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AT&T To Offer Smartwatches This Year

April 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Smartwatches for use on AT&T’s network will be out this year, so says one of the company’s executives.

“I think you’ll see wide-area, high-bandwidth [smart]watches this year at some point,” said Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T, in an interview.

The company has a group working in Austin, Texas, on thousands of wearable-device prototypes, and is also looking at certifying third-party devices for use on its network, Lurie said.

“A majority of stuff you’re going to see today that’s truly wearable is going to be in a watch form factor to start,” Lurie said. If smartwatch use takes off — “and we believe it can,” Lurie said — then those devices could become hubs for wearable computing.

Right now smartwatches lack LTE capabilities, so they are largely reliant on smartphones for apps and notifications. With a mobile broadband connection, a smartwatch becomes an “independent device,” Lurie said.

“We’ve been very, very clear in our opinion that a wearable needs to be a stand-alone device,” Lurie said.

AT&T and Filip Technologies in January released the Filip child tracker wristwatch, which also allows a parent to call a child over AT&T’s network. Filip could be improved, but those are the kind of wearable products that AT&T wants to bring to market.

Wearables for home health care are also candidates for LTE connections, Lurie said, but fitness trackers may be too small for LTE connectivity, at least for now.

Lurie couldn’t say when smartglasses would be certified to work on AT&T’s network. Google last year said adding cellular capabilities to its Glass eyewear wasn’t in the plans because of battery use. But AT&T is willing to experiment with devices to see where LTE would fit.

“It’s one thing if I’m buying it to go out for a job, it’s another thing if I’m going to wear it everyday. Those are the things people are debating right now — how that’s all going to come out,” Lurie said. “There’s technology and there’s innovation happening, and those things will get solved.”

Lurie said battery issues are being resolved, but there are no network capacity issues. Wearable devices don’t use too much bandwidth as they relay short bursts of information, unless someone is, for instance, listening to Pandora radio on a smartwatch, Lurie said.

But AT&T is building out network capacity, adding Wi-Fi networks, and virtualizing networks to accommodate more devices.

“We don’t have network issues, we don’t have any capacity issues,” Lurie said. “The key element to adding these devices is a majority of [them] aren’t high-bandwidth devices.”

AT&T wants to make wearables work with its home offerings like the Digital Life home automation and security system. AT&T is also working with car makers for LTE integration, with wearables interacting with vehicles to open doors and start ignitions.

 

Intel Looks To Android To Boost Tablet Business

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Its becoming more obvious lately that Intel and Microsoft are no longer joined at the hip. Intel is trying desperately to make a dent in the tablet market, and with Windows struggling on those devices, Android is where it’s at.

Intel hopes to see its processors used in 40 million tablets this year, and 80% to 90% of those will be running Google’s Android OS, CEO Brian Krzanich said on Tuesday.

“Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,” Krzanich said during Intel’s quarterly earnings call.

Most Intel-powered tablets running Android today use the older Medfield and Clover Trail+ chips. More Android tablets running the latest Atom processor, called Bay Trail, will ship later this quarter.

That’s not to say Intel is abandoning Windows — far from it. It’s just going where the market is today. Krzanich said he expects Windows to “grow and gain traction,” and more Intel-based tablets running both Android and Windows will be shown in June at the massive Computex trade show in Taipei.

The first Android-based Bay Trail tablet, the DreamTab, was announced in January, but it hasn’t shipped yet.

Intel is chasing ARM, the U.K. company whose processor designs are used in most tablets today, including those running both Android and Apple’s iOS.

The 40 million Intel tablets that will ship this year will give the company 15% to 20% of the tablet market, Intel CFO Stacy Smith said on the earnings call.

Intel is providing discounts and development funds to tablet makers to reduce the cost of using its chips. It’s looking for growth with the white-box Chinese tablet makers, which are expected to ship up to 130 million tablets this year.

Intel chips are available in some tablets now priced under $99, but most will be priced between $125 and $250, Krzanich said.

Microsoft hasn’t made much of a dent yet in Google’s and Apple’s share of the market, but IDC estimated last month that Windows would have 10.2% of the tablet market by 2017. Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard have launched Windows 8 tablets with Bay Trail, and Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 2 uses an Intel Core processor, but the tablets haven’t sold well.

