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Is Unity Up to Something Big?

October 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Earlier today Unity Technologies caused quite a stir in the games industry with the announcement that former Electronic Arts chief exec John Riccitiello would be taking over the CEO job for David Helgason. While EA struggled to make shareholders happy, Unity has been seeing tremendous growth, becoming a favorite toolset for large and small publishers and especially indies. In fact, the company serves over 600,000 monthly developers. But what does Unity really have up its sleeve? Is the hiring of a notable leader like Riccitiello a sign that the company is indeed being groomed for a buyout or public offering?

“John Riccitiello’s corporate moves will rightfully inspire speculation about major changes in the companies involved and as Unity is the dominant independent development platform, what happens next could affect most developers and publishers outside of the top ten,” remarked independent analyst Billy Pidgeon. “An acquisition is very possible although Unity CTO Joachim Ante has denied this. Unity needs to be independent and available to all to retain and grow its value, so a sale to a major publisher or developer would sharply decrease the company’s revenue flow. But a buyer outside the industry could allow Unity to remain somewhat independent, although clients might be wary of doing business with Unity’s new owner.”

EEDAR’s Patrick Walker, head of insights and analytics, largely agreed with Pidgeon, commenting, “While the stature of Riccitiello as a hire and his interest in helming the Unity ship suggest that there are big plans in the works for the company, it is unlikely that these plans are focused on the short term, such as preparation for a near-term buyout. A buyout has been rumored for a while, and the Unity executive team, including founder David Helgason and CTO Joachim Ante, has been consistent in their messaging statement focusing on the company mission rather than pursuit of a buyout. More likely, Riccitiello is being brought on board to spur growth for a longer-term play, such as an eventual IPO or larger-scale buyout.”

Regardless of whether a longer-term buyout is in the cards, Riccitiello has the experience to help accelerate Unity’s growth in the next few years, most believe.

“Unity is a well-positioned company with several paths to increase growth. While game publishing is one route to spur growth, there is also an opportunity for the company to leverage the strengths, such as cross-platform flexibility, that have given it such broad penetration in the indie market to increase penetration in other development verticals,” Walker continued. “Riccitiello has an ideal background, having led major companies both inside and outside the games industry and having served on the Unity board for the past year, to drive partnerships that will help grow Unity as a major development platform across the full spectrum of publishers and developers.”

Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter added, “He is certainly capable of leading them, and also well equipped to sell the company. [But] I don’t know the reason for the change.”

Perhaps one major reason for the change is to offload some of the business responsibility from Helgason who may wish to focus more on product development.

“Unity has been growing quickly for several years. The company now has over 300 employees and its technology is being used by hundreds of thousands of developers on practically every platform out there. I suspect that Dave recognized some time ago that the company had to get an experienced business manager at the helm or risk flying off the rails at some point, and that’s exactly what JR is,” observed Lewis Ward, IDC’s gaming research director.

“Some people just aren’t cut out to be CEOs of big businesses – just look at Notch. I suspect that Dave is going to be happier staying focused on the core product strategy and building relationships with studios and indie developers. From JR’s perspective, it’s a great opportunity to ride the beast that has been Unity growth over the past 3+ years. It’s a remarkable story, and I think John is probably going to enjoy the role and stepping back into an important spotlight in the industry.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Survey Reveals Workers Using Personal Devices For Job-related Tasks

October 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Many workers use their personally owned smartphones and other technology devices for job tasks, but a new survey reveals a big percentage are doing so without their employer’s knowledge.

Market research firm Gartner surveyed 4,300 U.S. consumers in June who work at large companies (with more than 1,000 employees) and found 40% used personally owned smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops as a primary or supplemental business device.

That 40% might not be unusual, but more surprisingly, Gartner found that 45% of workers not required to use a personal device for work were doing so without their employer’s knowledge.

“Almost half [are using their device] without their employer’s awareness,” said Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia in an interview.

