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NBC To Host Daily News Show On Snapchat

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Comcast Corp’s NBC News plans to offer a twice-per-day news show on Snapchat, the company said on Wednesday, part of its push to attract younger viewers who tend to watch TV on mobile devices.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal invested $500 million in Snapchat owner Snap Inc  during its initial public offering as it seeks to boost its digital offering.

Broadcast news outlets like NBC News face an aging audience. The median age of NBC Nightly News, for example, is 64 years old, according to the Nielsen ratings agency. That is much older than the 18-to-34-year-old demographic that advertisers covet.

Last month, NBC News launched a digital video service, called “NBC Left Field” featuring short documentaries to appeal to social media users.

“This is a concerted effort that is crucial to our future,” said Nick Ascheim, head of digital at NBC News.

“Stay Tuned” will focus on issues of the day and will air at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT on weekdays and 1 p.m. EDT on weekends. The show will also air for specific breaking news events.

The launch of the daily news show comes amid increasing investor skepticism about Snap’s ability to grow and compete with Facebook Inc’s Instagram.

Google’s Gradient Ventures To Focus On Artificial Intelligence Startups

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google officially announced Gradient Ventures, its artificial intelligence venture capital project that will make investments in early-stage AI startups.

The new company, which formally launched on Tuesday, underscores Silicon Valley’s growing interest in AI, a field that has been dominated by big tech companies. Google, Facebook and other companies have been busy developing machines, computers or other types of systems that can exhibit humanlike intelligence. The goal is to create machines that can perceive their environment and complete a wide array of everyday tasks previously performed by humans.

Google’s interest in AI is evident in its project, which aims to leverage AI across all the products in its portfolio.

“Through Gradient, we’ll provide portfolio companies with capital, resources, and dedicated access to experts and bootcamps in AI,” according to a blog post by Anna Patterson, founder and managing partner of the operation.

The company has already made investments in a handful of AI startups, according to its portfolio page. Those include Aurima, Cape and Cogniac. Another startup, Alogrithmia, revealed last month it had received backing from Google’s AI venture project, although the name of Google’s group had not been revealed at the time.

Spotify Inks Licensing Deal With Sony Music

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Spotify has pulled together a licensing deal with a second major label, Sony Music Entertainment, according to media reports, setting the stage for a U.S. stock market listing by the music streaming leader.

Recently valued at $13 billion, Sweden’s Spotify is planning a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange later this year or in early 2018, sources told Reuters in May.

Sony agreed to reduce royalties that Spotify must pay in return for the streaming service restricting new albums to paying subscribers for two weeks before offering access to free users, the Financial Times reported, citing a single source.

Sony’s top artists include Adele, Beyonce and Shakira.

Spotify is also in talks with Warner Music Group , Billboard reported.

Favorable royalty terms are crucial for Spotify to attain profitability and to make it a viable long-term holding for investors.

The company reported a 349 million euro ($400 million) operating loss, a 47 percent increase on a year earlier, even as revenue grew 50 percent to 2.93 billion euros.

In April, it signed a multi-year licensing deal with Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, with a similar two-week release window for new albums and a break on the royalties Spotify pays Universal.

It also signed up digital agency Merlin, on behalf of more than 20,000 independent labels.

Last year, Universal held a 28.9 percent share of global music label revenue, Sony Music generated 22.4 percent and Warner 17.4 percent. Independent labels made up the remaining 31.3 percent, MIDiA Research data showed.

Spotify has fended off competition from rival Apple Music, with nearly double the number of paying subscribers.

In March, Spotify said it had more than 50 million paying subscribers and 140 million active users, including free listeners. Apple reported 27 million music subscribers last month, up from 20 million in December.

The company has faced boycotts from some top music artists who have complained its free services undercut the value of their work but the major label licensing deals have gone some way toward easing these tensions, according to analysts.

Spotify declined to comment. Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group did not respond to requests for immediate comment.

Do IoT Device Owners Ever Change The Default Password

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

15 percent of the people who own Internet of Things (IoT) devices don’t bother changing the default password, Postive Technologies has revealed.

Crap passwords are a problem, too, with Positive Technologies also revealing that just five of the most popular username and password combinations are enough to get administrative access to one out of every 10 devices, according to research by cyber security company Positive Technologies.

Therefore, the default and most popular pairings go hand-in-hand. They are: admin/admin, admin/0000, user/user, root/12345 and support/support.

This means that millions of devices, from DVRs to IP cameras, are extremely vulnerable, and malware coders that want to build botnets can use a list of default passwords to easily gain access to these devices and add them to a botnet of IoT equipment which can then be used as a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) weapon on a particular network.