 

 

 

Microsoft Updates Office Online

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is updating its Web-based Office Online suite, closing the features gap with the main Office 365 and Office 2013 suites installed on users’ devices.

“We know you want features that allow you to move as seamlessly as possible between Office Online and the desktop,” wrote Kaberi Chowdhury, an Office Online technical product manager, in a blog post Monday.

Improvements to Excel Online include the ability to insert new comments, edit and delete existing comments, and properly open and edit spreadsheets that contain Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code.

Meanwhile, Word Online has a new “pane” where users can see all comments in a document, and reply to them or mark them as completed. It also has a refined lists feature that is better able to recognize whether users are continuing a list or starting one. In addition, footnotes and end notes can now be added more conveniently inline.

PowerPoint Online has a revamped text editor that offers a layout view that more closely resembles the look of finished slides, according to Microsoft. It also has improved performance and video functionality, including the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

For users of OneNote Online, Microsoft is now adding the ability to print out the notes they’ve created with the application.

Microsoft is also making Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online available via Google’s Chrome Web Store so that Chrome browser users can add them to their Chrome App launcher. Excel Online will be added later.

The improvements in Office Online will be rolled out to users this week, starting Monday.

Office Online, which used to be called Office Web Apps, competes directly against Google Docs and other browser-based office productivity suites. It’s meant to offer users a free, lightweight, Web-based version of these four applications if they don’t have the desktop editions on the device they’re using at that moment.

 

Google Reveals Email Scanning Practices In Revised Terms Of Service

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc updated its terms of service earlier this week, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads.

The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users’ emails, both when messages are stored on Google’s servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation.

Last month, a U.S. judge decided not to combine several lawsuits that accused Google of violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users into a single class action.

Users of Google’s Gmail email service have accused the company of violating federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws by scanning their messages so it could compile secret profiles and target advertising. Google has argued that users implicitly consented to its activity, recognizing it as part of the email delivery process.

Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in a statement that the changes “will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.”

Google’s updated terms of service added a paragraph stating that “our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

 

Intel Shows Off New Hybrid Laptop Geared Towards Schools

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel unveiled a laptop-tablet hybrid with Windows 8.1 for the education market, where Chromebooks and tablets are also vying for customers.

The Intel Education 2-in-1 hybrid has a 10.1-inch screen that can detach from a keyboard base to turn into a tablet. Intel makes reference designs, which are then replicated by device makers and sold to educational institutions.

The 2-in-1 has a quad-core Intel Atom processor Z3740D, which is based on the Bay Trail architecture. The battery lasts about eight hours in tablet mode, and three more hours when docked with the keyboard base, which has a second battery.

Intel did not immediately return requests for comment on the estimated price for the hybrid or when it would become available.

Education is a hotly contested market among computer makers, as Apple pushes its iPads and MacBooks while PC makers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo hawk their Chromebooks.

Some features in the Intel 2-in-1 are drawn from the company’s Education tablets, which also run on Atom processors, but have the Android OS.

The 2-in-1 hybrid has front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and a snap-on magnification lens that allows students to examine items at a microscopic level.

The computer can withstand a drop of 70 centimeters, a feature added as protection for instances in which children mishandle laptops and let them fall. The keyboard base also has a handle.

The screen can be swiveled and placed on the keyboard, giving it the capability of a classic convertible laptop. This feature has been drawn from Intel’s Classmate series of education laptops.

The 2-in-1 has software intended to make learning easier, including tools for the arts and science. Intel’s Kno app provides access to 225,000 books. Typically, some of the books available via Kno are free, while others are fee-based.

 

 

BlackBerry Plans To Release Patch For ‘Heartbleed’ Vulnerability

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd said it will release security updates for messaging software for Android and iOS devices by Friday to address vulnerabilities in programs related to the “Heartbleed” security threat.

Researchers last week warned they uncovered Heartbleed, a bug that targets the OpenSSL software commonly used to keep data secure, potentially allowing hackers to steal massive troves of information without leaving a trace.

Security experts initially told companies to focus on securing vulnerable websites, but have since warned about threats to technology used in data centers and on mobile devices running Google Inc’s Android software and Apple Inc’s iOS software.

