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Will A.I. Help nVidia And AMD Dethrone Intel?

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The move to AI could be the one catalyst which could help AMD and Nvidia carve up Intel’s mighty kingdom.

Last year saw Microsoft, Apple, Google develop more software for ARM based chips. During the year AMD and Nvidia saw their stock prices rise as shareholders started to think that they might succeed in taking Intel’s crown.

On of the reasons for this is AI which is fast becoming a bigger buzz world than Interent of Things – which is the basket Intel is putting its eggs into.

AMD and Nvidia are both making perfect AI processors in their graphics cards and now that AMD has released Polaris it is properly in a game dominated by Nvidia. AMD’s Radeon Instinct is specifically designed for the market.
Intel is doing ok in the market but it is not growing as fast as AMD or Nvidia.

According to the Verge, investors are buying up AMD stock because they know the processing challenges of the future are practically tailored for the massively parallel architecture of a GPU.

Nvidia and IBM have revealed their own agreement to provide “the world’s fastest” deep learning enterprise solution.

AMD and Nvidia should do well in the growing consumer interest in virtual reality although that might be a bubble waiting to burst. On paper at least, the most popular HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, both require tons of GPU power. However it is a moot point if these machines are the ones that will make AR work or if it will be something much cheaper and require less spec.

But if AR does take off then it will be yet another thing that Intel missed out on.

Courtesy-Fud

Security Experts Warn Of New Spora Ransomware

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Security experts have uncovered a new ransomware program dubbed Spora that can perform strong offline file encryption and brings several ‘innovations’ to the ransom payment model.

The malware has targeted Russian-speaking users so far, but its authors have also created an English version of their decryption portal, suggesting they will likely expand their attacks to other countries soon.

Spora stands out because it can encrypt files without having to contact a command-and-control (CnC) server and does so in a way that still allows every victim to have a unique decryption key.

Traditional ransomware programs generate an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) key for every encrypted file and then encrypts these keys with an RSA public key generated by a CnC server.

 Public key cryptography like RSA relies on key pairs made up of a public key and a private key. Whatever file is encrypted with one public key can only be decrypted with its corresponding private key.
Most ransomware programs contact a command-and-control server after they’re installed on a computer and request the generation of an RSA key pair. The public key is downloaded to the computer, but the private key never leaves the server and remains in the attackers’ possession. This is the key that victims pay to get access to.

The problem with reaching out to a server on the internet after installation of ransomware is that it creates a weak link for attackers. For example, if the server is known by security companies and is blocked by a firewall, the encryption process doesn’t start.

Some ransomware programs can perform so-called offline encryption, but they use the same RSA public key that’s hard-coded into the malware for all victims. The downside with this approach for attackers is that a decryptor tool given to one victim will work for all victims because they share the same private key as well.

The Spora creators have solved this problem, according to researchers from security firm Emsisoft who analyzed the program’s encryption routine.

The malware does contain a hard-coded RSA public key, but this is used to encrypt a unique AES key that is locally generated for every victim. This AES key is then used to encrypt the private key from a public-private RSA key pair that’s also locally generated and unique for every victim. Finally, the victim’s public RSA key is used to encrypt the AES keys that are used to encrypt individual files.

In other words, the Spora creators have added a second round of AES and RSA encryption to what other ransomware programs have been doing until now.

So far, researchers have seen Spora distributed via rogue email attachments that pose as invoices from an accounting software program popular in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries. The attachments are in the form of .HTA (HTML Application) files that contain malicious JavaScript code.

The Email Privacy Act Re-introduced To Protect U.S. Citizens

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A bill has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before they dig into users’ emails and other communications in the cloud that are older than 180 days.

The Email Privacy Act, reintroduced on Monday, aims to fix a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows the government to search without a warrant email and other electronic communications that are older than 180 days and stored on servers of third-party service providers such as Google and Yahoo.

“Thanks to the wording in a more than 30-year-old law, the papers in your desk are better protected than the emails in your inbox,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, digital rights organization, said in a blog post Monday.