This is how the Mirai botnet began; IoT devices had been infected by attacks on Telnet ports 23 or 2323 using a list of 62 standard passwords. After connecting to the network, each infected device started scanning for randomly generated IP addresses.

What followed were huge DDoS attacks on journalist Brian Krebs, DynDNS, Liberia, Deutsche Telekom and a US college. The botnet reportedly encompassed 380,000 devices simultaneously and the key issue here was that there was no requirement for non-factory set passwords on these devices.

Other IoT malware campaigns use similar tactics to Mirai – adding other username and password pairs onto the list to improve its chances to expanding the botnet.

However, even once they gain access, the botnet code is not stored in long-term memory and therefore doesn’t survive a restart of the infected device.

This could change in the months to come, as security specialists at Pen Test Partners said they have discovered a new vulnerability that could enable the Mirai IoT worm and other IoT malware to survive between device reboots – creating what would be a far more resilient or even permanent IoT botnet.


Ericcson Re-commits Focus On Mobile Networks

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Ericsson has decided to squash its goal of winning more clients beyond the telecoms industry to refocus on selling networks to mobile phone firms in a move to cut costs and halt a dramatic fall in its share price.

The Swedish firm’s clients in its core business include Vodafone and Verizon but profits have plunged due to competition from Nokia and China’s Huawei and as telecoms companies make savings. Its shares have fallen 30 percent in two years.

Ericsson said in 2014 it would diversify so that by 2020 up to 25 percent of revenue would come from industries beyond telecoms, such as media, utilities and transport, from an estimated 10 percent in 2013.

But the plan has not worked and the company will drop the target as new chief executive Borje Ekholm repositions to focus on the core business of mobile networks.

“We will focus on telco clients and networks exclusively for now,” Ericsson’s new head of Digital Services Ulf Ewaldsson told Reuters in a recent interview.

The U-turn comes at a challenging time for Ekholm, who after only five months in the top job is being pressed by activist investor Cevian Capital, which has a $1 billion stake in the company, to make faster changes.

Ekholm unveiled a cost-cutting plan in March and announced up to $1.7 billion in provisions, writedowns and restructuring costs. He said this would include exploring options for its loss-making media arm and turning its managed services business around.

Investors welcomed the greater focus after years of disappointing investments from Ericsson, but they worry the new plan will not generate growth. Moody’s cut the company’s credit rating to junk in May, partly due to worries that the cost-cutting could hamper innovation.

Increasing dependence on telecoms operators could be risky as they are struggling to grow revenue due to fierce competition and so are unwilling to spend more on networks even as they prepare for 5G fifth-generation wireless broadband technology.

Ericsson has to prove it can remain relevant in an industry that has gone from over 10 major players to three in 20 years. Investors question whether it can do this under Ekholm who has been on the board for a decade while Ericsson lost ground.

Western Digital Re-submits 11th Hour Bid For Toshiba’s Chip Unit

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Western Digital Corp and U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co LP have resubmitted an offer for Toshiba Corp’s  flash memory chip unit, in an eleventh hour effort to stop the conglomerate from signing a deal with its preferred bidder.

Western Digital, which jointly runs Toshiba’s main semiconductor plant, has been at loggerheads with its Japanese partner over the sale of the world’s No. 2 producer of NAND chips, and is seeking a U.S. court injunction to prevent any deal that does not have its consent.

The resubmission adds to uncertainty about whether Toshiba will sign a pact by Wednesday with the firm’s preferred bidder – a group led by Japanese government investors and including Bain Capital that has offered around 2 trillion yen ($18 billion).

The crisis-wracked Japanese conglomerate is rushing to sell the unit to cover billions of dollars in cost overruns at its bankrupt Westinghouse nuclear unit and had set itself a deadline of Wednesday to sign what it has called a definitive agreement.

Wednesday is the day of Toshiba’s annual shareholders meeting and while an announcement of an agreement would look better at the meeting, the deadline is self-imposed.

Western Digital will provide debt financing to facilitate a sale as part of the resubmitted bid, the U.S. firm said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

Sources with knowledge of the matter said a state-backed fund, the Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) which are currently part of preferred bidder consortium – would be invited to join the resubmitted offer.

The sources declined to be identified as the talks were confidential. It was not immediately clear if terms of the offer had significantly changed from one tabled earlier this month that Western Digital has said met Toshiba’s minimum requirement of 2 trillion yen.

An INCJ spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for KKR and DBJ were not immediately available for comment.

In response to Western Digital’s resubmission, Toshiba released a statement reiterating that it has reviewed all proposals and is currently finalizing an agreement with the preferred bidder.

