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AT&T Changes Its Mind Again On Fiber Roll Out

December 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

AT&T now says it will continue its already-announced fiber optic network expansion to 100 cities, moving away from comments by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson after President Obama voiced support for net neutrality last month.

The move brought a strong response from critics who say the carrier’s fiber optic plans are mostly bogus and were designed as a competitive play against the ongoing Google Fiber rollout. The purported delay in AT&T’s investments was quickly seen as an empty threat.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent Nov. 25, AT&T said won’t limit future fiber-to-the-premises deployments to 2 million homes as part of its $49 billion deal to acquire DirecTV. That contrasts with what Stephenson said Nov. 12.

“To the contrary, AT&T still plans to complete the major initiative we announced in April to expand our ultrafast GigaPower fiber network in 25 major metropolitan areas nationwide.” Robert Quinn, AT&T senior vice president for regulatory matters, said in the letter.

In his Nov. 12 appearance at a Wells Fargo investors conference, Stephenson had said AT&T would stop fiber rollouts beyond the 2 million for the DirecTV deal: adding: “We can’t go out and just invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities other than these 2 million not knowing under what rules that investment will be governed.” The 100 cities are included in the 25 metro areas AT&T cited in its letter to the FCC. Stephenson later said to Fox Business Network that it might be two to three years before AT&T starts investing again in fiber optic network rollouts to 100 cities.

Since it won’t limit its fiber deployment to 2 million homes, AT&T also told the FCC that it didn’t need to provide documents surrounding any decision to delay. AT&T also redacted from public view any details on its fiber rollout in the letter.



Facebook Debuts ‘Rooms’ App For Chats

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is going old school, with a stand-alone app for discussion boards geared towards allowin users to talk about shared interests without having to use their real names.

The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.

The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.

The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.

“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.

“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.

But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.

The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.

Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.

I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)

Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.



BlackBerry’s Passport Smartphone Sold Out, Says CEO

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.

Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said sold out the Passport in six hours, with selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.

“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.

But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.

Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.

Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.

“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”

He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.

The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.



Jimmy Johns The Latest Chain To Fall Victim To Data Breach

September 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s said there was a potential data breach involving customers’ credit and debit card information at 216 of its stores and franchised locations on July 30.

An intruder stole log-in credentials from the company’s vendor and used the credentials to remotely access the point-of-sale systems at some corporate and franchised locations between June 16 and Sept. 5, the company said.

The chain is the latest victim in a series of security breaches among retailers such as Target Corp, Michaels Stores Inc and Neiman Marcus.

Home Depot Inc  said last week some 56 million payment cards were likely compromised in a cyberattack at its stores, suggesting the hacking attack at the home improvement chain was larger than the breach at Target Corp.

More than 12 of the affected Jimmy John’s stores are in Chicago area, according to a list disclosed by the company.

The breach has been contained and customers can use their cards at its stores, the privately held company said.

Jimmy John’s said it has hired forensic experts to assist with its investigation.

“Cards impacted by this event appear to be those swiped at the stores, and did not include those cards entered manually or online,” Jimmy John’s said.

The Champaign, Illinois-based company said stolen information may include the card number and in some cases the cardholder’s name, verification code, and/or the card’s expiration date.



HTC To Make the Next Google Nexus Tablet

September 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Inc has chosen HTC Corp to develop and deliver its upcoming 9-inch Nexus tablet, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Google had been mulling HTC as a potential Nexus tablet partner since last year and HTC engineers have been flying to the Googleplex in Mountain View in recent months to work on the project, the report said.

Google’s decision to pick HTC reflects its long-term strategy of building a broad base of partners from device to device to prevent any one manufacturer from gaining a monopoly, the report said.

That may also be one of the reasons why Google chose HTC over bigger rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, maker of the Nexus 10 tablet.

Google and HTC declined to comment on the report.



Ethernet Is In The Future Of Automobiles

March 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The most ubiquitous local area networking technology used by large companies may be packing its bags for a road trip.

As in-vehicle electronics become more sophisticated to support autonomous driving, cameras, and infotainment systems, Ethernet has become a top contender for connecting them.

For example, the BMW X5 automobile, released last year, used single-pair twisted wire, 100Mbps Ethernet to connect its driver-assistance cameras.

Paris-based Parrot, which supplies mobile accessories to automakers BMW, Hyundai and others, has developed in-car Ethernet. Its first Ethernet-connected systems could hit the market as soon as 2015, says Eric Riyahi, executive vice president of global operations.

Parrot’s new Ethernet-based Audio Video Bridging (AVB) technology uses Broadcom’s BroadR-Reach automotive Ethernet controller chips.

The AVB technology’s network management capabilities allows automakers to control the timing of data streams between specific network nodes in a vehicle and controls the bandwidth in order to manage competing data traffic.