The bill was passed by the House last year but stalled in the Senate. U.S. Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan) and Jared Polis (D-Colo) said they are reintroducing the legislation because the Senate failed to act on it before the 114th Congress came to a close.

 If the legislation becomes law, government agencies will have to obtain a warrant based on a showing of probable cause to compel service providers to disclose emails and other electronic communications of Americans, regardless of the age of the mails or the means of storage. In the original version of the legislation, the government also had to notify the person whose account is disclosed, along with a copy of the search warrant and other information, within a stipulated period.

Privacy groups and tech companies backed the legislation when it was first introduced. But it failed to clear the Senate as it was bogged down with amendments such as the requirement of mandatory compliance by service providers without court oversight when law enforcement claimed an emergency as an exception for asking for user data. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that would expand the information that the FBI can obtain with a National Security letter without prior judicial oversight.

“Government access to communications without oversight of warrants is a dangerous path for any country that supports democratic values,” said Ed Black, CEO and president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a statement Monday.

“Rules on how the government can access electronic communications in criminal investigations have simply not kept up with advances in modern technology. Indeed, US law still treats data stored in the cloud differently than data stored on a local computer,” said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation vice president Daniel Castro in a statement.

Opposition to the bill came previously from a number of agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which uses administrative subpoenas on service providers to work around people under investigation who don’t keep copies of incriminating mail after sending it or decline to share their content with the SEC.

Yahoo Renames Itself, To Become Altaba

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc has announced that it would rename itself Altaba Inc and Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer would resign from the board after the closing of its deal with Verizon Communications Inc.

Yahoo has a deal to sell its core internet business, which includes its digital advertising, email and media assets, to Verizon for $4.83 billion.

The terms of that deal could be amended – or the transaction may even be called off – after Yahoo last year disclosed two separate data breaches; one involving some 500 million customer accounts and the second involving over a billion.

 Verizon executives have said that while they see a strong strategic fit with Yahoo, they are still investigating the data breaches.

Five other Yahoo directors would also resign after the deal closes, Yahoo said in a regulatory filing on Monday.

The remaining directors will govern Altaba, a holding company whose primary assets will be a 15 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan.

The new company also named Eric Brandt chairman of the board, effective Jan. 9.

Israel’s Team8 Cybersecurity Firm Gets Microsoft, Qualcomm Funding

January 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture capitalists divisions of Microsoft and Qualcomm have invested in Team8, an Israeli creator of cybersecurity start-ups, as big multinational companies back Israel’s burgeoning cyber industry in the face of growing threats.

Team8, which also announced on Monday a strategic partnership with Citi to help develop its products, said the most recent investment brings its total raised to more than $92 million.

Its other investors are Cisco, AT&T, Accenture, Nokia, Singapore’s Temasek, Japan’s Mitsui, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Marker LLC.

 While the number of attempted cyber attacks was 20,000 a week two or three years ago, that figure had now risen to 600,000-700,000, said Yoram Yaacovi, general manger of Microsoft Israel’s development center.

Israel has some 450 cyber start-ups, which receive 20 percent of global investment in the sector. Although the need for security is growing quickly, the proliferation of start-ups means that several companies compete in every subsector.

“A large part of companies created won’t get to the finish line,” Nadav Zafrir, Team8 chief executive and former commander of the Israeli army’s technology and intelligence unit 8200, told a news conference.

He said he believes Team8’s strong partners and its plan to build a portfolio of different technologies gives it an edge. Team8 confirmed that Microsoft had been an investor since last June.

“The expectation of our investors is to build independent companies that will lead their sectors,” he said.

Israel has a well established high tech industry, using skills of workers trained in the military and intelligence sectors. Tax breaks and government funding have encouraged start-ups, and also drawn in entrepreneurs from abroad.

Launched in 2014, Team8 employs 180 people in Israel, the United States, Britain and Singapore and plans to hire 100 more workers in 2017.

Two companies it created are Illusive Networks, which uses deception technology to detect attacks and has been installed at banks and retailers, and Claroty, which secures critical infrastructure sites such as oil and gas fields.

