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Video Streaming Company RayV Acquired By Yahoo

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has purchased online video streaming company RayV with the aim of distributing content to more consumers, mostly through mobile devices.

RayV, founded in 2005, is focused on efficiently distributing HD-quality video to a global audience, with a focus on mobile.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Yahoo is focused on growing video users and monthly streams, and while we’re only getting started, we’re very focused on this in 2014,” Yahoo said in its announcement of the deal.

RayV’s service will improve Yahoo’s underlying technology infrastructure, and most of RayV’s employees will join Yahoo’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel.

A deal between Yahoo and RayV was in the works for at least a couple months, according to The Wall Street Journal. The acquisition comes as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is focused on giving people more of a reason to visit Yahoo’s site, partly through original online shows.

Yahoo’s Screen portal includes a range of videos including original news, as well as content from partners like Comedy Central, BuzzFeed and Saturday Night Live.

Yahoo recently announced that it would be airing the television show “Community” on Screen, after it was canceled by NBC earlier this year.


eBay’s Braintree Wants To Boost Mobile Shopping

July 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Braintree, the payments gateway owned by eBay Inc, is working on removing a hurdle for e-commerce companies by making it easier for customers to directly pay for products on their smart phones.

The company rolled out a set of tools for software developers on Wednesday that allows businesses to deduct payments directly from a customer’s PayPal account.

The developer kit is the first big push from Braintree since it was bought by eBay for $800 million last year to help PayPal, eBay’s payments division, expand its presence on mobile devices.

Eliminating the need for mobile shoppers to type in their credit card details on their phones should help boost sales, Braintree Chief Executive Bill Ready said in an interview.

This is especially critical as consumers spend more time on their smartphones, a trend that is forcing developers to design a “fundamentally different computing experience” for the smaller screen, Ready added.

Braintree processes payments for businesses including car service Uber and online home-rental marketplace Airbnb.



Qualcomm Believes Mobile Devices Will Drive 4K Adoption

July 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

QUALCOMM has stated that mobile devices will be the driving force behind the dominance of 4K content creation and consumption due to the general mass adoption of smartphones and the affordability of devices that support the resolution.

Speaking at a Qualcomm and EE event in Westminster today, president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Europe Enrico Salvatori showed a slide entitled “Mobile is the driving force behind the rise of 4K: the biggest generator of 4K content could be in your pocket already”.

“4K in particular on the TV side is already happening [but] what is the link between from 4K and mobile?” Salvitori asked. “The link is with the user experience we can provide with the display resolution in this space,” he said.

“Why we think we should start to invest in 4K [and] make [it] available in the smartphone and tablet is that, at the end of the day, the device will provide the content, so the mass adoption of the smartphone is driving it in terms of making it available.

“The smartphone is a consumer device that is affordable, so the 4k content will be available in a huge number of users.”

Salvatori said that smartphones, which are increasingly supporting 4K recording and playback, are expected to reach 3.7 billion in 2017, and this, alongside the affordability of mobile in comparison to other 4K content playback devices, such as 4K TVs, is why Qualcomm thinks high resolution content will be pushed by mobile.

The ability of 4K content generation of mobile phones is another major driving force for 4K prevalence, Salvatori said. He mentioned the high resolution cameras being fitted as standard in smartphones, for example.

The relatively short three-year replacement cycle of smartphones and tablets will also be responsible for the dominance of 4K content, Qualcomm said, compared with the five-year replacement cycle of PCs and eight to 10 years of TVs.

“We can upgrade the consumer electronic device or the smartphone to the 4K with a short cycle so this means that the smart device will be the entry door for the 4K content into the market and then of course through the device we can provide the content,” Salvitori added.

With this in mind, Qualcomm has ensured that its most recent flagship mobile processor, the Snapdragon 805, supports 4K content, combined with a wireless modem that is capable of supporting the delivery of high quality data over 4G connections.

At its event today, Qualcomm also said 4K technology will go mainstream this year, with 78 percent of UK retails expecting a growth in 4K devices being promoted for Christmas, with 60 percent of those retailers considering that video created on mobile device “to be a critical” contributor in driving 4K content adoption.



Get Ready For More Ads On Twitter

July 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Get ready to see  see more ads on your Twitter feed that link to mobile apps in the Apple and Google stores.

After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.

Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.

The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.

Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.

Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.

Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.

Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.



Google Wants Closer Relationship Between Chromebooks, Android Devices

June 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chromebooks will soon be capable of receiving notifications and running applications from Android smartphones and tablets.