Ethernet’s greater bandwidth could provide drivers with turn-by-turn navigation while a front-seat passenger streams music from the Internet, and each back-seat passenger watches streaming videos on separate displays.

“In-car Ethernet is seen as a very promising way to provide the needed bandwidth for coming new applications within the fields of connectivity, infotainment and safety,” said Hans Alminger, senior manager for Diagnostics & ECU Platform at Volvo, in a statement.

Ethernet was initially used by automakers only for on-board diagnostics. But as automotive electronics advanced, the technology has found a place in advanced driver assistance systems and infotainment platforms.

Many manufacturers also use Ethernet to connect rear vision cameras to a car’s infotainment or safety system, said Patrick Popp, chief technology officer of Automotive at TE Connectivity, a maker of car antennas and other automobile communications parts.

Currently, however, there are as many as nine proprietary auto networking specifications, including LIN, CAN/CAN-FD, MOST and FlexRay. FlexRay, for example, has a 10Mbps transmission rate. Ethernet could increase that 10 fold or more.

The effort to create a single vehicle Ethernet standard is being lead by Open Alliance and the IEEE 802.3 working group. The groups are working to establish 100Mbps and 1Gbps Ethernet as de facto standards.

The first automotive Ethernet standard draft is expected this year.

The Open Alliance claims more than 200 members, including General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen. Jaguar Land Rover, Renault, Volvo, Bosch, Freescale and Harman.

Broadcom, which makes electronic control unit chips for automobiles, is a member of the Open Alliance and is working on the effort to standardize automotive Ethernet.






Qualcomm Facing Trouble With China’s Anti-monopoly Regulators

February 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s anti-monopoly regulator on Wednesday said Qualcomm Inc. is under suspicion for overcharging and abusing its market position, allegations which could see the U.S. chip giant slapped with record fines of more than $1 billion.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also said it was in talks with another U.S. technology firm, InterDigital Inc, about a possible settlement to a separate anti-monopoly probe as the regulator focuses on the rapidly evolving information technology market.

Foreign firms from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to Apple Inc are facing tougher scrutiny in the world’s second-biggest economy as China targets key industries to protect consumers from bloated prices and second-rate products.

In its first public statements about the Qualcomm investigation, the watchdog said it began making inquiries after receiving complaints that the San Diego-based company was charging higher prices in China than it does in other countries.

“We received reports from relevant associations and companies that Qualcomm abuses its dominant position in the market and charges discriminatory fees,” Xu Kunlin, who heads the NDRC’s anti-monopoly and price supervision bureau, told a press conference in Beijing.

The NDRC dual investigations are part of a focus on information technology providers, especially companies that license patent technology for mobile devices and networks.

Industry experts say the NDRC, which is also the government’s main economic planning body, is trying to lower domestic costs as China rolls out its faster 4G mobile networks this year.

Earlier this month, the China Mobile Communications Industry Association said it had filed a complaint against Qualcomm for overcharging for use of its patents.

Under the anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between 1 and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.


Bitcoin ATMs Opening Soon in Seattle, Austin

February 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Robocoin announced on Tuesday that later this month it will install the first automated teller machines in the United States that will allow users to buy and sell bitcoin, the latest step into the mainstream for the digital currency.

The kiosks, to be installed in Seattle, and Austin, Texas, are similar to ATMs but have scanners to read government-issued identification such as a driver’s license or a passport to confirm users’ identities.

The ATMs will allow people to swap bitcoin for cash, or deposit cash to buy more bitcoin by transferring funds to or from a virtual wallet on their smartphones.

Bitcoin was launched in 2008 and is traded within a global network of computers. It is not backed by a single company or government and has no assets behind it, but its release is tightly controlled, mimicking a central banking system’s control over the minting of money.

Robocoin, based in Las Vegas, installed its first bitcoin ATM in Vancouver last fall and will also start operating one in Calgary, Alberta, later this month. Robocoin also is planning to install ATMs in Asia and Europe.

A bitcoin is currently worth about $636, but its value has fluctuated widely as the currency’s visibility has increased. Last September, a bitcoin was worth around $150. By late December the value was near the $1,000 mark.

Users can buy products and services online on sites including or in a handful of stores.

The currency’s reputation took a hit last week when two of its best known exchanges suspended withdrawals. One of them, Slovenia-based Bitstamp, said Friday it planned to allow redemptions to resume.


Sprint Promises Higher Wireless Data Speeds Than Competition

November 1, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp promised to gradually bump up wireless data speeds far in excess of those offered by bigger rivals like Verizon, as it hopes to use recently acquired wireless airwaves to regain market share.

