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More Than Half The World Remains Off The Internet

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

About 3.9 billion people, or 53 percent of the population still remains offline at the end of this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union estimates. Even in Europe, the most connected region, 20.9 percent of all people aren’t online. In Africa, the least connected continent, 74.9 percent are offline.

Those figures are part of the annual statistical report from the agency, which is part of the United Nations. The report also showed there’s still a huge divide between rich and poor countries, and a growing gap between men and women, when it comes to internet access. It shows that efforts by companies like Google and Facebook to get all people connected could take a long time.

While more than four out of five people in developed countries use the internet, just over 40 percent of those in developing countries have access. In the ITU’s “least developed countries” — places like Haiti, Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia — just 15.2 percent of the people are online.

Also, fewer women than men are on the internet, and that difference is getting worse. The worldwide difference between internet user penetration for males and females is 12.2 percent, up from 11.0 percent in 2013, the ITU says. It’s shrunk significantly in developed countries, from 5.8 percent to just 2.8 percent, but grown in poorer places.

Cost makes it harder to get online in some countries. The ITU says entry-level internet access has become affordable in many developing countries since 2011 but remains unaffordable in most of the poorest countries. By the ITU’s definition, that means internet service costs more than 5 percent of average monthly income.

 

 

 

Facebook Solar-powered Drone Takes Flight

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc announced that it has completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet.

Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page. The company ultimately hopes to have a fleet of Aquilas that can fly for at least three months at a time at 60,000 feet (18,290 meters) and communicate with each other to deliver internet access.

Google parent Alphabet Inc has also poured money into delivering internet access to under served areas through Project Loon, which aims to use a network of high-altitude balloons to made the internet available to remote parts of the world.

Yael Maguire, Facebook’s engineering director and head of its Connectivity Lab, said in an interview that the company initially hoped Aquila would fly for 30 minutes.

“We’re thrilled about what happened with our first flight,” Maguire said. “There are still a lot of technical challenges that need to be addressed for us to achieve the whole mission.” He said he hoped the system might be brought into service “in the near future.”

Zuckerberg laid out the company’s biggest challenges in flying a fleet of Aquilas, including making the plane lighter so it can fly for longer periods, getting it to fly at 60,000 feet and creating communications networks that allow it to rapidly transfer data and accurately beam down lasers to provide internet connections.

Maguire said Aquila will go through several more test flights and hopes it will soon break the world record for the longest solar-powered unmanned aircraft flight, which currently stands at two weeks.

Facebook, which has more than 1.6 billion users, has invested billions of dollars in getting more people online, both through an initiative called internet.org – which offers a pared-down version of the internet to poor areas – and by building drones.

 

FCC Presses Phone Companies To Provide ‘Robocall’ Blocking Technology

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission urged major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to make technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in letters to CEOs of major phone companies, said so-called robocalls, automated pre-recorded telephone calls often from telemarketers or scam artists, continue “due in large part to industry inaction.”

Wheeler’s letters went to chief executives of companies including Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, US Cellular Corp, Level 3 Communications Inc, Frontier Communications Corp, Bandwidth.com Inc, and T-Mobile US.

Wheeler said in a blog post on Friday that he wants answers from the companies “within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues.”

The letters, reviewed by Reuters, noted that the FCC does not require phone providers to offer robocall blocking and filtering but the FCC has “strongly encouraged providers to offer these services” at no charge to consumers.

Tom Power, general counsel at CTIA, the wireless trade association, said on Friday that “unwanted calls and texts are a consumer issue the wireless industry works hard to address and we look forward to working with the FCC to help address this challenge together.”

The FCC gets hundreds of thousands of complaints annually about robocalls and unwanted text messages.

Wheeler’s letters also said providers can do more to ensure that incoming calls are not “spoofed,” when callers falsify the information transmitted to caller-ID displays to disguise their identity.

Scam artists often try to appear to call from a bank or a government phone to trick consumers into disclosing confidential financial or account information. Other scams pitch phony vacation or mortgage offers.

In the letters, the FCC said the phone industry should create a “Do Not Originate” list that would allow government agencies, banks and healthcare providers, among others, to register their phone numbers and would allow providers to block calls from outside the United States. Many phone scams based overseas target Americans.

The FCC said last year it agreed that phone companies should not block calls without customers permission. Wheeler noted that providers “have suggested that blocking should wait until new Caller ID authentication standards are in place, but that is not a valid excuse for delay.”

The FCC has brought 13 enforcement actions to combat robocalls since 2013. In 2015, the FCC fined a Florida company nearly $3 million for illegal calls promoting travel deals.

 

 

Will Nokia Succeed With Android Smartphones?

