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Sprint Says More Job Cuts Likely

October 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint will likely further reduce its 31,000-person workforce as part of up to $2.5 billion in cost cuts in the next six months, a company spokesman said Friday.

“It’s likely some jobs will be impacted by this [cost-cutting] process, but it’s premature to talk about details,” said Sprint spokesman David Tovar in a telephone interview on Friday.

In addition to 31,000 workers, the company also employs about 30,000 contractor employees, he said. Sprint, with 57.7 million customers, fell to the nation’s fourth largest wireless carrier in August, behind T-Mobile.

The cost-cutting plan of $2 billion to $2.5 billion was described in an internal memo to employees, sent by new chief financial officer Tarek Robbiati. “We just want to make sure employees know what’s happening,” he said.

Robbiati’s memo was first reported by The Wall Street Journal last week.

The memo was distributed a few days after Sprint said it would not participate in an auction of low-frequency wireless spectrum. But Tovar contended that the two announcements are not connected with any sudden changes in Sprint’s long-term restructuring plan, which CEO Marcelo Claure has described many times since taking over a year ago.

“We have plenty of spectrum, the most of any other U.S. company, and we don’t need to participate in the auction,” Tovar added. “We’re going full speed ahead on our network plan and the decision not to participate in the auction has nothing to do with what you’re hearing about cost reductions.”



GE Jumping Into Science Fiction

October 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

General Electric Co has decided to produce its own science fiction podcast series in an effort to raise its profile among a younger, tech-savvy audience.

GE, in partnership with The Slate Group’s podcast network Panoply, is running “The Message,” a fictional eight-episode podcast that will follow the decoding of a 70 year-old message from outer space. The cryptologists decoding the message turn to a real ultrasound technology developed by GE to decode the messages.

“It’s science fiction meets real science,” said Andy Goldberg, GE’s global creative director.

The idea for the series stemmed from the company’s historic “GE Theater” television series, which was hosted by Ronald Reagan, then an actor, in the 1950s.

GE is producing its own podcast series, rather than running ads on other podcasts because it specifically does not want the shows to come off as advertising, but rather as a way to raise brand awareness, Goldberg said. The 40-60 minute spots, which begin Oct. 4, will be advertisement-free and will be available for download for free. Goldberg declined to comment on how much GE is spending on the podcasts.

GE is among a number of firms whose interest in podcasts has increased since last year’s airing of “Serial,” the hit podcast chronicling a murder investigation.

“It flipped a switch for us that podcasting was no longer going to be informational pieces but could be entertainment,” Goldberg said.

Podcasts are a small, but growing part of the digital media marketplace. Seventeen percent of teens and adults listen to one podcast per month, up from 15 percent last year, according to Edison Research.

The medium has gotten so much initial interest, that the Interactive Advertising Bureau held its first “podcast upfronts,” for companies to promote their podcasts to advertisers in September.

While GE’s move is novel, it is likely that more advertisers will follow rather than just run ads during podcasts, said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. It is like the next iteration of “native advertising,” where companies create sponsored content to promote their offerings, he said.



Microsoft, Google Cease Fire In Global Patent Deal

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has been pursuing a more collaborative approach under CEO Satya Nadella, engaging longtime rivals like Salesforce, VMware and Apple. There hasn’t been much love between Microsoft and Google, but an announcement on Wednesday points towards an easing of those tensions.

Google and Microsoft have reached a broad agreement on patent matters, with a legal settlement ending some 20 lawsuits between the companies in the U.S. and Germany. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal brings a laundry list of lawsuits to a close.

“Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues,” they said in a joint statement. “As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility.”

They also agreed to collaborate on patent matters and work together “to benefit our customers.”

The suits that have been settled include those related to mobile phones, video encoding and Wi-Fi technologies. That doesn’t mean Microsoft has given up its campaign to collect royalties from Android device makers for the mobile operating system’s alleged infringement of Microsoft patents.

