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Microsoft Joins FIDO Alliance, Seeks To Replace Passwords

December 16, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has joined the FIDO Alliance, an industry group tasked with creating industry standards that reduce reliance on passwords, long regarded as a weak point in Web security.

Launched in July 2012, FIDO, which stands for Fast IDentity Online, is hoping its specifications for security devices and browser plugins will be widely adopted across the technology industry.

Such efforts depend on voluntary adoption by many companies and organizations. So far, those participating in FIDO include heavyweights Google, MasterCard, Lenovo, Infineon, LG Electronics and a variety of smaller companies.

Authentication hardware and software widely varies, with many proprietary clients and protocols. FIDO hopes that standardizing authentication technologies will lead to better interoperability and innovations in biometrics, PINs (personal identification numbers) and secondary authentication technologies, according to its website.

Usernames and passwords underpin most online services but are easy to intercept. Computer security experts have long warned of password weaknesses, such as easy-to-guess ones and people who reuse them across multiple services.

Password replacement technology has a high bar: it needs to be both effective and simple for users.

FIDO envisions a software client that’s installed on computers that employ public key cryptography to authenticate users. All major Web browsers will be supported. The initial focus will be on securing access through Web browsers to Web applications. The group also plans authentication options for Android phones soon and eventually for Windows tablets and Apple products.

When FIDO authentication is used, a user will not need to submit their biometric or personal information to an online service.

The FIDO Alliance will eventually submit its protocol to groups dedicated to Web standards, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force or the World Wide Web Consortium.


FCC Approves Telecom Deal Involving AT&T, Dish

October 30, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. telecommunications regulators on Monday officially adopted an agreement by AT&T Inc, Dish Network Corp and other wireless providers to give smaller operators access to devices now made only for AT&T’s airwaves.

The Federal Communications Commission’s order, approved without a public vote, makes official and elaborates upon a multi-pronged deal brokered by agency staff and wireless companies last month.

Participants made concessions in hopes of improving how they use the airwaves that carry their wireless signals. The agreement could also ultimately affect how much money the FCC raises in January in its auction of spectrum, the agency’s first major spectrum auction since 2008.

Such an agreement has been a key policy goal of FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn to help smaller wireless providers, such as regional or rural carriers, gain access to more and better devices to operate on their airwaves in the lower 700 megahertz band.

AT&T owns a band of frequencies in the adjacent block and by agreeing to “interoperability” of devices between its airwaves and the ones in the nearby frequencies, it gives manufacturers the incentive to make phones that would be usable for customers of smaller providers as well as the second-biggest provider, AT&T.

The airwaves in the 700 megahertz band are highly valued for their powerful signal.

“For folks in rural areas in particular, this is going to allow local providers to offer service not just on their systems but also on AT&T systems,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.

In some areas, he said, interoperability may lead to more roaming options or even give local providers a chance to grow into regional ones.

In announcing the ruling, Clyburn praised the collaborative efforts by AT&T, consumer advocacy groups, the Competitive Carriers Association and Dish, which helped smaller wireless carriers negotiate the interoperability deal with AT&T.

As part of the agreement, Dish promised to lower the power in the so-called E block of frequencies that it owns, to reduce the possibility of interference with signals sent on nearby frequencies, which are owned by other companies including AT&T.

In return for its promise to lower power, Dish gets more time and flexibility in building out the networks in that block of airwaves.

For Dish, the order is the first step in its strategy to grow as a wireless competitor and expand in mobile broadband.

Dish has separately also asked the FCC to delay the deadline for building networks on other airwaves it bought in 2012 and for more flexibility in how it could use them.

The FCC sets deadlines and requirements for how – and how quickly – the companies have to make use of the radio frequencies they own.

The agency is currently reviewing Dish’s further requests, although it is unclear whether the new FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, whose nomination awaits Senate confirmation, would rule to satisfy all of Dish’s wants.

To sweeten the deal, Dish told the FCC that if the agency gives its nod to all of the company’s requests, it would invest $1.56 billion in the upcoming auction of so-called H block frequencies, scheduled for January.




Microsoft Adds Enhancements To Yammer’s Mobile Apps

October 17, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft has made updates to its Yammer enterprise social networking suite’s mobile applications, email integration and document collaboration.

Microsoft detailed the improvements  at an event it held in San Francisco for Yammer customers that kicks off its Working Social Tour, scheduled to land in up to 200 cities worldwide, including New York City, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.

“It’s part of our push to connect with Yammer customers,” said Jared Spataro, general manager, Microsoft Office, in an interview. Attendees are expected to be both Yammer customers as well as those who are using Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud email and collaboration suite, which includes online versions of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Office.

Microsoft bought Yammer in mid-2012 for $1.2 billion in order to extend the enterprise social networking (ESN) capabilities of its SharePoint collaboration server and of other products in the Office family and beyond. Microsoft is in the process of integrating Yammer’s cloud suite with those products now.

