Reform Government Surveillance, an organization that represents technology giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft, is pushing the U.S. Senate not to delay reform of National Security Agency surveillance by extending expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
The House of Representatives voted 338-88 last week to approve the USA Freedom Act that would, among other things, stop the controversial bulk collection of phone records of Americans by the NSA, including by placing restrictions on the search terms used to retrieve the records.
The bill has run into opposition in the Senate from some Republican members who are backing renewal of the current Section 215 of the Patriot Act that provides the legal framework for the phone data collection.
The urgency for Congress to pass legislation comes from the upcoming expiration on June 1 of certain parts of the Patriot Act, including Section 215. Under a so-called “sunset” clause, the provisions will lapse unless reauthorized in the same or modified form by legislation.
A bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month would extend the surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act until 2020. To apparently buy time as pressure builds for reform, another bill has been placed on the Senate calendar to extend Section 215 and other expiring provisions in the current form up to July 31.
The technology companies said that the USA Freedom Act prevents the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various authorities, and provides for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies, besides assuring that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
Dropbox previously released its cloud storage service on Windows phones and tablets, and on Tuesday the company followed up with a universal app that expands the feature sets for both types of devices.
The update automatically adapts to the user’s screen size and delivers a number of new features, including the ability for Windows Phone users to upload videos directly from their devices.
In the interests of multitasking, Windows Phone users can also now upload multiple files at once. And they can download files straight to their device or SD card, making the information available for offline access; there’s a way to mark files as favorites for offline use as well.
The new update also brings the ability to save and open files to and from Dropbox while working within other apps.
On Windows tablets, Dropbox users can now invite new members to a shared folder from their contacts list and manage folder settings from their device. New keyboard shortcuts for selecting and searching enable a faster workflow.
Now available free for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.0 or 8.1, the software promises better performance as well, according to Dropbox.
Separately Tuesday, Dropbox rolled out new features for its main service that target designers and others who work frequently with images. Specifically, it debuted a new image viewer for better online previews as well as better support for Photoshop, Illustrator and scalable vector graphic files. Users can now also preview PostScript images in their browser rather than having to download them first.
The Openstack Foundation has announced new interoperability testing requirements for OpenStack-branded products and is claiming rapid adoption of the federated identity service introduced in the latest OpenStack release that makes it easier to combine private and public cloud resources.
Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce said at the first OpenStack Summit event of 2015 that the vision for the OpenStack project was to create a “global footprint of interoperable clouds” that would enable users to seamlessly mix and match resources from their own data centre with those of public cloud providers, delivering a so-called hybrid cloud model.
To this end, Bryce announced new interoperability testing requirements for products that are branded as ‘OpenStack Powered’, including public cloud and hosted private cloud services as well as OpenStack distributions.
“This is a big milestone and introduces common code in every distribution that brands itself as OpenStack, and common APIs that have been tested and validated,” he said.
In practice, this means that, along with an OpenStack Powered logo, products will carry a badge to show certification.
This currently applies only to some of the platform’s core modules, such as Nova (compute), Swift (object storage), Keystone (identity service) and the Glance image service.
But it is intended as a guarantee to users that a certified product contains a set of core services consistent with all other OpenStack products that are similarly certified.
Vendors already offering certified products include HP, IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Suse and Canonical, but the list is set to expand this year.
“During 2015, this will go across all products that are OpenStack. You will be able to know what you are getting in an OpenStack Powered product, and you will be able to count on those as your solid foundation for cloud,” Bryce said.
Meanwhile, the Kilo release of OpenStack, available since last month, added the Keystone service as a fully integrated module for the first time.
Despite this, OpenStack said that over 30 products and services in the OpenStack application catalogue support federated identify as of today, and that many OpenStack cloud providers have committed to supporting it by the end of this year.
Together, these two announcements are significant for OpenStack’s hybrid cloud proposition, as they will make it much easier to link a customer’s private cloud resources with those of a public cloud provider.
OpenStack Powered certification means that users can count on a consistent environment across the two, while Keystone provides a common authentication system that can integrate with directory services such as LDAP.
One company already taking advantage of this is high-tech post-production firm DigitalFilm Tree which has been working with HP and hosted private cloud firm Bluebox to build a totally cloud-based production system for film and TV content.
The firm demonstrated at the summit how the system enables footage to be captured and uploaded to one cloud, then transferred to another cloud for processing.
Bryce explained that this is just one example of how OpenStack is driving new use cases and expanding what people can do across a variety of industries.