Google is working on bridging the gap Chromebook laptops and Android mobile devices, making app and data exchange seamless, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, during a speech at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

Users will be able to run Android applications such as Vine, Evernote and Flipboard on mobile devices or Chromebooks, Pichai said. In an on-stage demonstration, the applications were transferred from a smartphone to Chromebook.

“We’ve been working on this project for a while,” Pichai said. “We want this to be intuitive for users.”

Other demonstrations highlighted how the Chromebook was linked to Android smartphones. A Chromebook showed notifications about an incoming call and text message on a smartphone, and also showed an alert that the smartphone battery was low. This is similar to how smartwatches display notifications and music playlists from Android smartphones.

Chromebooks are primarily aimed at users who do most of their computing on the Web. A handful of smartphone-like features such as Google Now have been added to the Chromebook, whose users are also able to download movies from Google Play to watch offline.

Chromebooks have larger screens than Android mobile devices and one challenge is to port touchscreen mobile applications to Chromebooks for use with mice and keyboards, Pichai said.

Developers may have to modify code to work on different screen sizes and input mechanisms. Google hopes to make it easier for developers to change code so the applications can be adapted for Android and Chrome interfaces, Pichai said.

The feature updates will be delivered to Chromebooks later this year, Pichai said.

The Android and Chrome OSes are based on Linux, but are built as different operating systems. Google will continue to make adjustments to the OSes so mobile devices and PCs can connect and work seamlessly, Pichai said.

“We are investing a lot more in this area,” Pichai said.



Amtrak Exploring Building Its Own Wireless Networks

June 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amtrak is exploring ways it can upgrade the on-board Wi-Fi service on its Acela trains between Washington and Boston, which is notoriously poor for passengers, especially during rush-hour travel.

Amtrak said in a statement it is exploring the possibility of building a dedicated wireless network along the tracks for a high-capacity network that would stretch the entire 457 miles of the Northeast Corridor route.

Amtrak is accepting bids for the project, which would increase the total available bandwidth per train from 10 Mbps to a minimum of 25 Mbps. The bids would be only for a proof-of-concept to see whether it is technically and financially feasible to build the network.

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience — something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time,” Amtrak chief marketing and sales officer Matt Hardison said.

For years, Amtrak has promoted its faster and more modern Acela trains along the route, which can bring passengers from either Boston or Washington to Penn Station in New York City in under four hours, faster than other trains.

Even so, Wi-Fi service on Amtrak trains along the route is sometimes so poor that users can’t log on, especially during rush hours, when trains are filled with business travelers, some logging on with multiple devices. Amtrak restricts Wi-Fi users from making large file downloads and streaming media to their laptops, tablets and phones, but that solution hasn’t helped.

Amtrak posted a procurement document indicating that contractor interest in the bid must be filed by June 12, with a site visit on June 18.


Is Intel Heading Into The Automobile Space?

June 4, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has announced a new family of products aimed at the automotive industry. Intel’s platform is designed for entertainment, navigation and there are some “smartcar” features, too.

The first product is basically a board with an Intel processor on top, but its real value is in the software, not hardware. Intel is developing a Linux-based environment for auto applications and it does not appear to have much in common with Intel’s previous efforts in the field. Intel’s extensive experience in bringing new x86 platforms to market and backing them with the necessary software is unmatched. In addition, Intel should have no problem offering support for a wide range of software platforms down the road.

Significant investment, potentially huge market

Intel Capital started making significant investments in the automotive space two years ago, with the creation of the Intel Capital Connected Car Fund, a $100 million fund tasked with accelerating development in the automotive niche.

The automotive infotainment market is growing at a healthy rate. There is no consensus on the CAGR, but most research firms put it in double digit territory. Growth is picking up, too. GSMA believes the market will grow threefold in just five years, eventually hitting $38 billion by 2018.

The automotive niche is getting a lot of attention from leading chipmakers such as Texas Instruments and Nvidia. In fact, Nvidia is in the process of reshaping its SoC strategy to better tap this market, shifting focus away from smartphones in the process.

The mobile market is overheating and growth is slowing down. As a result new niches such as wearables, IoT, home automation and automotive platforms are attracting more investment.

Speeding up time-to-market

Intel is touting speed as its key differentiator. The chipmaker believes it can drastically reduce infotainment development time, allowing carmakers to bring their solutions to market faster than the competition. Intel claims it can reduce development time by more than a year and cut costs by as much as 50 percent.

It is not just about music and navigation. Smart cars are the next big step and Intel wants to be a part of the self-driving car revolution.

