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Microsoft Updates Office Online

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is updating its Web-based Office Online suite, closing the features gap with the main Office 365 and Office 2013 suites installed on users’ devices.

“We know you want features that allow you to move as seamlessly as possible between Office Online and the desktop,” wrote Kaberi Chowdhury, an Office Online technical product manager, in a blog post Monday.

Improvements to Excel Online include the ability to insert new comments, edit and delete existing comments, and properly open and edit spreadsheets that contain Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code.

Meanwhile, Word Online has a new “pane” where users can see all comments in a document, and reply to them or mark them as completed. It also has a refined lists feature that is better able to recognize whether users are continuing a list or starting one. In addition, footnotes and end notes can now be added more conveniently inline.

PowerPoint Online has a revamped text editor that offers a layout view that more closely resembles the look of finished slides, according to Microsoft. It also has improved performance and video functionality, including the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

For users of OneNote Online, Microsoft is now adding the ability to print out the notes they’ve created with the application.

Microsoft is also making Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online available via Google’s Chrome Web Store so that Chrome browser users can add them to their Chrome App launcher. Excel Online will be added later.

The improvements in Office Online will be rolled out to users this week, starting Monday.

Office Online, which used to be called Office Web Apps, competes directly against Google Docs and other browser-based office productivity suites. It’s meant to offer users a free, lightweight, Web-based version of these four applications if they don’t have the desktop editions on the device they’re using at that moment.

 

Intel Shows Off New Hybrid Laptop Geared Towards Schools

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel unveiled a laptop-tablet hybrid with Windows 8.1 for the education market, where Chromebooks and tablets are also vying for customers.

The Intel Education 2-in-1 hybrid has a 10.1-inch screen that can detach from a keyboard base to turn into a tablet. Intel makes reference designs, which are then replicated by device makers and sold to educational institutions.

The 2-in-1 has a quad-core Intel Atom processor Z3740D, which is based on the Bay Trail architecture. The battery lasts about eight hours in tablet mode, and three more hours when docked with the keyboard base, which has a second battery.

Intel did not immediately return requests for comment on the estimated price for the hybrid or when it would become available.

Education is a hotly contested market among computer makers, as Apple pushes its iPads and MacBooks while PC makers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo hawk their Chromebooks.

Some features in the Intel 2-in-1 are drawn from the company’s Education tablets, which also run on Atom processors, but have the Android OS.

The 2-in-1 hybrid has front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and a snap-on magnification lens that allows students to examine items at a microscopic level.

The computer can withstand a drop of 70 centimeters, a feature added as protection for instances in which children mishandle laptops and let them fall. The keyboard base also has a handle.

The screen can be swiveled and placed on the keyboard, giving it the capability of a classic convertible laptop. This feature has been drawn from Intel’s Classmate series of education laptops.

The 2-in-1 has software intended to make learning easier, including tools for the arts and science. Intel’s Kno app provides access to 225,000 books. Typically, some of the books available via Kno are free, while others are fee-based.

 

 

Wi-Fi Problems Plague Apple-Samsung Trial

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

There’s a new sign on the door to Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in San Jose, the location of the Apple v. Samsung battle that’s playing out this month: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

For a trial that centers on smartphones and the technology they use, it’s more than a little ironic. The entire case might not even be taking place if the market wasn’t so big and important, but the constant need for connectivity of everyone is causing problems in the court, hence the new sign.

The problems have centered on the system that displays the court reporter’s real-time transcription onto monitors on the desks of Judge Lucy Koh, the presiding judge in the case, and the lawyers of Apple and Samsung. The system, it seems, is connected via Wi-Fi and that connection keeps failing.

“We have a problem,” Judge Koh told the courtroom on April 4, soon after the problem first appeared. Without the system, Koh said she couldn’t do her job, so if people didn’t shut off electronics, she might have to ban them from the courtroom.

In many other courts, electronic devices are routinely banned, but the Northern District of California and Judge Koh have embraced technology more than most. While reporters and spectators are limited to a pen and paper in courts across the country, the court here permits live coverage through laptops and even provides a free Wi-Fi network.

On Monday, the problems continued and Judge Koh again asked for all cellphones to be switched off.

But not everyone listened. A scan of the courtroom revealed at least one hotspot hadn’t been switched off: It was an SK Telecom roaming device from South Korea, likely used by a member of Samsung’s team.

The hotspot was switched off by the end of the day, but on Tuesday there were more problems.

“You. Ma’am. You in the front row,” Judge Koh said sternly during a break. She’d spotted an Apple staffer using her phone and made the culprit stand, give her name and verbally agree not to use the handset again in court.

