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Microsoft Begins Purge Of Dubious Apps In Windows App Store

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has started getting rid of sham Windows Store apps that try to dupe users into paying for free software, the company has announced.

“Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions and agree to make the necessary changes when notified,” said Todd Brix, general manager for the Windows Store, in a blog post yesterday. “Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far.”

The Windows Store is the official source of Windows 8′s (and 8.1′s) “Modern,” née “Metro” apps, the touch-based programs designed for tablets and touch-enabled notebooks.

Earlier this year, Brix’s team changed Windows Store apps’ certification — the process under which apps are admitted to the market — to require newly-submitted programs be clearly named, properly categorized and appropriately identified with an icon. Those modifications were made, said Brix, to “better ensure that apps are named and described in a way that doesn’t misrepresent their purpose.”

The same requirements have now been extended to apps already in the store.

The timing of Brix’s blog and Microsoft’s efforts to cleanse the Windows Store was no coincidence: More than a week ago, How-To Geek described its probe of the store in a piece titled ”The Windows Store is a Cesspool of Scams — Why Doesn’t Microsoft Care?”

In the story, How-To Geek pointed out worthless apps, some as expensive as $8.99, that did little more than point users to links for downloading Apple’s iTunes (free), Mozilla’s Firefox (also free) and VideoLAN’s VLC Player (yes, free). The publication also found fake — and paid — versions of Adobe’s Flash Player, Google’s Picasa, King’s Candy Crush Saga and Mojang’s Minecraft.

How-To Geek blamed Microsoft for the scam-app pollution. “Here’s one of the most shocking parts of this. People from Microsoft are actually examining each of these scammy apps, checking their content, and approving them,” the site said, pointing out pertinent parts of Microsoft’s certification process.

The apps How-To Geek fingered have been removed from the Windows Store, presumably as part the 1,500 Brix claimed had been bounced out.

How-To Geek’s story was widely cited by other websites, blogs and publications last week, reigniting charges that the Windows Store was packed with junk.

A quick look at MetroStore Scanner, which tracks each day’s new and updated apps, showed that Brix and his team have their work cut out for them. On Tuesday, according to MetroStore Scanner, 12 copies of the free KMPlayer, a media player owned by a Korean TV streaming company, were published to the Windows Store. However, the dozen KMPlayer copies — all using the transparently copycat name of “KM* 5.1 Player” but each with a different icon — were priced at either $0.99 or $1.99.

The real KMPlayer is currently at version 3.9.

MetroStore Scanner’s tally of the number of apps in the Windows Store was approximately 172,000 as of late Wednesday, meaning that the apps removed so far represented less than 1% of the total in the e-mart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung Unveils First Of Its Kind Smartwatch, Mobile Phone Not Required

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday debuted what it said was the first smartwatch capable of making and receiving calls without a mobile phone nearby, in the South Korean firm’s latest effort to find a new growth driver.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker has been pushing hard to develop the wearable devices market as it looks to counter slowing earnings in its mobile division, which led to weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

Samsung is hardly alone in pushing wearables, which have yet to catch on with consumers. Rival Apple Inc is expected to launch its own device this year and LG Electronics Inc on Thursday announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and leather strap.

Samsung’s new smartwatch, called the Gear S, differs from its predecessors with a bigger 2-inch (5 cm) curved display and offers features like WiFi connectivity, pedestrian navigation and a built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung’s nascent Tizen operating system.

Samsung said the Gear S will start selling from October. It did not give details on pricing or where it will be available.

LG said its G Watch R will launch in key markets in the fourth quarter, without indicating a price.

 

 

Bitcoin Adoption Rate Continues Its Upward Trajectory

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Bitcoin is gaing greater acceptance at U.S. online merchants including Overstock.com and Expedia, as customers use a digital currency that just a few years ago was virtually unknown but is now showing some staying power.

Though sales paid for in bitcoin so far at vendors interviewed for this article have been a fraction of one percent, they expect that as acceptance grows, the online currency will one day be as ubiquitous as the internet.

“Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere; it’s here to stay,” said Michael Gulmann, vice president of global products at Expedia Inc. in Seattle, the largest online travel agent. “We want to be there from the beginning.” Expedia started accepting bitcoin payments for hotel bookings on July 11.

Until recently a niche alternative currency touted by a fervent group of followers, bitcoin has evolved into a software-based payment online system. Bitcoins are stored in a wallet with a unique identification number and companies like Coinbase and Blockchain can hold the currency for the user.

When buying an item from a merchant’s website, a customer simply clicks on the bitcoin option and a pop-in window appears where he can type in his wallet ID number.