Nissan-Renault Planning Driverless Ride-hailing Service

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Renault SA alliance plan to launch driverless ride-hailing and ride-sharing services in coming years, as the car makers place their focus beyond making and selling cars to survive an industry being quickly transformed by new services.

Automakers are leveraging expertise in automated driving functions for mass-market cars to develop mobility services, as they compete with tech firms such as Alphabet Inc and Uber Technologies Inc  in the fast-growing “pay-per-ride” market which threatens to hit demand for car ownership.

Ogi Redzic, head of Nissan-Renault’s Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services division, said the alliance would begin self-driving services based on its electric cars “certainly within 10 years,” though not likely before 2020.

“We think that the big opportunity for us is in automation, electric vehicles and ride-sharing and hailing together,” Redzic said in an interview on Thursday.

Nissan and Renault join a small group of automakers aiming to enter the ride-hailing market, which Goldman Sachs last month estimated would grow eightfold by 2030 to be five times the size of the taxi market.

Redzic said the Japanese and French partners were testing self-driving vehicles, and that any service would run on pre-mapped courses with predetermined pick-up and drop-off points.

The two automakers are developing the system with Japanese game software maker DeNA Co Ltd and French public transport operator Transdev SA.

German rival BMW AG is also testing autonomous vehicles for use in ride-hailing services, while Uber has been developing self-driving technology.

U.S. tech firm nuTonomy Inc and ride services company Lyft Inc, which counts General Motors Co as a major shareholder, this month announced they would begin piloting an autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service in Boston.

Redzic said to market a self-driving service, regulations need to change to allow driverless cars on roads. At the moment, most global jurisdictions do not expressly authorise vehicles to operate on regular roads without a driver.

“It doesn’t just depend on us,” he said. “To become fully driverless you need laws to change.”

Uber Reverses Course, Adds Tipping Feature To App

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber has finally decided to allow drivers to collect tips through its smartphone app, an about-face from previous company policy, as part of the ride-services firm’s broader effort to improve an often-contentious relationship.

San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc had for years opposed adding a tipping feature to its app despite drivers’ arguments the extra money would help compensate for decreasing wages. The issue had been a longstanding source of disagreement between Uber and its drivers.

Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and lack paid sick leave and vacation, and must pay for car maintenance and other costs.

Beginning on Tuesday, drivers in Houston, Minneapolis and Seattle can collect tips, Uber said. The feature will be available to all drivers in the U.S. by the end of July.

Uber also rolled out other changes on Tuesday, including paying drivers while they wait for passengers and reducing the time passengers have to cancel a ride, as it begins a six-month push to improve drivers’ working conditions. The privately held company is valued by investors at $68 billion.

An Uber spokesman declined to say why the company reversed its tipping policy, though he pointed to a company blog post that called the change “long overdue.”

Lyft Inc, which is Uber’s chief ride-services competitor in the U.S., has long allowed drivers to collect tips through its app. Lyft said on Monday its drivers have collected a total of $250 million in tips during the company’s lifetime, $50 million of which was collected in the last couple of months.

Uber was already facing pressure to allow tipping in New York City. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in April said it was planning to propose a rule no later than July that would require Uber to add a tipping feature to its app.

In March, Uber executives outlined a series of improvements for drivers, including a new navigation system and fairer approach to reviewing driver performance, in response to years of complaints by drivers about their pay and treatment.

The changes come as Uber works to repair the damage to its reputation following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and other employee concerns. Uber earlier this month fired 20 employees, including executives, for their behavior. Last week, Chief Executive Travis Kalanick announced he was taking a leave of absence for an unspecified length of time.

ARM Dives Into The A.I. Market With The Cortex A75 And A55

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

ARM has taken to Computex to unveil the Cortex-A75 and A55 CPUs, which it claims are its most powerful to date.

The flagship Cortex-A75, which is based on ARM’s flexible and scalable Dymaniq microarchitecture and destined for high-end smartphones, offers a 22 per cent improvement in single-threaded performance compared to its Cortex-A73 predecessor and up to 50 per cent more performance in multithreaded use cases. What’s more, according to ARM, the CPU can use just 2W of power and offer a 30 per cent increase in performance on large-screened devices.

A timely leak suggests that Qualcomm’s as-yet-unannounced Snapdragon 845, set to debut inside the Galaxy S9, will be powered by Cortex-A75 cores.

Nandan Nayampally, VP and general manager of ARM’s CPU group, remarked: “I have been at ARM for over a dozen years and can’t remember being this excited about a product delivering such a boost to single-threaded performance without compromising our efficiency leadership.