“Interoperability means you can share your cloud footprint. It shows the power of the ‘OpenStack planet’ we are trying to build,” he said.
Analyst at IDC have consulted their tarot cards and are predicting that tablets will survive in the business area.
The overall tablet market in Western Europe remained challenged in the first quarter of 2015, declining 10.5 percent on year with shipments totaling 8.5 million units. The contraction, was the result of consumers realising that tablets were a fad and had no actually use at all.
But IDC sees a feature for the technology in the commercial space with volumes increasing 51.3per cent from the same period in 2014. This is particularly in the area of 2-in-1s which are essentially a re-incarnation of netbooks with a touch screen.
In terms of product category, the share of 2-in-1s, albeit growing, remains in single-digit territory at 5.9 per cent. Nevertheless, the popularity of these devices continued to increase among consumers as well as enterprises, driving shipments up 44.4 per cent.
Chrystelle Labesque, research manager, IDC EMEA Personal Computing said that the fact there were no major product launches, the beginning of 2015 failed to stimulate stronger consumer demand.
“Growth opportunity, however, clearly continues to come from enterprises and professional segments. Vendors have significantly expanded their product portfolio with devices optimized for business usage. Demand for 2-in-1 devices is gathering momentum driven by improved hardware offers as well as adjusted price points that are attracting private users as well as professionals,” she said,
Marta Fiorentini, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing claimed that tablet usage for professional purposes was a reality.
“Deployment is no longer limited to a few early adopting countries or businesses. Adoption is far from being mainstream but we now see companies of all sizes choosing tablets and 2-in-1s to support their normal business activities.
The UK, France, Germany, and Northern Europe countries remain at the forefront of this trend as tablet adoption has become part of mobility and digital strategies in the private as much as public sector.
Windows 10 is likely to resolve most of the infrastructure legacy and integration problems that have so far hindered tablet and 2-in-1 adoption in some existing enterprises. The growth of the commercial segment is therefore expected to continue in the coming quarters, supporting overall market volumes in 2015 and beyond.”
Android devices account for the majority of the market thanks to the large number of vendors offering tablets running on this OS. The largest vendor, Samsung, under-performed the market in the consumer segment in the first quarter of 2015, but showed strong commercial results.
The rest of the market is represented by Windows devices, which posted strong double-digit growth for the third quarter in a row.
The changes, announced Thursday, come less than a month after Google started prioritizing mobile-optimized sites in its search results. Both companies are looking to attract more users by providing a better search experience on smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft said it expects to roll out the changes in the coming months. Sites that display well on smaller screens will also be flagged with a new “mobile friendly” tag.
In the U.S. last year, Bing had roughly 6 percent of the mobile search market, compared with Google’s 83 percent, according to figures from StatCounter.
The changes don’t mean mobile-optimized sites will necessarily appear at the top of results. “You can always expect to see the most relevant results for a search query ranked higher, even if some of them are not mobile friendly,” Microsoft said.
It considers a variety of elements to decide which sites display best on smartphones and tablets. For example, sites with large navigational elements that are spaced well apart will be prioritized, as well as sites that don’t require a lot of zooming and lateral scrolling. Bing will also favor sites with mobile-compatible content. That means pages with Flash content, which doesn’t work well on iOS devices, might get demoted.
Microsoft highlighted Fandango’s mobile site as one that will be prioritized under the changes, more so than Movies.com.
The company has also developed a tool to help webmasters assess the mobile friendliness of their sites. It will be made available in a few weeks.
Hackers from Brazil have managed to discover a new exploit for the PS4 which enables them to bypass the DRM on any software and games.
A couple of weeks ago, a number of electronic stores in Brazil had been advertising the means to copy and run a series of ripped retail games on the console.
At the time little was known about the hack back then, but information gradually began to trickle out from customers and make its way around the web. Please see below for commentary from Lancope.
Gavin Reid, VP of threat intelligence, Lancope said that Sony was playing an arms race against groups that benefit from the abilities to copy and share games.
The hack originates from a Russian website and has been pushed into the public by Brasilian retailers. The hack isn’t necessarily a jailbreak for the PS4, nor is it really a homebrew technique.
What they did was use a retail PS4, with several games installed on it, with it’s entire game database and operating system (including NAN/BIOS). This was then dumped onto a hacked PS4 via Raspberry Pi.
The entire process costs about $100 to $150 to install 10 games and $15 per additional game.
