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State Farm Files Lawsuit Againt Apple Over iPhone Fire

July 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

We live in an age of exploding cell phone batteries, apparently.

In a new case, indeed, insurer State Farm and one of its customers, Wisconsin resident Xai Thao, allege that one of Apple’s older iPhones had a defective battery that led to a fire last year.

A lawsuit filed by both State Farm and Thao claims that her iPhone 4S “failed” and “started a fire at Thao’s home.”

The lawsuit further claims that “preliminary investigations show evidence of a significant and localized heating event in the battery area of the iPhone.” It also declares that there were “remnants of internal shorting, indicating that an internal failure of the iPhone’s battery caused the fire.”

Thao insists that she had not done anything to the battery at all.

The lawyers involved did not respond to a request for comment about who’d performed these preliminary investigations. Apple likewise didn’t respond to a request for comment. A State Farm spokesman, meanwhile, told me: “State Farm rarely comments on pending litigation and in this case has nothing to share. Our filings speak for themselves.”

But do they? It’s unclear from the lawsuit, for example, whether the phone was being charged at the time and, if so, what charger might have been used. It’s also unclear whether Apple was ever given the chance to examine the phone.

In a number of incidents of exploding or overheating phones, the devices had been charging at the critical moment.

But not in all cases. In 2015, a New Jersey man claimed that an iPhone 5C exploded in his pocket and caused third-degree burns.

The State Farm lawsuit says that Thao’s iPhone was “in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition” when she bought it in 2014.

The suit is claiming in excess of $75,000 in damages. The lawsuit says that Thao had to pay a proportion of the the damages out of her own pocket.

Skeptics might wonder why the phone allegedly caught fire at that moment, two years after it was bought. The iPhone 4S hasn’t been linked with major incidents of fire hazard since in launched in 2011.

T-Mobile Continues Winning Streak, Adds 1.3M New Customers

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier said it added 1.3 million net new customers in the second quarter, aided largely by the 786,000 new phone customers on a post-paid plan, or who pay at the end of the month. The figure topped at least one Wall Street firm’s expectations.

The numbers underscore the fact that despite the rival carriers throwing themselves at you for your business, T-Mobile continues to win over new customers. The heightened pressure has resulted in more deals for consumers, including Sprint offering a year of service for free(excluding taxes and fees), and its prepaid arm Virgin Mobile going with an all-iPhone model with a rate of $1 for the first year of service. AT&T is throwing its DirecTV Now streaming service into its unlimited plan for $10 extra. Likewise, it was the first full quarter that Verizon offered its unlimited plan.

T-Mobile, conversely, has been relatively tame and quietly raised the price of its One Plus unlimited plan by $10, matching the price of Verizon’s $80 unlimited data plan.

Unlike in previous quarters, T-Mobile is the first of the big carriers to report results, so we won’t know for sure how well it fared relative to its competitors. The company has consistently outstripped its rivals in subscriber growth, leading the industry for 14 straight quarters.

One weak spot during the second quarter was T-Mobile’s prepaid business, which only saw 94,000 new customers, potentially because of the Virgin plan. T-Mobile sells prepaid service through its MetroPCS brand.

“MetroPCS continues to perform strongly, but we chose not to respond to irrational offers from some of our competitors during the second quarter,” T-Mobile said in its earnings report.

T-Mobile posted a second-quarter profit of $581 million, or 67 cents, compared with a year-ago profit of $225 million, or 25 cents a share. Revenue rose 10 percent to $10.2 billion.

Analysts, on average, estimated T-Mobile would earn 38 cents a share and post revenue of $9.8 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.

Amazon Jumps Into Social Media Shopping With Spark Launch

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has rolled out a social feature called Spark that encourages members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, the retail giant’s first clear move into the world of social media.

Spark, which is currently only available for Amazon’s premium paying Prime members, encourages users to share photos and videos, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest. The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS operating system.

Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them on the platform. Users can also respond to posts with “smiles,” equivalent to Facebook’s “likes.”

“We created Spark to allow customers to discover – and shop – stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like,” said an Amazon spokeswoman.

“When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they’d like to follow and we’ll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon.”

Amazon has also invited publishers including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.

Samsung Finally Launches Bixby Voice App For Galaxy S8

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung has finally officially launched voice capabilities for its Bixby smart sidekick in the US, about three months after the artificial intelligence technology first became available on its new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus phones. The company had delayed the launch and missed its own promised “later this spring” deadline, at least in the US.

