Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites already sell everything from clothes and furniture to car tires and medicines. But soon they’ll also be offering 3G data and voice call plans as well, according to the Chinese tech giant.
User registration for mobile phone numbers will begin in May.
Alibaba is among the Chinese companies that received a mobile virtual network operators license back in December. This allows them to resell wireless services from the nation’s state-controlled mobile carriers China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom.
It won’t be hard for the Alibaba to find customers. Taobao and Tmall are two of China’s largest online retail sites. In addition, the company is aggressively expanding into mobile services, developing its own operating system for smartphones, along with a mobile chatting app called Laiwang.
As smartphones become the number one way Chinese go online, local tech companies are trying to corner a part of the mobile Internet market. In Alibaba’s case, the company has been on a spending spree, buying a stake in Chinese social networking site, Weibo.com, and moving to acquire the country’s largest online mapping provider.
Offering data and voice services could help Alibaba attract more users to its e-commerce services. As China only has three mobile carriers, there’s plenty of room for MVNOs to grow, according to analysts. But Alibaba won’t be the only e-commerce company offering mobile phone services.
JD.com, another major online retailer in China, has also received a MVNO license. The company plans to offer its telecom services in the second quarter of this year.
JD.com has the second largest business-to-consumer retail site behind Tmall.com, according to research firm Analysys International. The company is set to grow even faster after Chinese Internet giant Tencent bought a 15 percent stake in it.
As part of the deal, JD.com will take over two of Tencent’s online retail businesses. It will also gain access to Tencent’s WeChat app, a mobile messaging app with 300 million users.
The world’s top 1,000 websites have been updated to protect their servers against the “Heartbleed” vulnerability, but up to 2% of the top million remained unprotected as of last week, according to a California security firm.
On Thursday, Menifee, Calif.-based Sucuri Security scanned the top 1 million websites as ranked by Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon that collects Web traffic data.
Of the top 1,000 Alexa sites, all were either immune or had been patched with the newest OpenSSL libraries, confirmed Daniel Cid, Sucuri’s chief technology officer, in a Sunday email.
Heartbleed, the nickname for the flaw in OpenSSL, an open-source cryptographic library that enables SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Security Layer) encryption, was discovered independently by Neel Mehta, a Google security engineer, and researchers from security firm Codenomicon earlier this month.
The bug had been introduced in OpenSSL in late 2011.
Because of OpenSSL’s widespread use by websites — many relied on it to encrypt traffic between their servers and customers — and the very stealthy nature of its exploit, security experts worried that cyber criminals either had, or could, capture usernames, passwords,\ and even encryption keys used by site servers.
The OpenSSL project issued a patch for the bug on April 7, setting off a rush to patch the software on servers and in some client operating systems.
The vast majority of vulnerable servers had been patched as of April 17, Sucuri said in a blog postthat day.
While all of the top 1,000 sites ranked by Alexa were immune to the exploit by then, as Sucuri went down the list and scanned smaller sites, it found an increasing number still vulnerable. Of the top 10,000, 0.53% were vulnerable, as were 1.5% of the top 100,000 and 2% of the top 1 million.
Other scans found similar percentages of websites open to attack: On Friday, San Diego-based Websense said about 1.6% of the top 50,000 sites as ranked by Alexa remained vulnerable.
Since it’s conceivable that some sites’ encryption keys have been compromised, security experts urged website owners to obtain new SSL certificates and keys, and advised users to be wary of browsing to sites that had not done so.
Sucuri’s scan did not examine sites to see whether they had been reissued new certificates, but Cid said that another swing through the Web, perhaps this week, would. “I bet the results will be much much worse on that one,” Cid said.
Square Inc has been having discussions with several rivals for a possible sale as the mobile payments startup hopes to stem widening losses and dwindling cash, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The company spoke to Google Inc earlier this year about a possible sale, the Journal reported, adding that it wasn’t clear whether the talks are continuing.
Square, founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, co-creator of Twitter Inc, will likely fetch billions of dollars in a sale. Square insiders sold shares earlier this year on the secondary market, valuing the company at roughly $5.2 billion, the Journal said.
The company recorded a loss of about $100 million in 2013, the Journal said, adding that the startup has consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it raised from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009.
Square makes credit card readers that slot into smartphones such as Apple Inc’s iPhone.
Square also had informal discussions about a deal with Apple
and eBay Inc’s PayPal in the past, but those conversations never developed into serious talks, the Journal said.
A spokesman for Square told the Journal that the company never had acquisition talks with Google. The report also quoted a PayPal spokesman as saying that the company did not have acquisition talks with Square.
