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Microsoft Attempting To Attract More Mobile Users With Freebies

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp made its popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications available,free of charge, on Android tablets, further signifying its drive to attract as many mobile customers as possible using its software.

It also released an app for its popular Outlook email program to run on Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, hoping to attract the millions of users familiar with Outlook from their work desktops.

The new releases are the latest gambits in Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella’s attempt to wrest back the initiative in the battle for mobile users, where Microsoft has fallen behind Apple and Google Inc.

Nadella broke with decades of tradition last March by releasing a free, touch-friendly version of Office for Apple’s iPad, before such software was even available for Microsoft’s Windows devices.

By giving away its industry-standard Office apps on Apple’s popular iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, Microsoft is looking to build up a base of users which it can later persuade to sign up for Office 365, the full, Internet-based version of Office starting at $7 a month for personal users.

Microsoft has been offering test versions of the Office apps on Android for almost three months, but Thursday marks the first day they are available as finished products from the online Google Play app store.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the key elements of Microsoft’s top-selling Office suite of applications, have been a hit on Apple’s mobile devices, with 80 million downloads since last March, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to release new, touch-friendly versions of its Office apps for Windows devices later this year when it releases the Windows 10 operating system.

The new Outlook app, based on a popular app made by Acompli, which Microsoft bought in December, will allow iPhone and iPad users much easier ways of linking email to calendars and working with file attachments. Microsoft is also releasing a test version of the Outlook app for Android users.

 

 

LG Profits Rise

January 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

LG Display posted $1.245 billon in operating profit last year which is a 16.7 percent rise from a year earlier.

It is the largest increase in six years boosted by stronger demand for handset displays.

In a filing to the Korea Exchange, the LG affiliate said sales were down 2.1 percent.

Despite the drop in sales, its net profit jumped 119 percent on stronger margins.

This means that the company can pay its first dividend in four years.

Analysts were positive about the result and its outlook for the first quarter of this year.

LG supplies displays to Apple, HP, Dell, Sony and other top-tier Chinese TV makers.

The analyst said LG Display will benefit most among its chief Japanese and Taiwanese rivals as the Korean company is better in terms of output commitment, on-time delivery and better pricing.

LG Display, which is 37.9 percent owned by LG Electronics, said its moves to boost the sale of UHD displays for TVs to leading Chinese TV manufacturers also paid off.

Courtesy-Fud

DEA Has A Program That Tracks Cars Moving Across The Country

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program to track cars close to the U.S.-Mexican border has been gradually expanded nationwide and is regularly used by other law enforcement agencies searching for criminal suspects.

The extent of the system, which is said to contain hundreds of millions of records on motorists and their journeys, was disclosed in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Much of the information disclosed to the ACLU was undated, making it difficult to understand the growth of the network, which is different from the cameras used to collect traffic tolls on expressways.

One of the undated documents said more than 100 cameras had been deployed in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. The cameras snap each vehicle that passes, recording its license plate, the direction of travel and the time. Some cameras also snap a picture of the driver and passengers.

It was set up in 2008 and was opened to other law enforcement agencies in May 2009. Two years after it was launched, the system helped the DEA seize 98 kilograms of cocaine, 8,336 kilograms of marijuana and collect $866,380. Its use was also expanded to the hunt for cars being driven by suspects in child abductions, rapes and other crimes.

But it’s unclear if there is any court oversight of the network. The ACLU said that any federal, state or local law enforcement agent that had been vetted by the DEA could conduct queries on the database.

Records on cars that don’t generate a “hit” in law enforcement investigations are said to be stored for six months — a period the ACLU said was “far too long.”

 

 

Google Fiber Expanding South

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Fiber is expanding to the metro areas of Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., reaching 18 cities in those areas.

The fiber optic cable service, with speeds of 1Gbps, is already active in the Kansas City area, as well as Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas.

Google has been working with city leaders in the new areas for the past year, “and now the really hard work begins,” said Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber in a blog posting.

He also said Google continues to explore bringing fiber to five other areas: Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and San Jose. Updates on those areas will come later this year.

Kish hailed findings by President Barack Obama and others that show fast Internet connections are vital to economic development. In cities such as Kansas City, Kans. and Kansas City, Mo., the construction of Google Fiber in residential areas started in 2012 and was opened to businesses by 2014. Google Fiber has also pushed AT&T to launch a number of competitive fiber projects.