Details of two more companies it has set up will be announced this year, Zafrir said.

 

HDMI v2.1 To Support 8K

January 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The HDMI Forum has officially announced the upcoming release of the HDMI v2.1 specification, bringing a range of higher video resolutions, Dynamic HDR support and more.

According to the provided details, the new HDMI v2.1 specification will be backward compatible with earlier versions and in addition to higher video resolution and refresh rates, including 8K@60Hz and 4K@120Hz, it will also bring support for Dynamic HDR, Game Mode variable refresh rate (VRR), eARC support for advanced audio formats and the new 48G cable that will provide 48Gbps of bandwidth which is a key for 8K HDR support.

The full list of resolutions and refresh rates start with 4K at 50/60Hz and 100/120Hz and climbs all the way up to 10K resolution at both 50/60Hz and 100/120Hz.

The big surprise is the new Game Mode VRR, which is similar with AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, and meant to provide stutter-, tearing- and lag-free gaming, on both consoles and the PC.

Another big novelty is the all new 48G cable, which will provide enough bandwidth for higher resolutions with HDR. The old cables will be compatible with some of the new features, but for 8K/10K with HDR, you will need the new HDMI v2.1 cable.

According to HDMI Forum, the new HDMI v2.1 specification will be available to all HDMI 2.0 Adopters which will be notified when it is released in early Q2 2017.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Android The Most Insecure OS Last Year?

January 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While people might mock Microsoft’s security, it would appear that the least most secure operating systems this year were Android, Debian and Ubuntu.

To be fair, its method of assessing the security of operating systems is somewhat bunk. It sets a figure based on the number of vulnerabilities found rather than the importance of those vulnerabilities or whether someone fixed them quickly. You know that there is something wrong when the fruity cargo cult Apple ranks rather low in the list when its “three wise monkey” approach to security vulnerabilities is legendary.

However, the figures should wipe the smug smile off the faces of those open saucers who claim that Linux and all who sail in her are much better than iOS or Windows.

Courtesy-Fud

Is BlackBerry Making A Foray Into Self-driving, Connected Cars?

December 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

blackberry-building-150x150BlackBerry has opened an R&D center in hopes of speeding up the development of software for self-driving vehicles and connected communications technology that allows vehicles to talk to each other and to the roadway infrastructure around them.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the opening of the center today in BlackBerry’s QNX development facility in Ottawa.

As part of its autonomous car development push, BlackBerry’s QNX division plans to recruit and hire local software engineers to work on ongoing and emerging engineering projects.

BlackBerry’s QNX division is a long-time developer of vehicle-embedded telematics software for the automotive industry, and the company claims its product can be found in more than 60 million vehicles today. BlackBerry’s Certicom security technology is also used for vehicle communication authentication and authorization.

BlackBerry said it’s now extending the QNX platform expertise into advanced driver assist systems, connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle systems, and secure over-the-air software update services.
QNX could act as an onboard computing hub for self-driving vehicle technology, such as sensors, cameras, and LiDAR, which uses a laser to scan the area around a vehicle and create a 3D image of its surroundings.
Last month, Ford Motor Co. announced it had inked a deal for expanded use of BlackBerry’s QNX and Certicom security software, which will ultimately allow the automaker to provide connected vehicles and secure mobile platforms for its customers.

Earlier this year, Ford announced it was dropping Microsoft as the platform for its SYNC infotainment system and adopting QNX instead. Ford’s new SYNC 3, using QNX, was rolled out in 2017 vehicles this past summer.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario recently said it will allow BlackBerry QNX to test autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of a pilot program.

One of the center’s first projects will be supporting the autonomous vehicle pilot as well as BlackBerry QNX’s work with the University of Waterloo, PolySync, and Renesas Electronics to build a autonomous concept vehicle.

What Is On The Horizon For Gaming Consoles?