Scott Totzke, BlackBerry senior vice president, told Reuters on Sunday that while the bulk of BlackBerry products do not use the vulnerable software, the company does need to update two widely used products: Secure Work Space corporate email and BBM messaging program for Android and iOS.

He said they are vulnerable to attacks by hackers if they gain access to those apps through either WiFi connections or carrier networks.

Still, he said, “The level of risk here is extremely small,” because BlackBerry’s security technology would make it difficult for a hacker to succeed in gaining data through an attack.

“It’s a very complex attack that has to be timed in a very small window,” he said, adding that it was safe to continue using those apps before an update is issued.

Google spokesman Christopher Katsaros declined comment. Officials with Apple could not be reached.

Security experts say that other mobile apps are also likely vulnerable because they use OpenSSL code.

Michael Shaulov, chief executive of Lacoon Mobile Security, said he suspects that apps that compete with BlackBerry in an area known as mobile device management are also susceptible to attack because they, too, typically use OpenSSL code.

He said mobile app developers have time to figure out which products are vulnerable and fix them.

“It will take the hackers a couple of weeks or even a month to move from ‘proof of concept’ to being able to exploit devices,” said Shaulov.

Technology firms and the U.S. government are taking the threat extremely seriously. Federal officials warned banks and other businesses on Friday to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

Companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, International Business Machines Corp, Intel Corp, Juniper Networks Inc, Oracle Corp Red Hat Inc have warned customers they may be at risk. Some updates are out, while others, like BlackBerry, are rushing to get them ready.

 

Can Micro-Consoles Compete With True Gaming Consoles?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

With Amazon’s Fire TV device the first out the door, the second wave of microconsoles has just kicked off. Amazon’s device will be joined in reasonably short order by one from Google, with an app-capable update of the Apple TV device also likely in the works. Who else will join the party is unclear; Sony’s Vita TV, quietly soft-launched in Japan last year, remains a potentially fascinating contender if it had the right messaging and services behind it, but for now it’s out of the race. One thing seems certain, though; at least this time we’re actually going to have a party.

“Second wave”, you see, rather implies the existence of a first wave of microconsoles, but last time out the party was disappointing, to say the least. In fact, if you missed the first wave, don’t feel too bad; you’re in good company. Despite enthusiasm, Kickstarter dollars and lofty predictions, the first wave of microconsole devices tanked. Ouya, Gamestick and their ilk just turned out to be something few people actually wanted or needed. Somewhat dodgy controllers and weak selections of a sub-set of Android’s game library merely compounded the basic problem – they weren’t sufficiently cheap or appealing compared to the consoles reaching their end-of-life and armed with a vast back catalogue of excellent, cheap AAA software.

“The second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail”

That was always the reality which deflated the most puffed-up “microconsoles will kill consoles” argument; the last wave of microconsoles sucked compared to consoles, not just for the core AAA gamer but for just about everyone else as well. Their hardware was poor, their controllers uncomfortable, their software libraries anaemic and their much-vaunted cost savings resulting from mobile game pricing rather than console game pricing tended to ignore the actual behaviour of non-core console gamers – who rarely buy day-one software and as a result get remarkably good value for money from their console gaming experiences. Comparing mobile game pricing or F2P models to $60 console games is a pretty dishonest exercise if you know perfectly well that most of the consumers you’re targeting wouldn’t dream of spending $60 on a console game, and never have to.

Why is the second wave of microconsoles going to be different? Three words: Amazon, Google, Apple. Perhaps Sony; perhaps even Samsung or Microsoft, if the wind blows the right direction for those firms (a Samsung microconsole, sold separately and also bundled into the firm’s TVs, as Sony will probably do with Vita TV in future Bravia televisions, would make particular sense). Every major player in the tech industry has a keen interest in controlling the channel through which media is consumed in the living room. Just as Sony and Microsoft originally entered the games business with a “trojan horse” strategy for controlling living rooms, Amazon and Google now recognise games as being a useful way to pursue the same objective. Thus, unlike the plucky but poorly conceived efforts of the small companies who launched the first wave of microconsoles, the second wave is backed by the most powerful tech giants in the world, whose titanic struggle with each other for control of the means of media distribution means their devices will have enormous backing.