At its research labs on the outskirts of San Francisco, Sprint on Wednesday outlined plans to expand Spark, a service it is now building with speeds of 50-60 megabits per second, which is being rolled out initially in five cities: Los Angeles, Tampa, Miami, Chicago and New York.

In comparison, Verizon Wireless says it provides customers data speeds of 5-12 megabits per second but its high-speed network covers 303 million people.

After losing subscribers for years, No. 3 U.S. mobile service provider Sprint is looking to distinguish itself from rivals AT&T Inc, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US, which are ahead of it in high-speed upgrades.

“Sprint has a much broader set of spectrum in more markets than their competitors,” said Andy Castonguay, principal analyst at Machina Research. “Their spectrum holdings give them a unique advantage.”

But he cautioned a lot of Sprint’s plans seemed theoretical for the moment and the industry has to see the technology in action to understand the impact on the consumer. With rapidly increasing bandwidth, other issues such as power consumption, battery life and heat will come to the fore.

“It’s going to push the boundaries of power consumption and antenna design. It’s going to be very interesting to watch the next generation of devices,” he said.

Sprint demonstrated to reporters at its Burlingame labs ultra-fast wireless data speeds of 1 gigabits per second, about 16 times faster than its current peak speeds and rivaling the fastest wireline speeds.

It also showed off potential applications of ultra high-speed wireless, from online multiplayer gaming to simultaneous streams of video based on next-generation “4K” TV technology.

AT&T shrugged off Sprint’s claims but declined to comment on its own speeds.

“A demo counts as much as making a touchdown with no other players on the field,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said.


Salesforce Hosting Dreamforce ‘Hackathon’ Conference

October 29, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net really wants to attract lots of developers to its Dreamforce conference next month in San Francisco. As in, really.

Last Friday, the cloud software vendor announced a “hackathon” would be held at the conference, with US$1 million going to the developer or team who creates the top prize-winning mobile application with technology.

“It’s not going to be easy — $1 million is going to bring out the best of the best,” said in Friday’s announcement. “So don’t wait until Dreamforce! You’re going to want to get started now. With, Heroku, ExactTarget Fuel, Mobile Services and more — you’ve got a killer array of platform technology to use.” will also be providing some “pretty amazing new technology” for use at the show, the announcement adds.

In order to participate, developers have to either register for a full conference pass or a special $99 hacker pass.

The hackathon reflects’s long courtship of developers to its development technologies, its AppExchange marketplace and recent efforts to build out more tooling for mobile application development.

Developers taking part in the hackathon will have plenty of competition, with some 20,000 programmers expected to attend Dreamforce overall. A “Hack Central” area will be open around the clock, supporting coders who want to work until the wee hours on their application.

In order to qualify, an application can’t have been previously released. The entries will be judged on four criteria counting 25 percent each: innovation, business value, user experience and use of’s platform.

The second-place finisher will receive $50,000, with $25,000 going to the third-place winner. Fourth and fifth place will get $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Some 120,000 people are expected to register for Dreamforce this year. While some of that total will be watching online rather than in person, Dreamforce is now operating at a scale rivaling Oracle’s OpenWorld event, which happened last month.


Do Most Cyber Attacks Come From China?

April 26, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigation Report has been released and has the staggering statistic that 96 per cent of all espionage data-breach incidents originated in China. The information is gleaned by its own forensics team and data breach info from 19 partner organisations worldwide. The report covers about 621 confirmed breaches and about 47,000 security incidents that occurred in 2012.

Verizon’s Dave Hylender wrote that money-minded miscreants continued to cash in on low-hanging fruit from any tree within reach. Bolder bandits took aim at better-defended targets in hopes of bigger hauls. Activist groups DoS’d and hacked under the very different – and sometimes blurred – banners of personal ideology and just-for-the-fun-of-it lulz. And, as a growing list of victims shared their stories, clandestine activity attributed to state-affiliated actors stirred international intrigue, he said.

China was involved in 96 per cent of all espionage data-breach incidents, most often targeting manufacturing, professional and transportation industries. Hylender said that the assets China targeted within those industries included laptop/desktop, file server, mail server and directory server, in order to steal credentials, internal organization data, trade secrets and system info.

More than 95 per cent of the attacks started with phishing which had become much more sophisticated, often targeting specific individuals and using tactics that are harder for IT to control. Phishers are using phone calls and social networking, too, the report said.


HP Sees Cyber Wars As A Growing Trend

May 10, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP’s CEO Meg Whitman warned that organisations need to prepare for a lobal cyber-attack that could have large-scale repercussions.

Whitman believes a “cyber-attack of 9/11 scale” is likely to take place in the near future. Customers need to be aware of the “threat of global terrorism” and promised that HP would be on hand to help when such an attack does occur.