Owners of its newest phones will be able to access Bixby Voice after downloading a software update, rolling out at 9 p.m. PT. South Korean users, who’ve had access to Bixby Voice in the Korean language since May 1, will also be able to now access the English language capabilities. The company didn’t say when Bixby Voice will be available in other countries.

Bixby is Samsung’s new digital voice assistant that debuted on its latest smartphones. It has its own dedicated button on the side of the device, letting you communicate with the artificial intelligence like you’d use a walkie-talkie. The only problem is the voice part of the assistantdidn’t actually work when the Galaxy S8 hit the market in April. What did work with Bixby was its “Vision, Home and Reminder” functions that identify objects in photos, help you track your day and remind you about upcoming events on your calendar.

Rather than launching voice capabilities right away, Samsung said it needed more time to get Bixby ready for mainstream consumers. It has been testing it out with over 100,000 Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus users in its early access preview program. Those participants generated more than 4 million commands and helped Samsung refine Bixby’s capabilities.

One benefit includes “increased comprehension on command variations.” You can, for instance, ask what the weather is like by saying “Show me today’s weather,” “What’s the weather like today?” or “What’s the forecast today?” Samsung says it has improved Bixby’s response times, increased hands-free operations and included a new “read aloud feature.” You can ask it to read the latest email you’ve received.

Samsung also has worked to make Bixby interact better with third-party apps. If you’re using Google Maps, you can use Bixby to change the location of your origin or destination.

Bixby is the latest entrant in the crowded field of digital assistants that already includes Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. Every tech heavyweight is investing in these assistants because they’re heralded as the future of how we’ll interact with our gadgets. The hope is to build a relationship with you now and ultimately get you to buy more of their products later.

Google’s Mobile App Gets New Look, Feel

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google has announced a re-tooling of its search app on mobile phones to include a personalized feed of links about hobbies, travel, sports and other topics, a move that puts the search company into more direct competition with social networks such as Facebook.

Google, the world’s largest search engine and a unit of Alphabet Inc, said the changes would begin rolling out in the United States on Wednesday and other countries in the coming weeks.

The new offering is called “Google Feed,” a name that may conjure comparisons to Facebook’s “News Feed,” a feature on Facebook used to browse updates from friends, family and other sources.

Google said, however, that it was not trying to duplicate Facebook Inc, the world’s largest social network. Instead, the company said it wanted to create another place to see a stream of relevant search results.

“This feed is really about your interests … It’s not really about what your friends are interested in,” Ben Gomes, a Google vice president for engineering, said in a briefing with reporters.

Typical updates might include a link to a website with tips about an upcoming vacation spot, or a link to a page about cycling or another hobby, the company said.

Facebook and Google are jockeying for attention online and by extension, for advertising revenue based on those eyeballs. The two Silicon Valley companies are expected to take in some 50 percent of overall online ad spending in 2018, according to research firm eMarketer.

There were no immediate plans to include advertising in Google Feed, Gomes said.

Google Feed will suggest links based on a user’s Google search history as well as data from other Google services, such as YouTube, Gmail and Google Calendar, the company said.

In addition to putting Google Feed on mobile apps, the company is looking at attaching it to web browsers in some form, Shashi Thakur, a second Google vice president for engineering, said during the briefing.

Pricing For AMD’s Ryzen 1300X Leaked

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to a Reddit post, upcoming Ryzen 3 SKUs, the Ryzen 3 1300X and the Ryzen 3 1200, will be hitting the market at US $129 and US $109 (exc. VAT), respectively.

While AMD has revealed a lot of details regarding its two upcoming quad-core Ryzen 3 SKUs yesterday, including the clocks and the launch date, we are still missing a couple of key details, including the TDP, amount of cache and the price.

In case you missed it yesterday, both Ryzen 3 SKUs are quad-core parts without SMT (Simultaneous Multi Threading) support, so they will stick to “just” four threads. The Ryzen 1300X works at 3.5GHz base and 3.7GHz Turbo clocks, while the Ryzen 3 1200 works at 3.1GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo clocks. As rumored earlier, the Ryzen 3 lineup should retain the 2MB/8MB cache (L2/L3) as the Ryzen 5 series and should have the same 65W TDP, although these details are left to be confirmed.