“Open source groups like Homebrew with more altruistic motivations of extending the functionality of the console alongside groups selling modified consoles specifically to play copied games and of course the resell of the games themselves at fraction of the actuals costs. This has happened historically with all of the major consoles. It would be highly unlikely not to continue with the PS4,” he said.
Those are the findings from enterprise mobility management vendor Good Technology, which issued a report that measured mobile device activations among its business customers. Good says its technology serves more than 6,200 companies.
In the first quarter of 2015, 72 percent of all smartphones activated globally ran iOS. Compared to 2014′s fourth quarter, that’s a 1 percent decrease. Android device activations, meanwhile, reached 26 percent, increasing 1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2014. Windows Phone activations remained steady at 1 percent, the same as the previous six quarters, said the report.
Apple lost significant ground in the tablet market. In the first quarter of 2015, iPads had an 81 percent market share in activations, down from 92 percent in the year-ago quarter, according to the report. Tablets running Android and Windows increased their market share to 15 percent and 4 percent, respectively. According to Good, Microsoft Surface devices, which Microsoft manufactures, as well as Windows tablets sold by third-party makers, were both in demand.
The iPhone 6 was the most popular smartphone for businesses, comprising 26 percent of all smartphone activations in the first quarter of 2015. The Samsung 5 was the most activated Android smartphone. Together, 28 of the top 30 selling smartphones came from either Apple or Samsung, the report said.
The industries with the most iOS activations were education (83 percent), the public sector (80 percent) and financial services (76 percent), the report said. Android activation was prevalent in the tech (47 percent) and energy (44 percent) industries.
Windows device activations, meanwhile, stood out in the retail and entertainment and media markets. In retail, Windows tablets claimed a 5 percent market share while in the media and entertainment industry, 7 percent of device activations were for Windows Phone.
The Helio X20 is expected to make its way into devices in early 2016, and will “revolutionise” mobile processors, according to MediaTek.
This is down to its ability to reduce power consumption significantly by altering the number of cores working at any one time depending on the power needed to complete tasks.
MediaTek said that this has been made possible by the firm’s new Tri-Cluster CPU architecture that has three processor clusters each designed to handle different types of workloads more efficiently.
“If a user needs heavy performance, [the Helio X20] will invoke 2, 4, 8 cores, intelligently looking at the workload to decide how many it needs,” said MediaTek’s senior director of corporate sales for EMEA, Chet Babla, in a briefing with The INQUIRER.
“There will be a dramatic drop in power consumption compared to big.LITTLE architecture because of this.”
The Tri-Cluster CPU consists of one cluster of two ARM Cortex-A72 cores running at 2.5GHz for high performance, and two clusters of four ARM Cortex-A53 cores, one running at 2GHz for medium loads and one running at 1.4GHz for light activities.
MediaTek has also integrated a CorePilot 3.0 heterogeneous computing scheduling algorithm which controls which threads are allocated to the cores.
CorePilot 3.0 schedules the tasks for all CPUs and GPUs while managing power and thermal effects so that extreme performance can be attained while creating less heat.
This is said to reduce power consumption by 30 percent compared with conventional dual-cluster architectures on top of the increase in energy efficiency thanks to Helio X20′s supported ARM Mali-T880 GPU.
“With the integration of MediaTek’s WorldMode Category 6 LTE modem with carrier aggregation and upgraded CorePilot 3.0 advanced scheduling algorithm, the Helio X20 is set to revolutionise the mobile processor industry and address the global demand for flagship mobile devices,” MediaTek said.
The Helio X20 also has several features designed to increase device display performance and multimedia experiences.
These include support for dual main cameras with a built-in 3D depth engine for a faster shot-to-shot experience, multi-scale de-noise engines for higher quality images, a 120Hz mobile display refresh rate for crisper and more responsive browsing, and an integrated ARM Cortex-M4 low power sensor processor to support always-on applications such as MP3 playback and voice activation.
TSMC looks certain to keep its foot firmly on the throat of 28nm chip production, according to a new study.
Digitimes said that it looks like competition from Samsung Electronics, Globalfoundries, UMC and SMIC will not be enough to upset TSMC’s rule.
TSMC started its commercial 28nm process five years ago and now accounts for over 75 per cent of the global 28nm foundry market. In addition, the 28nm products also contributed 30 per cent to TSMC’s total revenues in 2014.
Initially 28nm capacity was triggered by rising demand for application processors for smartphones and tablets. TSMC had clients including Qualcomm, MediaTek, Apple and Nvidia.