“Fiber is on fire,” said Heather Burnett Gold, president of Fiber to the Home Council for the Americas, in reaction to Google’s announcement. “Communities must be planning/deploying gigabit infrastructure today in order to be part of the global economy tomorrow.”

City leaders in Raleigh welcomed the news as well.

“High-speed broadband can help cities enhance service deliver and civic engagement,” said Gail Roper, chief information and community relations officer for the City of Raleigh, in a statement.

 

DoS Bug Found In Android

January 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Security researchers have discovered a bug in the Android WiFi Direct feature that could allow hackers to launch denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on Android devices.

WiFi Direct allows Android devices to connect to one another directly without needing a third-party device like a wireless router. The feature runs as standard in most Android smartphones today.

The guys at Core Security found the vulnerability, dubbed CVE-2014-0997, and said that a number of Android smartphones are vulnerable and can be affected by a DoS attack when scanning for WiFi Direct-capable devices.

An attacker could implement the DoS attack by sending a specially crafted 802.11 probe response frame “causing the Dalvik subsystem to reboot because of an Unhandle Exception on WiFiMonitor class”, said Core Security.

“On some Android devices processing a probe response frame with a WiFi-Direct (P2P) information element that contains a device name attribute with specific bytes generates a malformed supplicant event string that ends up throwing the IllegalArgumentException. As this exception is not handled the Android system restarts.”

In laymen’s terms, the attacker could essentially reboot an Android device remotely, knocking it off the wireless connection.

Devices currently affected by the bug include the Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 running Android version 4.4.4, the LG D806 and the Samsung SM-T310 running Android 4.2.2, and the Motorola RAZR HD running Android 4.1.2.

Core Security said that other devices could also be affected. Android 5.0 Lollipop is not vulnerable to the exploit, so the firm suggests that Android users should update to the latest version where possible.

Courtesy-TheInq

AMD’s Summit Ridge Processor Details Leaked

January 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s first 14nm processors are codenamed Summit Ridge and they are reportedly based on an all-new architecture dubbed Zen.

Information on the new architecture and the Summit Ridge design is still very sketchy. According to Sweclockers, the chips will feature up to eight CPU cores, support for DDR4 memory and TDPs of up to 95W.

Summit Ridge will use a new socket, designated FM3. This suggests we are looking at A-series APUs, but there is no word on graphics and the eight-core design points to proper FX-series CPUs – we simply do not know at this point. It is also possible that Summit Ridge is a Vishera FX replacement, but on an FM socket rather than an AM socket.

Of course, AMD Zen should end up in more products than one, namely in APUs and Opteron server parts. The new architecture has been described as a “high-performance” design and will be manufactured using the Samsung-GlobalFoundries 14nm node.

As for the launch date, don’t hold your breath – the new parts are expected to show up in the third quarter of 2016, roughly 18 months from now.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook Testing New Stripped Down Version Of Its Mobile App

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Facebook is testing a scaled down version of its mobile app that requires far less data, which could boost usage of the social networking service among people with weaker Internet service or older phones.

Facebook “Lite” is available for devices running Android 2.2 and up. The size of the free app is 252 kilobytes, and it’s meant for 2G networks in areas with limited connectivity. Users can perform a bunch of basic functions like post status updates with photos, comment on people’s posts, message friends, have group conversations, and receive notifications. Posts from the news feed are meant to load quickly.

Early reviews on the Google Play store for the app have been positive, with many praising its low data and battery usage.

Facebook launched the app over the weekend in parts of Africa and Asia, said a report in TechCrunch. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment further.

The Lite app appears to be related to Facebook’s Internet.org project, which seeks to provide free access to Facebook and other basic Internet services in developing countries. The Internet.org app is already available in a handful of countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Colombia. In addition to Facebook, the app provides access to other services like the weather, Wikipedia, and health and educational information. Carriers can charge users for paid access to other services. In addition to Facebook, other founding partners of Internet.org include Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.

With the Lite app, Facebook might be testing people’s responsiveness to a set of basic Facebook services without the ancillary ones. It may also help Facebook learn how it could further improve the functions of its Internet.org app.

Facebook tested a different stripped down version of its site in late 2009 and early 2010, although only for the desktop. It was shut down in April 2010.

 

 

New Internet Browser Vivaldi Launches

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Well known software developer Jon von Tetzchner has launched a new internet browser, offering an interface for high-volume users who “have problems fitting all their open tabs on one screen”, he said in a Reuters interview.

