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Microsoft Appears To Be Beefing Up Azure

February 12, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft beefed up its Azure Stack cloud platform, just a week after releasing the first Technical Preview of the hybrid cloud enabler.

Microsoft’s Azure Stack offers the same capabilities as the firm’s Azure public cloud but delivered from a customer’s own infrastructure. The thinking behind this is that greater consistency between the private and public cloud platforms will make it easier for enterprises to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy.

Microsoft has now made extra capabilities available that organizations can download and deploy onto the Azure Stack Technical Preview, including an updated Azure SDK, a Web Apps capability in the Azure App Service, SQL and MySQL database resource providers and Visual Studio support.

Microsoft said that this update represents just the first installment of a continuous innovation process planned for Azure Stack, which will eventually lead to enterprise customers being able to fully deliver Azure services from their own data centers.

However, Microsoft said that the three PaaS resource providers it has now delivered, for Web Apps SQL and MySQL, are still only at the early preview stage.

“We’re making them available early to solicit community and early adopter feedback to help simplify the installation and configuration experience. We will then incorporate the feedback and release another public preview for these services before we release the next Technical Preview of Azure Stack,” the firm said in a posting on the Azure blog.

Meanwhile, adding Azure Stack support into the Visual Studio suite will help organizations move towards a DevOps strategy, enabling them to build and deploy cloud-like services from their own data center.

“Enterprises today must manage hyper-scale web applications and complex requirements such as ensuring regulatory compliance and data sovereignty,” said Microsoft’s senior program manager for Azure Tools, Jason Shaver.

“To meet these needs, Microsoft lets enterprises approach the cloud as a model rather than a place: Azure and Azure Stack share a standardised architecture, portal and application model, allowing developers to write once and deploy to public, private or hosted cloud environments without code changes.”

The INQUIRER’s sister site Computing is hosting a DevOps Summit event in London on 5 July 2016. Follow the link for more details.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Qualcomm Introduces New LTE Platform For Wearables

February 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Wearables today, by necessity, are mostly tethered to smartwatches. Qualcomm wants to change that by bringing LTE connectivity to wearables with its new Snapdragon Wear platform.

With the Wear platform, Qualcomm wants to drive the development of sleek wearables like smartwatches, smartbands and smartglasses that offer long battery life. With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE, Qualcomm is enabling more ways for wearables to connect and transfer data over the Internet, other than using the smartphone as an interface.

At the core of the new wearable platform, available now, is the Wear 2100 chip to which an LTE module can be attached. It is the first in a new family of chips the company will release for wearables.

LG Electronics said it would launch smartwatches and other wearables with the Wear 2100 chip by year end. LG last year announced the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, but scrapped the product due to hardware issues. That product could be launched with the Wear 2100 this year.

There are already wearables with cellular connectivity, but most have 2G/3G connectivity. LTE modems tend to be power hungry, and using the 2G/3G network is a more power-efficient way to transfer data using a cellular connection.

But Qualcomm over time has reduced the size of its LTE modems while making them more power efficient. The chip maker is now confident it can pack an LTE modem into a wearable like a smartwatch without hurting battery life.

Around 65 smartwatches with Android Wear already use Qualcomm chips. The Qualcomm Wear platform will also include software tools and reference designs for customers to develop devices.

The Wear 2100 chip is a smaller version of the Snapdragon 400 chip, which is currently used in smartphones. It is also more power-efficient, which could allow for longer battery life.

The chip has a sensor hub and algorithms so it can process data on the device before it is sent to the cloud. The on-board intelligence could help limit the amount of data sent over a cellular network, which could preserve battery life in a wearable.

Qualcomm is following the path of Intel and MIPS, which are offering developer boards for wearables. Intel’s Edison and Curie modules have been used in smartwatches, fabrics, helmets and other wearables, while MIPS offers the small Creator boards for enthusiasts to make wearables at homes.

 

 

AlienSpy RAT Capturing Many Victims

February 12, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Kaspersky Lab has warned of a new remote access trojan (RAT) malware-as-a-service problem called AlienSpy, or Adwind.

