Virtual or enhanced reality is the next frontier in computing interaction, with Facebook Inc focusing on its Oculus virtual reality headset and Google working on its Glass project.

Microsoft said its wire-free Microsoft HoloLens device will be available around the same time as Windows 10 this autumn. Industry analysts were broadly excited at the prospect, but skeptical that it could produce a working model at a mass-market price that soon.

“That was kind of a ‘Oh wow!’ moment,” said Mike Silver, an analyst at Gartner who tried out the prototype on Wednesday. “You would expect to see a relatively high-priced model this year or next year, then maybe it’ll take another couple of years to bring it down to a more affordable level.”

Microsoft does not have a stellar record of bringing ground-breaking technology to life. Its Kinect motion-sensing game device caused an initial stir but never gripped the popular imagination.

The company showed off a crude test version of the visor – essentially jerry-rigged wires and cameras pulled over the head – to reporters and industry analysts at a gathering at its headquarters near Seattle.

It did not allow any photographs or video of the experience, but put some images on its website.

 

 

ARM Develops IoT For Students

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

ARM has created a course to teach IoT skills to students at University College London (UCL)

The course is designed to encourage graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to seek careers in IT.

The IoT Education Kit will teach students how to use the Mbed IoT operating system to create smartphone apps that control mini-robots or wearable devices.

Students are expected to be interested in building their own IoT business, or joining IoT-focused enterprises like ARM. The course will also try to limit the number of Stem graduates pursuing non-technology careers.

ARM reported statistics from a 2012 study by Oxford Policy and Research revealing how many engineering graduates (36 percent of males, 51 percent of females), technology graduates (44 percent, 53 percent) and computer scientists (64 percent, 66 percent) end up with non-Stem jobs.

The IoT Education Kit will be rolled out by UCL’s Department of Electronics from September 2015, with a week-long module for full-time and continuing professional development students.

The Kit comprises a complete set of teaching materials, Mbed-enabled hardware boards made by Nordic Semiconductor, and software licensed from ARM. A second teaching module for engineering graduates is being developed for 2016.

“Students with strong science and mathematical skills are in demand and we need to make sure they stay in engineering,” said ARM CTO Mike Muller.

“The growth of the IoT gives us a great opportunity to prove to students why our profession is more exciting and sustainable than others.”

UCL professor Izzat Darwazeh also highlighted the importance of Stem skills, saying that “many students are not following through to an engineering career and that is a real risk to our long-term success as a nation of innovators”.

Courtesy-TheInq

LG Refutes Claims Of Overheating Qualcomm Phone Processors

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

South Korean smartphone maker LG Electronics Inc said on Thursday that it has not experienced any overheating problems with Qualcomm Inc’s new Snapdragon processor that is powering a curved-screen device going on sale later this month.

“I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip’s performance is quite satisfactory,” Woo Ram-chan, LG vice president for mobile product planning, told reporters at a press event for the company’s G Flex2 smartphone.

The comment came after Bloomberg reported a day earlier that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s top smartphone maker, decided not to use the new Qualcomm processor for the next flagship Galaxy S smartphone after the chip overheated during testing. Samsung and Qualcomm have declined to comment on the report, which cited unidentified sources.

Samsung is widely expected to unveil the new Galaxy S smartphone in early March, and Bloomberg reported that the Korean firm will use its own processors instead.

But LG’s Woo said on Thursday that internal tests for the G Flex2, powered by the new Qualcomm processor, show that the new product emits less heat than other existing devices. The new phone is scheduled to start selling in South Korea on Jan. 30.

“I don’t understand why there is a issue over heat,” he said.

 

 

Google, The Wireless Carrier?

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google has put in place the framework for its own cellular service by acquiring capacity on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, according to news reports.

The sprawling search company would sell the service directly to consumers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources. Tech news site The Information reported on the deals earlier this week.

Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.

The deals would make Google an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), a carrier that doesn’t build or operate its own network but sells services that run on the partners’ infrastructure. Sprint is the third-largest U.S. mobile carrier and T-Mobile is the fourth largest.

As a powerful and well-heeled newcomer, Google might disrupt the cellular industry, just as it has the wired broadband business with its Google Fiberservice. The U.S. mobile industry has been wracked by new business models and falling prices in recent years.

It’s not clear whether the company will launch a full-scale national effort or a more limited rollout. There are terms in Google’s contract with Sprint that would allow for renegotiation if Google draws a huge number of subscribers, the Journal said.