To that end, Amazon has created its own game studios, focusing their efforts on the elusive mid-range between casual mobile games and core console games. Other microconsole vendors may take a different approach, creating schemes to appeal to third-party developers rather than building in-house studios (Apple, at least, is almost guaranteed to go down this path; Google could yet surprise us by pursuing in-house development for key exclusive titles). Either way, the investment in software will come. The second wave of microconsoles will not be “boxes that let you play phone games on your TV”; at least not entirely. Rather, they will enjoy dedicated software support from companies who understand that a hit exclusive game would be a powerful way to drive installed base and usage.

Moreover, this wave of microconsoles will enjoy significant retail support. Fire TV’s edge is obvious; Amazon is the world’s largest and most successful online retailer, and it will give Fire TV prime billing on its various sites. The power of being promoted strongly by Amazon is not to be underestimated. Kindle Fire devices may still be eclipsed by the astonishing strength of the iPad in the tablet market, but they’re effectively the only non-iPad devices in the running, in sales terms, largely because Amazon has thrown its weight as a retailer behind them. Apple, meanwhile, is no laggard at retail, operating a network of the world’s most profitable stores to sell its own goods, while Google, although the runt of the litter in this regard, has done a solid job of balancing direct sales of its Nexus handsets with carrier and retail sales, work which it could bring to bear effectively on a microconsole offering.

In short, the second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail. Moreover, they’ll be “trojan horse” devices in more ways than one, since their primary purpose will be as media devices, streaming content from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and so on, while also serving as solid gaming devices in their own right. Here, then, is the convergence that microconsole advocates (and the rather less credible advocates of Smart TV) have been predicting all along; a tiny box that will stream all your media off the network and also build in enough gaming capability to satisfy the mainstream of consumers. Between the microconsole under the TV and the phone in your pocket, that’s gaming all sewn up, they reckon; just as a smartphone camera is good enough for almost everyone, leaving digital SLRs and their ilk to the devoted hobbyist, the professional and the poseur, a microconsole and a smartphone will be more than enough gaming for almost everyone, leaving dedicated consoles and gaming PCs to a commercially irrelevant hardcore fringe.

There are, I think, two problems with that assessment. The first is the notion that the “hardcore fringe” who will use dedicated gaming hardware is small enough to be commercially irrelevant; I’ve pointed out before that the strong growth of a new casual gaming market does not have to come at the cost of growth in the core market, and may even support it by providing a new stream of interested consumers. This is not a zero-sum game, and will not be a zero-sum game until we reach a point where there are no more non-gaming consumers out there to introduce to our medium. Microconsoles might do very well and still cause not the slightest headache to PlayStation, Xbox or Steam.

The second problem with the assessment is a problem with the microconsoles themselves – a problem which the Fire TV suffers from very seriously, and which will likely be replicated by subsequent devices. The problem is control.

Games are an interactive experience. Having a box which can run graphically intensive games is only one side of the equation – it is, arguably, the less important side of the equation. The other side is the controller, the device through which the player interacts with the game world. The most powerful graphics hardware in the world would be meaningless without some enjoyable, comfortable, well-designed method of interaction for players; and out of the box, Fire TV doesn’t have that.

Sure, you can control games (some of them, anyway) with the default remote control, but that’s going to be a terrible experience. I’m reminded of terribly earnest people ten years ago trying to convince me that you could have fun controlling complex games on pre-smartphone phones, or on TV remote controls linked up to cable boxes; valiant efforts ultimately doomed not only by a non-existent business ecosystem but by a terrible, terrible user experience. Smartphones heralded a gaming revolution not just because of the App Store ecosystem, but because it turned out that a sensitive multi-touch screen isn’t a bad way of controlling quite a lot of games. It still doesn’t work for many types of game; a lot of traditional game genres are designed around control mechanisms that simply can’t be shoehorned onto a smartphone. By and large, though, developers have come to grips with the possibilities and limitations of the touchscreen as a controller, and are making some solid, fun experiences with it.