“The Cortex-A75 delivers a massive 50 percent uplift in performance and greater multicore capabilities, enabling our partners to address multiple high-performance use cases including laptops, networking and servers, all within a smartphone power profile.”

The Cortex-A55 is described by ARM as its “most versatile high-efficiency processor”, and claims the new CPU offers 15 percent more power efficiency compared to its predecessor, in addition to 10 times more scalability, and two times the memory efficiency. 

As well as touting performance upgrades, ARM is – unsurprisingly – touting its new CPUs as optimised for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Both the Cortex-A75 and A55 put ARM feature dedicated instructions for AI performance tasks and set ARM, it claims, on a trajectory to deliver “50x AI performance increases over the next three to five years.”

ARM also on Monday launched the Mali-G72 GPU, which it claims further optimises its SoCs for AI and machine learning tasks. Touting it as its “most efficient yet”, the G72 claims a 1.4 times performance if the Mali-G71 before it and a 25 per cent boost in efficiency.

ARM expects that the first implementations of its new CPU and GPU technologies to appear either in Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. 


Network Monitoring Co Gigamon Inc Prepares For Potential Sale

June 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Gigamon Inc, a U.S. network monitoring software maker,which remains in the crosshairs of activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, is gearing up to host negotiations with potential suitors interested in acquiring it, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move would push Gigamon closer to being acquired, after Elliott reported a 15.3 percent stake in the company in May and said it would encourage it to undergo a strategic review process that could also include a sale.

Gigamon is working with investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc as it prepares to engage in talks with companies and private equity firms interested in a deal, the sources said this week. No sale process has started yet, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Gigamon, which has a market capitalization of $1.5 billion, and Goldman Sachs both declined to comment. Elliott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gigamon could attract interest from companies such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and F5 Networks Inc, as well as technology-focused private equity firms such as Thoma Bravo Llc. Riverbed Technology, now owned by Thoma Bravo, bought Gigamon competitor Opnet in 2012 for $1 billion.

Gigamon, based in Santa Clara, California, makes software that is installed in large data centers to boost the flow of traffic and prevent bottlenecks. Some of its competitors have been acquired in recent months, including Ixia, which Keysight Technologies Inc bought earlier this year for $1.6 billion.

Elliott has succeeded in pushing many technology companies to sell themselves in recent years, including Mentor Graphics, LifeLock Inc and Qlik Technologies.

Facebook Shareholders Press Company To Fix Its Fake News Problem

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Fake news is still a real problem for Facebook, and now shareholders are demanding action to combat it.

At the social networking giant’s annual shareholder meeting, the topic of misinformation spreading on the site came up multiple times.

There was a proposal, which was denied, from two institutional investors asking Facebook to publish a report on “public policy issues associated with managing fake news.” Then there was an admonishment from the Rev. Jesse Jackson saying “fake news and lies is about to destroy us.”

In Zuckerberg’s prepared remarks, he brought up the topic too. “Making sure people have access to good information is a really important part of what we care about,” Zuckerberg said. Creating an informed community, he said, is “a theme I know a lot of us are thinking about.”

Facebook has been under fire for fake news since before the US election, and some of President Donald Trump’s detractors blamed the phenomenon for tipping the scales in his favor. Zuckerberg at first shrugged off the accusation, saying the idea that fake news swayed the election was “pretty crazy.”

Since then, the company has taken more responsibility. The social network in December introduced a way to flag fake stories and partnered with third-party fact checkers to help curb the problem. The company also changed its advertising policies to try to make sure content creators didn’t profit from putting fake articles on the site.

“A lot of the folks that spread hoaxes and false news aren’t actually doing it for an ideological reason,” Zuckerberg said Thursday. “They’re doing it because they’re basically spammers who are trying to make money.”

Facebook’s meeting came one day after former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized social media sites such as Facebook for fake news at Recode’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. She called the situation “unprecedented.”

At the annual meeting on Thursday, one shareholder asked Facebook’s executives to respond to Clinton’s criticism. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, said she heard about Clinton speaking at the conference, but hadn’t had a chance to read the transcript. “I can’t react to the specific comment,” she said. Sandberg did speak more generally about Facebook wanting to fix the problem of fake news.

“People want accurate news on Facebook. That’s what we want on Facebook,” she said. “It is going to be a long term process.”

Aside from fake news, Zuckerberg also addressed a few other topics from shareholders.

He said in the “long term,” Facebook is exploring an entry into mainland China, but there are a number of regulatory questions the company has to figure out first. “This is something we need to think about if we’re going to connect the entire world.”