 

 

 

Facebook Going After Hoaxes, Fake News Stories

January 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc said it has put measures in place  to clamp down on “hoaxes” and fake news stories that can spread rather rapidly  on its 1.35-billion member online social network.

The company said it had introduced an option to allow Facebookusers to flag a story as “purposefully fake or deceitful news” to reduce the distribution of news stories reported as hoaxes.

Facebook said it will not remove fake news stories from its website. Instead, the company’s algorithm, which determines how widely user posts are distributed, will take into account hoax reports.

“A post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chose to delete will get reduced distribution in the News Feed,” Facebook explained.

Facebook has become an increasingly important source of news, with 30 percent of adults in the U.S. consuming news on the world’s largest social network, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Facebook cited stories about dinosaur sightings and research supposedly proving the existence of Santa Claus as examples of fake news stories.

Facebook said “satirical” content, such as news stories “intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire,” should not be affected.

 

 

Samsung Dumped Qualcomm Processors In Next Galaxy S Phone

January 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will not use Qualcomm Inc’s  processors for the next version of the South Korean technology giant’s flagship Galaxy S smartphone, according to Bloomberg.

Such an outcome would be a blow for Qualcomm’s prospects for 2015, with the company already having guided for weaker-than-usual annual revenue growth in a five-year outlook issued in November. Samsung, the world’s No.1 smartphone maker, has been one of the U.S. company’s top customers.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 chip overheated during Samsung’s testing, Bloomberg reported. The South Korean company will use its own processors instead, Bloomberg said.

A Qualcomm spokesman declined to comment on the report. A Samsung spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumours.

Analysts have said the Snapdragon 810 chip has been dealing with a variety of performance issues that may not be corrected in time for the launch of Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone.

The South Korean firm is widely expected to unveil the device on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show in early March. Samsung will need to ensure that the phone does not disappoint in order to keep its global market share from slipping further, analysts said.

Samsung has already used its own Exynos processors in flagship devices such as the Galaxy S5 to some extent, though analysts said Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips were more widely used. Greater adoption of Exynos chips in Samsung smartphones would help boost sales for the struggling foundry business.

“Samsung will likely show off the new Galaxy S phone in about a month and a half, so one would have to assume that the chips have been tested a fair amount in order for them to be used,” said HMC Investment analyst Greg Roh.

 

 

IBM Seeking Cloud Expansion Through Acquisitions

January 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

IBM will favor purchases that strengthen its cloud services, the company’s CFO said Tuesday, as it seeks ways to expand its business after 11 straight quarters of declining revenue.

“Most of our acquisitions will probably be on an ‘as a service’ basis, as opposed to an on-premise model,” CFO Martin Schroeter said during IBM’s quarterly earnings call, in response to a question.

“That’s the nature of the market and where we have a lot of opportunity, because we don’t play in some of those areas today,” he said.

IBM could use the growth. On Tuesday it said revenue for the last quarter declined across all major segments — hardware, software and services. Profits were down as well, though they beat the forecast of financial analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

IBM sees cloud services as one of its best chances for growth, as sales of its more traditional products, including mainframes and Unix servers, continue to decline.

Two years ago it bought SoftLayer to help it compete with Amazon Web Services, and last year it bought Cloudant, which provides a database as a service, and Light House Security, another cloud provider. This year, it looks like more cloud deals will be in the works.

Meanwhile, CEO Ginni Rometty has been selling off businesses that produce little or no profit. In October, she announced a plan to sell IBM’s chip manufacturing business for US$1.3 billion to Global Foundries, and before that she sold its x86 server business to Lenovo.

So IBM’s revenue is shrinking in part by design, but it needs to expand its other, more profitable businesses to compensate for the losses. And that isn’t yet happening at a fast enough rate.

 

 

Technology Has Had Negative Impact On Privacy, Survey Reveals

January 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Internet users in the U.S., France Germany and other nations are increasingly concerned about the impact technology has on privacy, and feel legal protections are insufficient.

In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft, respondents said that technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy.

A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.

Internet users in India, Indonesia and Russia were the least concerned, according to the survey. In general, those in developing countries were less bothered.

Surveys like this one should always be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. But there is little doubt that people are wary of how their personal data is used by companies and governments, according to John Phelan, communications officer at European consumer organization BEUC.

That people shouldn’t take privacy for granted has been highlighted on several occasions in just the last week.

Shortly after the horrific Paris shootings, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for saying that authorities should have the means to read all encrypted traffic.