With Fire TV, and I expect with whatever offering Google and Apple end up making, the controller is an afterthought – both figuratively and literally. You have to buy it separately, which keeps down the cost of the basic box but makes it highly unlikely that the average purchaser will be able to have a good game experience on the device. The controller itself doesn’t look great, which doesn’t help much, but simply being bundled with the box would make a bold statement about Fire TV’s gaming ambitions. As it is, this is not a gaming device. It’s a device that can play games if you buy an add-on; the notion that a box is a “gaming device” just because its internal chips can process game software, even if it doesn’t have the external hardware required to adequately control the experience, is the kind of notion only held by people who don’t play or understand games.

This is the Achilles’ Heel of the second generation of microconsoles. They offer a great deal – the backing of the tech giants, potentially huge investment and enormous retail presence. They could, with the right wind in their sales, help to bring “sofa gaming” to the same immense, casual audience that presently enjoys “pocket gaming”. Yet the giant unsolved question remains; how will these games be controlled? A Fire TV owner, a potential casual gamer, who tries to play a game using his remote control and finds the experience frustrating and unpleasant won’t go off and buy a controller to make things better; he’ll shrug and return to the Hulu app, dismissing the Games panel of the device as being a pointless irrelevance.

The answer doesn’t have to be “bundle a joypad”. Perhaps it’ll be “tether to a smartphone”, a decision which would demand a whole new approach to interaction design (which would be rather exciting, actually). Perhaps a simple Wiimote style wand could double as a remote control and a great motion controller or pointer. Perhaps (though I acknowledge this as deeply unlikely) a motion sensor like a “Kinect Lite” could be the solution. Many compelling approaches exist which deserve to be tried out; but one thing is absolutely certain. While the second generation of microconsoles are going to do very well in sales terms, they will primarily be bought as media streaming boxes – and will never be an important games platform until the question of control gets a good answer.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Wi-Fi Problems Plague Apple-Samsung Trial

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

There’s a new sign on the door to Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in San Jose, the location of the Apple v. Samsung battle that’s playing out this month: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

For a trial that centers on smartphones and the technology they use, it’s more than a little ironic. The entire case might not even be taking place if the market wasn’t so big and important, but the constant need for connectivity of everyone is causing problems in the court, hence the new sign.

The problems have centered on the system that displays the court reporter’s real-time transcription onto monitors on the desks of Judge Lucy Koh, the presiding judge in the case, and the lawyers of Apple and Samsung. The system, it seems, is connected via Wi-Fi and that connection keeps failing.

“We have a problem,” Judge Koh told the courtroom on April 4, soon after the problem first appeared. Without the system, Koh said she couldn’t do her job, so if people didn’t shut off electronics, she might have to ban them from the courtroom.

In many other courts, electronic devices are routinely banned, but the Northern District of California and Judge Koh have embraced technology more than most. While reporters and spectators are limited to a pen and paper in courts across the country, the court here permits live coverage through laptops and even provides a free Wi-Fi network.

On Monday, the problems continued and Judge Koh again asked for all cellphones to be switched off.

But not everyone listened. A scan of the courtroom revealed at least one hotspot hadn’t been switched off: It was an SK Telecom roaming device from South Korea, likely used by a member of Samsung’s team.

The hotspot was switched off by the end of the day, but on Tuesday there were more problems.

“You. Ma’am. You in the front row,” Judge Koh said sternly during a break. She’d spotted an Apple staffer using her phone and made the culprit stand, give her name and verbally agree not to use the handset again in court.

As a result of all the problems, lawyers for Apple and Samsung jointly suggested using a scheduled two-day break in the case to hardwire the transcription computers to the court’s network.

The cable wasn’t installed.

“I believe there were some issues, We’re attempting to install it,” one of the attorneys told IDG News Service during the court lunch break.

So for now, the problems continue.

The clerk opened the day with an appeal to switch phones off, “not even airplane mode.”

That still didn’t help.

The transcription screens failed at 9:09 a.m., just minutes into the first session of the morning.

 

IRS Missed Windows XP Deadline, To Pay Microsoft Millions

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed that it missed the April 8 cut-off for Windows XP support, and will be shelling out Microsoft millions for an extra year of security patches.

Microsoft terminated Windows XP support on Tuesday when it shipped the final public patches for the nearly-13-year-old operating system. Without patches for vulnerabilities discovered in the future, XP systems will be at risk from cyber criminals who hijack the machines and plant malware on them.