Luckily, a Reddit user has managed to get unconfirmed details regarding the price of these two SKUs, suggesting that they should launch at US $129 for the Ryzen 3 1300X and US $109 for the Ryzen 3 1200, excluding VAT. While the price of the Ryzen 3 1300X sounds about right, and similar to what we heard before, we have our doubts regarding the Ryzen 3 1200 price, which we suspect would be closer to the US $100 mark.

In any case, we’ll know for sure in about two weeks when these parts are scheduled to hit retail/e-tail shelves. It will be quite interesting to see these Ryzen 3 SKUs compared to some Intel Core i3 Kaby Lake dual-core parts as we are quite sure that these will give Intel a hard time in that part of the market, offering significantly higher performance for much less money.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Virtual Reality To Expensive For The Masses

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The current generation of virtual reality is not dead, but it’s not exactly full of life, either. What once was a pulsating buzz has faded into the background of an industry, not because there are newer, shinier toys to play with, but simply because for all the newness and shine of VR, there has been little evidence that a significant audience exists for the experiences we can deliver at this time.

Earlier this week, Oculus instituted a temporary $200 price cut of the Rift, dropping the headset and its Touch controllers to a $400 bundle that comes packed with seven free games (including Lucky’s Tale, Medium, Toybox, and Robo Recall) and an Xbox One controller for good measure. That’s in addition to the $200 price cut Oculus rolled out in March for the headset and Touch combo, meaning the company has slashed the price by 50% in just four months.

On its own, this could actually be an encouraging sign, but taken in context of the rest of the news coming out of the VR sector, it’s more concerning than convincing. For one, Oculus looks to be bringing up the rear among the three major high-end VR options on the market, despite being a first mover and having the significant financial backing of Facebook. Through the first half of this year, tracking firm Superdata put the Rift’s installed base at just 383,000 units, compared to HTC Vive’s 667,000 units and PlayStation VR’s 1.8 million.

Even ignoring its relative sales position, Oculus is already in a tough spot in the enthusiast VR fight, technologically a step behind the more expensive Vive, but still more expensive (when considering the cost of a VR-capable PC) and less mass market than the PSVR. That’s a difficult problem for marketing anything, doubly so when what you’re selling is an experience that by its nature needs to be experienced to be fully understood, triply so when you’re drastically scaling back the number of demo units in retail locations where interested customers could get their first taste of VR.

I also question Oculus’ decision to shutter its in-house Story Studio, which was set up with Pixar veterans to show how VR could shift the medium of film as much as it could games. The studio’s Henry won an Emmy in 2016. Its follow-up, Dear Angelica, premiered at Sundance earlier this year to rave reviews and has been submitted for Emmy consideration at this year’s awards, which are still a few months away. In short, Story Studio was exactly the sort of investment in a potentially disruptive medium you would expect a company with long-term ambitions to keep. Instead, they cut it loose, with head of content Jason Rubin essentially saying it was time for external filmmakers to pick up the narrative VR ball (albeit with some $50 million in funding from Oculus).

There’s a bit of a theme there. Just a couple months before closing Story Studio, Rubin pointed out for GamesIndustry.biz at GDC that Facebook–and by extension, Oculus–isn’t a content creation company.

“Facebook’s not a media company,” Rubin said. “So there may be a day where Facebook says we’re going to head towards our core competency… That’s why I don’t have internal teams. I have exactly one group of three people besides Story Studios because that didn’t exist outside.”

Facebook didn’t pay $2 billion for Oculus in 2014 because it wanted to make games. It wanted VR to be a popular thing it could leverage for its social network. If HTC Vive or Sony or Microsoft can make VR work better than Oculus, that still gets VR where the social network wants it to be. That’s not ideal for Facebook, but after the Rift’s slow start, the hundreds of millions it already owes in court judgments, the hundreds of millions more it might be made to pay in the future, and seeing the face of the VR revolution leave under a cloud of controversy, one could understand if the company’s commitment to VR began to waver.