Also, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless found itself in hot water over the way one of its advertising partners used the Unique Identifier Headers Verizon embeds in its customers’ Internet traffic to recreate tracking cookies that had been deleted by users. Online advertising company Turn defended its practises, but still said on Friday it would stop using the method by next month.

Worries about privacy aren’t likely to subside anytime soon, with more devices becoming connected as part of the expected Internet of Things boom.

The “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology is Changing our Lives” survey queried 12,002 Internet users in the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Japan and France.

 

 

 

Canonical To Jump Deeper Into The IoT With Ubuntu

January 21, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Canonical has announced a new version of the Ubuntu operating system designed to bring a united front to the Internet of Things (IoT), after a preview alpha was trialed late last year.

The super-stripped down, lightweight Snappy Ubuntu Core is designed to allow developers to create IoT applications quickly and easily and release them securely across the network.

This means that many devices with firmware that would have been unpatched after vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed can now be updated quickly, easily and silently.

Apps are at the heart of the infrastructure, with app store functionality able to offer off-the-peg firmware, applications and runtime libraries to help facilitate common standards across the IoT.

“We found that the IoT required a way of installing apps similar to the way you do on your phone,” Maarten Ectors, Ubuntu VP for the IoT, told The INQUIRER.

“Developers can have app stores for things that don’t have app stores today. That could be your vacuum cleaner, it could be your robot, it could be a drone.”

The company hopes that the future of robots will be a large part of the success of Snappy, and is working closely with a range of start-ups and Kickstarter projects to bring home automation and intelligent robotics to life.

“As people add more items and add complexity to their home networks, they want stuff to just work and to keep working, no matter what vulnerabilities we discover in the huge mountain of open source software that is powering all of it,” added Mark Williams, founder and guvnor of Ubuntu.

“Many of these items that you’ll be buying will be Ubuntu anyway, but Snappy will allow them to be fully robust, fully automated and fully secure.”

Ubuntu Core requires a tiny footprint. It can work with as little as 600MHz of processing power and 128MB of RAM, with suitable ARM processor baseboards starting at $35 retail.

Also x86 compatible, this flexibility means that the overall product could see IoT products being mass produced for matters of pennies.

Last year Broadcom offered a similar device called the Wiced Sense, a $20 kit aimed at helping to design IoT prototypes.

The first Snappy Ubuntu Core products are expected to be announced in the second quarter. Expect to see a lot of them on Christmas lists for 2015.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Twitter Acquires Marketing Start-up ZipDial

January 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Twitter Inc announced plans to acquire Indian mobile phone marketing start-up ZipDial, reportedly for $30 million to $40 million, as the U.S. microblogging service looks to expand in the world’s second-biggest mobile market.

Bengaluru-based ZipDial gives clients phone numbers for use in marketing campaigns. Consumers call the numbers and hang up before connecting and incurring charges, and then receive promotion-related text messages.

The start-up’s clients include International Business Machines Corp, Yum! Brands Inc’s KFC and Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette.

The service capitalizes on a local tradition of communicating through so-called missed calls. A person may give a friend a missed call to signal arrival at an agreed destination, for instance, without having to pay the cost of a phone call.

Such “unique behavior” was behind ZipDial, the start-up said in a statement announcing the Twitter deal.

Twitter did not disclose terms of the purchase. Techcrunch, citing unidentified sources, reported the deal at $30 million to $40 million.

“This acquisition significantly increases our investment in India, one of the countries where we’re seeing great growth,” Twitter said in a statement.

The acquisition is the latest in India by global tech giants who have snapped up companies in a fledgling startup scene, concentrated in the tech hub of Bengaluru in southern India.

Last year, Facebook Inc bought Little Eye Labs, a start-up that builds performance analysis and monitoring tools for mobile apps. Yahoo! Inc bought Bookpad, whose service allows developers to add document viewing and editing to their own applications.

 

 

Alibaba Has Major Plans To Court U.S. Business In 2015

January 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd  is gearing up to capture U.S. business this year, by offering American retailers new ways to sell to China’s vast and growing middle class.

Anchored by Alipay, the dominant Chinese electronic payments system that works closely with Alibaba and is controlled by its executives, the world’s largest Internet retailer is using the calling card of China’s consumers to attract U.S. partners, two sources close to the company told Reuters.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

That considered strategy, outlined to Reuters for the first time by the sources and executives who work directly with the Chinese company, is intended to heighten awareness in the United States of what Alibaba does, gain goodwill in an important Western market, and lay the groundwork for a longer-term play.