“Our goal is to fuel the evolution from convenience features available in the car today to enhanced safety features of tomorrow and eventually self-driving capabilities,” said Doug Davis, Intel VP, IoT group.

In spite of the mobile boom witnessed over the past decade, most cars in showrooms today are ‘dumb’, not to mention older vehicles on the road. It is not just about making parallel parking a breeze. Smart automotive platforms promise to deliver huge improvements in terms of efficiency and safety. Convenience is just one small part of the puzzle.


Did Intel Miss The Boat In The Tablet Space?

June 3, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has admitted the obvious – Intel missed the boat on tablets.

Speaking at the Code Conference, Krzanich said the company was slow to react to the emergence of tablets and smartphones.

“There was a belief that tablets would be a consumption device only (and) that people would come back to the laptop and the PC. There were heavy debates within Intel and it took a while for us to accept and acknowledge that data. Companies make mistakes,” Krzanich told Walt Mossberg in an interview.

In other words at least part of Intel’s failure to tap the emerging mobile market a few years ago was internal wrangling.

The course shifted under the Krzanich regime. Last Intel President Renee James and Krzanich made it clear that the company is now treating its Atom line-up just like its big cores. For years the company treated Atoms as a sideshow, making sure that they would not eat into Core sales.

ARM had different ideas and so did AMD, they went after the tablet and essential notebook markets. As a result ARM currently dominates the mobile space, while AMD managed to carve a nice niche in the entry-level x86 segment, with Brazos and Kabini parts.

Intel is fighting back, but it is paying a heavy price. The company is on track to quadruple its tablet SoC shipments to 40 million units this year, but it has to pay through the nose to get there. As for the smartphone market, Intel is all but absent.

Krzanich insists he is not giving up on the phone and tablet space. He wants Intel to take a 15 to 20 percent market share in these segments, which sounds very ambitious. Thanks to generous subsidies it has a good chance in the tablet space. This week Intel announced a deal with Rockchip, which should also boost its presence in the booming tablet market in China.

However, so far the company has not rolled out a compelling smartphone SoC and it’s lagging behind the competition in LTE integration.


DARPA Touts ‘Hack-proof’ Drone Technology

May 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

In a claim similar to  Oracle Corp.’s old “unbreakable” marketing campaign of several years ago, the U.S. military has built what it calls a hack proof drone.

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developed the unmanned aerial vehicle under its High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program, military blog Defense Tech reported last week.

DARPA unveiled a prototype of the mini-drone last week during a broader demonstration of over 100 ongoing research projects at the agency.

DARPA’s HACMS program was created to develop technologies for improving the security of embedded systems in drones, weapons systems, aircraft,supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and medical and mobile devices.

HACMS is looking especially at interactive software synthesis systems, code verification tools and new specification languages, DARPA said. If the technologies prove successful, DARPA will make them available for use in commercial and defense systems.

“HACMS will adopt a clean-slate, formal methods-based approach to enable semi-automated code synthesis from executable, formal specifications,” DARPA said in a statement. In addition to generating code, HACMS will also develop technology for ensuring that all generated code satisfies security and safety policies.

Software developed for the quadcopter drone makes it impervious to attacks by hackers that try to take over its navigation and control systems. “The software is mathematically proven to be invulnerable to large classes of attack,” HACMS program manager Kathleen Fisher told Defense Tech.

All attempts to hack into the drone during red-team exercises and other penetration tests by cyber security experts failed, she told the military blog site.

DARPA did not respond to request for comment on the technology.

If the software really works as billed, it would be a big step forward for the Pentagon. Over the past six years, there have been at least two known incidents in which U.S. military drones were apparently being hacked into by attackers.


Smartphones Helped Lenovo Profits Surge

May 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, the world’s fourth-biggest smartphone maker, saw net profit swell by 29 percent for the business year ended March, as strong smartphone sales helped shore up weak growth in China.

Lenovo is expanding into smartphones to offset a decline in its once-mainstay personal computers (PC) as consumers switch to mobile devices, to the extent that it agreed in January to buy the Motorola Mobility smartphone unit of Google Inc for $2.9 billion.

The company, which became a global brand in 2005 after buying the PC unit of International Business Machines Corp (IBM), also in January agreed to buy IBM’s low-end server unit for $2.3 billion as another way to combat slow PC sales.

Chief Executive Yang Yuanqing said the acquisitions would weigh on finances in the near term. But observers will now be watching to see whether a U.S. move to indict Chinese military officers for cyber espionage on Monday will affect the acquisitions, as they are still subject to U.S. regulatory scrutiny.