It’s not clear from the statement what patent matters the companies will be working on together in the future, but changes have already begun. The two companies agreed earlier this month to work together (alongside other firms like Netflix and Mozilla) on a royalty-free video codec.

It remains to be seen if the settlement will lead to more work between Microsoft and Google in other areas. A major sticking point for consumers has been the lack of a Google-made YouTube app for smartphones and tablets running Windows.



Stagefright 2.0 Exploits Android Vulnerabilities

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Newly found vulnerabilities in the way Android handles media files can allow attackers to compromise devices by tricking users into visiting maliciously crafted Web pages.

The vulnerabilities can lead to remote code execution on almost all devices that run Android, starting with version 1.0 of the OS released in 2008 to the latest 5.1.1, researchers from mobile security firm Zimperium said in a report published Thursday.

The flaws are in the way Android processes the metadata of MP3 audio files and MP4 video files, and they can be exploited when the Android system or another app that relies on Android’s media libraries previews such files.

The Zimperium researchers found similar multimedia processing flaws earlier this year in an Android library called Stagefright that could have been exploited by simply sending Android devices a maliciously crafted MMS message.

Those flaws triggered a coordinated patching effort from device manufacturers that Android’s lead security engineer, Adrian Ludwig, called the “single largest unified software update in the world.” It also contributed to Google, Samsung and LG committing to monthly security updates going forward.

One of the flaws newly discovered by Zimperium is located in a core Android library called libutils and affects almost all devices running Android versions older than 5.0 (Lollipop). The vulnerability can also be exploited in Android Lollipop (5.0 – 5.1.1) by combining it with another bug found in the Stagefright library.

The Zimperium researchers refer to the new attack as Stagefright 2.0 and believe that it affects more than 1 billion devices.

Since the previous attack vector of MMS was closed in newer versions of Google Hangouts and other messaging apps after the previous Stagefright flaws were found, the most straight-forward exploitation method for the latest vulnerabilities is through Web browsers, the Zimperium researchers said.

Zimperium reported the flaws to Google on Aug. 15 and plans to release proof-of-concept exploit code once a fix is released.

That fix will come on Oct. 5 as part of the new scheduled monthly Android security update, a Google representative said.





MediaTek Building Ecosystem To Power IoT

October 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek is quietly building an ecosystem to drive IoT strategy to push its System on Chip shipments across multiple devices.

The fabless chipmaker is signing partnerships with Amazon, Tinitell, Apple, and People Power.

MediaTek is starting to come out of the shadows in the West with its SoC designs. It sees the IoT as a way to push more of its chips.

It has put in a tender to buy power management outfit Richtek Technology to expand its leadership in Power Management Integrated Circuits (PMIC) to strengthen its overall capabilities for the IoT business model. The deal is expected to close in Q2 2016.

It has provided funding to People Power, a user engagement company providing apps, cloud and mobile services for IoT to further accelerate its penetration in the IoT market in both the U.S. and China, develop new IoT products based on its Fabrux and Influx software architecture

Release of two software development kits (SDKs) for Apple HomeKit, the framework in iOS 8 for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user’s home.

This is on top of its partnership with Amazon for the latest devices – Amazon Fire TV is powered by MediaTek’s MT8173, a 64-bit quad-core processor and the world’s first multimedia SoC with ARM’s Cortex-A72 cores; Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets powered by MT8135, an up to 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, resulting in a fast and fluid user interface, and smooth running HD videos and high frame-rate games.

Chief Marketing Officer, Johan Lodenius said the company’s cunning plan was to innvovate widely available technology that provides integrated connectivity, while investing in and nurturing developers and the maker community to deliver practical yet innovative solutions.



Ghost Push Malware Giving Android A Hard Time

October 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Put your Android whatever back in its sand bucket. It is facing another threat. This one is spooky sounding and has been dubbed Ghost Push by Yang Yang and Jordan Pan of the Trend Micro security labs outfit.