Vlients from the mobile device sector will continue to fill TSMC with 28nm orders in 2015, but the SSD market is expected this year is likely to give another wave of demand for 28nm.
Controller chips for SSDs are to officially migrate into the 28nm process in 2015, and TSMC has an advantage to solicit more orders from SSD vendors.
TSMC has reportedly snapped up SSD controller chips orders from Marvell Technology, Phison Electronics and more recently from Apple. Thus, TSMC will see its share in the 28nm process market remain high and contribution of the 28nm products to its sales further increase in 2015.
Rumors of a potential Salesforce acquisition have been swirling well over a week now, including the recent one that Microsoft was a likely bidder. According to a new report, however, it now looks like that’s not the case.
Microsoft considers Salesforce’s almost $50 billion market valuation too high and has no plans to make a bid for the cloud-software company in the near term, Reuters reported late on Thursday, citing unnamed sources. It may, however, reconsider the possibility in the future, the sources reportedly said.
Earlier this week, SAP — also widely considered a contender – said it had “zero interest” in making such an acquisition.
A Bloomberg report last Wednesday was what originally set off the wave of speculation about the possibility of a Salesforce acquisition, which could be the largest ever in the software industry. Sparking that report was news that Salesforce had been approached by a potential acquirer and hired a team of financial advisers to help it field such offers.
Both Microsoft and Salesforce declined to comment.
“Nobody is buying Salesforce,” said Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group.
Rather, the company has engaged bankers to help it figure out a strategy to buy a small part of UK-based enterprise-software maker Sage Group, Pombriant believes. Based on an invitation he received for a “fireside chat” next Wednesday, in fact, he expects the two companies’ CEOs — Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Stephen Kelly of Sage — to explain the details soon, he said.
MediaTek has established itself as the world’s second-largest maker of Long-Term Evolution (LTE)-enabled cellular baseband processors in 2014.
Beancounters at market research firm Strategy Analytics have added up the numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that the industry has a new number two.
While everyone knows that Qualcomm, has near total dominance of the high-growth LTE baseband segment in the past and had a 95 per cent share in 2013 a battle has been going on behind the scenes.
Other LTE baseband suppliers had too little of a share to be ranked behind Qualcomm, MediaTek had enough of an impact in the market in 2014 to get a second-place ranking from Strategy Analytics.
The research firm predicted that MediaTek will continue to gain shares in the LTE baseband segment thanks to increased traction in China, the world’s biggest smartphone market.
“Growing revenue contributions from LTE basebands will lift MediaTek’s baseband revenue share over the next few quarters,” said Christopher Taylor, director of the Strategy Analytics RF and wireless component service.
In 2014 revenue from LTE baseband sales overtook revenue from 3G baseband sales for the first time, thanks to a strong push from the industry, the research firm said.
The global market for cellular baseband processors, which are used in mobile devices to process wireless communication, grew an impressive 14.1 per cent year-over-year to reach $22 billion in 2014.
Qualcomm, MediaTek, Spreadtrum, Marvell and Intel grabbed the top-five cellular baseband revenue share spots in 2014, the research company said.
Qualcomm had a 66 per cent revenue share of the cellular baseband processor market, followed by MediaTek with a 17 per cent share and Spreadtrum with a 5 per cent share, according to Strategy Analytics.
In April, Chrome accounted for 25.7% of the total browseruser share according to Web analytics vendor Net Applications. User share is a rough estimate of the percentage of the world’s online users who ran a specific browser during a given month, and is tracked by the California metric firm using visitor tallies to its customers’ websites.
Chrome grew its share by seven-tenths of a percentage point from March’s just-under-25%.
Mozilla’s Firefox reached that milestone in November 2009, when its Net Applications-measured user share was a few hundredths of a percentage point over 25%. Firefox held onto that for a month, dipped under the mark, regained it in March and April 2010, when it peaked at 25.1%. After that, it went into a more or less permanent decline.
Firefox averaged a user share of just 11.7% in April, losing ground last month after it had gained some in March.
Mozilla’s position in the browser space has become increasingly tenuous. In the last 12 months, Firefox has lost more than 5 percentage points, or a decline of 32%. Because the browser war is a zero-sum game, when Firefox lost — as did Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) to a lesser extent — someone had to win. The biggest winner has been Chrome, which has added 7.8 percentage points in the past year, representing an increase of 47%.
Chrome’s user share future looks as bright as Firefox’s looks dark. Using trends of the last 12 months, Computerworld projects that Chrome will break the 30% bar in November, and that Firefox will fall under 10% in August. (The projections are just that: Browsers rarely gain or lose share in a linear fashion; they’re more likely to move in fits and starts.)
