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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.

 

 

Box Riding High After Success IPO

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Box made a splashy entrance on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, opening at $20.20 per share, or 44 percent higher than the price it had set for itself the night before.

With 12.5 million shares for sale, the initial public offering raised some $175 million that Box can now use to invest in its business, and a market capitalization of $1.6 billion.

By Friday afternoon, the stock — trading under the symbol “BOX” — had reached as high as $24.73 per share, or 77 percent above its IPO price.

“It was unbelievable,” said Steve Sarracino, a founder and partner at Activant Capital, noting that current prices were giving Box a valuation on a par with the $2 billion it saw in its last private funding round in July.

“We were watching closely because for the first time it looked like the public market was going to impose discipline on the private market, but they blew right through there. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it tells us the market is risk-on,” he said.

Wall Street’s warm reception can only come as welcome reassurance for Box, whose IPO journey has been a rocky one. After originally filing to go public last March, the company ended up postponing those plans, citing unfavorable market conditions.

Looking ahead, though, there’s no doubt Box will have to move quickly. Storage is a commodity business,analysts have noted, and Box will have to make sure customers see it as a provider of more than just storage.

 

 

 

RHEL Finally Available On IBM’s Power8

January 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has made the Power8 version of the latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) beta available through its Power Development Platform (PDP) as the firm continues to build support for its Power systems.

IBM and Red Hat announced in December that RHEL 7.1 was adding support for the Power8 processor in little endian instruction format, as the beta release was made available for testers to download.

This version is available for developers and testers to download from today through the IBM PDP and at IBM Innovation Centres and Client Centres worldwide, IBM announced on its Smarter Computing blog.

“IBM and Red Hat’s collaboration to produce open source innovation demonstrates our commitment to developing solutions that efficiently solve IT challenges while empowering our clients to make their data centres as simple as possible so they can focus on core business functions and future opportunities,” said Doug Balog, general manager for Power Systems at IBM’s Systems & Technology Group.

The little endian support is significant because IBM’s Power architecture processors are capable of supporting little endian and big endian instruction formats. These simply reflect the order in which bytes are stored in memory.

The Power platform has long had Linux distributions and applications that operate in big endian mode, but the much larger Linux ecosystem for x86 systems uses little endian mode, and supporting this in Red Hat makes it much easier to port applications from x86 to Power.

Suse Linux Enterprise Server 12 launched last year with little endian support for the Power8 processor, as did Canonical’s Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

However, Red Hat and Suse are understood to be continuing to support their existing big endian releases on Power for their full product lifecycles.

IBM sold off its x86 server business to Lenovo last year, and has focused instead on the higher value Power Systems and z Systems mainframes.

In particular, the firm has touted the Power Systems as more suitable for mission critical workloads in scale-out environments like the cloud than x86 servers, and has been forging partnerships with firms such as Red Hat through its OpenPower Foundation.

Courtesy-TheInq

NASA Test New Robotic Helicopter

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The robotic rovers navigating around Mars are limited by what their onboard cameras are capable of viewing.

If they could see further ahead, they might be able totravel three times as far in a single Martian day, enabling them to better find sites to explore and gather more information, faster, than they can today.

To speed up the rovers’ work, NASA is considering sending a robotic helicopter to Mars that could act as a scout for their explorations.

“So why would we want to put a helicopter on Mars?” asks Mike Meacham, a mechanical engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a video presentation. “If I’m the rover right now, I can’t really see the terrain behind me. But if I had a helicopter with a camera on it, all of a sudden, I can see a whole lot more.”

Dubbed the Mars Helicopter, the robot could be an add-on to future Mars rovers. Weighing 2.2 pounds and measuring 3.6 feet from the tip of one blade to the other, the helicopter would be able to detach from the rover and fly on its own.

So far, JPL engineers have built a proof-of-concept prototype and have been testing it in a 25-foot vacuum chamber.

