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Samsung Unveils First Of Its Kind Smartwatch, Mobile Phone Not Required

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday debuted what it said was the first smartwatch capable of making and receiving calls without a mobile phone nearby, in the South Korean firm’s latest effort to find a new growth driver.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker has been pushing hard to develop the wearable devices market as it looks to counter slowing earnings in its mobile division, which led to weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

Samsung is hardly alone in pushing wearables, which have yet to catch on with consumers. Rival Apple Inc is expected to launch its own device this year and LG Electronics Inc on Thursday announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and leather strap.

Samsung’s new smartwatch, called the Gear S, differs from its predecessors with a bigger 2-inch (5 cm) curved display and offers features like WiFi connectivity, pedestrian navigation and a built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung’s nascent Tizen operating system.

Samsung said the Gear S will start selling from October. It did not give details on pricing or where it will be available.

LG said its G Watch R will launch in key markets in the fourth quarter, without indicating a price.

 

 

VMWare Releases Workplace Suite

August 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

VMware has released its Workplace Suite — a combined platform to deploy and manage applications and desktops from the cloud to laptops, smartphones, tablets, or whatever. The suite comes as part of a partnership with Google and NVIDIA, VMware has been showing the world the ability for VMware Workplace Suite to stream even graphics-intensive Windows applications to Google Chromebooks.

VMware is billing this as an initiative to bring data and applications closer to the places users actually want to access them. VMware CTO Ben Fathi said that the new VMware Workplace Suite takes advantage of three existing VMware products: Tools for application, device, and content management as well as secure cloud file storage that comes from the January acquisition of enterprise mobile management company AirWatch. It also has bits of VMware Horizon for desktop-as-a-service; and the acquisition CloudVolumes for app delivery.

VMware claims it can deliver a consistent experience across platforms with a single sign-on for end-users across as many apps as IT wants to administrate. VMware is pushing the hybrid cloud model hard, and is talking about deployment across a company’s internal data centre and the vCloud Air platform.

The net benefit of a hybrid deployment would be to keep your VMware Workplace Suite closer to any on-premises data silos like SharePoint or SAP while still getting cloud scalability. The target of the software would be the health industry, where a doctor may have to move between offices and hospitals without access to their same application.

Google and Nvidia takes advantage of a Chromebook’s internal Nvidia GPU and the grid graphics cloud. VMware also showed off something called Project Meteor, which the company claims is an industry first, “next generation” solution for delivering a full virtual desktop-as-a-service to any HTML5 browser. This will mean you can have the same desktop across multiple devices.

Courtesy-Fud

Tesla Motors Recruits Hackers For Security Challenge

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors is searching for security researchers to hack its vehicles. The Silicon Valley based high-tech auto maker will hire up to 30 full-time hackers whose job will be to identify and resolve vulnerabilities in the sophisticated firmware that controls its cars.

“Our security team is focused on advancing technology to secure connected cars,” a company spokesman said via email. The focus is on “setting new standards for security and creating new capabilities for connected cars that don’t currently exist in the automotive industry. The positions are full time, and we will have internship opportunities as well.”

Tesla’s cars are among the most digitally connected vehicles in the industry with the battery, transmission, engine systems, climate control, door locks and entertainment systems remotely accessible via the Internet.

So the company has a lot at stake in ensuring that the connectivity that allows its vehicles to be remotely managed doesn’t also provide a gateway for malicious hackers.

Security researchers have already shown how malicious attackers can break into a car’s electronic control unit and take control of vital functions including navigation, braking and acceleration.

In 2013, two researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) showed how they could take control of a vehicle through the controller area network (CAN) used by devices in a car to communicate with each other. The researchers showed how attackers could send different commands to a car and cause it to brake or accelerate suddenly or jerk its steering wheel in different directions.

In that study, the researchers needed physical access to the CAN bus to carry out the attack. However, researchers have noted that similar attacks can be carried out wirelessly by accessing the CAN bus through Bluetooth connections, compromised Android smartphones and vehicle tracking and navigation systems like OnStar.