“Are those without employer’s awareness violating a rule? That would depend on the employer,” Sabia added. “The point is that some CIOs are underestimating [the number of] employees using their devices and should be prepared for this.”

The Gartner survey found the most popular personally owned device used for work was a desktop computer, at 42%, closely followed by a smartphone, at 40%, a laptop, at 36%, and a tablet, at 26%.

“The lines between work and play are becoming more and more blurred as employees choose to use their own device for work purposes whether sanctioned by an employer or not,” Sabia said. “Devices once bought for personal use are increasingly used for work.”

 

 

U.S. Government Investigating Medical Device Hacking Threats

October 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking into about two dozen cases of suspected cybersecurity flaws in medical devices and hospital equipment that officials believe could be exploited by hackers, a senior official at the agency told Reuters.

The products under review by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT, include an infusion pump from Hospira Inc and implantable heart devices from Medtronic Inc and St Jude Medical Inc, according to other people familiar with the cases, who asked not to be identified because the probes are confidential.

These people said they do not know of any instances of hackers attacking patients through these devices, so the cyber threat should not be overstated. Still, the agency is concerned that malicious actors may try to gain control of the devices remotely and create problems, such as instructing an infusion pump to overdose a patient with drugs, or forcing a heart implant to deliver a deadly jolt of electricity, the sources said.

The senior DHS official said the agency is working with manufacturers to identify and repair software coding bugs and other vulnerabilities that hackers can potentially use to expose confidential data or attack hospital equipment. He declined to name the companies.

“These are the things that shows like ‘Homeland’ are built from,” said the official, referring to the U.S. television spy drama in which the fictional vice president of the United States is killed by a cyber attack on his pacemaker.

“It isn’t out of the realm of the possible to cause severe injury or death,” said the official, who did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of his work.

Hospira, Medtronic and St Jude Medical declined to comment on the DHS investigations. All three companies said they take cybersecurity seriously and have made changes to improve product safety, but declined to give details.

 

 

Google Launches Two-Factor Security Key

October 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has added account authentication via USB stick to its two-step verification process, offering users a more convenient way to sign in to their accounts in a secure manner.

As detailed in a Google security blog post, a compatible USB Security Key can now be used to log-in to Google accounts with two-step authentication.

The addition of the USB Security Key, Google claims, ensures that the log-in website is an actual Google website and not a fake.

Two-step authentication normally asks the user to enter a secret code sent to their phone in addition to entering their password online.

This process prevents potential attackers using passwords that might have been stolen or guessed in order to impersonate account holders, as presumably they won’t have the user’s phone to enter the code.

The USB Security Key adds another layer of protection to the process. Instead of entering a secret code, the user can simply insert their USB Security Key in their computer and tap when prompted in Google’s Chrome web browser.

Google said: “When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished.”

The USB Security Key implements the open Universal 2nd Factor protocol promoted by the FIDO Alliance, which means it can be used by other web browsers in addition to Chrome and other websites in addition to Google’s.

Google has recently enhanced the level of security it provides, and the extension of two-step authentication to include a physical security key is simply another step.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Releases First Windows 10 Update

October 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has issued the first update for Windows 10 Technical Preview, launching its fast-paced release strategy.

The update, designated as Build 9860, followed the Oct. 1 release of the preview, which Microsoft has offered businesses and technology enthusiasts to give potential customers a look at the work in progress and collect feedback during development.

The Oct. 1 version of Windows 10 was labeled Build 9841.

“Sometimes [updates] will be more frequent and sometimes there will be longer gaps, but they will always be chock full of changes and improvements, as well as some bugs and things that are not quite done,” wrote Gabe Aul, of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group on a company blog.

Aul said that Build 9860 had been handed to his group only a week ago, and repeated earlier warnings by other Microsoft managers that the preview remains incomplete and unpolished.

Although rapid iterations are nothing new to preview or beta software, Microsoft plans to accelerate the delivery of updates — ones that will include not only security patches and performance fixes, but also new features — once Windows 10 officially ships in mid-2015.