July 25, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia is reportedly getting ready to make a smartphone comeback with two high-end Android 7.0 Nougat devices.

We already know that Nokia is plotting a return to the mobile market. The company revealed in May that it has signed an exclusive agreement with HMD Global, a new company also based in Finland, to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next 10 years.

Nokia’s comeback might happen in just a few months’ time, as NokiaPowerUser has heard that the firm is plotting the launch of two high-end Android 7.0 smartphones at the end of this year, or Q1 2017 if things don’t go exactly to plan.

The website’s “trusted sources” explained that the two unnamed devices will have premium metal designs complete with IP68 certification, which means they’ll be as water resistant as the Galaxy S7.

The report also claimed that the devices will offer “the famous Nokia feel”, which we guess points to brightly coloured options.

Expect 5.2in and 5.5in QHD screens, according to the anonymous sources, along with fingerprint scanners and “innovations” in the camera department.

“We hear that sensors on these two smartphones may be the most sensitive ever and will be based on Nokia’s extensive research on wonder material graphene,” the report said.

The two smartphones also look set to run Google’s Android 7.0 Nougat software, providing features such as split-screen mode, enhanced notifications and improved gaming thanks to support for the Vulkan API.

Nougat will reportedly come topped with Nokia’s Z-Launcher software, as seen on the Nokia N1 tablet. Improvements to the skin could bring “elements of touch and hover interaction”, hinting that the devices could offer 3D Touch-like technology.

We don’t know much else yet, but Gizmodo China reported that the smartphones will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip.

There’s no word on prices yet, but Gizmodo’s report claimed that the bigger, and presumably more expensive, model will cost around $500 SIM-free.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google Launches New Cloud Natural Language API

July 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s intelligent cloud developer tools added new features with the launch of a new Cloud Natural Language API. The service is aimed at helping developers create applications that understand human language.

It’s an important move for Google, as public cloud providers race to host new applications built with intelligent capabilities. Natural language processing allows developers to build apps that can tackle the challenging task of understanding how humans communicate. It is also key for building intelligent assistants and chat bots.

This API can provide information about a block of text back to an application, including the overall sentiment of a passage and an analysis of the structure of a sentence. The system can also identify entities mentioned, including people, organizations, locations, events and products.

The API is based on the same research that Google used to create Parsey McParseface, an open source parser for English text that the company released earlier this year.

The natural language API entered public beta alongside Google’s already announced Speech API, which lets applications take in recorded voice clips and get text back. By connecting the two APIs, it’s possible for developers to build an app that can listen to a user’s voice and then understand what that person is saying.

By launching these two services in beta, Google continues its competition against Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, which are also launching intelligent capabilities in their public cloud platforms.

 

 

Online Video Streaming Biting Into Dish Network Customer Base

July 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp reported an unexpected loss in pay-TV subscribers as more consumers increasingly opt for online video-streaming services.

Dish said it lost 281,000 net pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter ended June 30, missing the average analyst estimate of a loss of 91,000 subscribers, according to market research firm FactSet StreetEstimate.

However, average revenue per user rose to $89.98 from $87.91, helped by price increases for its video service.

Dish raised its 2016 video service rates in January.

To offset losses in its core pay-TV business, the company last year launched a cheaper $20-per-month Sling TV online streaming service that offers a slim bundle of channels, including live programming from networks such as ESPN.

Net income attributable to Dish rose to $410 million, or 88 cents per share, in the three months ended June 30, from $324 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose to $3.84 billion from $3.83 billion.

 

Does M$ Have A Strategy For Windows?

July 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

As we reported earlier today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proclaimed the virtues of its cloud computing platform.

But he didn’t say very much about Windows at all.

And, according to Seeking Alpha financial analyst Mark Hibben in a note to his clients, it’s almost as if Nadella has given up the ghost on the now long in the tooth operating system.

He didn’t say much about smartphones either but admitted that Windows 10 won’t hit the one billion user mark.

But there are another billion and a bit people out there who are using previous versions of Windows and Hibben thinks that that’s Microsoft should really take advantage of that opportunity.

Hibben thinks that while Nadella is practically creaming himself about the cloud the same sort of urges don’t seem to apply to Windows.

Windows phone revenues have fallen 71 percent compared to the same period last year and Microsoft seems to lack a strategy for smartphones in the future.

So has Microsoft given up on Windows? That, surely, can’t be the case.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Qualcomm Appears To Be Back In The Black

July 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has had a better than expected results in its Q3 earnings, beating street and even its own estimates.

Qualcomm offered $5.2 billion to $6 billion revenue guidance and it managed to make $6 billion. Non-GAAP diluted EPS was projected at $0.90 – $1.00 and Qualcomm actually managed to make $1.16.