Such concerns have begun gaining wider attention with the federal government’s plans to require all vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications capabilities in all light vehicles over the next few years.

The goal is to have a standard in place that would allow vehicles to automatically exchange information, such as speed and location data, with each other, with a view to avoiding collisions.

Tesla has been among the most proactive carmakers in addressing potential security threats. It was the only automaker to attend the recent Def Con security conference in Las Vegas, where a security executive took the opportunity to promote the company’s responsible vulnerability reporting program and to recruit new team members.

 

 

Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Apple Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries Free Of Charge

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

 

 

 

Qantas, Virgin To Allow Smartphone Usage Throughout Flights

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Australian airlines Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said passengers may use mobile phones and tablets during their flights, after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices on planes.

The airlines said they would begin allowing passengers to use personal electronic devices for the duration of their flight after Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority followed a similar ruling from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013.

The Australian airlines will hope giving customers almost continuous access to personal devices will increase their appeal as they engage in a price war with each other and other market participants. Currently, passengers are forced to switch off devices until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

The two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week.

“We’re delighted to give Qantas customers the freedom and flexibility to use their personal electronic devices from the moment they board the plane until they disembark,” Qantas Domestic chief executive officer Lyell Strambi said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said the high number of passengers who travel with a smartphone or tablet shows “how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience”.

 

 

Microsoft Slash Prices On Surface 2 Tablets

August 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has lowered the prices of its Surface 2 tablets by as much as 22%, dropping the entry-level Windows 8.1 RT device to $349.

It’s unknown whether Microsoft discounted the Surface 2 to clear inventory before it discontinues the tablet, in preparation for a successor, or simply to move a slow-selling product.

A clue may be in the length of the limited-time sale: Microsoft said that the reduced prices were good from Aug. 24 to Sept. 27, or “while supplies last,” and set the maximum number of devices per customer at a generous five.

Intriguingly, Microsoft is to host a press event on Sept. 30 to unveil the next edition of Windows, code named “Threshold” but perhaps officially to be called “Windows 9.” Rumors have circulated that Windows RT will also be revamped to drop the desktop mode and/or to add support for the pen bundled with the Surface Pro 3.

If those claims are accurate, the Sept. 30 event would be a perfect time to tout a revamped Windows RT and unveil replacements for the Surface 2.

Microsoft cut prices by $100 for each of the three Surface 2 models it sells: two Wi-Fi only tablets with 32GB or 64GB of storage, and a 64GB device that can connect to a cellular data network at LTE speeds.

The lowest-priced 32GB Surface 2 is now priced at $349, a 22% discount, while the 64GB tablet now costs $449, an 18% reduction. The sole LTE model, now $579, received a 15% price cut.

Microsoft’s Surface 2 is powered by Windows RT 8.1, the touch-centric, tile-interface that runs only “Modern,” nee “Metro,” apps. Windows RT cannot handle legacy Windows applications.

The Surface 2 was the follow-up to the disastrous Surface RT, the tablet which sold in such small volume — and which Microsoft built in such large numbers — that the company was forced to take a $900 million write-off in mid-2013.

Although the Surface Pro 2, which went on sale alongside the Surface 2 in October 2013, was updated to the Surface Pro 3 in May of this year, the Surface 2 has not been refreshed since its launch.

At its new price, the 32GB Surface 2, which boasts a 10.6-in. display, costs less than Apple’s entry-level 16GB iPad Mini with a 7.9-in. Retina-quality screen. That iPad Mini lists at $399.

Microsoft is selling the re-priced Surface 2 on its online store.

 

 

 

 

US Government Warns Major Businesses Hit By Backoff Malware

August 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Over 1,000 major enterprise networks and small and medium businesses in the U.S. have been compromised by a recently discovered malware package named Backoff and are probably unaware of it, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said in a cybersecurity alert.

Backoff first appeared in October 2013 and is capable of scraping the memory contents of point of sales systems — industry speak for cash registers and other terminals used at store checkouts — for data swiped from credit cards, from monitoring the keyboard and logging keystrokes, from communicating with a remote server.