During an IRS budget hearing Monday before the House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, the chairman, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) wondered why the agency had not wrapped up its Windows XP-to-Windows 7 move.

“Now we find out that you’ve been struggling to come up with $30 million to finish migrating to Windows 7, even though Microsoft announced in 2008 that it would stop supporting Windows XP past 2014,” Crenshaw said at the hearing. “I know you probably wish you’d already done that.”

According to the IRS, it has approximately 110,000 Windows-powered desktops and notebooks. Of those, 52,000, or about 47%, have been upgraded to Windows 7. The remainder continue to run the aged, now retired, XP.

John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, defended the unfinished migration, saying that his agency had $300 million worth of IT improvements on hold because of budget issues. One of those was the XP-to-7 migration.

“You’re exactly right,” Koskinen said of Crenshaw’s point that everyone had fair warning of XP’s retirement. “It’s been some time where people knew Windows XP was going to disappear.”

But he stressed that the migration had to continue. “Windows XP will no longer be serviced, so we are very concerned if we don’t complete that work we’re going to have an unstable environment in terms of security,” Koskinen said.

According to Crenshaw, the IRS had previously said it would take $30 million out of its enforcement budget to finish the migration.

Part of that $30 million will be payment to Microsoft for what the Redmond, Wash. developer calls “Custom Support,” the label for a program that provides patches for critical vulnerabilities in a retired operating system.

Analysts noted earlier this year that Microsoft had dramatically raised prices for Custom Support, which previously had been capped at $200,000 per customer for the first year. Instead, Microsoft negotiates each contract separately, asking for an average of $200 per PC for the first year of Custom Support.

Using that average — and the number of PCs the IRS admitted were still running XP — the IRS would pay Microsoft $11.6 million for one year of Custom Support.

The remaining $18.4 million would presumably be used to purchase new PCs to replace the oldest ones running XP. If all 58,000 remaining PCs were swapped for newer devices, the IRS would be spending an average of $317 per system.

 

 

HP To Shell Out $108M In Corruption And Bribery Case

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million in penalties after subsidiaries in Russia, Poland and Mexico were found to have given out bribes to gain business, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

An international subsidiary of HP has agreed to plead guilty to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and admit to its role in bribing Russian officials to secure a big contract there, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The U.S. is also entering into “criminal resolutions” with HP subsidiaries in Poland and Mexico, relating to contracts with Poland’s national police agency and Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, the DOJ said.

The HP entities will pay a total of $77 million in criminal penalties and forfeiture related to those dealings. HP has also reached a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that will cost it a further $31 million.

The subsidiaries created a “slush fund” for bribe payments and set up “an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts” to launder money, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz said in a statement.

HP said it had cooperated with the investigations.

“The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company,” John Schultz, HP’s general counsel, said in a statement.

The investigation had been ongoing for some time, and HP said last month it was close to resolving the matter.

The Russian dealings date back to 1999, when the government there announced a project to automate the IT systems at the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation — essentially Russia’s equivalent of the DOJ.

The project was worth more than $100 million, and employees at HP Russia structured the deal to include a fund of several million dollars, at least part of which was intended as bribes for Russian officials, the DOJ said.

The DOJ acknowledged HP’s “extensive cooperation,” and HP said it would set up certain compliance and reporting programs.

It’s not the only company to have run into trouble doing business overseas. IBM and Oracle in the past have also reported potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

 

Can AMD’s A1 Challenge Intel’s Bay Trail?

April 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has released its first “system in a socket” single accelerated processor unit (APU) that aims to reduce the cost of entry-level PCs.

Based on the firm’s Kabini system on chip (SoC), the APU is named the “AM1 Platform”, combining most system functions into one chip, with the motherboard and APU together costing around between $39 and $59.

Launched at the beginning of March and released today in North America, AMD’s AM1 Platform is aimed at markets where entry-level PCs are competing against other low-cost devices.

“We’re seeing that the market for these lower-cost PCs is increasing,” said AMD desktop product marketing manager Adam Kozak. “We’re also seeing other devices out there trying to fill that gap, but there’s really a big difference between what these devices can do versus what a Windows PC can do.”

The AM1 Platform combines an Athlon or Sempron processor with a motherboard based on the FS1b upgradable socket design. These motherboards have no chipset, as all functions are integrated into the APU, and only require additional memory modules to make a working system.