As a result of all the problems, lawyers for Apple and Samsung jointly suggested using a scheduled two-day break in the case to hardwire the transcription computers to the court’s network.

The cable wasn’t installed.

“I believe there were some issues, We’re attempting to install it,” one of the attorneys told IDG News Service during the court lunch break.

So for now, the problems continue.

The clerk opened the day with an appeal to switch phones off, “not even airplane mode.”

That still didn’t help.

The transcription screens failed at 9:09 a.m., just minutes into the first session of the morning.

 

IRS Missed Windows XP Deadline, To Pay Microsoft Millions

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed that it missed the April 8 cut-off for Windows XP support, and will be shelling out Microsoft millions for an extra year of security patches.

Microsoft terminated Windows XP support on Tuesday when it shipped the final public patches for the nearly-13-year-old operating system. Without patches for vulnerabilities discovered in the future, XP systems will be at risk from cyber criminals who hijack the machines and plant malware on them.

During an IRS budget hearing Monday before the House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, the chairman, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) wondered why the agency had not wrapped up its Windows XP-to-Windows 7 move.

“Now we find out that you’ve been struggling to come up with $30 million to finish migrating to Windows 7, even though Microsoft announced in 2008 that it would stop supporting Windows XP past 2014,” Crenshaw said at the hearing. “I know you probably wish you’d already done that.”

According to the IRS, it has approximately 110,000 Windows-powered desktops and notebooks. Of those, 52,000, or about 47%, have been upgraded to Windows 7. The remainder continue to run the aged, now retired, XP.

John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, defended the unfinished migration, saying that his agency had $300 million worth of IT improvements on hold because of budget issues. One of those was the XP-to-7 migration.

“You’re exactly right,” Koskinen said of Crenshaw’s point that everyone had fair warning of XP’s retirement. “It’s been some time where people knew Windows XP was going to disappear.”

But he stressed that the migration had to continue. “Windows XP will no longer be serviced, so we are very concerned if we don’t complete that work we’re going to have an unstable environment in terms of security,” Koskinen said.

According to Crenshaw, the IRS had previously said it would take $30 million out of its enforcement budget to finish the migration.

Part of that $30 million will be payment to Microsoft for what the Redmond, Wash. developer calls “Custom Support,” the label for a program that provides patches for critical vulnerabilities in a retired operating system.

Analysts noted earlier this year that Microsoft had dramatically raised prices for Custom Support, which previously had been capped at $200,000 per customer for the first year. Instead, Microsoft negotiates each contract separately, asking for an average of $200 per PC for the first year of Custom Support.

Using that average — and the number of PCs the IRS admitted were still running XP — the IRS would pay Microsoft $11.6 million for one year of Custom Support.

The remaining $18.4 million would presumably be used to purchase new PCs to replace the oldest ones running XP. If all 58,000 remaining PCs were swapped for newer devices, the IRS would be spending an average of $317 per system.

 

 

HP To Shell Out $108M In Corruption And Bribery Case

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million in penalties after subsidiaries in Russia, Poland and Mexico were found to have given out bribes to gain business, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

An international subsidiary of HP has agreed to plead guilty to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and admit to its role in bribing Russian officials to secure a big contract there, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The U.S. is also entering into “criminal resolutions” with HP subsidiaries in Poland and Mexico, relating to contracts with Poland’s national police agency and Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, the DOJ said.

The HP entities will pay a total of $77 million in criminal penalties and forfeiture related to those dealings. HP has also reached a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that will cost it a further $31 million.

The subsidiaries created a “slush fund” for bribe payments and set up “an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts” to launder money, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz said in a statement.

HP said it had cooperated with the investigations.

“The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company,” John Schultz, HP’s general counsel, said in a statement.

The investigation had been ongoing for some time, and HP said last month it was close to resolving the matter.

The Russian dealings date back to 1999, when the government there announced a project to automate the IT systems at the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation — essentially Russia’s equivalent of the DOJ.

The project was worth more than $100 million, and employees at HP Russia structured the deal to include a fund of several million dollars, at least part of which was intended as bribes for Russian officials, the DOJ said.

The DOJ acknowledged HP’s “extensive cooperation,” and HP said it would set up certain compliance and reporting programs.

It’s not the only company to have run into trouble doing business overseas. IBM and Oracle in the past have also reported potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

 

Additional Security Flaws Discovered In Javascript

April 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Polish researchers have released technical details and attack code for 30 security issues affecting Oracle’s Java Cloud Service. Some of the flaws make it possible for attackers to read or modify users’ sensitive data or to execute malicious code.