Updates will ship as often as monthly for consumers, while businesses will be able to choose between that and two additional tempos that Gartner has tagged as “near-consumer speed” and “long-term servicing.” The former will roll up the “consumer-speed” updates every four to six months to versions that fast-acting enterprises will test and deploy, while the latter will remain feature- and UI-static for as long as two to three years, receiving only security updates.

Other analysts have contended that Microsoft is pushing frequent updates to Windows 10 Technical Preview as much to test the process — both the back-end Windows Update service and the Windows 10 clients’ ability to absorb the changes and smoothly install the updates — as for the company’s stated reasons of gathering feedback and offering users an early look.

“Changes in Windows Update were put in place to make this possible,” Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said in an interview earlier this month. “The biggest question for Microsoft is how the updating process works with the Technical Preview.”

In the preview, customers have an update frequently choice of only “Fast” or “Slow.”

Build 9860 will be delivered automatically to most PCs running Windows 10 within days, but users can manually initiate the process by going to “PC Settings,” choosing “Update and recovery” and then “Preview builds,” and finally clicking the “Check Now” button.

Aul said that the download would weigh in at between 2GB and 2.7GB, and that the reboot, the reconstruction of the OS’s search index, and the syncing of OneDrive would take “longer than normal” and “some time.”

Microsoft will ship a second consumer-oriented preview in early 2015, but it’s virtually certain that the firm will provide more-or-less-monthly updates to the Technical Preview between now and then.

 

 

 

The Xbox One Goes Social Next Month

October 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

November Xbox One update, explaining that it will throw a bucketful of new features into the console.

The firm polishes the console experience on a monthly basis and this month sees it swathe the device in tweaks and social networking positives.

Whether you use the console to browse the internet, talk to people, do social networking, watch television, or even play games, you will see some sort of improvement, according to spokeschap Major Nelson.

“We’re bringing you new and exciting ways to watch TV and interact with the Xbox Live gaming community in this month’s Xbox One system update preview. Today, we will begin rolling out a ton of new features to members of the Xbox One preview programme,” said Nelson in a blog that also introduces an excited video walkthrough.

Cosmetic features include the ability to change the background on your Xbox One, and even use achievements from games in your wallpaper.

Braggish players will be able to add their best clips to their profile page and generally swagger around the place, while people who like to crow on a range of platforms will be able to tweet clips from games.

Users can also share their location in their biography pages, and through the Smartglass app can see when anyone has checked out their profile.

Smartglass users can also check out their friends’ activities on the Xbox One, and can line up downloads of content, for example the free titles provided to Gold level subscribers.

The Xbox One store has been improved and Microsoft said that this would make it “easier to find and download apps for your Xbox One”.

The November update is out will be out, unsurprisingly, next month.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will Google’s Algorithm Change Stop Piracy?

October 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Nosey Google has updated its search engine algorithms in an attempt to restrict piracy web sites appearing high in its search rankings.

The update will mean piracy sites are less likely to appear when people search for music, films and other copyrighted content.

The decision to roll out the search changes was announced in a refreshed version of a How Google Fights Piracy report, which was originally published in September 2013.

However, this year’s updated report features a couple of developments, including changes to ad formats and an improved DMCA demotion search signal.

The move is likely to be a result of criticism received from the entertainment industry, which has argued that illegal sites should be “demoted” in search results because they enable people to find sites to download media illegally.

The biggest change in the Google search update will be new ad formats in search results on queries related to music and movies that help people find legitimate sources of media.

For example, for the relatively small number of queries for movies that include terms like ‘download’, ‘free’, or ‘watch’, Google has instead begun listing legal services such as Spotify and Netflix in a box at the top of the search results.

“We’re also testing other ways of pointing people to legitimate sources of music and movies, including in the right-hand panel on the results page,” Google added.

“These results show in the US only, but we plan to continue investing in this area and to expand it internationally.”

An improved DMCA demotion signal in Google search is also being rolled out as part of the refresh, which down-ranks sites for which Google has received a large number of valid DMCA notices.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,” Google said, adding that it will also be removing more terms from autocomplete, based on DMCA removal notices.