Because of the difference between the atmosphere on Earth and on Mars, the helicopter’s blades would have to spin at about 2,400 rpm to provide lift, NASA said.

“The system is designed to fly for two to three minutes every day,” said Bob Balaram, a chief engineer at JPL. “There’s a solar panel on the top and that provides us with enough energy for that short flight, as well as to keep us warm through the night. So in those two to three minutes, we expect to have daily flights of about half a kilometer or so.”

For now the JPL team is focused on relentlessly testing the helicopter.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Rumors Say Samsung Is Quietly Seeking To Buy Blackberry

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

For a while, the rumor mill has manufactured hell on earth yarns claiming that Samsung is set to buy the Canadian smartphone maker Blackberry.

The deal always seems to fall through, and in any event has never happened.

However the Financial Post has found evidence that this time Samsung is actively pursuing a plan to take over or buy a significant stake in BlackBerry.

The story is still a rumour because both companies have denied such a plan may be in the works, but a document obtained by the Financial Post, prepared for Samsung by New York-based independent investment bank Evercore Partners, outlines the case for, and the potential structure of a possible purchase of BlackBerry.

The paper is a little elderly and was written in the last quarter of 2014, but a source familiar with the matter said that Samsung remains very interested in acquiring all or part of BlackBerry for the right price.

J.K. Shin, Samsung’s co-chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal that his company is in talks to use some of BlackBerry’s technology in the South Korean company’s devices, but is not interested in an acquisition. “We want to work with BlackBerry and develop this partnership, not acquire the company.”

But it appears that Samsung was caught off guard by a Reuters leak earlier this week. It had hoped it could move in quickly on BlackBerry, and the company’s share price would stay low. When the news went up and the share price rose its bid looked a little weak.

BlackBerry appears to have learned of the price Samsung was hoping to pay through the Reuters leak, before the company could make a formal offer. This is the sort of thing Samsung wanted to avoid.

In five years, BlackBerry thought the return on their turnaround strategy as implemented by John Chen was going to do better than the cash they will be receiving today.

Still, the source maintains that Samsung is still keen on making a deal happen. The talk earlier this week about Samsung extending its cooperation with BlackBerry, which was notably lacking in specifics, is “just setting it up,” the source said. “Samsung hasn’t walked away” from an acquisition. “They’re leaning towards it.”

Courtesy-Fud

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The ESA Goes With Red Hat For Cloud Services

January 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The European Space (ESA) has deployed a private, on-premise cloud platform designed to serve its community in Europe. The infrastructure is partly based on a custom version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

The ESA Cloud needs to be constantly available to the space agency’s large user base, ensuring high levels of reliability and flexibility and the management capabilities of a modern IT environment, according to Red Hat.

Hosted applications include software development and testing, satellite data processing, document management and “more traditional” corporate IT services used during day-to-day operations.

The ESA Cloud infrastructure is based on systems from VCE, including a blade architecture with x86 CPUs, and cloud management software from Orange Business Services.

RHEL is one of the platforms supported within the ESA Cloud, and the space agency worked closely with Red Hat to customise the enterprise OS.

The customisation and implementation phase was particularly important, the ESA said, because its requirements are “dramatically” different to those of any other enterprise.

The scenarios Red Hat and the ESA IT team had to deal with were quite often “absolutely new”, the company stated.

The ESA Cloud is designed to provide complex virtual environments “within minutes” to end users, shortening the time needed to reach an organisation’s business and scientific targets.

Monitoring computing resources consumed in real time is another important feature of ESA’s private cloud, allowing the IT team to optimise the available capacity to support specific agency projects.

The first ESA Cloud data center is ready for production in Frascati, Italy, and the space agency has already completed a similar site in Darmstadt, Germany.

Future targets include increasing the number of available services, and disaster recovery capabilities to face “any possible large-scale calamity”.

Courtesy-TheInq

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.