The warning was issued at a security show in Tenerife, so we are blaming the name on sangria and sun. There are some other names that it goes by, including Frutas, Unrecom, Sockrat, JSocket and jRat, so take your pick.

We are not currently in Tenerife, but we have access to the report. Kaspersky said that the attack has bagged over 400,000 victims, and in a very bad way indeed. This suggests that it is easy to use, and Kaspersky reckons that it has some 1,800 users.

“The Adwind platform in its current state lowers significantly the minimum amount of professional knowledge required by a potential criminal looking to enter the area of cyber crime,” said Aleksandr Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky.

“What we can say based on our investigation of the attack against a Singaporean bank is that the criminal behind it was far from being a professional hacker, and we think that most of the Adwind platform’s ‘clients’ have that level of computer education. That is a worrisome trend.”

There is a real RAT problem at the moment, and we imagine that companies are panic buying cats or hiring pied pipers. But there must be other solutions.

Vitaly Kamluk, director of Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team reckons that just about any kind of industry is a potential victim, including finance, engineering, retail, shipping, telecoms, software, education, food production, government, healthcare, and (nay, say it ain’t so) the media! He added that law enforcement needs to get involved.

“Despite multiple reports about different generations of this tool, published by security vendors in recent years, the platform is still active and inhabited with criminals of all kinds,” he said.

“We’ve conducted this research in order to attract the attention of the security community and law enforcement agencies and to make the necessary steps in order to disrupt it completely.”

RAT malware was at the center of a recent argument between McAfee and Kaspersky, and lately we have seen it used as spyware and as an avenue for data theft.

You know there are security companies that provide services that will protect you from this kind of threat. We imagine that you would find one in Tenerife right now, but there are plenty of others out there.

We will take a belt and braces approach to the problem and will attempt to teach a large, tough cat how to pipe.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

LG’s New G5 Smartphone To Debut ‘Always On’ Display

February 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

LG’s next flagship Android smartphone, the G5, will come with an “always on” screen, according to a teaser posted  the LG Facebook page.

The full reveal of the G5 is expected on Feb. 21, just prior to the start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

LG hasn’t given many other hints about the G5, although it tagged an animation on the Facebook page with the line, “Never go asleep while others do.”

The G5 is also rumored to have a removable battery that is pulled out from the bottom of the phone. LG’s invitation to its Feb. 21 event includes the words “play begins” and a picture of a jack-in-the-box toy, leading some analysts to conjecture that the G5 will focus heavily on gaming uses.

How LG markets and advertises the G5 could be a sign of growing recognition by vendors that smartphone growth is slowing. As a result, vendors will attempt to draw attention to new features that are relatively minor compared to past years. Many smartphone users need a bigger incentive to upgrade than an always-on display, one analyst said.

“Android unit shipments and revenue growth are slowing year-to-year, and with news like [an always on display], it’s clear [LG] is getting a little antsy about what 2016 has in store,” said Jack Narcotta, an analyst at TBR.

He said that an always-on display isn’t much different from LG’s previous Glance View or even the Motorola Moto X with its gesture-based features.

“From the user’s perspective, always-on is a quirky feature that will have a niche audience, at best,” he said. “Is it really that much of a distraction or effort or waste of time to press a button the side, top or bottom of your phone to see what you’ve missed?”

LG also hasn’t indicated what always-on will mean for sapping battery power, a concern that buyers will surely have, analysts said.

 

Yahoo Announces First Round Of Layoffs

February 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc  announced Wednesday it will terminate 107 employees in the first of what is expected to be more than 1,500 job eliminations.

The layoffs take effect April 11 and affected employees received 60-day advance notice of the move, Yahoo said in a notice filed with the California Employment Development Department. The layoffs were spread across a range of departments and job titles.

Yahoo shares closed up 1 percent at $27.10 on Wednesday and are down about 18.5 percent so far this year.

Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer said during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call this month it will cut roughly 15 percent of its workforce as part of a strategy to revamp its core Internet business.

Yahoo had about 11,000 employees as of June 30, according to its website, down from a Dec. 31, 2014, total of about 12,500 full-time employees and what it called fixed-term contractors.