However, the acquisitions did not have an impact on net profit for the year through March, which rose 28.7 percent to $817.2 million, Lenovo said in a statement on Wednesday.

That was in line with the $819.7 million SmartEstimate of 34 analysts according to Thomson Reuters Eikon. SmartEstimate’s give greater weighting to estimates of the more accurate analysts.

Revenue rose 14.3 percent to $38.7 billion. Overall weakness in China was offset by growth outside Lenovo’s home market – particularly Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Americas – as well as a surge in the company’s mobile Internet unit, home to its smartphone business.

“Lenovo’s smartphone unit shipments achieved a record-high level of over 50 million for the fiscal year, growing by 72 percent year-on-year, driven by the strong growth in China and emerging markets outside of China,” the company said in the statement.

Analysts see tough times ahead for Lenovo, saying it may take at least until the end of 2014 to make the acquisitions profitable. In the meantime, smartphone leaders Samsung Electronics Co and Apple Inc will only intensify competition, they say.




Google And Apple Decides To Drop All Patent Lawsuits

May 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Two titans of the mobile phone industry, Apple and Google, have agreed to drop all current patent infringement lawsuits between them.

“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform,” the companies said in a joint statement. They have not agreed to cross-license each other’s patents, however.

Apple filed a lawsuit with the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2010 against Motorola Mobility, which was subsequently acquired by Google. Google has since agreed to sell the smartphone business to Lenovo, but the deal has not yet closed.

Many of the lawsuits Apple has filed against other smartphone makers, including Samsung, involve Google’s Android operating system. This deal announced last week does not affect the Apple-Samsung lawsuit, however.

Earlier this month a California jury ruled Samsung should pay Apple $119 million for infringing several Apple patents related to smartphones and tablet PCs. Samsung was also ordered to pay Apple $930 million in an earlier case, which Samsung has appealed.

As sales of smartphones began to rise, competition between phone makers reached unprecedented levels and companies turned to the courts as a way to gain an advantage over competitors. However, despite millions of dollars spent in lawyers’ fees and thousands of hours of court time, the results have been mixed.

Few vendors have managed to get injunctions against popular smartphones that affected sales in any significant way.


Will Plastic Replace Silicon In Computers?

April 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Can plastic materials morph into computers? A research breakthrough recently published brings such a possibility closer to reality.

Researchers are looking at the possibility of making low-power, flexible and inexpensive computers out of plastic materials. Plastic is not normally a good conductive material. However, researchers said this week that they have solved a problem related to reading data.

The research, which involved converting electricity from magnetic film to optics so data could be read through plastic material, was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa and New York University. A paper on the research was published in this week’s Nature Communications journal.

More research is needed before plastic computers become practical, acknowledged Michael Flatte, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. Problems related to writing and processing data need to be solved before plastic computers can be commercially viable.

Plastic computers, however, could conceivably be used in smartphones, sensors, wearable products, small electronics or solar cells, Flatte said.

The computers would have basic processing, data gathering and transmission capabilities but won’t replace silicon used in the fastest computers today. However, the plastic material could be cheaper to produce as it wouldn’t require silicon fab plants, and possibly could supplement faster silicon components in mobile devices or sensors.

“The initial types of inexpensive computers envisioned are things like RFID, but with much more computing power and information storage, or distributed sensors,” Flatte said. One such implementation might be a large agricultural field with independent temperature sensors made from these devices, distributed at hundreds of places around the field, he said.

The research breakthrough this week is an important step in giving plastic computers the sensor-like ability to store data, locally process the information and report data back to a central computer.

Mobile phones, which demand more computing power than sensors, will require more advances because communication requires microwave emissions usually produced by higher-speed transistors than have been made with plastic.

It’s difficult for plastic to compete in the electronics area because silicon is such an effective technology, Flatte acknowledged. But there are applications where the flexibility of plastic could be advantageous, he said, raising the possibility of plastic computers being information processors in refrigerators or other common home electronics.

“This won’t be faster or smaller, but it will be cheaper and lower power, we hope,” Flatte said.


Does Samsung Fingerprint Sensor Work?

April 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Security experts from from Germany’s Security Research Labs have broken into Samsung’s fingerprint technology by taking a fingerprint smudge from the smartphone and creating a “wood glue dummy” finger with it. Apparently the S5 falls for the fault every time.