Known as Vivaldi and available on desktop computers from Tuesday, the browser’s initial launch covers the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

“A mobile phone and a tablet version are in the pipeline. We are working on it, but they won’t be out until they’re ready,” said von Tetzchner, who owns 90 percent of the company’s shares and has paid for the development.

“At some point it will need to fund it self and to reach that point we will need a few million users. I have no doubt that we will reach that number quite easily,” he added.

With features like personalized notes, bookmarks with small screen shots and speed dials with options for multiple groups and folders, Vivaldi hopes to attract high-volume users.

Despite tough competition from the likes of Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Corp’s Firefox and Opera Software’s browser, von Tetzchner believes there is still room for more.

“We welcome everyone, but this is first of all a browser for people who expect and need more,” he said. “There is without a doubt a demand for this type of browser even though I don’t expect it to take more than a few percent of the total market.”

Vivaldi has signed a few affiliation deals ahead of the launch and is in talks with several potential partners for functionalities like search and online shopping.

“We have made several deals and have started a dialogue with others. But because some of these are potential competitors, we’ve wanted to go live with the browser first.”

Named after the 18th century composer Antonio Vivaldi, the name carries an inescapable reference to von Tetzchner’s previous role as co-founder and long-time head of browser and mobile phone technology firm Opera Software.

 

Gas Stations Vulnerable To Cyberattacks

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Over 5,000 devices used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be hacked from the Internet by malicious attackers.

These devices, known as automated tank gauges (ATGs), are also used to trigger alarms in case of problems with the tanks, such as fuel spills.

“An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system,” said HD Moore, the chief research officer at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. “Tank gauge malfunctions are considered a serious issue due to the regulatory and safety issues that may apply.”

Earlier this month, Moore ran a scan to detect ATGs that are connected to the Internet through serial port servers that map ATG serial interfaces to the Internet-accessible TCP port 10001. This is a common set-up used by ATG owners to monitor the devices remotely.

“Approximately 5,800 ATGs were found to be exposed to the Internet without a password,” Moore said. “Over 5,300 of these ATGs are located in the United States, which works out to about 3 percent of the approximately 150,000 fueling stations in the country.”

Rapid7 decided to run the scan after being alerted of the problem by Jack Chadowitz, the founder of Kachoolie, a division of BostonBase that provides secure tank gauge access services.

Chadowitz had already developed an online service where ATG owners, particularly those using “a Gilbarco/Veeder Root TCP/IP card or a TCP/IP to serial converter such as those commonly available from Digi or Lantronix,” can check if they are at risk.

Some systems provide the capability to protect serial interfaces with a password, but this functionality is not commonly enabled, according to Moore.

 

 

Hacker Forum Working To On Evolving Malware

January 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Notorious malware kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM have been uncovered in a hacker forum as evolved versions, developed with advanced functionality, according to researchers at Trend Micro.

A threat response engineer at Trend Micro, Michael Marcos, said that he uncovered the malware while examining the Arabic language on a bogus “computer enthusiast site”, called dev-point.com forum.

“One of the notable topics in the forum talked about new malware ‘kjw0rm’ and a worm named ‘Sir DoOom’, which both came about after the release of the Njw0rm malware source code in the same forum,” he explained.

The Njw0rm’s source code was leaked in May 2013. The evolved kjw0rm is currently available in two versions, both of which have advanced infiltration and infection mechanisms.

The first Kjw0rm V2.0 appeared initially on the forum in January 2014, while the updated 0.5X version and new Sir DoOoM malware followed in December.

The V2.0 malware is the most basic of the three and reportedly hides itself in bogus files within infected systems.

“The propagation method of this malware targets all folders in the root directory of the removable drive,” read the advisory.

V0.5X follows a developed version of the same tactic, and Sir DoOoM adds an anti-virtual machine capability.

“[V0.5X] obfuscated some portions of the malware code. The malware author utilises an obfuscator tool that converts characters to hex values, adds filler functions, and performs computations that make analysis more difficult and time-consuming,” explained Marcos.

“[Sir DoOoM] also has an anti-virtual machine routine. It first searches for a list of the installed programs in the affected computer.

“If this variant found itself in a computer where a virtual machine program is installed, it will uninstall and terminate itself from the affected system. This prevents analysts testing to determine malware behaviour.”

Trend Micro senior engineer Bharat Mistry told V3 that the variants are dangerous as they add several advanced functions.