 

IRS Says Hackers Tax Filers E-Filing PIN Numbers In Latest Attack

February 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Internal Revenue Service was the target of an illegal network intrusion that used stolen Social Security numbers and other taxpayer data to obtain PINs that can be used to file tax returns electronically.

The attack occurred in January and targeted an IRS Web application that taxpayers use to obtain their so-called Electronic Filing (E-file) PINs. The app requires taxpayer information such as name, Social Security number, date of birth and full address.

Attackers attempted to obtain E-file PINs corresponding to 464,000 unique SSNs using an automated bot, and did so successfully for 101,000 SSNs before the IRS blocked it.

The personal taxpayer data used during the attack was not obtained from the IRS, but was stolen elsewhere, the agency said in a statement. The IRS is notifying affected taxpayers via mail and will monitor their accounts to protect them from tax-related identity theft.

While the IRS said that externally acquired taxpayer data was used, the agency did suffer a security breach last year that allowed attackers to gain information such as Social Security information, date of birth and street address for over 300,000 taxpayers.

That attack involved the IRS’ “Get Transcript” application and in that case, too, the agency said that attackers were able to pass the app’s verification steps using information acquired from an external source.

Given the sheer amount of personal data that’s now in the hands of cybercriminals, it’s likely that some of them will try to monetize it and one possible method is by filing fraudulent tax returns.

 

 

World’s Largest Solar Plant Finally Goes Live

February 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The world’s largest solar power plant has finally gone live in Morocco. It will eventually provide 1.1 million people with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year.

The $9 billion Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market.

The Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), paid for with funds approved by The World Bank, is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, about 6 miles from Ouarzazate town. It began operation on Thursday. While the World Bank and other development partners provided financial support, the Noor solar plant is a wholly Moroccan project.

“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, said in a statement. “The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”

Overall, the new Noor CSP plant will increase Morocco’s energy independence, create 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 jobs during the power plant’s operation, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22MW in 2013 to 522MW in 2018, according to The World Bank.

The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, which allows for the production of electricity even at night.

Unlike concentrated photovoltaic solar power, CSP plants do not create electrical current through the photovoltaic effect, where particles of light (photons) break electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Instead CSP uses either lenses or parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s light onto a small point where water or another substance is heated.

The heat is used to create steam, which runs a turbine that produces electricity. In the Noor CSP, concave mirrors focus on molten salt, heating it anywhere from 300 degrees to 660 degrees Fahrenheit.

Currently, the Noor CSP can generate 160 megawatts (MW). But as additional phases are completed, in two years it’s expected to generate more than 500MW — enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million Moroccans.

 

 

 

 

Regulators Deem Google Car’s Computer As A Legal ‘Driver’

February 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. vehicle safety regulators have stated the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car may be considered the driver under federal law, a major step toward ultimately winning approval for autonomous vehicles on the roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, of its decision in a previously unreported Feb. 4 letter to the company posted on the agency’s website this week.

Google’s self-driving car unit on Nov. 12 submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has “no need for a human driver,” the letter to Google from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh said.

“NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants,” NHTSA’s letter said.

“We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years.”

Major automakers and technology companies such as Google are racing to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves at least part of the time.

All participants in the autonomous driving race complain that state and federal safety rules are impeding testing and eventual deployment of such vehicles. California has proposed draft rules requiring steering wheels and a licensed driver in all self-driving cars.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for the Kelley Blue Book automotive research firm, said there were still significant legal questions surrounding autonomous vehicles.

But if “NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles, it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road,” he said.

If the car’s computer is the driver for legal purposes, then it clears the way for Google or automakers to design vehicle systems that communicate directly with the vehicle’s artificial pilot.

 

 

 

Federal Government Wants Big Increase On Cybersecurity Spending

February 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

President Barack Obama has proposed a large increase in cybersecurity spending for next year’s budget, to improve outdated government software and promote better online security for consumers.

The plan calls for a $3.1 billion fund to replace outdated IT infrastructure; a new position of federal chief information security officer; a commission to study cybersecurity problems, and a program to recruit cybersecurity experts into government roles.