Speaking of the competition, I’m not terribly optimistic with what they’re bringing to the table. Sony’s PSVR is leading the pack, but I’m still skeptical whether the company’s interest in the hardware will be any longer lasting than its support for Vita, or Wonderbook, or PlayStation TV, or Move, or EyeToy, or stereoscopic 3D. Sony’s E3 conference featured some promising games in Polyarc’s Moss, two titles from Until Dawn developer Supermassive, and Skyrim VR, but little that stands out as a system-seller the way that Resident Evil 7, or even the prospect of last year’s Batman and Star Wars VR experiences might have. When asked at E3 about whether that lineup would boost PSVR adoption, Sony’s Jim Ryan was unsure.

“I think we are still really just learning about VR,” Ryan said. “When hopefully we meet in a year’s time, I will be able to give you a better answer to this question. It still won’t be a perfect answer, but I’ll know more.”

That’s not exactly an overwhelming vote of confidence from PlayStation’s chief marketer. I’m not sure I want to bet the future health of VR on Sony’s continued support for a market that is (for now, at least) peripheral to its core business.

The situation with HTC and the Vive underscores another issue when trying to establish an emerging field like VR. Vive launched at the cutting edge, but since then has rolled out object tracker peripherals and a wireless adaptor, respectively giving developers more options and addressing a key complaint around high-end VR. In both cases, they would be better served as being part of the core hardware package rather than optional add-ons for what is already the most expensive option on the market. For the next generation of VR, perhaps they’ll be standard.

But who will invest in the next generation of enthusiast VR–on either the consumer side or the manufacturer side–if this generation disappoints? How long does a VR generation need to be before someone who spent $800 on a Vive (not to mention the cost of a VR-capable PC) feels they got their money’s worth and would re-up for a successor? How many great games does it need to have? How many generations does an HTC or Facebook need to take a bath on before the business turns around and justifies the continued investment?

Then there’s Microsoft, which will enter the fray this holiday season with its “mixed reality” VR headsets for Windows that are cheaper and require less of a set up than Oculus or Vive, but appear to make compromises on the technical side to get there. It’s telling that even with Microsoft launching the high-end, VR-capable Xbox One X this year, it is foregoing any sort of console VR push and relying on higher resolutions and better frame rates for Xbox One games as the sales pitch for a One X. Phil Spencer told us at E3 that VR was still years away from the mainstream for gamers, suggesting the company was waiting to launch its console VR until it had a proper wireless solution ready.

At this point, it seems more likely to me that the current enthusiast VR market is an expensive R&D exercise that won’t produce successful systems, but will lay the groundwork for the actual mass market VR, which will instead evolve both in audience and use-cases from the mobile VR world. (We call it mobile VR, but I don’t think I’m alone in having never once seen someone using a mobile VR headset on the subway, in the security line at the airport, or in the waiting room at a dentist.)

A number of the VR developers I’ve spoken to have mentioned wires, price, system-selling software, and installed base as key issues VR needs to tackle to become truly mainstream. As Google Daydream and the Oculus-powered Gear VR have shown, the first two are all but solved problems in mobile VR thanks to the use of existing smartphones. As for the other two, when your system is only $100 or so, the definition of a system-seller changes dramatically, which then has plenty of beneficial implications for the installed base. (Promotions like Samsung giving away Gear VR with new Galaxy phone purchases don’t hurt, either.)

All mobile VR really needs are better interfaces and more powerful phones. The Gear VR motion controller is a good first step for the former, and the latter is improving all the time. If VR is really going to go mass market, doesn’t it make more sense for it to grow not from the high-end early adopter market who would have dropped $600 on a PS3, but from the masses who made a compelling novelty like the $250 Wii a phenomenon?

Courtesy-GI.biz

Premium Nokia 8 Handset May Launch By End Of July

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The premium Nokia 8 could get everything from dual cameras to Qualcomm’s fastest Snapdragon 835 chip (the same one that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S8), according to well-known mobile tipster Evan Blass, who also writes for VentureBeat. The phone may even be unveiled as early as July 31, Blass suggests.

If true, this is just what the Nokia brand — once a top-two titan of mobile — needs. After Microsoft sold a company called HMD the rights to use the Nokia mobile name in 2016, the company has released three midrange Nokia Android phones, the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, and a throwback to a simple feature phone, the Nokia 3310. The Nokia 8 could help bring some luster back to the flagging brand.

Some rumored Nokia 8 specs include: 5.3-inch screen, 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution (QHD), dual 13-megapixel cameras featuring Zeiss optics, Android 7.1.1 Nougat, Snapdragon 835 processor,  4GB or 6GB of RAM.