The new measures might be welcomed by the entertainment industry, but are likely to encourage more people to use legal alternatives such as Spotify and Netflix, rather than buying more physical media.

Courtesy-TheInq

MasterCard Testing A New Card With Fingerprint Reader

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

MasterCard is trying out a contactless payment card with a built-in fingerprint reader that can authorize high-value payments without requiring the user to enter a PIN.

The credit-card company showed a prototype of the card in London on Friday along with Zwipe, the Norwegian company that developed the fingerprint recognition technology.

The contactless payment card has an integrated fingerprint sensor and a secure data store for the cardholder’s biometric data, which is held only on the card and not in an external database, the companies said.

The card also has an EMV chip, used in European payment cards instead of a magnetic stripe to increase payment security, and a MasterCard application to allow contactless payments.

The prototype shown Friday is thicker than regular payment cards to accommodate a battery. Zwipe said it plans to eliminate the battery by harvesting energy from contactless payment terminals and is working on a new model for release in 2015 that will be as thin as standard cards.

Thanks to its fingerprint authentication, the Zwipe card has no limit on contactless payments, said a company spokesman. Other contactless cards can only be used for payments of around €20 or €25, and some must be placed in a reader and a PIN entered once the transaction reaches a certain threshold.

Norwegian bank Sparebanken DIN has already tested the Zwipe card, and plans to offer biometric authentication and contactless communication for all its cards, the bank has said.

MasterCard wants cardholders to be able to identify themselves without having to use passwords or PINs. Biometric authentication can help with that, but achieving simplicity of use in a secure way is a challenge, it said.

 

Openstack Releases Juno

October 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Openstack has reached another major milestone today with the release of Juno, its newest version.

The latest version of the cloud computing stack contains 342 new features, 3,219 bug fixes, almost 500,000 lines of modified documentation and a new Architecture Design Guide.

1,419 unique contributors including representatives from 133 companies made it all happen over six months.

Last month it was revealed that HP had overtaken Red Hat in terms of overall contributions to Juno, and is closing in on Red Hat’s overall lead.

However, Red Hat has shifted focus more towards the cloud market in recent strategy announcements, so that lead could widen again.

The new version adds storage policies, data processing provisioning for Hadoop and Spark and takes the initial steps towards being a platform for Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) in a future release, meaning that it would be capable of managing a number of functions currently fulfilled by expensive software.

Other new features include Nova Compute, a rescue mode improvement with the option to boot from alternative images via locally attached disks, update scheduling and internationalisation updates.

For networking, the Neutron module includes IPv6 and third-party driver testing, plug-ins, and migration support from Nova to Neutron.

The Keystone identity service allows users to share credentials for private and public OpenStack clouds.

The Heat engine, which manages orchestration, includes advanced rollback options in the event of failed deployment and the option for administrators to delegate creation of resources to non-admins.

The Horizon Dashboard now offers Hadoop deployment in a few clicks, enabling rapidly scalable data processing with custom parameters.

Finally, the Trove database allows users to manage relational database servcies in the OpenStack environment.

Of course, OpenStack waits for no-one. With this release safely out, work now begins on the next version, codenamed Kilo, which is due in April 2015.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

FCC To Explore Next-Generation Wireless Networks

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, on Friday, stated that U.S. regulators will look “to infinity and beyond” to harness new technology that can help build a new generation of mobile wireless connections.

The FCC on Friday voted unanimously to open a so-called “notice of inquiry” into what it and the industry can do to turn a new swath of very high-frequency airwaves, previously deemed unusable for mobile networks, into mobile-friendly frequencies.

The FCC’s examination would serve as a regulatory backdrop for research into the next generation of wireless technology, sometimes referred to as 5G and which may allow wireless connections to carry a thousand times more traffic.

“Today we’re stepping in front of the power curve,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Friday at the meeting.