The U.S has been working since 2009 to improve the nation’s cyber defenses, most recently with the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which promotes better information sharing between private industry and government, said Michael Daniel, special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator, in a phone briefing with reporters Monday.

“Despite this track record, the cyberthreat continues to outpace our current efforts,” he said. “Particularly as we continue to hook more and more of our critical infrastructure up to the Internet, and as we build out the Internet of things, cyberthreats become only more frequent and more serious.”

The U.S. has faced serious data breaches and intrusions over the past two years. An attack on the Office of Personnel Management, the federal personnel agency, resulted in the theft of data including Social Security numbers, and in some cases fingerprints, of 21.5 million people.

In November 2014, the State Department took its unclassified email system offline after it detected suspicious activity. The shutdown came just two weeks after the White House reported unusual activity on the unclassified Executive Office of the President network.

Overall, the government wants to allocate $19 billion for cybersecurity spending in fiscal 2017, a 35% increase over the current year.

The proposed $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund would be used to replace systems that pose a high risk and to investigate more modern architectures, such as cloud services.

 

 

 

Kingston Announces Acquisition Of USB Technology Maker IronKey

February 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Kingston Technology has announced that it has acquired the USB technology and assets of IronKey from Imation Corp.

Imation, which purchased the then privately-held IronKey in 2011, did not disclose the financial details of the sale to Kingston.

IronKey is perhaps best known for its highly secure USB flash drives, which use 256-bit AES encryption algorithm to secure data and a stainless steel case with no seams so it cannot be pried open.

The secure storage devices are validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to meet the stringent Level 3 criteria of FIPS 140-2. Combined with the cloud-based IronKey Enterprise Management Service, data security can be managed and audited from anywhere in the world.

IronKey’s thumb drives carry with them a hefty price as well. For example, a 32GB thumb drive can retail for as much as $599. However, you can also find them on online sites for around $280.

Kingston, which has had an encrypted portable drive line since it launched its DataTraveler product more than 10 years ago, said IronKey is one of the “leading alternative brands in encrypted USB flash” drives.

“The acquisition provides customers with a more comprehensive portfolio of products and services, and demonstrates Kingston’s commitment as the global leader in trusted encrypted solutions for mobile data,” Kingston said in a statement.

Kingston envisions no immediate changes that would affect the channel partners now  supporting IronKey products.

“IronKey customers with any questions or concerns are asked to contact their current distribution or reseller partners, or email ironkey@kingston.com,” the company said.

 

 

 

Will Nintendo Get Into Virtual Reality Gaming?

February 10, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo’s earnings report and briefing earlier this week were a bit of a damp squib for anyone hoping for more information on the company’s future plans; on NX and on smartphone games alike, the company remained utterly silent. We found out that you’ll be able to pre-register for the Miitomo smartphone app on the 17th of February, with the app itself to launch in March, but you’d have to be a truly ardent follower of Nintendo’s fortunes for that to create more than the slightest flicker of interest. What we actually knew by the end of the earnings report was this – Splatoon is really popular, people are buying an extraordinary number of amiibos, and there’s a special Pokemon-themed edition of the 3DS coming later this month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, which is important news because it means it’s 20 years since Pokemon launched and we’re all really, really old.

The frisson of excitement that spread around the media at the comment that the publisher is “looking into” virtual reality, then, is understandable – for journalists and fans looking for something interesting in the otherwise barren briefing, this was a sip of ice water in hell. Nintendo and VR! VR and Nintendo! An opportunity not only to speculate wildly about NX, but to dust off some hoary old jokes about the Virtual Boy; who could pass up on such a thing?

The thing is, “we’re looking into VR” is perhaps the most lukewarm statement Nintendo or any other company could make about VR. On the blandness scale, it ranks alongside “we know it exists” and “we’ve looked it up and figured out what the letters stand for”. To say any less would have required an active dismissal of VR; simply saying that the company knows VR is happening, and is keeping an eye on developments, is the bare minimum that you’d expect from any company in the industry. “Nintendo aware that VR exists” isn’t much of a headline, I’ll grant you, but it’s pretty close to what was actually announced by the company.