December 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

xboxs-psproWith the exception of the last generation of consoles, which saw a roughly eight-year run on the market, the traditional console cycle has averaged around five to six years. This time around, however, perhaps influenced by the wave of high-end graphics cards necessitated by VR, both Microsoft and Sony are testing the market with so-called mid-cycle upgrades. The PS4 Pro and next year’s Scorpio offer gamers the chance to play in 4K – a resolution that until recently was only possible in the realm of PC gaming. Perhaps more importantly, the inclusion of HDR gaming offers a new level of visual fidelity that brings a much wider color gamut to players.

Factoring in the recent release of the Xbox One S, and the PS4 Slim model as well, we’ve never seen this many new consoles launched to the market so near to the start of a new console cycle – both PS4 and Xbox One released only three years ago – which begs the question: is the traditional console cycle now dead?

2016 and 2017 with Scorpio will certainly prove to be an interesting test for the market. It’s far too early to judge the reception to PS4 Pro, but Xbox One S has been selling moderately well, even allowing Xbox One to outsell PS4 for a few months.

NPD analyst Mat Piscatella, who joined the data firm with years of publishing experience at Activision and WBIE, commented, “I think I’d call it more ‘evolved’ than ‘died’… Nintendo seems to have already been there for years, at least in the portable space. We have to wait and see what they will do with the Switch. But the iterative model certainly will be tested over the next 12-18 months.”

“Nintendo’s past approach in the portable space has proven that the iterative model can be successful,” he continued. “However, the PS4 Pro and Scorpio (we assume) will bring much more significant performance upgrades at higher upfront costs to the consumer.

“Adding iterative hardware into a cycle also creates the need for a much more demanding set of go to market strategies while making successful execution of those strategies more critical than ever before.  Balancing game development resources, the hardware R&D challenges surrounding an iterative launch, the detailed planning that will be necessary to properly align the supply chain from production to retail to ensure the proper mix and stock volumes in channel, ensuring the pricing and price promotion programs are right, all while communicating marketing messages that speak to the different customer sets effectively… this will certainly be an ongoing challenge.”

While some have speculated that we’ll now see new consoles literally every year, mimicking the lightspeed pace at which smartphones get upgraded, the market dynamics for consoles and the impact of new hardware on developers makes that a much more difficult proposition.

Consequently, Piscatella doesn’t think we’ll see more than one new console iteration per cycle. “I don’t see a more rapid deployment as feasible due primarily to development challenges. Making video games is hard, and ensuring a game is optimized for two versions of a console is challenging enough. Getting to 3 or 4 versions of the game for the same console base seems to me as though it would bring diminishing returns,” he explained.

SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen believes that the typical console cycle will remain intact, but unlike Piscatella, he sees the platform holders iterating continuously.

The constant technical upgrades that we see in mobile have effectively changed consumer expectations and the broader market for interactive entertainment, he noted. “So as Sony and Microsoft are pursuing their respective long-term VR/AR agendas, they now also have to keep in touch with what’s happening outside of their secret labs. This means we’re probably looking at the release of a new hardware architecture every 5-7 years, and allowing for annual iterations of key components throughout the lifecycle,” he said.

“This blend of internally developing proprietary hardware and adopting externally emerging trends that are popular with consumers is a powerful mix, and has allowed console gaming to thrive when many wrote it off. And given the current success of both platforms, and the imminent arrival of Nintendo’s bid, I don’t expect the console gaming market to soften any time soon.”

While the longstanding five-plus year console cycle was a boon for developers to work with and optimize for a set specification, the iterative approach that we’re likely to see in hardware moving forward brings advantages as well. As Piscatella explained, introducing console iterations can help to reduce cycle stagnation and boost consoles’ cycle tail, while also “encouraging pubs/devs to invest in scalable development environments, to hopefully avoid the dramatic steps up in development costs seen previously with new hardware deployment.”

Furthermore, by offering multiple configurations that still adhere to the same architecture (Xbox One, One S, Scorpio), there’s an opportunity for “price/benefit ratios appealing to both enthusiast and mass market audiences. Marketing approaches no longer have to take a one-size-fits-all approach,” Piscatella said.