“Previous versions were there mainly for password stealing from browsers. As the malware has evolved, after the initial infections it now has the ability to download and execute Visual Basic code [VBS],” he said.

“VBS is a powerful coding language and can be used to interact directly with the operating system on the infected device.

“Also it now has the ability to recognise if it is being used in a security testing environment known as a sandbox by looking for the presence of a virtual machine.

“Finally the replication has also advanced with the use of hidden files on removable storage devices such as USB sticks.”

He added that the new powers could be used to mount a variety of attacks.

“The malware can be used to perform a number of different functions, including download, installation and execution of additional files or tools to potentially gain administrator or privilege credentials,” he said.

“Once this is gained hackers then have the ability to move laterally in the organisation and start looking for crown jewels or simply advertise that a point of presence has been created in a organisation that could then be ‘rented’ out to perform attacks, such as DDoS.”

Kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM’s appearance follows the discovery of several evolved attack tools. These include the defence-dodging Skeleton Key malware and the advanced Cryptowall 3.0 ransomware.

Courtesy-Theinq

China Further Restricts Internet, Blocks VPN Access

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China is further tightening its grip on access to the Internet by blocking services that allow users to get around government censorship.

Several foreign-based operators of virtual private network (VPN) services said Friday that access to their services in China had been disrupted as a result of the crackdown and users are facing a harder time getting to some foreign websites.

Virtual private networks work by establishing an encrypted pipe between a computer or smartphone and a server in a foreign country. All communications are sent inside the pipe, effectively shielding Internet traffic from government filters that determine whether a site can be accessed. VPNs are used by Chinese citizens to get to external news sources and by resident foreigners and businesses for day-to-day communications.

StrongVPN, a commercial provider that operates a network of servers around the world, said users in China had recently begun experiencing connection problems to some of its sites. Comments alongside a company blog post indicate the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.

Another VPN provider, Golden Frog, told customers they might have more success connecting to services in Hong Kong or The Netherlands than those in the United States or Australia.

The Chinese government appears to be using two techniques to disrupt service, said Andrew Staples, a spokesman for Golden Frog. One, deep packet inspection, examines the data in Internet packets to try to determine if it’s a VPN connection. The other, IP blocking, shuts off traffic destined for the Internet addresses used by VPN servers.

 

 

RHEL Finally Available On IBM’s Power8

January 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has made the Power8 version of the latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) beta available through its Power Development Platform (PDP) as the firm continues to build support for its Power systems.

IBM and Red Hat announced in December that RHEL 7.1 was adding support for the Power8 processor in little endian instruction format, as the beta release was made available for testers to download.

This version is available for developers and testers to download from today through the IBM PDP and at IBM Innovation Centres and Client Centres worldwide, IBM announced on its Smarter Computing blog.

“IBM and Red Hat’s collaboration to produce open source innovation demonstrates our commitment to developing solutions that efficiently solve IT challenges while empowering our clients to make their data centres as simple as possible so they can focus on core business functions and future opportunities,” said Doug Balog, general manager for Power Systems at IBM’s Systems & Technology Group.

The little endian support is significant because IBM’s Power architecture processors are capable of supporting little endian and big endian instruction formats. These simply reflect the order in which bytes are stored in memory.

The Power platform has long had Linux distributions and applications that operate in big endian mode, but the much larger Linux ecosystem for x86 systems uses little endian mode, and supporting this in Red Hat makes it much easier to port applications from x86 to Power.

Suse Linux Enterprise Server 12 launched last year with little endian support for the Power8 processor, as did Canonical’s Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

However, Red Hat and Suse are understood to be continuing to support their existing big endian releases on Power for their full product lifecycles.

IBM sold off its x86 server business to Lenovo last year, and has focused instead on the higher value Power Systems and z Systems mainframes.

In particular, the firm has touted the Power Systems as more suitable for mission critical workloads in scale-out environments like the cloud than x86 servers, and has been forging partnerships with firms such as Red Hat through its OpenPower Foundation.

Courtesy-TheInq

AMD’s Carrizo Coming In The Second Quarter

January 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD released its earnings today and one cool question came up about the upcoming Carrizo mobile APU.

Lisa SU, the new AMD President and CEO, told MKM Partners analyst Ian Ing that Carrizo is coming in Q2 2015.

This is a great news and AMD’s Senior VP and outgoing general manager of computing and graphics group John Byrne already shared a few details about his excitement about Carrizo.