The mobile improvements include a revamped iPad application and tweaks to the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications. The overhaul of the iPad app is supposed to simplify the user experience, while the Windows apps got improvements to live tiles and a better inbox.

Microsoft also deepened the interoperability between Yammer and email systems, making it possible for people to participate in Yammer group discussions through email messaging and without necessarily having a Yammer account.

Establishing bridges between Yammer and email is important because many customers are still trying to figure out the best way to use the ESN suite with email, according to Spataro.

“They’re looking for a mental model for how to use email and Yammer and how to think about those two worlds coming together because not everyone jumps on Yammer or enterprise social networking at the same time,” he said.

Unlike other vendors, Microsoft doesn’t see ESN suites as a replacement for email communications. “We believe they’re very complementary tools, that they can and should coexist, and that when used together they provide a very good, rounded experience,” Spataro said.

Microsoft has also started to add features to Yammer so that it can be used as a more structured tool for getting things done and managing tasks, not just as a social conversation meeting place, he said.

In addition, it’s now also possible to launch a Yammer conversation from an Office 365 document stored in SharePoint Online by hitting a “Post to Yammer” button. That way people can have discussions about the document on Yammer.


T-Mobile’s LTE Network, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 Phone Are Incompatible

March 27, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Existing users of Samsung’s Galaxy S III will not be able to use the phone on T-Mobile’s LTE network, which debuted Tuesday and will reach 200 million people by the end of this year.

The Galaxy S III does not have a compatible LTE radio, said Randy Meyerson, senior director of product marketing at T-Mobile, during an event in New York City, where the company announced the official rollout of its LTE network and new mobile plans.

At the event, T-Mobile announced an Apple iPhone 5 that will work on its LTE network. Other phones that will work on its LTE network include BlackBerry Z10, HTC One, and S3′s successor, Samsung Galaxy S4, which will go on sale starting on May 1. Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, which started shipping in September last year, will also work on T-Mobile’s LTE network, said a representative for the wireless carrier at the event.

T-Mobile officials declined to comment on whether an LTE version of the Galaxy S III would become available.

The S III was announced last year and started shipping in the U.S. for all major networks starting in June. When announced, the smartphone worked on LTE networks from AT&T and Verizon, but T-Mobile at the time did not offer LTE and was working on deploying the network. The S III smartphone shipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8960 chipset, which includes an integrated LTE radio.

However, it remained unclear if the S III would work on T-Mobile’s LTE network. That led to discussion threads in T-Mobile’s forums and on other websites like XDA-developers on whether S III had forward support for LTE based on the MSM8960 chipset specifications. Forum members sent related questions to Samsung and T-Mobile representatives, but got mixed answers.

All S III phones use Qualcomm’s MSM8960 chipset, but Samsung and T-Mobile may have disabled the LTE capability on the smartphones designed for T-Mobile networks, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and founder of Anandtech, which reviews hardware.

Smartphones are planned starting roughly 18 months ahead of their release, and are designed for specific bands and frequencies, Shimpi said. It was likely too early for T-Mobile to determine what frequencies its LTE network would run on.

“You need the right front-end to enable LTE on the right frequency,” Shimpi said.

Qualcomm is trying to solve some of the LTE compatibility issues by cramming in support for a wide range of LTE bands in its chips, which could help smartphones interoperate on multiple networks in different countries, Shimpi said.



Wireless Carriers Team Up To Simplify Wi-Fi Roaming

December 19, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A group of wireless operators including AT&T, Boingo Wireless, BT and China Mobile have teamed up to develop a common framework for Wi-Fi roaming to make it easier for users to access hotspots while travelling abroad.

Mobile operators have come to see public Wi-Fi as an important part of their networks as they face growing data usage volumes. But processes for users to connect to and roam on to Wi-Fi networks are still fragmented, according to the Wireless Broadband Association.

The industry organization leads the Wi-Fi Roaming Interoperability Compliancy Program (ICP), which aims to change that by specifying guidelines on user authentication, network selection and billing mechanisms. The goal is to make it easier for operators to enter into roaming agreements, it said.

Users will benefit from having access to an increased number of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, and users can also expect to be able to access hotspots in the same way they do at home.

The first trial of the program was launched on Dec. 17 and the plan is to launch it by May or June next year, according to the WBA. Some of the key elements of ICP are already in place, including common templates and technical requirements, a WBA spokeswoman said via email.

KT, NTT DoCoMo, PCCW, Shaw Communications, Smart Communications and True are also participating.


Cloud Storage Spec Receives ISO Approval

October 22, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has ratified the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI), a set of protocols defining how businesses can safely transport data between private and public clouds.

The Storage Networking Industry Association’s (SNIA) Cloud Storage Initiative Group submitted the standard for approval by the ISO last spring. CDMI is the first industry-developed open standard specifically for data storage as a service.