“Over the past year, the Secret Service has responded to network intrusions at numerous businesses throughout the United States that have been impacted by the “Backoff” malware,” the alert said. “Seven PoS system providers/vendors have confirmed that they have had multiple clients affected.”

The malware is thought to be responsible for the recent data breaches at Target, SuperValu supermarkets and UPS stores, and the Secret Service is still learning of new infections.

DHS first warned of Backoff in late July, when it noted the malware was not detectable my most antivirus software. That made it particularly difficult to stop, because much of the fight against computer viruses and malware rests on antivirus applications.

Most antivirus packages now detect Backoff, but DHS is advising network operators take immediate action to ensure they haven’t been affected.

“DHS strongly recommends actively contacting your IT team, antivirus vendor, managed service provider, and/or point of sale system vendor to assess whether your assets may be vulnerable and/or compromised,” it said. “The Secret Service is active in contacting impacted businesses, as they are identified, and continues to work with and support those businesses that have been impacted by this PoS malware.”

In many cases, hackers gained access to machines through brute-force attacks on remote log-in systems offered through companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google and other third-party vendors. Once inside, they were able to copy the malware to the machine and set it capturing credit card data.

The DHS asked that instances of it are reported to a local Secret Service field office.

 

China To Unveil PC OS To Compete With Microsoft, Google

August 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

China plans to roll out a home-grown operating system by October to wean the country from foreign-made OSes like Windows, the government-run Xinhua news agency said Sunday.

The operating system, which Xinhua did not name, will be initially offered on desktop PCs, with the plan to later extend it to smartphones. The news service cited a report in the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, a trade paper run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the agency responsible for, among other things, the regulation and development of China’s software industry.

“We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores,” Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the trade paper, according to a translation by Reuters on Sunday.

Ni leads an official operating system development alliance established in March by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

According to the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, Ni cited the end of Windows XP support and the ban on Windows 8 on government computers as giving domestic OS developers an opening.

Earlier this year, China officials banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, a move triggered by the end of Windows XP’s support in April. Before that, authorities had blasted Microsoft for halting security updates to the 13-year-old OS.

Historically, China has been a stronghold of Windows XP, in large part because of massive piracy of Microsoft’s software.

China has long been at odds with foreign technology firms, particularly Microsoft and Google — but also at times with Apple — over their impact and influence in the country. But that animus increased significantly last month when government antitrust regulators raided several Microsoft offices, seizing computers and documents in a first step of an investigation. The probe had been prompted by complaints lodged since July 2013 about how Windows and Microsoft Office are bundled, about Windows-Office compatibility and about other unnamed concerns.

The People’s Post and Telecommunications News‘ story (Chinese language version) cited by Xinhua ran on Thursday, and provided more detail about the domestic OS plans.

Ni spelled out a timeline that could replace foreign operating systems on the desktop in one to two years, then in three to five years expand to mobile devices. Private industry, Ni added, may co-fund development of the home-grown OS.

“Creating an environment that allows us to compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft, that is our key to success,” Ni said.

China has worked on a its own OS before: In 2000, Red Flag Linux, which was funded in part by the government’s Ministry of Information, was released. Later that year, Red Flag was mandated as the replacement for Windows 2000 on all government PCs. Tensions at the time between China’s government and Microsoft were at the root of that order.

 

 

 

Intel Moving Closer To ‘Wire-Free’ Computing

August 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel is moving closer towards providing what it calls “wire-free” computing by 2016, a plan the company first talked about publicly in June at the Computex trade show.

The company is developing a smart dock through which laptops can wirelessly connect to monitors and external peripherals, it said in a blog entry.

The dock will remove the need to plug HDMI or DisplayPort display connectors directly into laptops. The wireless dock will provide USB 3.0-like speeds to transfer data to external peripherals.

“When you walk in the office with your laptop, it will automatically link with your wireless-enabled monitor or projector to deliver an HD streaming experience without the hassle of plugging into your HDMI or DisplayPort,” Intel said.