The phone is also said to cost around 589 euros, which translates to about $675, £520 or AUD$865. This puts it at a much higher price than the current most expensive option — the Nokia 6.

The Nokia 8 reveal was speculated to take place in a promotional Nokia video in May, but the actual video didn’t show much besides glimpses of the phone’s appearance.

HMD Global, which licenses the Nokia brand name, declined to comment on this story.

Samsung To Recycle Rare Metals From Old Galaxy Note 7s

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd announced plans to recover 157 tons worth of rare metals from recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in a bid to minimize the environmental impact of the fire-prone devices.

Samsung said in a statement it planned to reuse components such as camera modules, chips and displays as replacement parts on devices sent in for repairs or sell them. It would also recover metals such as cobalt, copper, gold and silver from components that would not be reused.

The world’s top smartphone maker is trying to move on from the withdrawal of the Note 7 premium devices last year due to safety concerns, a failure which cost the firm $5.4 billion in operating profit.

Sales of the flagship Galaxy S8 launched in April have been healthy, analysts say, suggesting a recovery is underway. The firm had sold 3.06 million Note 7s to consumers before its second and final recall in October, roughly 2 months after launch.

Environmental activists such as Greenpeace have called on Samsung to recycle or recover the rare materials contained in the devices.

The South Korean firm launched a modified version of the Note 7 in its domestic market earlier this month as part of the recycling effort.

Is Intel Worried About AMD’s Epyc Processor

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is clearly feeling a little insecure about AMD’s new Epyc Server processor range based on the RyZen technology.

Intel’s press office retreated to the company safe and pulled out its favorite pink handbag and emerged swinging.

It did a direct comparison between the two, and in one slide, it mentioned that the Epyc processor was ‘inconsistent’, and called it ‘glued together’.

Intel noted that it required a lot of optimisations to get it to work effectively, comparing it to the rocky start AMD had with Ryzen on the desktop. That is pretty much fighting talk, and it has gone down rather badly.

TechPowerUp noted that even though Epyc did contain four dies, it offered some advantages as well, like better yields. On top of that, they noted: “So AMD’s server platform will require optimisations as well because Ryzen did, for incomparably different workloads? History does inform the future, but not to the extent that Intel is putting it here to, certainly. Putting things in the same perspective, is Intel saying that their Xeon ecosystem sees gaming-specific optimizations?”

Intel still has a healthy lead on AMD in the server space. However, since the launch of Ryzen, Intel has seen a significant drop in support in the desktop market.

Trash talking is usually a sign that there is not much difference between products and it never really works – other than to amuse.

AMD announced its line of Epyc processors last month. The range consists of chips between eight and 32 cores, all of which support eight channels of DDR4-2666 memory. Pricing was announced to start from $400.

Courtesy-Fud

Lloyd’s Of London Sounds The Alarm On Impacts Of Cyber Attacks

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A major, global cyber attack could lead to an average of $53 billion of economic losses, a figure on par with a catastrophic natural disaster such as U.S. Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Lloyd’s of London said in a report on Monday.

The report, co-written with risk-modeling firm Cyence, examined potential economic losses from the hypothetical hacking of a cloud service provider and cyber attacks on computer operating systems run by businesses worldwide.

Insurers are struggling to estimate their potential exposure to cyber-related losses amid mounting cyber risks and interest in cyber insurance. A lack of historical data on which insurers can base assumptions is a key challenge.

“Because cyber is virtual, it is such a difficult task to understand how it will accumulate in a big event,” Lloyd’s of London Chief Executive Inga Beale told Reuters.

Economic costs in the hypothetical cloud provider attack dwarf the $8 billion global cost of the “WannaCry” ransomware attack in May, which spread to more than 100 countries, according to Cyence.

Economic costs typically include business interruptions and computer repairs.

The Lloyd’s report follows a U.S. government warning to industrial firms about a hacking campaign targeting the nuclear and energy sectors.

In June, an attack of a virus dubbed “NotPetya” spread from infections in Ukraine to businesses around the globe. It encrypted data on infected machines, rendering them inoperable and disrupted activity at ports, law firms and factories.

“NotPetya” caused $850 million in economic costs, Cyence said.

In the hypothetical cloud service attack in the Lloyd’s-Cyence scenario, hackers inserted malicious code into a cloud provider’s software that was designed to trigger system crashes among users a year later.