The threat presents itself to people who download things from untrusted third-party stores, which is not everyone, and seems to behave in a way that is sophisticated – unlike perhaps people who download things from untrusted sites. Ghost Push is not new and neither is this method of infection.

“Halloween is still a month from now yet Android users are already being haunted by the previously reported Ghost Push malware, which roots devices and makes them download unwanted ads and apps. The malware is usually packaged with apps that users may download from third-party app stores,” said Yang and Pan.

“Further investigation of Ghost Push revealed more recent variants which, unlike older ones, employ routines that make them harder to remove and detect.”

Pan and Yang said that there are some 20 variants of Ghost Push in the wild, and that the threat has been active since April. It has ramped itself up during September and is presenting the worst side of itself in India and Indonesia, where 32 and 24 percent of infected devices can be found.

Trend does not think that this ghost theme is related to the XcodeGhost malware that bothers iOS users, but it does think that someone quite sophisticated is behind the attacks.

“It is likely that a team of cyber criminals are behind Ghost Push and they are not exactly new to the malware creation industry,” the researchers wrote.

“This group has already published 658 different malicious applications (1,259 different versions) in third-party app stores unrelated to Ghost Push. One of these apps has infected more than 100,000 devices, two more than 10,000 and seven more than 1,000.”

Third-party download sites are the reason for most of the affected devices and applications, but Yang and Pan said that a couple made it through to the official Google Play store.

“We also found two legitimate apps unrelated to Ghost Push that the same creators published on Google Play, which have since been removed,” they said, explaining that these apps accumulated some 10,000 downloads before being pulled.

“These show that this group possesses ample technical knowledge to effectively victimise thousands of devices and evade detection,” Yang and Pan said.

Once a device is infected the malware can launch other applications and services and steal personal information.


Facebook Rolled Out Updates For Mobile Profiles

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc introduced updates to mobile profile pages to enable users to better personalize their profiles and more easily control their privacy settings.

Facebook has been looking to improve and ease its mobile profile experience as it makes more of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue off of phones. The updates also come during New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, where Facebook is courting the world’s largest advertisers and companies.

Among the new features are profile videos, or a short looping video clip that users can create in place of a static profile picture. The feature is similar to Vine, a video sharing app owned by Twitter Inc.

Users can also set a temporary profile picture that reverts to their old picture at a specified time. Those who want to support a sports team or charitable cause for a specific week, for example, can choose a picture to display for a short time period.

Facebook also introduced more ways to control privacy settings so that users can curate what pieces of information are public and which are only viewable to “friends,” or people that they have allowed to view profiles.



IBM Will Use Apache Spark To Find E.T.

October 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM is using Apache Sparke to analyse radio signals for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Speaking at Apache: Big Data Europe, Anjul Bhambrhi, vice president of big data products at IBM, talked about how the firm has thrown its weight behind Spark.

“We think of [Spark] as the analytics operating system. Never before have so many capabilities come together on one platform,” Bhambrhi said.

Spark is a key project because of its speed and ease of use, and because it integrates seamlessly with other open-source components, Bhambrhi explained.

“Spark is speeding up even MapReduce jobs, even though they are batch oriented by two to six times. It’s making developers more productive, enabling them to build applications in less time and with fewer lines of code,” she claimed.

She revealed IBM is working with Nasa and Seti to analyse radio signals for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence, using Spark to process the 60Gbit of data generated per second by various receivers.

Other applications IBM is working on with Spark include genome sequencing for personalised medicine via the Adam project at UC Berkeley in California, and early detection of conditions such as diabetes by analysing patient medical data.

“At IBM, we are certainly sold on Spark. It forms part of our big data stack, but most importantly we are contributing to the community by enhancing it,” Bhambrhi said.

The Apache: Big Data Europe conference also saw Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth outline some of the key problems in starting a big data project, such as simply finding engineers with the skills needed just to build the infrastructure for operating tools such as Hadoop.