The iterative release schedule would appear to make sense for the console manufacturers, enabling them to maximize returns and keep average pricing elevated, and so long as the ecosystem and gaming experiences are kept consistent across the numerous variations of the consoles, Sony and Microsoft don’t really care which version of their hardware a player owns – so long as that player remains invested in Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, that’s a win for Microsoft or Sony. The platform is less important than the digital ecosystem nowadays, especially with digital sales rising rapidly.

“The console market is at its heart a consumer electronics market,” van Dreunen remarked. “But increasingly it is incorporating tactics from the fashion industry, where we see an accelerated adoption of trends that emerged outside of the ateliers and studios of salaried designers. Console manufacturers have been actively pursuing digital distribution and free-to-play, both of which first gained traction on PC and mobile. Full game downloads now represent about 27% of holiday sales, up from just 5% in 2012, adding just under $7 billion a year to the console market. Titles like FIFA, GTA Online, and Call of Duty, do really well in terms of digital sales, and have managed to improve margins and player base longevity. Further facilitating this trend will be as important as making the hardware better.”

With the digital ecosystem taking precedence, it’s no surprise that Sony has made PlayStation Now streaming titles work for Windows PCs, and with the remote play feature, customers can enjoy PS4 titles on a PC or Mac as well. Microsoft, of course, which has a deep investment in the PC space with Windows 10 has extended the Xbox ecosystem across devices with Xbox Play Anywhere, enabling certain titles to be played with progress intact on a PC or Xbox console.

Whether you’re playing on Windows 10 or Xbox One doesn’t matter to Xbox boss Phil Spencer. In fact, he’s not even concerned about whether you upgrade to Scorpio next year.

“For us in the console [industry], the business is not selling the console,” Spencer told me back at E3. “The business is more of an attached business to the console install base. So if you’re an Xbox One customer and you bought that console 3 years ago, I think you’re a great customer. You’re still using the device. That’s why we focus on monthly active users. That’s actually the health of our ecosystem because it’s really you want this large install base of people that are active in your network buying games, playing games… So our model’s not really built around selling you a new console every one or two years. The model is almost the exact opposite. If I can keep you with the console you have, keep you engaged in buying and playing games, that’s a good business.”

If frequent hardware iteration is indeed the new reality for the console market, publishers couldn’t be happier. “I actually see it…as an incredibly positive evolution of the business strategy for players and for our industry and definitely for EA. The idea that we would potentially not have an end of cycle and a beginning of cycle I think is a positive place for our industry to be and for all of the commercial partners as well as players,” EA global publishing chief Laura Miele said during the company’s EA Play conference.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick agreed, “It would be a very good thing for us,” not to have to worry about hardware and who owns which console. He likened it to TV. “When you make a television show you don’t ask yourself ‘what monitor is this going to play on?’ It could play on a 1964 color television or it could play on a brand-new 4K television, but you’re still going to make a good television show.”

“We will get to the point where the hardware becomes a backdrop,” he said. That may very well be true. At the point when high fidelity games are playable literally anywhere and on any device, will we even have consoles? Much like Netflix, the networks and content providers/curators will live on, but hardware may not matter.

And as happy as publishers appear to be about the new world of console iteration, NPD’s Piscatella did point to a possible cause for concern. “Here’s the real question. If consumers are purchasing multiple iterations of the same console over the course of a generation, does this potentially increase or decrease the amount of money that consumer will spend on software and associated content?” he asked.

“And I think this is an open question… will they spend more because they’ve reinvested in the ecosystems? Or will they spend less because they’ve just output more money on to the iterative hardware? We’ll see how the market answers that question over the next 12-18 months.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

LinkedIn’s Lynda.com Reports Hacking

December 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

lynda-150x150Lynda.com, the online learning subsidiary of LinkedIn, has reset passwords for some of its subscribers after it discovered recently that an unauthorized external party had accessed a database containing user data.

The passwords of close to 55,000 affected users were reset as a precautionary measure and they have been notified of the issue, LinkedIn said in a statement over the weekend.