 

 

 

NSA Reportedly Hijacked And Repurposed Third-Party Malware

January 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

In addition to having its own bag of digital tricks, the U.S. National Security Agency reportedly hijacks and repurposes third-party malware.

The NSA is using its network of servers around the world to monitor botnets made up of thousands or millions of infected computers. When needed, the agency can exploit features of those botnets to insert its own malware on the already compromised computers, through a technology codenamed Quantumbot, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported.

One of the secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by Der Spiegel contains details about a covert NSA program called DEFIANTWARRIOR that’s used to hijack botnet computers and use them as “pervasive network analysis vantage points” and “throw-away non-attributable CNA [computer network attack] nodes.”

This means that if a user’s computer is infected by cybercriminals with some malware, the NSA might step in, deploy their own malware alongside it and then use that computer to attack other interesting targets. Those attacks couldn’t then be traced back to the NSA.

According to the leaked document, this is only done for foreign computers. Bots that are based in the U.S. are reported to the FBI Office of Victim Assistance.

The NSA also intercepts and collects data that is stolen by third-party malware programs, especially those deployed by other foreign intelligence agencies, if it is valuable. It refers to this practice as “fourth party collection.”

In 2009, the NSA tracked a Chinese cyberattack against the U.S. Department of Defense and was eventually able to infiltrate the operation. It found that the Chinese attackers were also stealing data from the United Nations so it continued to monitor the attackers while they were collecting internal UN data, Der Spiegel reported.

It goes deeper than that. One leaked secret document contains an NSA worker’s account of a case of fifth party collection. It describes how the NSA infiltrated the South Korean CNE (computer network exploitation) program that targeted North Korea.

“We found a few instances where there were NK officials with SK implants on their boxes, so we got on the exfil [data exfiltration] points, and sucked back the data,” the NSA staffer wrote in the document. “However, some of the individuals that SK was targeting were also part of the NK CNE program. So I guess that would be the fifth party collect you were talking about.”

In other words, the NSA spied on a foreign intelligence agency that was spying on a different foreign intelligence agency that had interesting data of its own.

Sometimes the NSA also uses the servers of unsuspecting third parties as scapegoats, Der Spiegel reported. When exfiltrating data from a compromised system, the data is sent to such servers, but it is then intercepted and collected en route though the NSA’s vast upstream surveillance network.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Microsoft Looking Into Light Beams

January 21, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Researchers have worked out a way that means you will never have to plug in your phone again.

Yunxin Liu, Zhen Qin and Chunshui Zhao from Microsoft Research’s Beijing campus have developed a new system they call AutoCharge.

The researchers’ paper said that “wireless power methods have several disadvantages, preventing them from being used in our targeted usage scenarios”

Electromagnetic radiation of wireless power is much higher than wireless communications (Wi-Fi or 3G). Thus, safety to human bodies is a big issue in wireless power. As a result, wireless power is usually used only in extreme scenarios such as in outer space, for military purposes, or in very short ranges.

Radio frequencies used in wireless power are much lower than the frequencies of light, it is hard to emit the radio waves within a straight beam. This causes energy waste if the receiver is not large enough and makes it hard to ensure safety.
The current crop of wireless charging solutions for smartphones typically require special phone cases and ‘charging pads’, and work using electromagnetic induction. Power is transmitted only over a few centimetres.

However the researchers came up with a way of using solar power techniques to charge smartphones.

Indoor surrounding light is usually much than the sunlight and thus cannot be used to charge a smartphone but instead of relying on the sun, the team built a prototype charger that can be mounted on a ceiling and automatically locate a smartphone lying on a table, then charge it using a directed beam of light.

The light charger has two modes. In the ‘detection’ mode, it uses a camera and image recognition software to detect objects with the size and shape of a smartphone lying on a table. The charger will rotate until it detects an object that looks like a smartphone.

The device then enters charging mode and turns on its light. The prototype used an UltraFire CREE XM-L T6 Focusing LED Flashlight.

Courtesy-Fud

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.