“Analytics and machine learning are the next big thing, but the problem is there are just not enough ‘unicorns’, the mythical technologists who know everything about everything,” he explained in his keynote address, adding that the blocker is often just getting the supporting infrastructure up and running.

Shuttleworth, pictured above, went on to demonstrate how the Juju service orchestration tool developed by Canonical could solve this problem. Juju enables users to describe the end configuration they want, and will automatically provision the servers and software and configure them as required.

This could be seen as a pitch for Juju, but Shuttleworth’s message was that the open-source community is delivering tools that can manage the underlying infrastructure so that users can focus on the application itself.

“The value creators are the guys around the outside who take the big data store and do something useful with it,” he said.

“Juju enables them to start thinking about the things they need for themselves and their customers in a tractable way, so they don’t need to go looking for those unicorns.”

The Apache community is working on a broad range of projects, many of which are focused on specific big data problems, such as Flume for handling large volumes of log data or Flink, another processing engine that, like Spark, is designed to replace MapReduce in Hadoop deployments.



Google Unveils Two New Nexus Smartphones

October 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google Inc has rolled out its new Nexus phones in its latest attempt to thwart Apple’s dominant share of the smartphone market.

The launch of the phones, the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, comes a day after Apple Inc reported record first-weekend sales of its new iPhones.

The Nexus 5X 16 GB model will be priced at $379, while the Nexus 6P 32 GB will cost $499, Google said at an event live-streamed on YouTube.

Apple’s 6s and 6s Plus start at $199 and $299, respectively, with a two-year service-provider contract.

Nexus devices, which typically do not sell as much as iPhones or iPads, are a way for the tech giant to showcase its latest advancements in mobile hardware and software.

Google also unveiled a tablet built entirely by the company based on its Android operating system.

The latest version of Android, dubbed Marshmallow, will be available to existing Nexus customers from next week.

The Android mobile platform is a key element in Google’s strategy to maintain revenue from online advertising as people switch from Web browser searches to smartphone apps.

The Nexus 5X is made by South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc and the Nexus 6P by China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd . Both phones feature Google’s new fingerprint sensor, Nexus Imprint, which is located on the back.

The fingerprint sensors will help quickly authorize purchases made through Android Pay, the one-touch payment app on Android devices that competes with Apple Pay.

The phones are available for pre-order on the Google Store from a number of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan.

The Pixel C tablet will cost $499 for the 32 GB model and can be bought with a detachable keyboard, which will cost $149.

The tablet will be available in time for the holiday season on the Google Store.



AMD Goes Pro With APUs

October 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled chipmaker AMD’s has launched its Pro APUs quietly with just one major customer so far, the maker of expensive printer ink HP.

Based on the Godaveri and Carrizo chips, AMD adds its AMD Secure Processor for corporate peace of mind. The new Pro chips include the new AMD Pro A12 chip, which runs at 3.4GHz. All of the new Pro chips are APUs, which mean that they combine both graphics as well as the CPU core. The A12 integrates 12 compute cores (4 CPU cores and 8 GPU cores), based on the Radeon R7 graphics technology running at 800MHz.

What differentiates the new PRO chips from the more conventional models are what AMD calls the AMD Secure Processor, an embedded core that enables the ARM TrustZone secure environment to run on top of the chip. Theoretically, at least, the technology should supply an added layer of security to sensitive apps.

AMD PRO A-Series mobile processors (formerly codenamed “Carrizo PRO”) are aimed at the commercial laptop market. They were made in collaboration with HP, ExactTrak, and Qualcomm. HP is set to flog a few of them in its HP EliteBooks range.

David Bennett, corporate vice president and general manager, Commercial Products, AMD said the AMD PRO processors enable performance, reliability and opportunity for today’s businesses by giving customers choice and affordability to meet their specific business needs.