The professional network is also notifying about 9.5 million Lynda.com users who “had learner data, but no protected password information,” in the breached database. “We have no evidence that any of this data has been made publicly available and we have taken additional steps to secure Lynda.com accounts,” according to the statement.

In a notice to users, Lynda.com said that the database breach could have included some of the users’ Lynda.com learning data, such as contact information and courses viewed. It added that it was warning users out of an abundance of caution.

The company said in a reply on Twitter that it was taking the issue very seriously and was working with law enforcement.

Lynda.com was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion in a cash and stock deal. The parent was in turn acquired by Microsoft this month after meeting regulatory approval from the European Union for the all-cash transaction worth US$26.2 billion.

 

EU Regulators Says Big Data Needs Further Review, Rules

December 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

big-data-150x150Additional rules could be required to monitor growth in Big Data, or collection of high volumes of information, which could pose security, privacy and accountability risks, European Union regulators said on Monday.

Entire business sectors are being reshaped by building on data analytics and Big Data has the capability to transform the way products and services are provided, Gabriel Bernardino, chairman of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, said.

Regulators worry that some customers will be classed as “undesirable” as firms are able to undertake more detailed analysis on them, EU banking, insurance and markets regulators said in a joint statement.

 They launched a public consultation on the benefits and risks of Big Data for consumers and financial firms to see if more “regulatory or supervisory” actions may be needed.

“For example, consumers seeking household insurance for properties located in areas exposed to high risks such as floods, earthquakes or crime may have to pay very high premiums or might not be offered an insurance coverage,” they said.

Firms could increase prices based on data showing that a customer was unlikely to switch services. There is also a need to ensure that firms have adequate protection against cyber attacks on the data they hold, the regulators said in the statement.

Data is pulled from mobile phones, the internet and other sources in a bid to get new insights on customer behavior and predict future events more accurately.

The data is then used to tailor products to customers, such as by monitoring how they drive, or to inform investment decisions.

Big Data currently comes under broader EU rules on data protection, competition and consumer protection, but there are no rules written specifically for the sector.

There is no comprehensive information on how many banks, insurers and other financial firms use Big Data or on the market share of the key users and owners of Big Data technologies.

Financial firms are increasingly appointing “chief data officers” as cooperation agreements between financial firms and data providers proliferate, the regulators said.

The three regulators said the availability of data is likely to exponentially increase in the future and they would publish during 2017 their decision regarding next steps.

BlackBerry Turns Over Phone Licensing To Manufacturer TCL

December 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

blackberry-building-150x150A week after it officially exited the smartphone market, BlackBerry has agreed to license its brand to handset manufacturer TCL.

The Chinese company will make and market future BlackBerry handsets worldwide except for India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where BlackBerry has already struck local licensing deals.

This is hardly new territory for TCL, which manufactured BlackBerry’s last two handsets, the Android-based DTEK50 and DTEK60.

 BlackBerry has taken a more direct route out of the handset manufacturing business than Nokia, another of the marquee phone brands of the early years of this century. When Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, it also gave that company the right to use the Nokia brand for a transitional period. When Nokia got its name back earlier this year, it promptly granted a 10-year license to HMD Global, a Finnish company, to use its name on new phones.

Nokia and BlackBerry both failed to keep up with changes in the mobile market, Nokia belatedly realizing the importance of touch in smartphones then betting on the wrong operating system, and BlackBerry recognizing, too late, that its OS, although more secure than Android, could never compete without the support of app developers.

Unsurprisingly, both HMD and TCL are now betting on Android rather than BlackBerry OS or Windows Phone.

TCL has experience when it comes to resurrecting other companies’ brands. It bought the smartphone business that once belonged to French telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel, and says it is now the number four phone brand in North America. It is on track to ship around 70 million phones this year, well over half of them smartphones.

BlackBerry isn’t just going to sit back and cash TCS’s royalty checks. While it is handing over responsibility for design, manufacturing, marketing, and supporting the phones to TCL, it will continue to develop its suite of security software and services for use in future phones.