By then, the malware would have spread among the provider’s customers, from financial services companies to hotels, causing all to lose income and incur other expenses.

Average economic losses caused by such a disruption could range from $4.6 billion to $53 billion for large to extreme events. But actual losses could be as high as $121 billion, the report said.

As much as $45 billion of that sum may not be covered by cyber policies due to companies underinsuring, the report said.

Average losses for a scenario involving a hacking of operating systems ranged from $9.7 billion to $28.7 billion.

Lloyd’s has a 20 percent to 25 percent share of the $2.5 billion cyber insurance market, Beale said in June.

AT&T Offers ZTE’s Blade Spark Smartphone For Only $99

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

These days, low-cost and durable smartphones that will stretch your dollar aren’t too hard to find. Case in point is the newest offering from AT&T and ZTE: the Blade Spark.

Available as a prepaid phone, the Blade Spark features a fingerprint reader, a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor and Android Nougat 7.1.1. Given that it only costs $99, too, the phone is a good deal for anyone looking for a budget phone.

The Blade Spark (which has a design that reminds me a lot of 2014’s Motorola Moto X from the back) also has a 5.5-inch display, a 13-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter that has its own dedicated button on the edge of the phone to fire off the shutter.

Other devices to consider around this price range is the $185 Motorola Moto G5 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy J3, which starts at $110. For more about budget phones, check out our top 10 picks for cheap phones we love.

Apple Pay Tempts Chinese Consumers With Huge Discounts

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

China’s mobile payments market is worth almost $6 trillion, and Apple wants to elbow its way in.

To entice more Chinese to start using Apple Pay, the iPhone maker is offering up to 50 percent discounts off purchases at participating vendors, many of them Western brands. It’s also rewarding users up to 50 times the usual points for designated credit cards, according to Apple’s official Chinese website. The promotion period will run from July 18 to 24.

China is a tough market to break into for Apple Pay, because the Chinese are more familiar with local mobile payment services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. The two services have a combined market share of 92 percent, and people are so dependent on them that the companies have expanded overseas specifically to cater to Chinese travelers.

Promotions are offered by Apple Pay, but they are subject to varying terms and conditions set out by merchants. While Burger King and Costa Coffee have capped 50 percent discounts at 15 yuan (or $2.22), for example, 7-Eleven set its cap at 10 yuan (approximately $1.48). Starbucks, on the other hand, will take 15 yuan off purchases amounting to 60 yuan (or $8.86) or more.

Is Open Source Winning

July 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Going way back, pretty much all software was effectively open source. That’s because it was the preserve of a small number of scientists and engineers who shared and adapted each other’s code (or punch cards) to suit their particular area of research. Later, when computing left the lab for the business, commercial powerhouses such as IBM, DEC and Hewlett-Packard sought to lock in their IP by making software proprietary and charging a hefty license fee for its use.

The precedent was set and up until five years ago, generally speaking, that was the way things went. Proprietary software ruled the roost and even in the enlightened environs of the INQUIRER office mention of open source was invariably accompanied by jibes about sandals and stripy tanktops, basement-dwelling geeks and hairy hippies. But now the hippies are wearing suits, open source is the default choice of business and even the arch nemesis Microsoft has declared its undying love for collaborative coding.

But how did we get to here from there? Join INQ as we take a trip along the open source timeline, stopping off at points of interest on the way, and consulting a few folks whose lives or careers were changed by open source software.

The GNU project
The GNU Project (for GNU’s not Unix – a typically in-jokey open source monicker, it’s recursive don’t you know?)  was created by archetypal hairy coder and the man widely regarded as the father of open source Richard Stallman in 1983. GNU aimed to replace the proprietary UNIX operating system with one composed entirely of free software – meaning code that could be used or adapted without having to seek permission.

Stallman also started the Free Software Foundation to support coders, litigate against those such as Cisco who broke the license terms and defend open-source projects against attack from commercial vendors. And in his spare time, Stallman also wrote the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), a “copyleft” license, which means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms –  in 1989. Now on its third iteration GPLv3, it remains the most popular way of licensing open source software. Under the terms of the GPL, code may be used for any purpose, including commercial uses, and even as a tool for creating proprietary software.