The AMD PRO A-Series processors are purpose-designed for business, offering long-term value commercial enterprises can depend on including a 24-month longevity commitment, 18-month image stability, commercial-grade quality assurance and available extended OEM warranty support for up to 36 months.

Protection against modern security threats with new enterprise-class security features including Device Guard, Enterprise Data Protection, and Windows Hello biometric authentication.

The AMD PRO A-Series processors are claimed to enable greater management flexibility in a multi-vendor client environment at what AMD calls a business-friendly price.

HP EliteBook G3 705 series pair the PROs with Qualcomm’s SnapdragonTM X5 LTE modem to provide 4G connectivity and location capabilities.

Fram Akiki, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies said that the closer co-operation between AMD, HP, and Qualcomm on the HP EliteBook 705 G3 Series will benefit enterprise users.

The AMD PRO A-Series mobile processors are available today through online resellers and are currently offered on HP EliteBook 705 G3 Series PCs, including HP EliteBook 725, 745 and 755

The HP EliteBook 705 G3 series with the new Pro chips inside them. The business notebook weighs 2.78 pounds and includes 12.5-inch, 14.0-inch and 15.6-inch displays.

The new Pro chips also contain features that were launched with the earlier chips, such as Heterogenous Systems Architecture (HSA 1.0) compliance to allow programmers to more easily program the CPU, as well as an integrated HEVC video decoder.


MediaTek’s Helio X20Goes Neural

October 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek has revealed that its latest generation 10 core processor will be targeting neural networks and tge deep learning market.

Nvidia was one of the first to go after this area and Qualcomm is wants ”in” too. There will  be a big scrap for what could be a huge market  for all of these companies.

Kevin JouSr. Vice President & CTO of MediaTek said.

“Cloud-based computing provides big data for training a neural network, but on a device deep learning enables privacy, instantaneous usability of personalized databases. It can speed up the search for the picture you want. This speeds up the search of your personal data including payments, pictures and everything else that we don’t want to have in the cloud. You can just ask Jennifer Lawrence how smart it was to have the nude pictures in the iCloud.”

Kevin has confirmed that MediaTek is developing the deep learning SDK that will support multi-corps. We have seen that company’s Core Pilot 3.0 scheduler can enable the CPU, GPU, DSP and ISP to  work together.

MediaTek’s Chairman and CEO Tsai Ming-kai said that the company has serious IoT and automotive aspirations. You need deep learning to teach a car the difference between a human printed on a piece of paper and the actual human on a street. This is a painful process, but when solved will enable self-driving cars that are promised to hit our streets by 2020, just five years from now.


Samsung Still Pursuing iPhone Users, Offers New Incentives

September 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung will rebate monthly lease and installment payments for the latest Galaxy smartphones up to $120 and will even throw in $100 more for trading in an iPhone.

The offer, however, does excludes devices sold or running on the AT&T network. But it does apparently apply to a lease or installment plan from T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon Wireless or US Cellular. The devices that are eligible are the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus.

In one example, a Galaxy S6 through Verizon would require a $24 monthly payment for 24 months to pay off the device. Samsung’s offer covers those payments up to $120. The redemption period ends Oct. 9, according to online conditions.

For smartphone users switching to Galaxy from the iPhone, the $100 award will come in the form of a $100 Google Play gift card.

This isn’t the first time Samsung has attempted to lure iPhone customers. In August, Samsung offered U.S. iPhone users a 30-day test drive of a Galaxy phone for $1.

Samsung has been hot on the tail of Apple for years, and is expected to set up its own leasing program; Apple announced the iPhone Upgrade Program on Sept. 9. “If Apple does it, then it must be good enough for Samsung,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.



Qualcomm Appears To Be Going To India

September 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Chipmaker Qualcomm is spending a fortune to set up shop in India by making itself the friend of the Indian government.

Qualcomm said it would invest up to $150 million in Indian startups via a venture fund. The announcement coincides with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Silicon Valley. Modi is keen to make India a technology hub with lots of mobile resources to help the country grow.