The AM1 SoC has up to four Jaguar CPU cores and an AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU, an on-chip memory controller supporting up to 16GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, plus all the typical system input and output functions, including SATA ports for storage, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, as well as VGA and HDMI graphics outputs.

AMD’s Jaguar core is best known for powering both Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 (PS4) games consoles. The AM1 Platform supports Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in 32-bit or 64-bit architectures.

AMD said that it is going after Intel’s Bay Trail with the AM1 Platform, and expects to see it in small form factor desktop PCs such as netbooks and media-streaming boxes.

“We see it being used for basic computing, some light productivity and basic gaming, and really going after the Windows 8.1 environment with its four cores, which we’ll be able to offer for less,” Kozak added.

AMD benchmarked the AM1 Platform against an Intel Pentium J2850 with PC Mark 8 v2 and claimed it produced double the performance of the Intel processor. See the table below.

The FS1b upgradable socket means that users will be able to upgrade the system at a later date, while in Bay Trail and other low-cost platforms the processor is mounted directly to the motherboard.

AMD lifted the lid on its Kabini APU for tablets and mainstream laptops last May. AMD’s A series branded Kabini chips are quad-core processors, with the 15W A4-5000 and 25W A6-5200 clocked at 1.5GHz and 2GHz, respectively.

Courtesy-TheInq

Are Cyber-crimes Taxing Security Vendors?

April 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A surge in cybercrime is forcing security vendors to release security updates every 40 minutes, according to security firm Symantec.

Senior manager for Symantec Security Response, Orla Cox, reported the development during a briefing attended by The INQUIRER.

“We’re seeing more sophisticated attacks than ever before and people want security,” she said. “Nowadays we are rolling out virus signature upgrades around every 40-50 minutes. They are rapid response upgrades that go through partial vetting. We then follow them up with three upgrades per day that are fully certified.”

Cox said Symantec began rolling out the rapid updates to help mitigate the growing number of malware variants and active cyber campaigns targeting its customers.

“It’s been about shaving off minutes for the last couple of years. If you came to us a few years ago it was one [update] and before that it would have taken hours. The rapid updates are for people that need a rapid response, like those suffering an infection.”

She said Symantec blocked 568,700 web attacks on its customers and detected a massive 1.6 million malware variants per day in 2013. But despite helping customers, Cox said the company’s rapid update cycle has increased the risk of pushing out an update with a false positive signature.

“The biggest quality issue we face is the danger of false positive definitions. There’s a risk of detecting something clean as malicious, that’s the big no no in our industry, so it’s as much about building definitions libraries about legit files as malicious,” she said.

False positives are updates from security providers that list legitimate files as malware and block them from running. In the past the faulty updates have caused damage to many companies. In 2013, Malwarebytes crippled thousands of its customers’ machines when it issued a false positive update.

Cox said the influx of new threats has also forced Symantec to expand its analysis procedures in recent years. “We’ve had to evolve how we work, it’s not just about providing protection and moving on any more. Threats and the landscape have changed and to address this we’ve begun doing intelligence work,” she said.

“We do bespoke research on occasion, with both customers and law enforcement. These situations are ones where we have the skills they don’t – that’s the benefit of us being here every day, reverse-engineering malware.

“Doing this over the years we’ve had to develop a number of systems and now we’re trying to understand the individual attacks in the context of who did them and why.”

Symantec is one of many technology firms to begin adopting an intelligence-based approach to cyber defence. Facebook unveiled a new automated ThreatData security service designed to detect and catalogue new malware families earlier in March.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Lenovo Says More Low-priced Android Tablets Coming In May

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

More lower priced Android tablets ranging from $129 to $249 are coming from Lenovo.

The new Tab A-series tablets, which will ship next month, have screen sizes ranging from 7-10 inches and are designed for Web surfing and home entertainment, Lenovo said. Other than screen sizes and weight, the tablets have mostly identical features.

The cheapest tablet in the lineup is the Tab A7-50, which weighs 320 grams and starts at $129. The TAB A8 weighs 360 grams and is priced starting at $179. The Tab A10 is much heftier at 560 grams, but has a larger battery that offers a Wi-Fi browsing time of eight hours, Lenovo said in a specification sheet.