Square, Google, Apple and eBay were not immediately available for comment.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft’s scheduled launch last week was scrubbed because of a helium leak in the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry it aloft.
Optical laser communications, also dubbed lasercom, is one of the emerging technologies that NASA is focused on trying out.
With lasercom, data is transmitted via laser beams; the technology potentially offers much higher data rates than the space agency is able to achieve with current radio frequency transmissions.
“Optical communications have the potential to be a game-changer,” said mission manager Matt Abrahamson, in a statement. “It’s like upgrading from dial-up to DSL. Our ability to generate data has greatly outpaced our ability to downlink it. Imagine trying to download a movie at home over dial-up. It’s essentially the same problem in space, whether we’re talking about low-Earth orbit or deep space.”
Abrahamson noted that many of the latest deep space missions send data back and forth at 200 to 400 kilobits per second. The new laser technology is expected to transmit data at 50 megabits per second.
Since one megabit is equal to 1,024 kilobits, that means the new communications should be up to 256 times faster.
Once the Dragon spacecraft rendezvouses with the space station, the orbiter’s robotic arm will remove it from the ship’s cargo bay and then attach it to the outside of the station. The laser test is expected to last at least three months.
A ground telescope will be used to test the new communication tool.
As the space station moves in its orbit around Earth, the ground telescope will track it and transmit a laser beacon carrying a video uplink in 100-second bursts to the orbiting instrument. The tests will help scientists better calculate the ability to point the laser, along with beam acquisition and tracking — all while the space station is traveling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour.
The new laser communications initiative is a key part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, an arm of the space agency focused on developing technology for future space missions, as well as for life here on Earth.
Growth in the tablet market is driven by low-end devices and Android, but AMD’s tablet strategy is driven by Windows and high-performance machines. So AMD’s avoidance of the low end of the market narrows options for people looking for name-brand chips in low-price machines.
AMD chips are in just a handful tablet models. Those AMD chips that are available for tablets are essentially watered-down PC chips with strong graphics capabilities. But the company plans to introduce new chips, code-named Beema and Mullins, for tablets These new chips are based on a new core and designed to provide more performance and battery life.
“If we miss out on some units in the low end, so be it,” said Lisa Su, general manager of AMD’s global business units, during the first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.
AMD executives said they didn’t want to buy their way into the tablet market like Intel, which has been subsidizing tablet makers to use its x86 chips through its “contra revenue” program. Instead, AMD wants to be selective in its product mix, and focus on high-margin and high-value products.
“This idea of contra revenue is foreign to us,” said Rory Read, CEO of AMD, during the call.
AMD could go after tablets priced at $300, but won’t go under that, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.
“They are not chasing bad business,” Brookwood said.
AMD doesn’t have the financial resources to provide subsidies to tablet makers to use its chips, Brookwood said.
Though the tablet market is important, AMD is more concerned about generating revenue from custom chips and other areas, Brookwood said.
AMD makes custom chips for game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, which helped drive up revenue by 28 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2014. AMD’s revenue in the PC, server and tablet chip business declined.
Addressing the wide tablet market isn’t a good idea for AMD and its bottom line, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. AMD is directing more resources out of tablets and into consoles, where there is more financial reward, McCarron said.
But it does need one or two big customers to help their tablet business, he said.
“They are being very judicious in what part of the product stack they are playing in,” McCarron said. “They are working on home-run customers.”
Researchers are looking at the possibility of making low-power, flexible and inexpensive computers out of plastic materials. Plastic is not normally a good conductive material. However, researchers said this week that they have solved a problem related to reading data.
The research, which involved converting electricity from magnetic film to optics so data could be read through plastic material, was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa and New York University. A paper on the research was published in this week’s Nature Communications journal.
More research is needed before plastic computers become practical, acknowledged Michael Flatte, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. Problems related to writing and processing data need to be solved before plastic computers can be commercially viable.
Plastic computers, however, could conceivably be used in smartphones, sensors, wearable products, small electronics or solar cells, Flatte said.
The computers would have basic processing, data gathering and transmission capabilities but won’t replace silicon used in the fastest computers today. However, the plastic material could be cheaper to produce as it wouldn’t require silicon fab plants, and possibly could supplement faster silicon components in mobile devices or sensors.
“The initial types of inexpensive computers envisioned are things like RFID, but with much more computing power and information storage, or distributed sensors,” Flatte said. One such implementation might be a large agricultural field with independent temperature sensors made from these devices, distributed at hundreds of places around the field, he said.