Of course, Nintendo isn’t going to dismiss VR out of hand; the company knows, perhaps better than most, that technological disruption can come from the most unexpected directions and upset market segments in unforeseen ways. The 3DS will never match sales of the DS, not because it’s got a weak software line-up – the software line-up is downright remarkable – but because Apple, a company that spent decades making expensive computers for artists and designers and never had the slightest truck with the videogame market, invented a tiny computer with a touch-screen and sold about, oh, a billion of them, to people who promptly decided that they didn’t need another tiny computer just to play videogames on the train. Is VR going to do something similar to other market segments? Sure, maybe (I’d argue that VR’s potential to disrupt areas of “serious” computing is perhaps greater than its potential to significantly change the videogame market); either way, Nintendo is absolutely going to be watching it closely and making sure it’s not left looking stupid if things take off in an unexpected direction.

For now, though, watching carefully is all anyone should expect of Nintendo and VR. The reality is that, the company’s ill-fated experiments with early iterations of the technology notwithstanding, VR doesn’t fit with Nintendo’s philosophy as a company. Although the multiplayer and social networking aspects of VR are yet to be explored (remember that Facebook is, at great cost, a big player in this field), one thing is absolutely certain about VR interaction – it’s remarkably anti-social in a “people in the same room as you” sense. The whole point of putting on a VR headset is to immerse yourself in a different world; of necessity, this involves cutting yourself off from the world, and the people, around you. That’s not a bad thing, per se; if immersion is what you want, it’s actually a selling point. It’s also sharply contrary to the most basic nature of Nintendo’s design philosophy.

Nintendo is about social gaming; if there’s one core concept that sums up the brand and the appeal of Nintendo over the past couple of decades, it’s that one. Playing with other people, ideally in a physical, real-world context, is at the heart of the design philosophy that underlies both Nintendo’s hardware and its software. The company’s home consoles are designed to support multiple controllers easily (the sadly under-utilised core concept of the Wii U was to create asymmetric gameplay opportunities using the GamePad and a clutch of Wiimote controllers, for instance), while its handheld consoles are designed with communication features that enable online play, sure, but are most effectively deployed in enabling communication with nearby players. In software terms, of course, it’s not that Nintendo lacks games designed for one player – there’s not much social gaming mileage in Fire Emblem, Legend of Zelda or Xenoblade – but many of the core titles that support the company’s systems are deeply focused on social play. Mario Kart is perhaps the most obvious of these, but local multiplayer in racing games is nothing new; to see how deeply ingrained in Nintendo’s DNA social play really is, think of how the company reworked the role-playing game to encourage local multiplayer match-ups with Pokemon, its expansion of the beat ‘em up from a head-to-head experience to a four-player rumble with Super Smash Bros. or even, all the way back then, the reimagining of online FPS gameplay, still in its infancy, into the four-player split-screen of Rare’s Goldeneye.

If you’ve owned Nintendo consoles recently, as most of you probably have, think about what you’ve owned for them. In my own living room, there’s no question which console gets the most usage – in spite of our love for Splatoon, it’s the PS4 that’s used most, followed by the PS3 – but we own one PS4 control pad, and while there’s a second PS3 pad somewhere I don’t think it’s been plugged in since we moved house over a year ago. For the Wii U, meanwhile, we own a GamePad, two classic controllers and three Wiimotes – and the Wii U is always, always the console that gets turned on when friends come over for drinks. It occupies a very different position in terms of usage and context to the PlayStation consoles, and that is very much by design on Nintendo’s part, not by accident. Television advertising for Nintendo games, in Japan at least, strongly emphasises this social aspect; almost every ad features multiple people sitting on a sofa enjoying a game together (boyband members racing each other in Mario Kart, kids putting their heads together to design a fiendish Mario Maker stage that dad won’t be able to beat, etc.). The social nature of Nintendo games is front and centre, and strongly contrasts with ads for PlayStation games, which rarely feature any imagery of the (solo) player at all.