The chip maker is also developing technology so wireless monitors automatically start and link up when laptops are within a specific distance. Intel calls this “proximity-based peripheral syncing” technology.

Intel demonstrated the technology in a video accompanying the blog post. Users could also log on with face recognition, without the need to touch the keyboard.

Intel has said most of its wire-free computing will be based on WiGig, a fast-growing wireless data transfer technology. WiGig is considered faster than the latest Wi-Fi technology. Intel is also considering WiGig to connect wireless keyboards and mice to laptops.

The company also wants to get rid of power adapters and is developing wireless charging technologies for laptops. Intel at Computex showed laptops charging on a table equipped with a charging pad based on A4WP’s Rezence magnetic resonance technology.

Intel will talk about wire-free computing for business PCs at the Intel Developer Forum next month in San Francisco. The company will share details about wireless docking and displays as part of vPro, Intel’s platform for managing PCs remotely.

Intel wants to make laptops easier to use, so they are more like smartphones and tablets, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“If they don’t make investment like this, an old-school laptop starts looking really old,” McCarron said. “The goal of all this stuff is to make things seamless and transparent.”

The wire-free development also underscores the importance of WiGig, with more companies investing in the technology, McCarron said.

 

 

Will Activision Launch An Entertainment Group?

August 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Sources are suggesting that Activision is planning to launch an entertainment division that would be responsible for creating movies and TV shows based on Activision intellectual properties. The move might leave many scratching their heads if true since so many others have failed at trying to turn video game IP into gold.

Word is that CEO Bobby Kotick is taking to folks in an effort to secure the right talent to make this happen. Kotick has to be aware that this has not gone well for its competitors, but he apparently thinks that Activision IP is different and they will have no problem giving the people want they want.

Our take on this is that we will wait and see what happens, but it will not be easy to be successful, regardless of the IP that you have in your stable. The bigger question might be is it really worth the money and effort to try and make it work?

Courtesy-Fud

UPS Joins The List Of Companies To Report A Data Breach

August 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Credit and debit card information belonging to customers made purchases at 51 UPS Store Inc. locations in 24 states this year may have been illegally accessed as the result of an intrusion into the company’s networks.

In a statement on Wednesday, UPS said it was recently notified by law enforcement officials about a “broad-based malware intrusion” of its systems.

A subsequent investigation by an IT security firm showed that attackers had installed previously unknown malware on systems in more than four-dozen stores to gain access to cardholder data. The affected stores represent about 1% of the 4,470 UPS Store locations around the country.

The intrusion may have exposed data on transactions conducted at the stores between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11, 2014. “For most locations, the period of exposure to this malware began after March 26, 2014,” UPS said in a statement.

In addition to payment card information, the hackers also appear to have gained access to customer names, as well as postal and email addresses.

Each of the affected locations is individually owned and runs private networks that are not connected to other stores, UPS added. The company provided alist of affected locations.

The breach is the third significant one to be disclosed in the past week. Last Thursday, grocery store chain Supervalu announced it had suffered a malicious intrusion that exposed account data belonging to customers who had shopped at about 180 of the company’s stores in about a dozen states. The breach also affected customers from several other major grocery store chains for which Supervalu provides IT services.

 

 

SanDisk Launches Ultra II SSD

August 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

SanDisk has updated its consumer solid-state disk (SSD) drive aimed at laptop upgraders.

Sandisk claims that the Ultra II SSD improves PC performance by up to 28 times and adds 15 percent to battery life. The drive also has an improved SSD Dashboard that offers firmware upgrades, security and cloning facilities in one user interface.

“We live in an era where we expect to have information at our fingertips anytime, anywhere, with technology that keeps us connected to both our personal and work lives on devices that won’t fail,” said Sandisk VP of retail product marketing Dinesh Bahal.

“The new Sandisk Ultra II SSD, together with the improved SSD Dashboard, provides consumers with an easy, affordable way to ensure that their PC can keep pace with their increasingly connected, information-driven lifestyle.”

The Sandisk Ultra II comes in capacities from 120GB up to 960GB with prices ranging from €75 to €409. UK prices are yet to be announced.