Security Explorations said it would normally withhold public airings until after any vulnerability has been fixed. But apparently Oracle representatives failed to resolve some of the more crucial issues including bypasses of the Java security sandbox, bypasses of Java whitelisting rules, the use of shared WebLogic server administrator passwords, and the availability of plain-text use passwords stored in some systems.

Oracle apparently has admitted to the researchers that it cannot promise whether it will be communicating resolution of security vulnerabilities affecting their cloud data centres in the future.

Adam Gowdiak, CEO of Security Explorations said Oracle unveiled the Java Cloud Service in 2011 and held it up as a way to better compete against Salesforce.com.

Courtesy-Fud

Juniper Networks Give Employees The Boot

April 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Juniper Networks plans to reduce its global workforce by six percent and focus on its high-growth businesses. Juniper said most of the cuts would impact middle management positions and that it expected to incur cash charges of about $35 million in the first quarter, related to severance and other expenses. The company had 9,483 full-time employees as of December 31.

Juniper also said it would stop development of the application delivery controller technology, which helps remove excess load from servers, resulting in a non-cash intangible asset impairment charge of about $85 million. The company said it plans to consolidate its facilities, flog off of about 300,000 square feet of leased facilities.

Juniper added that it expected to record other non-cash asset write-downs of about $10 million in the first quarter and that it expects to carry out more restructuring in the second quarter.

Hedge fund Elliott recently claimed that Juniper shares were “undervalued” and could be worth $35-$40 if Juniper focused on revamping its core business of making routers and switches for mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T. Shares of Juniper are currently worth at $26.35.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Dell Unveils 11.6-inch Rugged Laptop That Doubles As A Tablet

April 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell unveiled a new 11.6-in. screen rugged laptop that has literally has a twist — the screen can rotate 180 degrees to turn the device into a tablet.

At first, the Latitude 12 looks like a laptop. But within the display panel, the screen rotates 180 degrees and the laptop turns into a tablet once placed on the keyboard.

The new Latitude 12 laptop is part of a new Rugged Extreme line of laptops, which also includes the Rugged Extreme 14. The new laptops are robust and can withstand six-foot drops and remain protected from extreme weather conditions.

The laptops have hard covers that add a layer of protection, but also make the products heavy. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme weighs 2.72 kilograms with a four-cell battery, while the 14-in. counterpart weighs 3.54 kilograms with a six-cell battery and no optical drive.

The laptops can also withstand solar radiation, “explosive atmosphere” and weather ranging from -20 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees to 63 degrees Celsius), according to specifications provided by Dell. The products are targeted at field workers like emergency responders and the military, and will compete against Toughbook rugged laptops from Panasonic.

The Latitude 12 rugged laptop has a starting price of $3,649, while the Latitude 14 begins at $3,499. The laptops will ship next month.

The hybrid design in Latitude 12 has been borrowed from the company’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Touch, which has a 12.5-inch screen that can similarly flip to turn the laptop into a tablet. The resistive touch screens on both laptops can show images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.

The laptops will have storage options of up to 512GB solid-state drives. Users can configure the laptop with Intel’s latest fourth-generation Core processorscode-named Haswell. The laptops will come with either Windows 8.1 or 7, or Ubuntu Linux operating systems.

Other features include support for up to 16GB of DRAM, Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet through a connector. The laptop also has USB 3.0, USB 2.0, VGA and HDMI ports. Mobile broadband and docking are available as options.

 

 

AMD And Globalfounderies Make Up

April 4, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has amended its wafer supply agreement with Globalfoundries. The companies agreed on purchase commitments for 2014 and established fixed pricing which will apply to AMD products churned out by the foundry.

“Under this amendment AMD expects to pay Globalfoundries approximately $1.2 billion in 2014. These purchases contemplate AMD’s current PC market expectations and the manufacturing of certain Graphics Processor Units (GPUs) and semi-custom game console products at Globalfoundries in 2014,” the companies said.

AMD says the new deal will not impact its 2014 financial goals, including its gross margin.

AMD CEO Rory Read said the amended agreement demonstrated the continued commitment from both companies to strengthen their business relationship and long-term strategic partnership.

“This latest step in AMD’s continued transformation plays a critical role in our goals for 2014,” he said.

The agreement does not change much, it merely reiterates AMD’s commitment to using GloFo’s services. However, it does bring up GPUs and semi-custom console parts, which could be bad news for TSMC in the long run. Still, this was not unexpected – in fact many industry watchers expected GloFo to get a slice of AMD’s GPU business years ago.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel To Offer Exclusive Content For Devices Built Around Its Chips

April 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

After trailing ARM in the mobile processor market, Intel plans to change strategies by creating exclusive content for devices built around its chips.