There are two Carrizo parts, one for big notebooks and All in Ones called Carrizo and a scaled down version called Carrizo L. We expect that the slower Carrizo-L is first to come but, Lisa was not specific. Carrizo-L is based on Puma+ CPU cores with AMD Radeon R-Series GCN graphics is intended for mainstream configurations with Carrizo targeting the higher performance notebooks.

Usually when a company says that something is coming in Q2 2015 that points to a Computex launch and this Taipei based tradeshow starts on June 2 2015. We strongly believe that the first Carrizo products will showcased at or around this date.

Lisa also pointed out that AMD has “significantly improved performance in battery life in Carrizo.” This is definitely good news, as this was one of the main issues with AMD APUs in the notebook space.

Lisa also said that AMD expects Carrizo to be beneficial for embedded and other businesses as well. If only it could have come a bit earlier, so let’s hope AMD can get enough significant design wins with Carrizo. AMD has a lot of work to do in order to get its products faster to market, to catch up with Intel on power and performance or simply to come up with innovative devices that will define its future. This is what we think Lisa is there for but in chip design, it simply takes time.

Courtesy-Fud

ARM Develops IoT For Students

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

ARM has created a course to teach IoT skills to students at University College London (UCL)

The course is designed to encourage graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to seek careers in IT.

The IoT Education Kit will teach students how to use the Mbed IoT operating system to create smartphone apps that control mini-robots or wearable devices.

Students are expected to be interested in building their own IoT business, or joining IoT-focused enterprises like ARM. The course will also try to limit the number of Stem graduates pursuing non-technology careers.

ARM reported statistics from a 2012 study by Oxford Policy and Research revealing how many engineering graduates (36 percent of males, 51 percent of females), technology graduates (44 percent, 53 percent) and computer scientists (64 percent, 66 percent) end up with non-Stem jobs.

The IoT Education Kit will be rolled out by UCL’s Department of Electronics from September 2015, with a week-long module for full-time and continuing professional development students.

The Kit comprises a complete set of teaching materials, Mbed-enabled hardware boards made by Nordic Semiconductor, and software licensed from ARM. A second teaching module for engineering graduates is being developed for 2016.

“Students with strong science and mathematical skills are in demand and we need to make sure they stay in engineering,” said ARM CTO Mike Muller.

“The growth of the IoT gives us a great opportunity to prove to students why our profession is more exciting and sustainable than others.”

UCL professor Izzat Darwazeh also highlighted the importance of Stem skills, saying that “many students are not following through to an engineering career and that is a real risk to our long-term success as a nation of innovators”.

Courtesy-TheInq

Rumors Say Samsung Is Quietly Seeking To Buy Blackberry

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

For a while, the rumor mill has manufactured hell on earth yarns claiming that Samsung is set to buy the Canadian smartphone maker Blackberry.

The deal always seems to fall through, and in any event has never happened.

However the Financial Post has found evidence that this time Samsung is actively pursuing a plan to take over or buy a significant stake in BlackBerry.

The story is still a rumour because both companies have denied such a plan may be in the works, but a document obtained by the Financial Post, prepared for Samsung by New York-based independent investment bank Evercore Partners, outlines the case for, and the potential structure of a possible purchase of BlackBerry.

The paper is a little elderly and was written in the last quarter of 2014, but a source familiar with the matter said that Samsung remains very interested in acquiring all or part of BlackBerry for the right price.

J.K. Shin, Samsung’s co-chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal that his company is in talks to use some of BlackBerry’s technology in the South Korean company’s devices, but is not interested in an acquisition. “We want to work with BlackBerry and develop this partnership, not acquire the company.”

But it appears that Samsung was caught off guard by a Reuters leak earlier this week. It had hoped it could move in quickly on BlackBerry, and the company’s share price would stay low. When the news went up and the share price rose its bid looked a little weak.

BlackBerry appears to have learned of the price Samsung was hoping to pay through the Reuters leak, before the company could make a formal offer. This is the sort of thing Samsung wanted to avoid.

In five years, BlackBerry thought the return on their turnaround strategy as implemented by John Chen was going to do better than the cash they will be receiving today.

Still, the source maintains that Samsung is still keen on making a deal happen. The talk earlier this week about Samsung extending its cooperation with BlackBerry, which was notably lacking in specifics, is “just setting it up,” the source said. “Samsung hasn’t walked away” from an acquisition. “They’re leaning towards it.”

Courtesy-Fud