TCL is keeping quiet about what comes after the DTEK50 and DTEK60 for now: It will announce its plans in the next few months.

Are VR Games Profitable?

December 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Dean Hall, CEO of RocketWerkz and previously lead designer of DayZ, has spoken openly on Reddit about the harsh financial realities of VR development, explaining that without the subsidies provided by platform exclusives and other mechanisms, the medium would currently be largely unviable.

In an extended post which has garnered over 200 comments, Hall proclaimed that there was simply “no money” in VR game development, explaining that even though his VR title Out of Ammo had sold better than expected, it remained unprofitable.

Hall believes that many consumer expectations from the mature and well-supported PC market have carried over to VR, with customers not fully comprehending the challenges involved with producing content for such a small install base.

“From our standpoint, Out of Ammo has exceeded our sales predictions and achieved our internal objectives,” Hall explained. “However, it has been very unprofitable. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be profitable. We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to lose money and we had the funding internally to handle this. Consider then that Out of Ammo has sold unusually well compared to many other VR games.”

Pointing out that making cross-platform VR to ameliorate that small install base is not as simple as cross platform console development, Hall went on to talk about the realities of funding VR games, and what that meant for the studios involved.

“Where do you get money to develop your games? How do you keep paying people? The only people who might be profitable will be microteams of one or two people with very popular games. The traditional approach has been to partner with platform developers for several reasons:

“The most common examples of this are the consoles. At launch, they actually have very few customers and the initial games release for them, if not bundled and/or with (timed or otherwise) exclusivity deals – the console would not have the games it does. Developers have relied on this funding in order to make games.

“How are the people who are against timed exclusives proposing that development studios pay for the development of the games?

“There is no money in it. I don’t mean ‘money to go buy a Ferrari’. I mean ‘money to make payroll’. People talk about developers who have taken Oculus/Facebook/Intel money like they’ve sold out and gone off to buy an island somewhere. The reality is these developers made these deals because it is the only way their games could come out.

“Here is an example. We considered doing some timed exclusivity for Out of Ammo, because it was uneconomical to continue development. We decided not to because the money available would just help cover costs. The amount of money was not going to make anyone wealthy. Frankly, I applaud Oculus for fronting up and giving real money out with really very little expectations in return other than some timed-exclusivity. Without this subsidization there is no way a studio can break even, let alone make a profit.

“Some will point to GabeN’s email about fronting costs for developers, however I’ve yet to know anyone who’s got that, has been told about it, or knows how to apply for this. It also means you need to get to a point you can access this. Additionally, HTC’s “accelerator” requires you to set up your studio in specific places – and these specific places are incredibly expensive areas to live and run a studio. I think Valve/HTC’s no subsidy/exclusive approach is good for the consumer in the short term – but terrible for studios.

“As I result I think we will see more and more microprojects, and then more and more criticism that there are not more games with more content.”

In addition to the financial burdens, Hall says that there are other pressures too. For example, in his experience VR development burns people out very quickly indeed, with the enthusiasm of most, including himself, waning after a single project.

“I laugh now when people say or tweet me things like ‘I can’t wait to see what your next VR game will be!’ Honestly, I don’t think I want to make any more VR games. Our staff who work on VR games all want to rotate off after their work is done. Privately, developers have been talking about this but nobody seems to feel comfortable talking about it publicly – which I think will ultimately be bad.”

“For us it became clear that the rise of VR would be gradual rather than explosive when in 2015, it was revealed that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive would be released in 2016 and that the gold rush would be on hold”

Sam Watts, Make Real

It’s not a universal opinion among VR developers, however: there was opposition to Hall’s points both within and beyond the thread. Sam Watts, Operations Lead at Make Real had the following to say.

“I think the reality of that thread is a direct result of a perceived gold rush by developers of all sizes to a degree, since analyst predictions around sales volumes of units were far higher than the reality towards the end of the year. There have been waves of gold rush perceptions with VR over the past few years, mostly around each release of new hardware expecting the next boom to take the technology into the mainstream, which has mostly failed to materialise.