The MSM chip shipments were guided at 175 million to 195 million while the company actually sold 201 million of these chips.

Total reported device sales was expected to be between $52 billion and  $60 billion and in reality Qualcomm scored $62.6 billion. Qualcomm shipped between 321 million to  325 million 3G/4G devices and estimated reported 3G/4G device average selling price was at $191 – $197.

There are a few reasons for such good results, the first being Samsung. The company chose Snapdragon 820 for some markets with its flagship phones. The Snapdragon 820 ended up in 115 devices and it looks like one of the strongest high end phone chips in a while.

The introduction of the Snapdragon 821 will rekindle the fire and will make some additional sales for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and a few other high end phones including some phones from LG and others. The 4G modem business is in good shape but one has to be careful as Qualcomm might lose some of the iPhone business to Intel. Everyone wants carrier aggregation capable modems these days, that is Cat 6 and up and Qualcomm offers this from Snapdragon 430 to the Snapdragon 820.

It is interesting to notice that while Apple iPhone sales were down, Qualcomm did better mainly as when Apple declines at   the high end, Qualcomm can make money from its high end Snapdragon chips.

We expect to see the announcement of Snapdragon 830 before the end of the year while devices shipping with the new chip in late Q1 2017 or early Q2 2017. As far as we know this might be the 10nm SoC but we will have to wait and see.

Qualcomm is investing heavily in improvements of 4G, current and future generations as well as a concentrated focus on 5G. From where we stand, Qualcomm still has the best chances to dominate the 5G market, especially due to the fact that 5G is an evolution of 4G with some new wave length and concepts added to it.

Last year’s loss of Samsung Galaxy S6 design win hurt a lot, and now the big customer is back, it seems that investing in a custom ARM Kryo core and dominating in Adreno graphics paid off.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google’s Transparency Reports Uptick In Governments Requesting User Data

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Government requests worldwide for user data related to search engine traffic on Google surged by 29% from 2014 to 2015, according to the search site’s most recent Transparency Report.

Google reports on the government requests every six months. In the second half of 2015, it said it received more than 40,000 requests for data related to more than 81,000 user accounts; That compares to the first half of the year when Google received about 35,000 requests related to about 69,000 accounts.

In the second half of 2014, Google received 31,140 requests from U.S. entities for user information related to more than 50,000 accounts.

“Usage of our services [has] increased every year, and so have the user data request numbers,” Google said.

By far, the U.S. leads the world in government requests for data: it submitted 27,157 requests related to 12,523 user accounts in the second half of last year. The next highest country was Ireland with 12,114 requests, followed by Germany with 11,562 reqeusts.

Google agreed to hand over “some” user data for 64% of the requests worldwide, but it handed over data for U.S. government requests 79% of the time.

Several search engines and social media sites voluntarily offer annual or semi-annual transparency reports related to state and federal law enforcement information requests about user data.

Google has been publishing its semi-annual Transparency Report since 2011; the latest statistics show that requests for user data is at an all-time high.

In 2014, Apple, Microsoft, and Google were among 10 top tech companies that signed  a letter backing passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would curtail bulk collection of Internet metadata by government agencies.

Passed in June 2015, the USA Freedom Act now requires transparency when the government demands user information from technology companies. Nevertheless, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said there still needs to be more transparency when it comes to government-mandated back doors, as well as what deleted data is kept around in case government agents seek it in the future.

 

 

 

GE Partners With Huawei Technologies To Develop Smart Machines

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

General Electric Co announced that it would partner with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd  to develop smart machines designed to boost productivity, part of a drive to promote its “industrial internet” business in China.

The U.S. industrial giant announced the partnership as it launched an $11 million digital space in Shanghai, where it plans to incubate start-ups and have developers work on new software applications to make machines more intelligent.

The move is part of GE’s ambitious plans to lead a productivity revolution in global industry by combining machinery with analytics, after selling off its financial assets and embarking on a major restructuring.

Chief Digital Officer Bill Ruh said the world’s biggest maker of jet engines and diesel locomotives had already made $500 million in productivity savings for itself this year by using smarter machines, and he expected this to grow to $1 billion in total by 2020.

“Once we got it right for ourselves we take it to our customers … We’re bringing this to China, we’re open for business in China today to be able to do this,” he said at a company event in Shanghai.

GE is investing $500 million annually in software as part of the digital drive, and Ruh said the company expected the products to bring in about $6 billion in revenue this year.