The research breakthrough this week is an important step in giving plastic computers the sensor-like ability to store data, locally process the information and report data back to a central computer.
Mobile phones, which demand more computing power than sensors, will require more advances because communication requires microwave emissions usually produced by higher-speed transistors than have been made with plastic.
It’s difficult for plastic to compete in the electronics area because silicon is such an effective technology, Flatte acknowledged. But there are applications where the flexibility of plastic could be advantageous, he said, raising the possibility of plastic computers being information processors in refrigerators or other common home electronics.
“This won’t be faster or smaller, but it will be cheaper and lower power, we hope,” Flatte said.
The Openstack-based service also includes an extension of the Red Hat partnership into the Dell Openshift Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Linux Container products.
Dell and Redhat said their cloud partnership is intended to “address enterprise customer demand for more flexible, elastic and dynamic IT services to support and host non-business critical applications”.
The integration of Openshift with Redhat Linux is a move towards container enhancements from Redhat’s Docker platform, which the companies said will enable a write-once culture, making programs portable across public, private and hybrid cloud environments.
Paul Cormier, president of Products and Technologies at Red Hat said, “Cloud innovation is happening first in open source, and what we’re seeing from global customers is growing demand for open hybrid cloud solutions that meet a wide variety of requirements.”
Sam Greenblatt, VP of Enterprise Solutions Group Technology Strategy at Dell, added, “Dell is a long-time supporter of Openstack and this important extension of our commitment to the community now will include work for Openshift and Docker. We are building on our long history with open source and will apply that expertise to our new cloud solutions and co-engineering work with Red Hat.”
Dell Red Hat Cloud Solutions are available from today, with support for platform architects available from Dell Cloud Services.
Earlier this week, Red Hat announced Atomic Host, a new fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) specifically tailored for containers. Last year, the company broke bad with its Fedora Linux distribution, codenamed Heisenbug.
Oracle issued a comprehensive list of its software that may or may not be impacted by the OpenSSL (secure sockets layer) vulnerability known as Heartbleed, while warning that no fixes are yet available for some likely affected products.
The list includes well over 100 products that appear to be in the clear, either because they never used the version of OpenSSL reported to be vulnerable to Heartbleed, or because they don’t use OpenSSL at all.
However, Oracle is still investigating whether another roughly 20 products, including MySQL Connector/C++, Oracle SOA Suite and Nimbula Director, are vulnerable.
Oracle determined that seven products are vulnerable and is offering fixes. These include Communications Operation Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Server 5.6, Oracle Communications Session Monitor, Oracle Linux 6, Oracle Mobile Security Suite and some Solaris 11.2 implementations.
Another 14 products are likely to be vulnerable, but Oracle doesn’t have fixes for them yet, according to the post. These include BlueKai, Java ME and MySQL Workbench.
Users of Oracle’s growing family of cloud services may also be able to breath easy. “It appears that both externally and internally (private) accessible applications hosted in Oracle Cloud Data Centers are currently not at risk from this vulnerability,” although Oracle continues to investigate, according to the post.
Heartbleed, which was revealed by researchers last week, can allow attackers who exploit it to steal information on systems thought to be protected by OpenSSL encryption. A fix for the vulnerable version of OpenSSL has been released and vendors and IT organizations are scrambling to patch their products and systems.
Observers consider Heartbleed one of the most serious Internet security vulnerabilities in recent times.
Meanwhile, this week Oracle also shipped 104 patches as part of its regular quarterly release.
The patch batch includes security fixes for Oracle database 11g and 12c, Fusion Middleware 11g and 12c, Fusion Applications, WebLogic Server and dozens of other products. Some 37 patches target Java SE alone.
A detailed rundown of the vulnerabilities’ relative severity has been posted to an official Oracle blog.
Lavaboom, based in Germany and founded by Felix MA1/4ller-Irion, is named after Lavabit, the now defunct encrypted email provider believed to have been used by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Lavabit decided to shut down its operations in August in response to a U.S. government request for its SSL private key that would have allowed the government to decrypt all user emails.
Lavaboom designed its system for end-to-end encryption, meaning that only users will be in possession of the secret keys needed to decrypt the messages they receive from others. The service will only act as a carrier for already encrypted emails.
The goal of this implementation is to protect against upstream interception of email traffic as it travels over the Internet and to prevent Lavaboom to produce plain text emails or encryption keys if the government requests them. While this would protect against some passive data collection efforts by intelligence agencies like the NSA, it probably won’t protect against other attack techniques and exploits that such agencies have at their disposal to obtain data from computers and browsers after it was decrypted.