In question are frequencies above 24 gigahertz (GHz), sometimes called millimeter waves, that have previously been deemed technically unweildy for mobile connections, though have the potential to carry large amounts of data and give the promise of lightning-fast speeds.

Millimeter waves work best over short distances and have required a direct line-of-sight connection to a receiver. They are now largely used for point-to-point microwave connections.

The FCC said it will study what technologies could help get around the technological and practical obstacles and what kind of regulatory regime could help a variety of technologies to flourish on those airwaves, including the potential for services other than mobile.

The U.S. wireless industry continues to work on deploying the 4G connections, though some equipment manufacturers, such as Samsung are already testing data transmission on the higher frequencies.

 

 

Facebook Doubling Reward For It’s Ad Based Bugs

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is doubling the bounty it will pay for security vulnerabilities related to code that runs its advertising system, the company announced.

A comprehensive security audit of its ads code was recently completed, but Facebook “would like to encourage additional scrutiny from whitehats to see what we may have missed,” wrote Collin Greene, a security engineer, in a blog post. “Whitehats” refers to ethical security researchers, as opposed to “blackhats” who take advantage of vulnerabilities.

According to bug bounty program guidelines, Facebook pays a minimum of $500 for a valid bug report. Until the end of the year, that has been increased to $1,000.

Greene wrote that the majority of reports it receives concern more common parts of Facebook’s code, but the company would like to encourage interest in ads “to better protect businesses.”

Facebook’s ad tools include the Ads Manager, the ads API (application programming interface) and Analytics, which is also called Insights, Greene wrote. The company also wants close scrutiny of its back-end billing code.

“There is a lot of backend code to correctly target, deliver, bill and measure ads,” Greene wrote. “This code isn’t directly reachable via the website, but of the small number of issues that have been found in these areas, they are relatively high impact.”

Greene wrote that Facebook typically sees bugs such as incorrect permission checks, insufficient rate-limiting, edge-case CSRF (cross-site request forgery) issues and problems with Flash in its ads code.

 

HP, EMC Call Off Merger Talks

October 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard Co has ended all merger discussions with EMC Corp, deciding to walk away from the deal after months of fruitless negotiations, people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The official cessation of discussions to merge two of the tech industry’s largest enterprise-oriented firms may come as a disappointment to activist investors Elliott Management, which has pushed hard for storage products maker EMC to pursue merger or spinoff opportunities.

Pressure is building on EMC as rival technology companies, such as eBay Inc and Symantec, begin spinning off operations in an attempt to unlock shareholder value, become more agile, and capitalize on faster-growing businesses.

It is unclear when talks ended following months-long discussions, the people said on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Executives from the two companies were still trying to hammer out a deal as recently as last week, but talks bogged down on price and are now dead, the people said.

HP has temporarily suspended its stock buyback program ahead of its Nov. 25 earnings because the company said it is in possession of material non-public information. When pressed by stock analysts, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak noted on a conference call that the non-public information pertains to a possible acquisition.

HP and EMC declined to comment on Tuesday.

It is also unclear what specifically was discussed. A straight-up merger of the two companies would have created one of the industry’s largest providers of data storage, and created a computing giant with deep penetration in the business of providing computing hardware and services to corporations.

 

 

Cisco Warns Users To Lock Down Webex To Prevent Snooping

October 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco has warned users to lock down WebEx after a security researcher and journalist discovered many big-name companies left some online meetings open for anyone to join.

Brian Krebs wrote on his blog that he found companies and organizations that failed to password protect WebEx meetings, which allowed “anyone to join daily meetings about apparently internal discussions and planning sessions.”

Meeting schedules for organizations were available through WebEx’s “Event Center,” he wrote.

Cisco has a variety of options for WebEx that are intended to accommodate sensitive meetings and ones intended for the public.

For example, Cisco requires a password to be set by default for a meeting, but that option can be turned off, wrote Aaron Lewis, who works in global social media marketing, on a company blog.

“The most secure meetings will always be protected by a complex password,” Lewis wrote.