Qualcomm wants to move into India as the China market starts to dry up and it falls foul of regulators.

Executive chairman Paul Jacobs met the Indian prime minister at the Digital Economy event in San Jose and said the venture fund was in support of the government’s Digital India and Make-in-India initiatives.

Jacobs said that Qualcomm shared Modi’s vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

“India is at the cusp of a technology revolution and mobile technologies will lay the foundation for Digital India. We are committed to providing local innovative start-ups with the support needed to help India’s IOE ecosystem grow, increasing consumer choice and availability,” he said.

.The new venture fund, which will be advised by Qualcomm Ventures — an investment arm of the group — is expected to fuel innovation and foster promising Indian startups which are contributing to the Mobile and Internet of Everything ecosystem. It will also aim to provide startups with financial, marketing, technology and business support to help propel them forward in the competitive Indian market.


Was The Hilton Hotel Chain Hacked In April?

September 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Hilton organization is reportedly trying to work out whether it has been hacked and, if so, what it should do about it.

We say reportedly as we have not been able to contact Hilton ourselves and can rely only on reports. They are pretty solid reports, however, and they concern a problem at the company that happened between 21 April and 27 July.

Brian Krebs, of KrebsOnSecurity, started this off with a report about a payment card breach. Krebs said that he had heard about the breach from various sources, and that Visa – the card provider – has mailed potentially affected parties with a warning, and the news that it is the fault of a bricks and mortar company.

Visa did not name the company, but affected parties, or banks to be more precise, have uttered it to Krebs. Its name is Hilton.

“Sources at five different banks say they have now determined that the common point-of-purchase for cards included in that alert had only one commonality: they were all were used at Hilton properties, including the company’s flagship Hilton locations as well as Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hampton Inn and Suites, and the upscale Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts,” he wrote.

“It remains unclear how many Hilton properties may be affected by this apparent breach. Several sources in the financial industry told KrebsOnSecurity that the incident may date back to November 2014, and may still be ongoing.”

Krebs has a statement from the Hilton organisation in which the firm defended its security practices, and revealed that it is aware of the potential problem and is looking into it. This is a common theme among the breached, and should soon become part of mission statements.

“Hilton Worldwide is strongly committed to protecting our customers’ credit card information,” said the company in the statement to Krebs.

“We have many systems in place and work with some of the top experts in the field to address data security. Unfortunately the possibility of fraudulent credit card activity is all too common for every company in today’s marketplace. We take any potential issue very seriously, and we are looking into this matter.”

We have asked Visa and Hilton for their comments.



Google Upgrades Voice Search

September 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google said it has constructed a better neural network that is making its voice search work faster and better in noisy environments.

“We are happy to announce that our new acoustic models are now used for voice searches and commands in the Google app (on Android and iOS), and for dictation on Android devices,” Google’s Speech Team wrote in a recent  blog post . “In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries.”

In 2013, Google brought the same voice recognition tools that had been working in Google Now to Google Search.

Along with being able to find information on the Internet, Google Voice Search also was able to find information for users in their Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+ accounts.

At the 2013 Google I/O developers conference, Amit Singhai, today a senior vice president and Google Fellow, said the future of search is in voice. For Google, he said, future searches will be more like conversations with your computer or device, which also will be able to give you information before you even ask for it.

The company went on to make it clear that it would continue to focus on voice search.

And this week’s announcement backs that up.

Google explained in its blog post that it has updated the neural network it’s using for voice search. A neural network is a computer system based on the way the human brain and nervous system work. It generally uses many processors operating in parallel.

The improved neural network is able to consume the incoming audio in larger chunks than conventional models without performing as many calculations.

“With this, we drastically reduced computations and made the recognizer much faster,” the team wrote. “We also added artificial noise and reverberation to the training data, making the recognizer more robust to ambient noise.”