Security researchers have yet to weigh in on the strength of Lavaboom’s implementation. The service said on its website that it considers making parts of the code open source and that it has a small budget for security audits if any researchers are interested.
Those interested in trying out the service can request to be included in its beta testing period, scheduled to start in about two weeks.
Free Lavaboom accounts will come with 250MB of storage space and will use two-way authentication based on the public-private keypair and a password. A premium subscription will cost a!8 (around US$11) per month and will provide users with 1GB of storage space and a three-factor authentication option.
Canonical has announced its latest milestone server release, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
The company, which is better known for its open source Ubuntu Linux desktop operating system, has been supplying a server flavor of Ubuntu since 2006 that is being used by Netflix and Snapchat.
Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support (LTS) claims to be the most interoperable Openstack implementation, designed to run across multiple environments using Icehouse, the latest iteration of Openstack.
Canonical product manager Mark Baker told The INQUIRER, “The days of denying Ubuntu are over, and the cloud is where we can make a difference.”
Although Canonical regular issues incremental releases of Ubuntu, LTS releases such as this one represent landmarks for the operating system, which only come about ever two years. LTS releases are also supported for a full five years.
New in this Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release are Juju and Maas orchestration and automation tools and support for hyperscale ARM 64-bit computing such as the server setup recently announced by AMD.
Baker continued, “We’re not an enterprise vendor in the traditional sense. We’ve got a pretty good idea of how to do it by now. Openstack is gaining a more formal status as enterprise evolves to adopt cloud based solutions, and we are making a commitment to support it.
“Openstack Iceberg is also considered LTS and as such will be supported for five years.”
Scalability is another key factor. Baker said, “We look at performance. For the majority of our customers it’s about efficiency – how rapidly we can scale up and scale in, and that’s something Ubuntu does incredibly well.”
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will be available to download from Thursday.
Security experts from from Germany’s Security Research Labs have broken into Samsung’s fingerprint technology by taking a fingerprint smudge from the smartphone and creating a “wood glue dummy” finger with it. Apparently the S5 falls for the fault every time.
The problem is because the scanner has such a high trust rating within the phone, it will also mean that any thief will have access to the owners PayPal account. Neither of these actions require an additional password to be entered. PayPal has said that while it was taking the findings from Security Research Labs seriously, it was confident that fingerprint authentication offers and easier and more secure way to pay on mobile devices than passwords or credit cards.
The scan unlocks a secure cryptographic key that serves as a password replacement for the phone and this can be deactivated from a lost or stolen device, and you can create a new one. Paypal also uses sophisticated fraud and risk management tools to try to prevent fraud before it happens.
However you would think someone would have learnt by now a similar method was used to break the iPhone 5S’ fingerprint scanner last year. A better method was to cut the iPhone owner’s finger off. It was more messy but a lot more satisfying. There is a video of German researchers figuring out ways of making your phone talk after the break.
Its becoming more obvious lately that Intel and Microsoft are no longer joined at the hip. Intel is trying desperately to make a dent in the tablet market, and with Windows struggling on those devices, Android is where it’s at.
Intel hopes to see its processors used in 40 million tablets this year, and 80% to 90% of those will be running Google’s Android OS, CEO Brian Krzanich said on Tuesday.
“Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,” Krzanich said during Intel’s quarterly earnings call.
Most Intel-powered tablets running Android today use the older Medfield and Clover Trail+ chips. More Android tablets running the latest Atom processor, called Bay Trail, will ship later this quarter.
That’s not to say Intel is abandoning Windows — far from it. It’s just going where the market is today. Krzanich said he expects Windows to “grow and gain traction,” and more Intel-based tablets running both Android and Windows will be shown in June at the massive Computex trade show in Taipei.
The first Android-based Bay Trail tablet, the DreamTab, was announced in January, but it hasn’t shipped yet.
Intel is chasing ARM, the U.K. company whose processor designs are used in most tablets today, including those running both Android and Apple’s iOS.
The 40 million Intel tablets that will ship this year will give the company 15% to 20% of the tablet market, Intel CFO Stacy Smith said on the earnings call.
Intel is providing discounts and development funds to tablet makers to reduce the cost of using its chips. It’s looking for growth with the white-box Chinese tablet makers, which are expected to ship up to 130 million tablets this year.
Intel chips are available in some tablets now priced under $99, but most will be priced between $125 and $250, Krzanich said.
Microsoft hasn’t made much of a dent yet in Google’s and Apple’s share of the market, but IDC estimated last month that Windows would have 10.2% of the tablet market by 2017. Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard have launched Windows 8 tablets with Bay Trail, and Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 2 uses an Intel Core processor, but the tablets haven’t sold well.