“There is strong demand for cloud computing standards and to see one of our most active consortia partners contribute this specification in such a timely fashion is very gratifying,” Karen Higginbottom, chairwoman of the ISO committee, said in a statement. “The standard will improve cloud interoperability.”

The CDMI specification is a way to create an interface for accessing data in the cloud by preserving metadata about information that an enterprise stores in the cloud. With metadata associated with the information, companies can retrieve data no matter where it’s stored.

“With the metadata piece, it’s also complementary with existing interfaces. The standard can be used with Amazon, for file or block data and it can use any number of storage protocols, such as NFS, CIFS or iSCSI,” said SNIA Chairman Wayne Adams.

Based on a RESTful HTTP protocol, CDMI provides both a data path and control path for cloud storage and standardizes a common interoperable format for securely moving data and its associated data requirements from cloud to cloud. The standard applies to public, private and hybrid deployment models for storage clouds.

CDMI also defines service levels for cloud-based data, such as how long it should be retained, how many copies should be kept and whether those copies need to be distributed geographically.

CDMI has been gaining adoption among vendors and governments. Currently five vendors — Mezeo Software, Scality, NetApp, Data Direct Networks and Compuverde — sell software products that are CDMI certified.


Will Dell Buy Quest Software?

June 18, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Dell is set to buy Quest software for $2.5 billion. The move trumps the bid by Insight Venture Partners and was done on the quiet.

The No. 2 U.S. personal computer maker kept its name out of the limelight when Quest disclosed on Thursday that it had received an offer from a “strategic bidder” of $25.50 per share. Quest’s shares rose more than 9 percent to finish at $26.06 on Thursday.

Dell has been actively buying companies to expand its offerings to business and diversify away from personal computers. It told investors its focus on the hardware and software needs of corporate customers was gaining momentum. Quest could help Dell’s businesses in data management and protection and Windows server management.

Quest makes software to monitor the flow of data through networks and it has worked with Dell since 2004 and is one of the PC maker’s top 10 partners. Dell ranks among Quest’s five largest partners.



Dell Seeks To Challenge Apple Tablets With Windows 8

March 19, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

A growing dissatisfaction among employees with the clunky PCs their employers force them to use, in contrast to the sleek Apple devices many have at home, could yet benefit incumbent manufacturers like Dell, a top Dell executive said.

As Apple’s third-generation iPad went on sale on Friday, accompanied by the now traditional scenes of fans standing in long lines , Dell’s chief commercial officer Steve Felice said the tablet market was still wide open.

Dell ditched its previous attempt at cracking the global tablet market, the Streak, last year. It was based on Google’s Android operating system software.

Now Dell is planning a fresh assault with the advent of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating platform, which is expected later this year and will have a touch interface that works across desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

“We’re very encouraged by the touch capability we are seeing in the beta versions of Windows 8,” Felice told Reuters in an interview in London, adding that Dell may also make Android tablets again.

“We have a roadmap for tablets that we haven’t announced yet. You’ll see some announcements.. for the back half of the year,” he said. “We don’t think that this market is closed off in any way.”

Felice said that Dell’s relationships with its thousands of business customers gave it an advantage over Apple, whose gadgets can cause headaches for IT departments because they operate on different systems.

As iPads and iPhones have become popular from the boardroom down, corporate technology chiefs have been increasingly forced to accept the fact that employees will use their own devices.

“On the commercial side there are a lot of concerns about security, interoperability, systems and device management, and I think Dell is in the best position to meet those,” Felice said.

He added that iPads also left much to be desired in terms of processing power and ease of typing. “When people put their computer to the side and take their iPad with them to travel, you see a lot of compromises being made.”

Dell has also just launched a so-called ultrabook, a high-end notebook that is light and thin but still at least as powerful as a regular laptop. The XPS 13 costs about $995.

“The demand has been excellent since we launched this product just a week ago,” Felice said. “It is a fantastic product and shows our commitment to the PC space. We like the PC space. We are extremely committed to it.”


AOL Denies Rumor Of Instant Messenger’s Demise

March 15, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Despite several rumors that AOL is planning to end its popular instant messaging service, the company says that’s not true.

“We are not killing instant messenger,” an AOL spokeswoman said to Computerworld late Wednesday afternoon. “We’ll continue to support it and evolve the product.”

There was some confusion earlier today when SlashGear reported that AOL’s instant messenger, AIM, is about to be “shut down for good.” The report also contended that there would be no further upgrades to the software.

A source close to AOL told Computerworld that Jason Shellen, who heads up AIM product group, is leaving the company. AOL also laid off about 40 employees from the AIM group, according to the source.

However, the AOL spokeswoman said that does not mean that AOL is getting rid of AIM.

Earlier today, Google and AOL restored interoperability between their two instant messaging networks. The move came about two weeks after the connection was temporarily suspended due to a spam flood originating in AOL’s service that affected Gmail Chat and Google Talk users.