Channeling Margaret Thatcher she threatened to “darken the skies with our agenda to help organizations.” We are not sure what use a dark agenda would be, but hell it probably sounded better during the rehearsals. Needless to say HP is trying to position itself as a leader in the security market where it thinks there is a market for dark agendas.




Is A Cyber Warfare On The Horizon?

April 24, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

F-secure’s chief security researcher, Mikko Hypponen, has warned that we are entering into a cyber warfare revolution, and that governments will soon attempt to outdo each other based on their computer weapons’ prowess.

The internet security expert said-any future crisis between technically advanced nations will involve cyber elements.

His comments came after hearing last week that China and the US have been engaging in “war games” simulations.

“I wasn’t expecting [war games] so soon,” Hypponen said.

“I’m surprised and I think it is a good move because everybody is worried about escalation. The way to fight unnecessary escalations is that you know more about how the perceived enemy would act if there would be an escalation. War games are exactly that.”

It was Hypponen’s observations on the war games which led him to remark that we must look at “the bigger picture”.

“We’ve seen a revolution in defence technology and in technology generally over the past 60 to 70 years and I believe we are right now seeing the beginning of the next revolution: a cyber warfare revolution, which is going to as big as the revolutions we’ve seen so far in technology becoming part of defence, and part of wars,” he added.

Hypponen also predicted that it won’t be long before the world sees its first cyber arms race, including cyber war rehearsals to prove how strong countries are and boasting about their cyber skills to make other countries pay attention.

“Like nuclear in the sixties, cyber attacks are a deterrent and deterrents only work if your perceived enemies know that you have it,” he said.

When asked if he thinks we are on the brink of a cyber cold war, Hypponen replied, “something like that”.

“What we should be doing is cyber arm negotiations, rules for using cyber arms, and so on,” he said.

“I think what we are seeing here with cyber war games between the US and China is the first steps into that…they are a good thing”.

At the beginning of this year, a report put out by the World Economic Forum rated cyber attacks as the fourth most likely risk to occur over the next 10 years. Detailing 50 risks across five categories based on a survey of 469 experts, the annual study ranked a technological threat in the top five for the first time since 2007.




FCC Votes To Advance New Mobile Spectrum Proposal

March 22, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted to move forward with plans to make available 40MHz of wireless spectrum in the 2GHz band to mobile voice and broadband service.

The FCC, in a 3-0 vote Wednesday, agreed to open a notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, asking what to do with the so-called S band of the mobile satellite services spectrum. In an NPRM, the agency seeks public comment on proposed rules, and the FCC’s new notice asks whether to allow current licensee Dish Network to offer mobile service or to auction the spectrum.

Dish Network purchased the spectrum from TerreStar and DBSD in a US$3 billion-plus deal that closed this month. The company has not detailed how it plans to use the spectrum, although it has said it is committed to helping the FCC solve a predicted mobile spectrum shortage and will explore a “market entry.”

More mobile broadband spectrum is needed because of the skyrocketing use of mobile data services in the U.S., members of the FCC and the mobile industry have said.

The commission’s action Wednesday was a “small but important step” toward bringing more spectrum to market, said Commissioner Robert McDowell.

AT&T and CTIA, a trade group representing mobile carriers, both praised the FCC for moving forward on the spectrum. The FCC’s 2-year-old broadband plan sets a goal of opening up 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband within 10 years.

Also on Wednesday, the FCC voted to launch an NPRM focused on ensuring that smartphones and other mobile devices used in the lower 700MHz band of spectrum are interoperable across spectrum owned by different carriers. Regional mobile carriers have complained that Verizon and AT&T, the two biggest winners in the 700MHz spectrum auctions in early 2008, have been asking device manufacturers for equipment that will only work in their spectrum blocks.


Is the FDA Spying On Its Scientist?

January 30, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The Food and Drug Administration is being sued by staffers who say that it has secretly monitored their personal email and snooped on their whisteblower warnings.

A report at the Washington Post says that the FDA turned its eyes inward after some scientists and doctors warned the US Congress that it was approving medical devices that could harm patients.

Snooping took place over a two year period, according to a complaint filed against the FDA, and saw spooks reading personal emails sent through Google’s Gmail service. This information was then used to harass or dismiss workers.

Documents released in the lawsuit show that the FDA began reading emails sent by its staff to the US Congress, snooped on draft versions of whistle-blower complaints and looked at documents saved on computers.

The doctors and scientists say that their constitutional rights have been violated because, although they accept that their work communications are open to inspection, their private ones should not be.

“Who would have thought that they would have the nerve to be monitoring my communications to Congress?” said one plaintiff. “How dare they?”

The six scientists and doctors filed their lawsuit against the FDA in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, DC last week.