Flying Car Maker Aims For 2020 Tokyo Olympics Debut

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Engineers, known for collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp, demonstrated their flying car on Saturday, which they hope will be able to light up the Olympic flame for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

“Cartivator”, a start-up group of about 30 engineers including some young Toyota employees, started to develop a flying car “SkyDrive” in 2014 with the help of crowdfunding.

Head of Cartivator, Tsubasa Nakamura, said that while the car was still at an early stage of development, the group expects to conduct the first manned-flight by the end of 2018.

During their demonstration, the current test model was able to get off and float on the ground for a few seconds. Nakamura said the design needed more stability so the prototype would be able to fly long and high enough to reach the Olympic flame.

Engineers of Cartivator are aiming to make their flying car the world’s smallest electric vehicle, which can be used in small urban areas, and hopes to commercialize the car in 2025.

Last month, Toyota Motor and its group of companies agreed to invest 42.5 million yen ($385,000) in the project for the next three years. Nakamura said the group is working hard to improve the design, hoping to receive further investment from the company.

Companies in the world have been competing to develop the first flying car or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles. Uber Technologies Inc announced its plan to deploy its flying taxi service by 2020 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai. Airbus Group is also working on developing its flying car under its division called Urban Air Mobility.

But makers of “flying cars” still face hurdles, including convincing regulators and the public that their products can be used safely. Governments are still grappling with regulations for drones and driverless cars.

Dutch Group Readies Hyerloop Testing Facility

June 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Dutch team that won this year’s edition of the competition held by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX to develop superfast hyperloop transport technology is putting a full-scale testing center in place for the technology.

A hyperloop is a shuttle that travels on magnetic rails, somewhat like a train, but which runs in a tube with little or no air. In theory, hyperloops could allow travel faster than the speed of sound.

“People were dreaming already of transporting humans and cargo (in hyperloops) from the 1860s, so the concept is not that new,” said Tim Houter, co-founder of Hardt Global Mobility, the company set up to commercialize the Dutch team’s technology.

“But when Elon Musk proposed it as a transportation system between San Francisco and Los Angeles it got a huge boost” in renewed interest.

Hardt grew out of the competition team from the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft), which beat teams from MIT and the Technical University of Munich to win the all-around design and construction award in January.

With the help of several investors, among them TU Delft, the Dutch national railway NS, and construction company BAM, Hardt has built a 30 meter tube and is preparing to fit it with rails and the shuttle it has designed.

“In this facility we will test all systems that don’t require high speeds,” said Houter ahead of the public opening of the test center.

“So think about the levitation system, but also the propulsion system, but really important, all the safety systems will be tested in this low-speed but full-scale testing facility.”

Hardt has 600,000 euros ($675,000) in funding for the initial rounds of testing, with plans to raise more to build a high-speed test line by 2019.

Then “we’re going to test all systems that you need to test before you can actually start building a route between two cities so: top speed, taking corners, switching lanes, making it as safe as possible,” he said.

Houter’s ambition is to break ground on a commercial hyperloop between Amsterdam and Paris by 2021.

Microsoft To Acquire Cyber Security Firm Hexadite

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has made a deal to purchase cyber security firm Hexadite for $100 million, according to Israeli financial news website Calcalist.

Hexadite, headquartered in Boston with its research and development center in Israel, provides technology to automate responses to cyber attacks that it says increases productivity and reduces costs for businesses.

Microsoft officials declined to comment. Officials at Hexadite could not immediately be reach for comment.

Investors in Hexadite include Hewlett Packard Ventures, and venture capital firms TenEleven and YL Ventures.

Microsoft said in January it plans to continue to invest more than $1 billion annually on cyber security research and development in the coming years. Israel has already benefited from that investment.

Intel Kittson Really A Successor To The Itanium Line

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released the successors to the Itanium “Poulson” microprocessors and they are showing all the development and evolution of an Apple product.

The Itanium 9720, 9740, 9750 and 9760 CPUs are better known as “Kittson” and really are so similar to their predecessor you could not tell them apart.

In fact the only improvement in “Kittson” lineup is slightly increased operating frequency in two models.

The new range has four and eight CPU cores depending on SKU, up to 32 MB of last level cache, and 2 DDR3 memory controllers. They are clocked at up to 2.66 GHz, and support Hyper-Threading technology. Other supported features are Turbo Boost and Virtualization technologies.

They have shedloads of RAS features, such as machine check architecture with ECC and parity protection, Instruction Replay technology, hot add and removal.

Each on-chip memory controller supports two interconnects to Intel 7500 and 7510 Scalable Memory Buffers. The CPU works with DDR3-800 and DDR3-1066 memory. The Itanium 9720 is rated at 130 Watt TDP and the 9740, 9750 and 9760 SKUs have 170 Watt TDP.


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