How would VR fit with that? It’s not a question of whether Nintendo’s hardware would be capable of it (we still don’t know what NX will be capable of at all) or whether the company would be able to make good VR games (the firm’s track record surely proves that it’s perfectly capable of making good games on just about anything). It’s a question of how the entire brand Nintendo has cultivated, the perceptions it has built and the philosophy it espouses, would fit with the image of someone not only playing a game entirely solo (which is just fine), but actively donning a headset to block out the world around them while they engage with that world. In Nintendo’s conception of fun, the entertainment value of a game extends beyond the screen to the physical world and the people around you with whom you’re competing, cooperating and sharing the experience. VR flies in the face of that, and undermines the nature of the games which Nintendo has been most successful with over the years.

This isn’t to say that some aspects of VR technology won’t be of interest to Nintendo. Augmented Reality, the technology underlying Microsoft’s Hololens, is a much more natural fit for Nintendo; the company has actually messed with AR technology on the 3DS, although it didn’t use it for anything markedly exciting, and it’s entirely probable that the NX will build on that to some degree (although I don’t anticipate anything even remotely like the Hololens headset). Virtual reality headsets, though, are not going to carry a Nintendo logo any time soon – and unless they become a truly disruptive force in gaming, they probably never will. The company has wide-ranging interests, but a clear vision of what it means for something to be a “Nintendo product” – and that’s a vision that simply doesn’t include VR.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Another Security Flaw Discovered In iPhones and iPads

February 10, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Researchers have found an authentication bypass-sized hole in iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 and iOS 9.

This threat is real people, there is a video of it and documentation available online. It’s all pretty technical but the upshot is the vulnerability lets an attacker bypass the lockscreen on handsets running iOS 8 and iOS 9.

“An application update loop that results in a pass code bypass vulnerability has been discovered in the official Apple iOS (iPhone5&6 / iPad2) v8.x, v9.0, v9.1 & v9.2. The security vulnerability allows local attackers to bypass pass code lock protection of the Apple iPhone via an application update loop issue,” says the official technical description.

In rather loose language it continues: “Local attacker can trick the iOS device into a mode were a runtime issue with unlimited loop occurs. This finally results in a temporarily deactivate of the pass code lock screen. By loading the loop with remote app interaction we were able to stable bypass the auth of an iPhone after the reactivation via shutdown button. The settings of the device was permanently requesting the pass code lock on interaction.

“Normally the pass code lock is being activated during the shutdown button interaction. In case of the loop the request shuts the display down but does not activate the pass code lock.”

David Bisson, a regulator commentator on security, puts it more succinctly on the Graham Cluley blog, and throws in a couple of warnings about how and where you download your software. “This condition can be exploited by shutting down (or powering off) the device, at which point in time the passcode authentication feature is not activated as designed,” he said.

“Upon reboot (or re-activation), that protective feature remains disabled, allowing an attacker to access the device without a passcode… iOS users should therefore be careful when leaving their devices unattended around people they might not know.”

We have asked Apple to comment on the vulnerability and are awaiting a response.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Is Mozilla Dropping Smartphones For IoT?

February 9, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The Mozilla Foundation has confirmed details of its shift in strategy for Firefox OS which will see it abandon future phone development in favour of using the software as (yet another) IoT platform.

In an announcement to the developer community by John Bernard, director of collaboration for Connected Devices at Mozilla, and George Roter, head of core contributors, it was confirmed that Firefox OS for smartphones will be canned at version 2.6.

“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” they said in a statement.

Meh. Could have told you that one two years ago.

In addition, the Firefox OS Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, desktop and tablet apps. Apps for Firefox OS itself will remain accepted until sometime in 2017.

At the moment, the new emphasis on connected devices is in the internal testing phase with three products ‘past the first gate’ and more in the pipeline. It is expected that this process will be opened to outsiders before the end of the second quarter.

The foxfooding (think dogfooding, or insider programme) will continue, turning its focus to connected products, and by the end of March, Mozilla intends to identify how the existing Sony Z3 Compact devices used for testing so far will figure going forwards.