More details about the exclusives will be shared during the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China. But Intel’s software chief Doug Fisher said the U.S. chipmaker wants to work “hand in hand” with vendors to develop unique content within a game or product.

The partnerships could even result in building entire software products exclusive to Intel chips, he added.

The company is trying to distinguish itself, as ARM chips remain the most commonly used processors in smartphones and tablets. Over the last four years, Intel has responded by building more power-efficient mobile processors, and optimizing Google’s Android OS for its chips.

“That’s not sufficient, we want to differentiate,” Fisher said in an interview on Wednesday. One area in which the company said it can excel is graphics, creating more detailed backgrounds in games. Another is in better multi-tasking for Android devices.

Intel is poised to make a breakthrough in the mobile processor market, Fisher said. The company has the goal of shipping 40 million Intel-powered tablet devices in 2014, four times more than the previous year.

To help bring more Intel-powered devices to the market, the U.S. chipmaker is tapping China’s tech hub of Shenzhen, a major center for electronics manufacturing. On Wednesday, Intel announced it would establish a center in Shenzhen devoted to helping vendors create mobile devices with the company’s chips.

Intel will also fund Chinese product development on tablets, smartphones and wearables with $100 million from its venture capital arm.

One area where Intel is noticing some innovation is vendors bringing Android to larger devices, including PCs. But Fisher said it’s still too early to say whether Android PCs have a future, given that Google is also pushing notebooks running its Chrome OS.

“We don’t care as long as it runs on Intel,” he added.

 

Latest Move By FCC Could Mean Faster Wi-Fi

April 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. regulators are opening up spectrum that may lead to Wi-Fi services with speeds of one gigabit per second and faster.

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday voted unanimously to open up an additional 100MHz for Wi-Fi-enabled devices in the 5GHz band of spectrum, and remove indoor-only restrictions on Wi-Fi devices and increase the amount of power they can use in the 5.15 to 5.25 GHz band of spectrum. The restrictions had been in place to protect Globalstar, which provides mobile and fixed satellite services in that area of spectrum.

Globalstar had raised interference concerns about new Wi-Fi devices operating in the spectrum, but general counsel Barbee Ponder said last month that the company did not object as long as its services could be protected.

“This change will have real impact, because we are doubling the unlicensed bandwidth in the 5 GHz band overnight,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said.

The new spectrum will help Internet users get higher Wi-Fi speeds and should ease congestion in crowded areas, the FCC said. But the unlicensed spectrum will also give innovators more spectrum with which to experiment, Rosenworcel said.

“The power of unlicensed goes beyond on-ramps to the Internet and off-loading for licensed [mobile] services,” she said. “It is the power of setting aside more of our airwaves for experiment and innovation without license. It is bound to yield new and exciting developments. It is also bound to be an economic boon.”

The FCC’s decision moves the U.S. closer to ending an old debate about the value of licensed spectrum versus unlicensed spectrum, added FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“In 2014, licensed and unlicensed spectrum are more complementary than competitive,” he said. “They are less oil and vinegar and more peanut butter and jelly. Wireless carriers are using Wi-Fi to offload more than 45 percent of smartphone traffic to fixed networks.”

The FCC action will allow so-called unlicensed national information infrastructure (U-NII) devices to operate in the spectrum. U-NII devices now operate in 555MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, and are used for Wi-Fi and other high-speed wireless connections.

U-NII devices create Wi-Fi hot spots and wireless home local area networks to connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet, and are used by wireless ISPs to provide broadband service to rural areas, the FCC said.

 

Intel Deepens Relationship With Altera

March 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Technology gossip columns are full of news that Intel and Altera have expanded their relationship. Apparently, Altera has been Intel’s shoulder to cry on as the chip giant seeks to move beyond the declining PC market and the breakup of the Wintel alliance. Intel took the break up very hard and there was talk that Alteria might be just a rebound thing.

Last year Intel announced that it would manufacture Altera’s ARM-based quad-core Stratix 10 processors, as part of its efforts to grow its foundry business to make silicon products for third parties. Now the two vendors are expanding the relationship to include multi-die devices integrating Altera’s field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) with a range of other components, from memory to ASICs to processors.