At the heart of its push are Alibaba’s and Alipay’s trial deals to handle Chinese sales, payment and shipping for some of the biggest names in U.S. retail from Neiman Marcus Group to Saks Inc. Both confirmed the agreement but would not talk about how the pilots are faring.

 

The Chinese companies will also work with U.S. startup Shoprunner, an online mall for U.S. retailers in which it owns a stake, and retail services provider Borderfree Inc  to court Chinese consumers.

And Alibaba is preparing a marketing campaign to raise awareness among U.S. businesses of its global business-to-business wholesale platform, Alibaba.com, so they can buy and sell to and from global suppliers.

 

 

 

Will Windows 10 Have An Impact On Tablets?

January 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

CCS Insight has said that, while Microsoft’s share of the tablet market is expected to grow, Windows 10 will have “little impact” before the end of 2016.

CCS has cast its eye over tablet sales, and said that while the market saw minimal growth in 2014, sales are likely to increase by 28 percent in 2015.

The growth will largely be driven by Android, thanks to affordably priced tablets running Google’s software, while Apple is expected to continue to woo those in the market for a high-end device.

Apple will also grow its position in the business tablet market, CCS expects, thanks to its partnership with IBM.

However, CCS stressed that Microsoft should not be overlooked. Sales of Windows-based tablets won’t see huge growth this year, but will gain a bigger share of the market.

Marina Koytcheva, CCS director of forecasting, said: “We expect Android to continue dominating the low-end and mid-range market, with Apple taking the lion’s share of the high-end.

“But Windows is gaining a bigger slice of the pie, albeit from a very low level, and should not be overlooked.”

Koytcheva added that Microsoft’s decision to scrap its licence fee for Windows devices under 9in is a major factor.

“It has given Windows fresh impetus, as it has spurred manufacturers to produce a better range of devices at a variety of prices, as low as $99 for HP’s Stream 7, for example,” she said.

Windows 10 is expected to make its debut on 21 January, but isn’t likely to have much of an impact, according to CCS.

“Microsoft still runs the risk of failing to convert the wide availability of cheaper Windows tablets into strong growth in unit sales before 2017,” Koytcheva said.

“Windows 10 will take time to make its mark, and developers will need a few months to perfect applications for the new platform. We expect Windows 10 to have little impact on tablet sales before late 2016.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Google Wants To Build Military Cloud For Department Of Defense

January 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is putting its considerable resources behind PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ bid to build a new cloud-based healthcare system for the military that would support its more than 9.7 million beneficiaries.

PwC announced yesterday that it will team up with Google on a bid that will go to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for what’s been dubbed the Healthcare Management Systems Modernization Electronic Health Record contract.

The DoD is looking to replace and modernize its online health system, enabling doctors and other healthcare providers, working both inside and outside of government, to easily and securely access medical records for military personnel, retirees and their families.

“Google is known for its expertise in innovative, secure and open technologies, and the power of Internet scale,” said Scott McIntyre, PwC’s global and U.S. public sector leader, in a statement. “Their capabilities can complement our proposed open-architecture solution and bring added value, agility and flexibility to the new Military Health System.”

PcW and Google have recently joined in an effort to help enterprises move their apps and data onto the cloud.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

 

 

Xiaomi Unveils The Mi Note, Challenger To iPhone 6 Plus

January 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc further challenged Apple Inc on Thursday as the world’s third-biggest smartphone maker and most valuable tech start-up unveiled the flagship Mi Note, its answer to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.

Chief Executive Lei Jun introduced the Mi Note in Beijing with a breakdown of the large-screen phone’s technical features, with multiple comparisons to Apple’s equivalent. At 2299 yuan ($371) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, the Mi Note will retail for almost two-thirds less than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Just three years after Xiaomi sold its first smartphone, a $1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at $45 billion. The privately held company has risen to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker and is challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as well as domestic rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd .

Xiaomi takes efforts to play down comparisons with Cupertino, California-based Apple, though it is commonly called the ‘Apple of China’.

“The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone,” Lei told his audience of thousands gathered in the north of China’s capital.

Lei wore a light-blue shirt, eschewing his previously favoured black top, jeans and sneakers, reminiscent of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans.

“Xiaomi is an innovative start-up company, with a short history,” said Lei. The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. “In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents.”

Lei also laid out Xiaomi’s strategy to connect its smartphones with Xiaomi-branded home appliances, allowing phone users to remotely control washing machines, air purifiers and surveillance cameras.