PGP
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption was created in 1991 by anti-nuclear activist Phil Zimmerman, who was rightly concerned about the security of online bulletin boards where he conversed with fellow protesters. Zimmerman decided to give his invention out for free. Unfortunately for him, it was deployed outside of his native USA, a fact that nearly landed him with a prison sentence, digital encryption being classed as a munition and therefore subject to export regulations. However, the ever-resourceful Mr Zimmerman challenged the case against him by reproducing his source code in the form of a decidedly-undigital hardback book which users could scan using OCR. Common sense eventually won the day and PGP now underpins much modern communications technology including chat, email and VPNs.

“PGP represents the democratisation of privacy,” commented Anzen Data CIO and developer of security software, Gary Mawdsley.

Linux
In 1991 Finnish student and misanthrope Linus Torvalds created a Unix-like kernel based on some educational operating system software called MINIX as a hobby project. He opened up his project so that others could comment. And from that tiny egg, a mighty penguin grew.

Certainly, he could never have never anticipated being elevated to the position of open-source Messiah. Unlike Stallman, Torvalds, who has said many times that he’s not a “people person” or a natural collaborator (indeed recent comments have made him seem more like a dictator – albeit a benevolent one), was not driven by a vision or an ideology. Making Linux open source was almost an accident.

“I did not start Linux as a collaborative project, I started it for myself,” Torvalds said in a TED talk. “I needed the end result but I also enjoyed programming. I made it publicly available but I had no intention to use the open-source methodology, I just wanted to have comments on the work.”

Nevertheless, like Stallman, the Torvalds name is pretty much synonymous with open source and Linux quickly became the server operating system of choice, also providing the basis of Google’s Android and Chrome OS.

“Linux was and is an absolute game-changer,” says Chris Cooper of compliance software firm KnowNow. “It was the first real evidence that open could be as good as paid for software and it was the death knell of the OS having a value that IT teams would fight over. It also meant that the OS was no longer a key driver of architectural decisions: the application layer is where the computing investment is now made.”

Red Hat
Red Hat, established in 1995, was among the first proper enterprise open source companies. Red Hat went public in 1999 with a highly successful IPO. Because it was willing to bet big on the success of open source at a time when others were not, Red Hat is the most financially buoyant open source vendor, achieving a turnover of $1bn 13 years later. Red Hat’s business model revolves around offering services and certification around its own Linux distribution plus middleware and other open source enterprise software.

“Red Hat became successful by making open source stable, reliable and secure for the enterprise,” said Jan Wildeboer, open source affairs evangelist at the firm.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Linux Debuts Hyberledger 1.0 Blockchain Software

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project officially rolled out the Fabric 1.0, a collaboration tool for building blockchain distributed ledger business networks  such as smart contract technology.

The Hyperledger project, a collaborative cross-industry effort created to advance blockchain technology, said the Hyperledger Fabric framework can be a foundation for developing blockchain applications, products or customized business solutions

Under development for the past 16 months, Hyberledger Fabric 1.0 is ready to be used to create an immutable, secure electronic ledger in industries such as financial services for completing transactions, including clearance and settlement, and healthcare, as a way to validate where electronic patient records exist and who has  access to them.

“Fabric 1.0 will help substantially in both those use cases,” said Hyperledger’s executive director, Brian Behlendorf.

Blockchains can be encrypted or unencrypted, depending on the level of security required, but in both cases the records are auditable because the data in the database cannot be changed and is tied to each authorized participant in the chain. A blockchain, for example, could be used during the clearance and settlement process between Wall Street traders and the banks that support the transactions to verify in real time when each party has received data and agreed to the exchange of funds.

Fabric 1.0 offers a modular architecture allowing components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. It leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system.

Fabric has been through several release cycles or pilots with 28 of Hyperledger’s member organizations. The include The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), Fujitsu, GE, Hitachi, Huawei Technologies, State Street Bank, SecureKey, IBM, SAP, and Wanda Group.

There were also contributions from 35 unaffiliated individuals. In total, 159 developers contributed to Hyperledger Fabric, Behlendorf said.

“We had to push this out and encourage companies to start using them in proof-of-concepts and pilots, and some even were happy with the data code at that time and pushed them into production,” Behlendorf said.

“After over a year of public collaboration, testing, and validation… Fabric 1.0 is a true milestone for our community,” Behlendorf said. “Fabric can now advance to production deployment and operations. I look forward to seeing even more products and services being powered by Hyperledger Fabric in the next year and beyond.”

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