Under the hood is an X3 NAND flash array with Sandisk’s nCache 2.0 technology, which uses two tiers of caching. As with most SSDs, the drive is shock resistant. Read speed is 550MBs with write speed of 500MBs delivered in a 2.5″ drive with a 6Gbps SATA3 interface.

Although the drive is guaranteed for three years, its Mean Time Between Failure rating (MTBF) is 1.75 million hours, suggesting that for everyday use it will work a great deal longer.

The Sandisk Ultra II sits alongside the recently released Extreme Pro, a gaming SSD with similar specifications but a slightly faster write speed.

Sandisk has been aggressively expanding its range of solid-state products during 2014 with the first 4TB SSD drive, the Optimus Max premiering in April and the X300s for enterprise laptops in May.

Courtesy-TheInq

Cox Communications Shoots Down Rumors Of T-Mobile Merger

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Cox Communications Inc. is not interested in merging with wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc or rival cable providers, according to Cox President Pat Esser, dispelling rumors recently swirling about the private company.

“We’re not in any discussions to buy T-Mobile,” Esser told Reuters. “I don’t see a movement inside of our company that we feel like we have to pony up or match up with a wireless company.”

Asked whether Cox, the third-largest U.S. cable and broadband company, was considering a merger with one of its smaller cable rivals, such as Charter Communications Inc or perennial takeover target Cablevision Systems Corp, Esser said family-owned Cox was not looking to become a publicly traded company.

“I would never say we’ll never be public in the future. But right now where the family’s at, where [parent company] Cox Enterprises is at, they like being private,” Esser said. “We have a very, very healthy balance sheet, we have a lot of capacity and we can do most of that inside of our current balance sheet and still remain private.”

Continuing a year marked by a whirlwind of dealmaking among telecom companies, sources told Reuters earlier this month that Iliad, a French telecom firm, was in talks with U.S. satellite and cable operators Cox, Charter and Dish Networks Corp regarding a potential joint bid for U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile.

Esser said that instead, he saw the future of Cox Communications in wi-fi offerings and connectivity services, such as home security.

“Wireless use of broadband is growing but it’s not through traditional cellular services, it’s wi-fi. Wi-fi is exploding,” Esser said. “Wi-fi is the future … Connected homes are the future.”

 

 

Sprint Slashes Rates, Introduces New Pricing Plans

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp unveiled a new pricing plan that gives customers 20 gigabytes of data and up to 10 lines for $100, doubling its data offerings, the latest in a series of cuts and promotions that is re-shaping the wireless industry.

Sprint’s chairman, business tycoon Masayoshi Son, is betting new prices will revive a carrier hampered by an expensive network overhaul and rising competition.

“The message is simple: We are back in the game. We are going to offer most competitive value for American consumers,” Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s newly appointed chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

The company will release new plans for individuals later this week.

The announcement marks the first move for the new CEO, who last week said cutting prices would be his top priority.

The move comes after Verizon slashed prices for its unlimited talk and text plan and T-Mobile expanded its family plan to 6 lines and could signal more price cuts ahead for the industry as a whole.

Sprint is going it alone after scuttling a months-long effort to pursue a merger with No. 4 U.S. cellular provider T-Mobile US Inc.

Last year, an aggressive campaign by T-Mobile to address subscriber frustrations and lower prices sparked a domino effect that caused the U.S. top four carriers to restructure pricing plans and cut rates to lure customers in a nearly saturated market.

But analysts worry the industry’s latest discount spree could increase pressure on already tight margins and rattle dividends.

While top carriers and Verizon  have largely been able to mitigate the impact of T-Mobile’s discounts on their subscriber base, they would likely have to respond to price cuts at Sprint with steep discounts of their own to keep subscribers from migrating, analysts said.

“We will see a trickle down in pricing concessions across the industry. This is the start of a price war many anticipated would be coming,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at S&P Capital IQ.

New pricing plans that charge customers separately for the cost of their devices have somewhat offset price cuts this year, Zino said, but if the discounts continue, they could pose a long-term threat to the dividends.