The statement continued “Obviously, these decisions are substantial. The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the web to IoT. And let’s remember why we’re doing this: we’re entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security.”

This seems to suggest that Mozilla wants to help the fragmentation issue by fragmenting it further. This is the ongoing problem with connected devices – everyone wants to be the one to end the fragmentation with their solution.

One of the solutions through the internal tests early doors is the Firefox Smart TV platform, an already fragmented market that should still be licking its wounds from the Matchstick debacle.

Roter adds, “Our push into the Connected Devices space will absolutely necessitate strong community support for our initiatives to be successful – and that means hacking on and testing new product innovations coming through the pipeline.”

 

Courtesy-TheInq

Edge Continues To Weaken Microsoft’s Browser Standing

February 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The inability of Microsoft’s Edge to gain new users from the Windows 10 operating system has contributed to the company’s overall decline in browser share, analysis of recently-published data shows.

According to several metrics sources, Edge’s share of the global Windows 10user base was significantly lower in January than was Internet Explorer’s (IE) share of all Windows users, signaling that Microsoft has not been able to maintain the historical — or even current — percentages of Windows customers on its newest browser.

Last month, Edge’s share of all Windows 10 users was 26% in U.S.-based analytics firm Net Applications’ estimate. That was a decrease of two percentage points from December, and 10 points lower than in September.

In comparison, Net Applications’ IE-only share of all Windows users was a much more substantial 48%, or nearly double that of Edge on Windows 10. In other words, almost half of all Windows users ran a version of IE last month, while just over one-fourth of Windows 10 users ran Edge.

Because Edge works only on Windows 10, and IE only on Windows, it’s relatively easy to calculate the percentages. That’s not the case with other browsers, including Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, which run on multiple editions of Windows and on rival operating systems, such as Apple’s OS X.

Other measurement sources portrayed the same situation: Edge has not held up its side of the bargain for Microsoft.

Irish vendor StatCounter, for example, pegged January’s Edge global share of Windows 10 at 13%, while IE’s share of all Windows was a more substantial 19%.

A third source, the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), tagged Edge’s share of Windows 10 for January at 24%, up one point from December. According to DAP, the IE-only share of all Windows traffic was 40%.

 

 

 

Seeed Studios Debuts $59 Do-it-yourself Mobile Phone Kit

February 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

You can put together a basic 2G cellphone at home with the RePhone Kit Create, which can also be used to make wearables and IoT devices.

The kit from Seeed Studios ships with separate modules that can be pieced together to create a 2G phone with a 1.54-in. LCD screen. Icons on the display can be used to make phone calls or send text messages.

There’s more to RePhone than being a fun device. The kit also is a small development board to make wearable and IoT devices with cellular communication capabilities.

The $59 kit is now shipping, and comes with a small battery and modules for a SIM card — that’s how you connect to a carrier’s network — as well as speaker, GSM, NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy. It also ships with craft paper that can be the skin of the phone.

By October, the company hopes to upgrade RePhone Kit Create with a 4G communications module, said Wells Tu, marketing director at Seeed Studio in an e-mail.

Seeed Studio, which is in Shenzhen, China, received $276,865 from 3,399 backers on Kickstarter to make the RePhone Kit Create. More than 10,000 kits have been sold so far, Tu said.

The kit has spawned interesting wearable and IoT ideas, Tu said. One project involves a homegrown traceable dog tracker, with a RePhone kit in the collar tracking and calling dogs back home through voice commands.

Another idea floated in RePhone’s forums is a simple tracking device for things not expected to move, like a parked car. The goal with RePhone is to have a basic device to allow new IoT applications to be explored, Tu said.

Most IoT development boards today have only Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capabilities. Wearable development boards like MIPS’ Creator Ci40 don’t have cellular capabilities.

The RePhone has two connectors so other modules for motion control and GPS can be attached. It has standard ports found on developer boards to attach cameras and other external devices.

The guts of the phone include an ARM-based microcontroller, 4MB of RAM and 16MB of storage. Programs for RePhone can be written using JavaScript, the Lua scripting language or the Arduino integrated development environment.