Companies may publicly list a meeting for webinars that anyone can join, but “if your WebEx site administrator or IT department allows listed meetings, then we recommend listing your meeting only if there is a true business reason,” Lewis wrote.

Another tip is to disable the option “join before host,” which will then give the host visibility on who has joined. Also, setting the “host as presenter” prevents someone else form joining the meeting and sharing content, Lewis wrote.

Krebs wrote he found meetings not protected by a password from a host of companies and organizations, including Charles Schwab, CSC, CBS, CVS, The U.S. Department of Energy, Fannie Mae, Jones Day, Orbitz, Paychex Services and Union Pacific.

 

Dell Launches New SuperMassive 9800 Firewall

October 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

DELL is showing off ”enterprise class” security for small to medium businesses with the launch of a SuperMassive 9800 next-generation firewall, which it claims will protect against high-profile bugs such as Shellshock and Heartbleed.

Touted as the most powerful in the fresh 9000 line-up, and sounding a little like a gang of rappers, the SuperMassive 9800 offers services such as advanced Deep Packet Inspection with speeds up to 20Gbps, and Dell’s patented Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection (RFDPI) single-pass threat prevention engine.

RFDPI scans multiple application types and protocols to spot internal and external attacks and application vulnerabilities, Dell said, making it better at detecting attacks.

The SuperMassive 9800 is also bundled with Dell’s Global Management System 8.0, a tool designed to manage systems and offer real-time event monitoring, analytics and reporting from a single centralised dashboard.

Dell claims that this makes it easier to meet compliance regulations while managing and monitoring network security processes.

The firm claimed that the SuperMassive 9800 provides 97.9 percent “security effectiveness” and helps to protect customers from Shellshock and Heartbleed-level vulnerabilities.

“The recent disclosures of the ShellShock and HeartBleed industry-wide vulnerabilities demonstrate that organisations are literally a few well-formed packets away from infrastructure disaster, proving the need for instant and automated security scaled to meet the needs of the network,” said executive director of Dell Security, Patrick Sweeney.

“The SuperMassive 9800 provides that level of instant security on a flexible, feature-rich platform.”

Shellshock was uncovered in September, and some experts claim that it could be more serious than the Heartbleed SSL bug uncovered in April.

The Bash bug, as implied by its name, is a vulnerability that allows unscrupulous users to take control of Bourne Again Shell (Bash), the software used to control the Unix command prompt on some Unix-like systems.

Researchers at FireEye and Trend Micro warned later in September that hackers were still mounting cyber attacks across the globe thanks to exploits of Bash bug vulnerabilities, made worse by an unsuccessful patch.

Courtesy-TheInq

Does Samsung Fear A Processor War?

October 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Kwon Oh-hyun has said he is not worried about a price war in the semiconductor industry next year even though the firm is rapidly expanding its production volume.

“We’ll have to wait and see how things will go next year, but there definitely will not be any game of chicken,” said Oh-hyun, according to Reuters, suggesting the firm will not take chip rivals head on.

Samsung has reported strong profits for 2014 owing to better-than-expected demand for PCs and server chips. Analysts have also forecast similar results for the coming year, so things are definitely looking good for the company.

It emerged last week that Samsung will fork out almost $15bn on a new chip facility in South Korea, representing the firm’s biggest investment in a single plant.

Samsung hopes the investment will bolster profits in its already well-established and successful semiconductor business, and help to maintain its lead in memory chips and grow beyond the declining sales of its smartphones.

According to sources, Samsung expects its chip production capacity to increase by a “low double-digit percentage” after the facility begins production, which almost goes against the CEO’s claims that it is not looking for a price war.

Last month, Samsung was found guilty of involvement in a price fixing racket with a bunch of other chip makers stretching back over a decade, and was fined €138m by European regulators.

An antitrust investigation into chips used in mobile device SIM cards found that Infineon, Philips and Samsung colluded to artificially manipulate the price of SIM card chips.

Courtesy-TheInq