Multi-die devices can drive down production costs and improve performance and energy efficiency of chips for everything from high-performance servers to communications systems. The multi-die devices will take advantage of the Stratix 10 programmable chips that Intel is manufacturing for Altera with its 14-nanometer Tri-Gate process. Intel’s three-dimensional transistor architecture combined with Altera’s FPGA redundancy technology leads to Altera being able to create a highly dense and energy efficient programmable chip die that can offer better integration of components.

At the same time, Intel officials are looking for ways to make more cash from its manufacturing capabilities, including growing its foundry business by making chips for other vendors. CEO Brian Krzanich and other Intel executives have said they will manufacture third-party chips even if they are based on competing infrastructure, which is the case with Altera and its ARM-based chips.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Cloud Computing Rivalry Heats Up As Google Slashes Pricing

March 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Google Inc deeply discounted its cloud computing service prices on Tuesday, seeking to woo customers away from Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp in the fast-growing market of renting computers and data storage to companies.

Price cuts range from 30 to 85 percent. Google’s Cloud Storage will cost 2.6 cents per gigabyte, about 68 percent lower for most customers. Google’s Compute Engine services will cost 32 percent less across all sizes, regions and classes.

“The cost of virtualized hardware should fall in line with the cost of the underlying real hardware,” Google Senior Vice President Urs Holzle said in a post on Google’s official developers blog on Tuesday in conjunction with a cloud event that the company hosted in San Francisco.

Holzle noted that hardware costs have improved by 20 to 30 percent during the past five years but that “public cloud prices fell at just 8 percent per year.”

Cloud services are increasingly popular among tech startups and larger companies, which rely on computers owned and operated by the likes of Amazon and Google, the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine, instead of buying the equipment themselves.

Amazon, one of the largest online retailers, was among the first companies to recognize the opportunity. Amazon Web Services provide the underlying infrastructure for key aspects of popular Web companies such as online movie streaming service Netflix Inc and social network Pinterest.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it would respond to Google’s price cuts.

Earlier this week Cisco Systems Inc announced plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years to build a new cloud services business.

 

AMD Focuses On China With Desktop Chip Business Move

March 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Advanced Micro Devices has relocated its desktop chip business operations from the U.S. to the growing market of China, adding to its research lab and testing plant there.

The desktop market in China is growing at a fast pace and its shipments of desktops and laptops are equal in ratio, said Michael Silverman, an AMD spokesman, in an email. “The desktop market in China remains strong,” Silverman said.

The move of AMD’s desktop operations was first reported by technology news publication Digitimes, but the chip maker confirmed the news.

The company is also developing tailored products for users in China, Silverman said.

AMD’s move of desktop operations to China brings them closer to key customers such as Lenovo, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“Not that they don’t have their sales in the U.S.,” but a significant number of those PCs are made in China and then shipped internationally, McCarron said.

AMD is the world’s second-largest x86 processor maker behind Intel. Many PC makers like HP and Dell get products made in China.

Being in China also solves some desktop supply chain issues because it moves AMD closer to motherboard suppliers like Asustek and MSI, which are based in Taiwan, but get parts made in China. Chips will be shipped to customers faster and at a lower cost, which would reduce the time it takes for PCs to come to market, McCarron said.

AMD already has a plant in Suzhou, which Silverman said “represents half of our global back-end testing capacity.” AMD’s largest research and development center outside the U.S. is in Shanghai.

Some recent products released by the company have been targeted at developing countries. AMD recently starting shipping Sempron and Athlon desktop chips for the Asia-Pacific and Latin America markets, and those chips go into systems priced between $60 and $399. AMD is targeting the chips at users that typically build systems at home and shop for processors, memory and storage. The chips — built on the Jaguar microarchitecture — go into AMD’s new AM1 socket, which will be on motherboards and is designed for users to easily upgrade processors.

China is also big in gaming PCs, and remains a key market for AMD’s desktop chips, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. “White box integrators play a big role in China,” he said.

 

Is Intel Having Issues With 450mm Wafers?

March 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel says that it is still on track to move its manufacturing to the larger, 450 millimeter wafers that are being developed at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. However it confirms that it is having some problems with the technology.

ASML, one of the major equipment suppliers to chip factories, recently decided to stop trying to develop a new generation of machines that could handle 450mm wafers which lead many to wonder what Intel thought of the matter. After all, it had invested billions of dollars in ASML and committed $700 million in ASML’s 450mm development program.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company’s position for 450mm has not changed in that we expect deployment sometime in the later part of this decade and requires the industry to be aligned.

“We adjusted our 450mm funding to ASML consistent with their plans however this is not a change in our (2014) capital forecast as it anticipated that change. We continue to work with our industry partners to align on timing.”

Courtesy-Fud