 

Microsoft Steps Up Pressure On Software Pirates, Files Lawsuits

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft last week stepped up its campaign to stop software pirates when it filed the fifth lawsuit in as many months accusing unidentified individuals with illegally activating more than 1,000 copies of Windows, including the newest Windows 10, and Office.

The suit was filed in a Seattle court last Thursday. It was almost identical to others submitted since February, when Microsoft started a string of cases targeting numerous “John Does.”

“Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified over one thousand activations of Microsoft software originating from IP address 69.92.99.109 (‘the IP Address’), which is presently assigned to Cable One, Inc.,” Microsoft’s complaint read.

Microsoft did not identify the culprits, but tagged them as “John Doe” 1 through 10.

“Defendants have activated and attempted to active [sic] copies of Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Office 2013, Office 2010, and Windows Server 2008,” Microsoft charged.

As with the previous four John Doe cases of 2016, Microsoft asserted that it tracked the allegedly illegal activations to the IP address, and that the number and pattern of those activations “make it more likely than not” that they were using stolen product keys or abusing legitimate keys.

Microsoft has been given permission in two of the 2016 cases — both filed in early June — to serve subpoenas to internet service providers (ISPs) Comcast and EarthLink. Those subpoenas have demanded that the ISPs identify the alleged software pirates who have been assigned the IP addresses Microsoft had fingered.

 

 

 

Researchers Create Atomic Scale Drive

July 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers have worked out how to create an atomic scale rewritable data-storage device capable of packing 500 terabits onto a single square inch.

That is enough to store most readers porn collections in just a couple of feet of data rather than the rooms it takes up now. Apparently you can stuff the entire contents of the US Library of Congress in a 0.1-mm wide cube — we guess that does not include the toilets and the cafe..

The atomic hard drive was developed by Delft University’s Sander Otte and his chums. It features a storage density that’s 500 times larger than state-of-the-art hard disk drives.

According to the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology, which we get for the impossible spot the proton competition, the technology is not exactly commercial yet.

Otte and the team placed chlorine atoms on a copper surface, resulting in a perfect square grid. A hole appears on this grid whenever an atom is missing. Using a sharp needle of a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to probe the atoms one by one, and even drag individual atoms towards a hole.

When a chlorine atom is in the top position, and there’s a hole beneath it, it’s a 1. Reversed, the bit is a 0. and it becomes a hard drive.

Each chlorine atom is surrounded by other chlorine atoms, which helps keep them in place, except near the holes. This method makes it much more stable than methods that use loose atoms. Using this technique, the researchers were able to perform write, read-out, and re-write operations in a one-kilobyte device comprising 8,000 atomic bits. It is by far the largest atomic structure ever constructed by humans.

During the experiment, the researchers preserved the positions of more than 8,000 chlorine “vacancies,” or missing atoms, for more than 40 hours at 77 kelvin. After developing a binary alphabet based on the positions of the holes, the researchers stored various texts, including physicist Richard Feynman’s seminal lecture, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This data was stored atom by atom, bit by bit, on the surface of the copper sheet. The ensuing write/re-write speed was relatively slow—on the scale of minutes—but the demonstration showed that it’s possible to reliably write, store, and read data at the atomic scale.

The system cannot function in an everyday environment. In its current form, the atomic hard drive can only operate in clean vacuum conditions and at liquid nitrogen temperatures, which is -346°F (-321°C). Most readers porn collections are far too hot for it to handle.

Courtesy-Fud

 

CRYPTXXX Ransomware Is Being Sent Via Spam Email

July 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Ransomware threat CRYPTXXX is now airborne, according to researchers at security firm Proofpoint, and is being sent out via a spam campaign to some effect.

Proofpoint explained in a blog post that CryptXXX is usually included alongside malware packages such as the Neutrino and Angler exploit kits.

“CryptXXX has rapidly grown into one of the most prevalent ransomware variants in the wild with widespread distribution via exploit kits such as Neutrino and Angler. As exploit kit traffic has declined (a 96 per cent decrease between April and June), though, particularly in the wake of Angler’s disappearance, threat actors normally reliant on exploit kits are diversifying and looking to other vectors like email,” said the firm.

“For the first time, Proofpoint researchers have observed CryptXXX ransomware being distributed via malicious document attachments in email campaigns. On July 14, Proofpoint researchers detected an email campaign with document attachments containing malicious macros. If opened, these attachments download and install CryptXXX ransomware.”

The security firm has provided an example of the type of email. It purports to be from a bank and includes an attached document that the recipient is urged to read. The attachment opens a document that claims to need more macros to display properly. Go for that, and the trouble starts.

“CryptXXX ransomware has propagated rapidly since appearing earlier this year. The ransomware was initially linked to groups associated with Angler and was distributed almost exclusively via Angler,” added the firm.