All the tablets have screens that can display images at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The tablets have Android 4.2, code-named Jelly Bean, which will be upgradeable to version 4.4, code-named KitKat.

Common features also include Wi-Fi b/g/n, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an SD card slot for up to 32GB of expandable storage. The tablets have a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera. Another feature is integrated 3G mobile broadband, though Lenovo did not say whether it was included in the price or is optional.

The tablets will ship in the U.S. Lenovo did not immediately provide information about shipment plans for other countries.

Lenovo offers a range of tablets for Android and Windows 8.1, with models starting at $99. The company is trying to create brands around Android-based Yoga tablets, which are being promoted by actor Ashton Kutcher, and ThinkPad tablets, which run on Windows.

 

Security Bug In OpenSSL Leaves Webservers Vulnerable

April 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A critical security bug in OpenSSL that allows encrypted data to be stolen by hackers has been uncovered by researchers and is believed to have exposed millions to cyber spying.

Dubbed Heartbleed, the bug was discoverd in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems and allows anyone to read the memory of systems using vulnerable versions of OpenSSL software.

OpenSSL is an open source implementation of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols by which email, instant messaging, and some VPNs are kept secure.

The vulnerability is called Heartbleed because it’s in the OpenSSL implementation of the TLS/DTLS heartbeat extension described in RFC6520, and when it is exploited it can lead to leaks of memory contents from the server to the client and from the client to the server.

The researchers from defense security firm Codenomicon said that attackers could take advantage of the bug to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from server or client systems, and impersonate users and servers.

“This compromises the secret keys used to identify service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content,” the researchers wrote on a website dedicated to the bug.

“Without using any privileged information or credentials, we were able to steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication.”

Because such attacks are not traceable, it’s not clear how widespread the bug is or was, but it is thought that at least two-thirds of websites could be affected, as the most notable software using OpenSSL are the open source webservers Apache and nginx.

The researchers pointed out that the combined market share of those two webservers was over 66 percent of the active websites on the internet, according to Netcraft’s Web Server Survey released this month.

“You are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet,” the researchers added.

“Your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Although an updated version of OpenSSL has been released to patch this security vulnerability, it might take time before some operating system developers and software distributions deploy it.

“Recovery from this leak requires patching the vulnerability, revocation of the compromised keys and reissuing and redistributing new keys,” the researchers said. “Even doing all this will still leave any traffic intercepted by the attacker in the past vulnerable to decryption.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Intel Laying Off 1500, Shutting Costa Rican Operations

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Chipmaker Intel, grappling with a dwindling PC market, is shutting its assembly and test operation in Costa Rica and eliminating 1,500 jobs.

The closure of the site, which is a significant contributor to Costa Rica’s exports, falls within a larger plan announced by the chipmaker earlier this year to cut spending as it attempts to grow beyond PCs into the mobile market.

“It’s being closed and consolidated into our other operations throughout the world,” spokesman Chuck Mulloy said of the assembly and test operations in Costa Rica.

During the next two quarters, Intel will move assembly and testing from its site in Heredia, where it has been present since 1997, to existing sites in China, Malaysia and Vietnam, Mulloy said.

Costa Rica President Elect Luis Guillermo Solis met with Intel executives on Tuesday morning and they assured him the decision had nothing to do with the election of his new government on Sunday, according to a statement from Guillermo’s office.

“The decision bears no relation to the election of the new Costa Rica government or the market conditions for…potential foreign investment,” the statement said.

Intel will continue to have over 1,000 engineers, finance and human resources employees in Costa Rica and do some research and development there. The chipmaker expects to add another 200 “high-value positions” in Costa Rica later this year, Mulloy said.

Intel dominates the PC chip industry, but it has been slow to adapt its processors for smartphones and tablets, markets now dominated by rivals such as Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The cuts in Costa Rica are consistent with Intel’s announcement in January that it would reduce its global workforce of 107,000 employees by about 5 percent this year, Mulloy said.

Also in January, Intel said a newly built factory in Chandler, Arizona, originally slated as a $5 billion project that in late 2013 would start producing Intel’s most advanced chips, would remain closed for the foreseeable future while other factories at the same site are upgraded.