“For us it became clear that the rise of VR would be gradual rather than explosive when in 2015, it was revealed that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive would be released in 2016 and that the gold rush would be on hold.”

Watts also sees a healthier VR ecosystem on the way, one where big publishers might be more willing to invest in the sort of budgets which console games are used to.

“Whilst typical AAA budgets aren’t yet being spent on VR (to our knowledge) it doesn’t mean AAA isn’t dipping their toe in the water. The main leader being Ubisoft who created a small VR R&D team that eventually became the Eagle Flight devs. They have avoided what many early VR developers were worried about AAA approach to VR by prototyping, iterating on design, making mistakes, learning from them and working out what does and doesn’t work in VR, even creating a now widely popular comfort option of the reduced peripheral vision black tunnel effect. They didn’t just storm in late to the party, throwing AAA megabucks around at the problem, assuming money would make great games.

“I know Oculus, Steam, Sony and Razer are still funding games titles for development in 2017, I would hope to see this continue beyond to ensure the continued steady adoption and rise of VR as a new gaming platform moving forwards. This will help continue to improve the quality of content offering on the platforms to ensure full gaming experiences that gamers want to buy and return to, rather than just a series of short tech demos, are available, helping establish the medium and widen the net.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

BlackBerry Unveils New Mobile Security Platform

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

blackberry-logo-150x150BlackBerry has unveiled a comprehensive mobile-security platform for a wide range of Internet of Things devices connected to enterprises.

Officially named BlackBerry Secure, the mobile security software and related services will combine key technologies from recent BlackBerry acquisitions including Good Technology, WatchDox, AtHoc and Encription. The company detailed its efforts in a blog post.

BlackBerry emphasized that the new approach will simplify management and security for smartphones, tablets, sensors and industrial devices, among other objects, that it calls the “Enterprise of Things.” With this new approach, customers will be able to simplify management and lower cost.

“Blackberry is no longer about the smartphone, but about the smart in the phone and in cars and containers and medical devices and wearables and industrial devices,” BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in a late afternoon conference call.

“We believe this is the most comprehensive mobile security platform for the emerging Enterprise of Things,” Beard said.

BlackBerry officials said BlackBerry Secure is more than a re-branding of previous offers made to enterprises, since it combines disparate software platforms — a process that took company engineers nearly a year to complete. Customers will be able to access device management and security from a single back-end and a single front-end.

Customers will also be able to pick and choose capabilities under a set of five different suites revolving around the BlackBerry BES12 software that meets their needs. Payment will be made using an annual subscription model.

Carl Weise, president of global sales, said BlackBerry Secure is already in early trials with dozens of existing BlackBerry customers, though no customers were named. “We’ve gotten very good feedback on the early trials,” he said.

BlackBerry Secure will be available in the first 10 days of January, he said.

Does Nintendo’s 3DS Have Security Issues?

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo is offering cash rewards for hackers that can expose security weaknesses in its 3DS family of consoles.

Upwards of $20,000 will be made available to successful hackers who can help address the weaknesses in Nintendo’s portable machine. The offer does not extend to Wii U.

It’s part of a program the firm is working on with HackerOne.

The offer is Nintendo’s renewed efforts to reduce piracy (including game application dumping and game copying execution), cheating (which includes game modification and save data modification) and the spreading of inappropriate content to children.

It suggests that Nintendo is true to its statement that it wants to maintain its 3DS business, even after the launch of its Switch console in March. Switch, which doubles as both a home and portable console, is seen as the natural successor to the 3DS, although Nintendo has stated it will continue to release games for the hardware. Over 60m 3DS consoles have been sold worldwide since the machine launched in 2011.

The ‘reward’ for finding vulnerabilities in the 3DS hardware will range from $100 to $20,000, and the amount will be at Nintendo’s discretion. Vulnerabilities that are already known will not be counted. The level of the reward will depend on the importance of information, quality of report and the severity of the vulnerability. Nintendo is looking for reports that include a proof of concept or functional exploit of code.

Courtesy-Fud

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