“All spots in the Explorer Program have been claimed for now, but if you missed it this time, don’t worry,” the Google Glass team wrote on its blog on Wednesday.
“We’ll be trying new ways to expand the Explorer program in the future.”
Google did not respond to a request for more information, but an earlier post about the one-day sale spoke of brisk sales of the $1,500 Internet-enabled headset.
“We’ve sold out of Cotton (white), so things are moving really fast,” the team wrote.
Aside from the white version, Glass was being offered in shades marketed as Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale (grey) and Sky (blue). Buyers had the choice of their favorite shade or frame. Google announced the one-day sale available to all U.S. residents over 18 last week, adding it wasn’t ready to bring the gizmo to other countries. Shoppers who missed it have to sign up for updates at the Glass website.
Only a few thousand early adopters and developers had Glass before the one-day sale, which coincided with a major software update for the heads-up display that put video calling on hold.
An official launch of Google Glass may happen later this year.
The Red Hat Summit kicked off in San Francisco on Tuesday, and continued today with a raft of announcements.
Red Hat launched a new fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with the title “Atomic Host”. The new version is stripped down to enable lightweight deployment of software containers. Although the mainline edition also support software containers, this lightweight version improves portability.
This is part of a wider Red Hat initiative, Project Atomic, which also sees virtualisation platform Docker updated as part of the ongoing partnership between the two organisations.
Red Hat also announced a release candidate (RC) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. The beta version has already been downloaded 10,000 times. The Atomic Host fork is included in the RC.
Topping all that is the news that Red Hat’s latest stable release, RHEL 6.5 has been deployed at the Organisation for European Nuclear Research – better known as CERN.
The European laboratory, which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and was birthplace of the World Wide Web has rolled out the latest versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation and Red Hat Technical Account Management. Although Red Hat has a long history with CERN, this has been a major rollout for the facility.
The logging server of the LHC is one of the areas covered by the rollout, as are the financial and human resources databases.
The infrastructure comprises a series of dual socket servers, virtualised on Dell Poweredge M610 servers with up to 256GB RAM per server and full redundancy to prevent the loss of mission critical data.
Niko Neufeld, deputy project leader at the Large Hadron Collider, said, “Our LHCb experiment requires a powerful, very reliable and highly available IT environment for controlling and monitoring our 70 million CHF detectors. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is at the core of our virtualized infrastructure and complies with our stringent requirements.”
Other news from the conference includes the launch of Openshift Marketplace, allowing customers to try solutions for cloud applications, and the release of Red Hat Jboss Fuse 6.1 and Red Hat Jboss A-MQ 6.1, which are standards based integration and messaging products designed to manage everything from cloud computing to the Internet of Things.
Reddit, a website with a retro-’90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is trying to attract even more followers, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily.
Reddit, majority owned by Conde Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month unveiled a new feature that lets users of the nine-year-old site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time.
The live updates allow selected users, dubbed “reporters” by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event such as the conflict in the Ukraine, an earthquake in Los Angeles, or a game played in real time, without having to refresh the page.
The capability is still in testing mode. So far only users selected on a case-by-case basis can create a live thread. The feature has attracted attention. For example, live threads linked to “Twitch plays Pokemon,” in which users of the Twitch website played an old Nintendo game, garnered 2 million page views in 30 days.
“Reddit members are doing amazing things with very minimal tools and were hitting some barriers,” said Erik Martin, general manager.
Martin, who said the site is not yet profitable and declined to give specific revenue figures, added: “We want to give people a more powerful way to make updates.”
Reddit’s move toward enabling users to fluidly update is the latest move in a battle between social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to use news to engage users, and attract more ad dollars.
Before, Reddit users could not update in real time. The new feature is similar to how people instantly send tweets but keeps the updates together through one thread or “subreddit.”
Reddit, which also gets revenue through e-commerce, has ramped up efforts of late to attract more advertisers. Next week, it plans to unveil city and country targeting capabilities that allow advertisers to address users by geographic market.
One recent ad, specific to Reddit, featured the actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, stars of the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” as individual threads.
Some 62 percent of Reddit users get their news through the platform while about half of all Facebook and Twitter users do the same, according to a recent report on the State of the News Media from the Pew Research Center.
“Reddit is all about the community, that is the value they brought to the site as they created it,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has been following Reddit since it was founded.
“News has always been really important to Reddit,” she said.
Reddit has more than 114 million unique visitors worldwide and has doubled its traffic in 12 months, said Martin. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter has more than 240 million.