The problem is because the scanner has such a high trust rating within the phone, it will also mean that any thief will have access to the owners PayPal account. Neither of these actions require an additional password to be entered. PayPal has said that while it was taking the findings from Security Research Labs seriously, it was confident that fingerprint authentication offers and easier and more secure way to pay on mobile devices than passwords or credit cards.

The scan unlocks a secure cryptographic key that serves as a password replacement for the phone and this can be deactivated from a lost or stolen device, and you can create a new one. Paypal also uses sophisticated fraud and risk management tools to try to prevent fraud before it happens.

However you would think someone would have learnt by now a similar method was used to break the iPhone 5S’ fingerprint scanner last year. A better method was to cut the iPhone owner’s finger off. It was more messy but a lot more satisfying. There is a video of German researchers figuring out ways of making your phone talk after the break.




Will The IBM Lenovo Deal Get Approved?

April 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The U.S. Government will take a look at Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s server division due to concerns regarding the potential for international espionage.

Bloomberg reported that IBM supplies server equipment to the Pentagon and that national security concerns have been raised.

The inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) is set to investigate whether Chinese technology company Lenovo is a safe buyer for a company that builds products to process so much potentially sensitive data.

Application for the $2.3bn purchase, which was announced on 23 January, has been made to the CFIUS, however investigations might take up to 75 days.

Concerns might be alleviated by the decision to keep the IBM server business as a separate subsidiary for five years, with a possible extension. In the past, this was not the case as IBM’s personal computer division was rebranded by Lenovo soon after its acquisition in 2005.

US officials will also have to consider the future safety of US utilities, weapons systems and other critical infrastructure to ensure that there is no potential risk of malware or hijacking.

This is not the first time that CFIUS has intervened in Chinese acquisitions in the computing sector, with Huawei and ZTE both having been subjected to mutterings about “deep concerns” when they began accelerated trading in the US in 2012.

The IBM deal is just one part of Lenovo’s recent spending spree after it bought Motorola from Google at a cost of $3bn to gain a stronger foothold in western markets.


Malware Causes ATM Machine To Spew Cash

March 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A group of mischievous hackers have figured out how to get cash from a certain type of ATM — by text message.

The latest development was spotted by security vendor Symantec, which has periodically warned about a type of malicious software it calls “Ploutus” that first appeared in Mexico.

The malware is engineered to plunder a certain type of standalone ATM, which Symantec has not identified. The company obtained one of the ATMs to carry out a test of how Ploutus works, but it doesn’t show a brand name.

Ploutus isn’t the easiest piece of malware to install, as cybercriminals need to have access to the machine. That’s probably why cybercriminals are targeting standalone ATMs, as it is easy to get access to all parts of the machine.

Early versions of Ploutus allowed it to be controlled via the numerical interface on an ATM or by an attached keyboard. But the latest version shows a remarkable new development: It is now controllable remotely via text message.

In this variation, the attackers manage to open up an ATM and attach a mobile phone, which acts as a controller, to a USB port inside the machine. The ATM also has to be infected with Ploutus.

“When the phone detects a new message under the required format, the mobile device will convert the message into a network packet and will forward it to the ATM through the USB cable,” wrote Daniel Regalado, a Symantec malware analyst, in a blog post on Monday.

Ploutus has a network packet monitor that watches all traffic coming into the ATM, he wrote. When it detects a valid TCP or UDP packet from the phone, the module searches “for the number “5449610000583686 at a specific offset within the packet in order to process the whole package of data,” he wrote.

It then reads the next 16 digits and uses that to generate a command line to control Ploutus.

So, why do this? Regalado wrote that it is more discrete and works nearly instantly. The past version of Ploutus required someone to either use a keyboard or enter a sequences of digits into the ATM keypad to fire up Ploutus. Both of those methods increase the amount of time someone spends in front of the machine, increasing the risk of detection.

Now, the ATM can be remotely triggered to dispense cash, allowing a “money mule,” or someone hired to do the risky job of stopping by to pick up the cash, to swiftly grab their gains. It also deprives the money mule of information that could allow them to skim some cash off the top, Regalado wrote.

“The master criminal knows exactly how much the money mule will be getting,” he wrote.

Symantec warned that about 95% of ATMs are still running Windows XP, Microsoft’s 13-year-old OS. Microsoft is ending regular support for Windows XP on April 8, but is offering extended support for Windows XP embedded systems, used for point-of-sale devices and ATMs, through January 2016.

Still, Symantec warned that “the banking industry is facing a serious risk of cyberattacks aimed at their ATM fleet.”