“As Angler activity dried up over this quarter, many actors turned to instances of the Neutrino exploit kit for distribution. Not surprisingly, with the disruption in the exploit kit market, it appears that CryptXXX actors are turning to email as well. We will continue to monitor this trend and see if malicious document-based distribution of CryptXXX expands in the coming months.”

There is perhaps some good news to report about ransomware, although it does rather fly in the face of advice suggesting that people should not pay ransom demands.

A study by Finnish security company F-Secure looked at five separate ransomware gangs and found that they were friendly, amicable to deal with and amenable on terms and payments.

“Crypto-ransomware criminals’ business model is, of course, encrypting your files and making you pay to have them decrypted so you can access them again. To help victims understand what has happened, and then navigate the unfamiliar process of paying in bitcoin, some [gangs] offer a ‘customer journey’ that could rival that of a legitimate small business,” F-Secure said.

“Websites that support several languages. Helpful FAQs. Convenient customer support forms so the victim can ask questions. And responsive customer service agents that quickly get back with replies.

“We think this is a pretty interesting paradox. Criminal nastiness, but on the other hand willingness to help ‘for your convenience’, as one [gang] put it.”

Ultimately, F-Secure urged people to prevent this happening to them and put in protective and preventive measures that can eliminate the threat. We think that there might be some software firms that can help consumers and businesses with this. F-Secure may be one of them.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Microsoft Launches Stream Video Sharing Service For The Enterprise

July 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft may have YouTube for businesses on its hands with the beta launch of a new service on Monday.

It’s called Stream, and it’s supposed to let people easily work together with one another on videos and then share that content both inside and outside their company.

In the realm of consumer web services, video is ascending. Facebook has been emphasizing video posts on its popular social network, while YouTube is still going strong. Microsoft is trying to take some of that mojo and bring it to the business world with the launch of the open beta for Stream.

Stream allows users to log in to a video portal that lets them see all of the videos that are shared with them, and do things like subscribe to channels, search for subject matter they want to explore, and follow co-workers whose videos they want to see.

People who create videos can upload footage to the service by dragging and dropping files from their computers. Stream will handle the processing and let people add titles, descriptions, and even a caption file so that hearing-impaired viewers can read along with what’s being said.

The service also has the ability to set sharing permissions that can let anyone in an organization view a video, or lock it down to just a small group of people. That way, it’s possible for users to get feedback on a video from a small group before pushing it out to the wider company.

It’s all powered by Azure Media Services, a cloud-based video streaming system that Microsoft has been building up to host a variety of products including public cloud video encoding services used for the Olympics and Skype Meeting Broadcast, a service that lets Skype for Business customers send out a video feed to thousands of viewers.

Microsoft has a smorgasbord of planned features on the roadmap for Stream. IT managers, for example, will have access to greater management controls for the service. Microsoft also plans to add additional intelligence to Stream’s search, and let users of its nPowerApps software build applications that leverage its video viewing and capture capabilities.

Stream is similar to other business apps that Microsoft has recently launched, like Power BI, the company’s data visualization and business intelligence tool, and PowerApps, a service that lets employees build mobile applications that use company data. Like those applications, Stream is a subscription service that lets businesses get a particular capability without buying into one of Microsoft’s big suites.

 

 

 

ZTE Debuts Zmax Pro Smartphone For $99

July 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

ZTE’s $99 ZMax Pro includes some of the latest smartphone technologies, which is a pleasant surprise for a low-priced handset.

The smartphone has a 6-in. screen and is available only through MetroPCS in the U.S. It weighs about 175 grams and is 8.9 millimeters thick.

It has some top-line features found in the latest smartphones, like a USB Type-C port. It also runs on the latest Android OS 6.0 code-named Marshmallow.

The Gorilla Glass 3 screen shows images at a full HD resolution. The handset has 32GB of internal storage and a micro-SD card for expandable storage. That’s a lot of storage for a handset under $100.

The handset is comparable to the new fourth-generation Moto G handset, which is now available unlocked on Amazon.com for $199.99 for a 16GB model. The Zmax Pro has a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, along with an eight-core Snapdragon 617 processor, all of which are also packaged in the Moto G.

The ZTE phone also has a 3,400 milli-amp-hour battery, which provides about 25 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time. It also features a fingerprint reader, which isn’t commonly found in low-cost handsets.

However, the smartphone lacks some other features. It includes 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, not the latest 802.11ac, which offers a wider range and faster speeds.

The smartphone succeeds last year’s ZMax 2, which sold for $149. The handset may be available unlocked and through other carriers in the future, but the company wasn’t ready to share details.