At 25.7%, Chrome was still lag far behind the perennial leader, IE: Microsoft’s browser accounted for 55.8% of all browsers used in April.
Salesforce shares rose from $71.4 to $75.82 in about a minute late Tuesday afternoon, after which trading was temporarily halted.
The stock closed 1.6 percent higher at $72.75. Microsoft shares closed down 1.3 percent at $47.60.
Microsoft is evaluating a bid after Salesforce was approached by another potential buyer, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
Microsoft is not in talks with Salesforce, and no deal is imminent, the report said.
Microsoft declined to comment, while Salesforce could not immediately be reached.
Bloomberg had reported last week that Salesforce was working with financial advisers to help it field takeover offers after being approached by a potential buyer.
The news sent the company’s shares up as much as 17.3 percent to an all-time high of $78.46 last Wednesday.
For at least five years, and probably longer, Linux and BSD servers have been used as spam machines thanks to a backdoor cased by a security flaw.
ESET researchers have found that the spammers are connected with a software company called Yellsoft, which sells DirectMailer, a “system for automated e-mail distribution” that allows users to send out spam.
The spammers were careful. They didn’t constantly infect new machines, and did not insist that the infected machines blasted out spam all the time. In short they operated under the radar.
ESET discovered the malware on a server that was blacklisted for sending spam. They dubbed it Mumblehard. After analyzing it, they found that it has several distinct components: a generic backdoor that contacts its C&C server and downloads the spammer component and a general purpose-proxy.
Mumblehard components were mainly Perl scripts encrypted and packed inside ELF binaries. The Perl scripts used by the cybercriminals were packed inside ELF executables which is uncommon and more complex than the average server threat.”
The weakness in the software was that the backdoor always and repeatedly tries to contact all of the 10 C&C domains listed in its configuration file. ESET took control of one of them (its registration had expired), which allowed them to monitor the activity of the infected hosts between September 19th 2014 and April 22nd 2015.
The number of infected hosts slowly decreased but it increases from time to time. The operators are initiating discrete waves of server infection rather than spreading in a continuous fashion.
The addresses of the C&C servers hardcoded in the Mumblehard samples what led the researchers to Yellsoft.
DirectMailer is written in Perl and runs on UNIX-type systems which was pretty much like Mumblehard. The pirated DirectMailer copies contain the Mumblehard backdoor, and when users install them, they give the operators a backdoor to their servers, and allow them to send spam from and proxy traffic through them.
But what is worrying is that Mumblehard operators have been active for many years without disruption.
Mumblehard is also installed on servers compromised via Joomla and WordPress exploits, and have urged administrators to check whether their servers have been hit.
The new desktop suite includes Access, Excel, Lync, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word. It can be downloaded and installed by any consumer, whether they currently have an Office edition or Office 365 subscription or not, and by business workers whose companies subscribe to an eligible Office 365 plan that has Pro Plus as part of the deal.
The latter range from Office 365 Enterprise’s E3 and E4 plans and Office 365 Education’s E3 and E4, to Office 365 Government’s E3 and E4. Some plans, such as Office 365 Business, are not eligible for this preview but will be opened to the beta later, Microsoft said.
“Since March, we’ve shared some glimpses of what’s to come in Office 2016,” Jared Spataro, the Office marketing group’s general manager, said in a blogpost. “Today, we’d like to give a more holistic view of what customers at home and work can expect in the next release.”
The March preview Spataro referred to was available only to a subset of Office 365 subscribers, and followed the release of a broader-based preview of Office 2016 for Mac weeks earlier. Because the latter was open to anyone two months before the Windows version’s audience was expanded today, it looks likely that Office 2016 for OS X will debut in final form before the Windows edition.
Microsoft said that Office 2016 for Windows would ship in the fall, the same timetable executives had shared earlier.
In a FAQ, Microsoft listed the requirements for running the preview, which include Windows 7 and later, and reminded potential testers that they had to uninstall Office 2013 before shifting to the preview. The two editions cannot be run side by side, as can the beta of Office 2016 on the Mac with the older Office 2011.
As is Microsoft’s practice for previews, support for Office 2016 remains self-serve, primarily at a peer-to-peer discussion forum.
Microsoft has not yet revealed the pricing of Office 2016 — on either Windows or OS X — nor its retail strategy for selling the suite outside Office 365 subscriptions.