Still, broad-based adoption of bitcoin is at least five years away because most consumers still prefer to use credit cards, analysts said.

“Bitcoin is a new way of making payments, but it’s not solving a problem that’s broken,” said George Peabody, payments consultant at Glenbrook Partners in Menlo Park, California. “Retail payments aren’t broken.”

There are also worries about bitcoin’s volatility: its price in U.S. dollars changes every day.

That risk is borne by the consumer and the bitcoin payment processor, such as Coinbase or Bitpay, not the retailer. The vendor doesn’t hold the bitcoin and is paid in U.S. dollars. As soon as a customer pays in bitcoin, the digital currency goes to the payment processor and the processor immediately pays the merchant, for a fee of less than 1 percent.

“We don’t have to deal with the actual holding of the bitcoin: it’s the payment processor that takes the currency risk for us,” said Bernie Han, chief operating officer at Dish Network Corp, in Englewood, Colorado. “That’s what makes it appealing for us and I guess for other merchants as well.”

 

 

VMWare Releases Workplace Suite

August 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

VMware has released its Workplace Suite — a combined platform to deploy and manage applications and desktops from the cloud to laptops, smartphones, tablets, or whatever. The suite comes as part of a partnership with Google and NVIDIA, VMware has been showing the world the ability for VMware Workplace Suite to stream even graphics-intensive Windows applications to Google Chromebooks.

VMware is billing this as an initiative to bring data and applications closer to the places users actually want to access them. VMware CTO Ben Fathi said that the new VMware Workplace Suite takes advantage of three existing VMware products: Tools for application, device, and content management as well as secure cloud file storage that comes from the January acquisition of enterprise mobile management company AirWatch. It also has bits of VMware Horizon for desktop-as-a-service; and the acquisition CloudVolumes for app delivery.

VMware claims it can deliver a consistent experience across platforms with a single sign-on for end-users across as many apps as IT wants to administrate. VMware is pushing the hybrid cloud model hard, and is talking about deployment across a company’s internal data centre and the vCloud Air platform.

The net benefit of a hybrid deployment would be to keep your VMware Workplace Suite closer to any on-premises data silos like SharePoint or SAP while still getting cloud scalability. The target of the software would be the health industry, where a doctor may have to move between offices and hospitals without access to their same application.

Google and Nvidia takes advantage of a Chromebook’s internal Nvidia GPU and the grid graphics cloud. VMware also showed off something called Project Meteor, which the company claims is an industry first, “next generation” solution for delivering a full virtual desktop-as-a-service to any HTML5 browser. This will mean you can have the same desktop across multiple devices.

Courtesy-Fud

New IBM Power System 8 Range Enroute

August 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Doug Balog General Manager of IBM Power Systems has hinted that biggish blue is about to release a new range of power 8 servers.

Talking to Server Watch Balog said that the strategy for accelerating Power is by using the OpenPower Foundation, which currently has over 50 members. IBM recently shed its x86 industry-standard server business in a deal with Lenovo. As a result, instead of being an Intel server partner, IBM is now mostly a competitor.

Balog’s thinks that an open approach is now necessary to drive innovation forward. With the Open Power Foundation, the promise is to enable silicon, systems and software vendors to continue to deliver increasing levels of performance. He added that it was difficult to come up with new ideas on x86 since the technology curve was driven by Intel’s roadmap. IBM’s Power 8 systems, which were first announced in April, were already being competitively positioned against Intel x86 systems.

The initial set of Power 8 Server systems announced by IBM in April included five new Power8 servers, two of which are Linux-only systems. The Power 8 server configurations available to date are 2U systems. With the upcoming October announcements, IBM is set to scale the Power 8 server portfolio out.

Courtesy-Fud

HP Recalls 6M Laptop Power Cords Over Fire Concerns

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Hewlett-Packard has recalled more than 6 million laptop power cords that could potentially cause fire and/or burning hazards.

HP is recalling LS-15 AC power cords used with HP and Compaq branded laptops. The company is recalling about 5.6 million power cords in the U.S. and 446,000 units in Canada.

The cord pulls out of one end of the AC adapter. It came with laptops and accessories sold between September 2010 through June 2012, HP said on its power cord recall website.

There have been 29 reports of power cords overheating and melting, which led to claims for minor burns and property damage, HP and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a statement.

Customers are eligible for a replacement at no cost. The power cords are black and can be identified by the tag LS-15, which is on the AC adapter.

Customers can call 1-877- 219-6676, or visit HP’s website for the replacement.

 

 

Tesla Motors Recruits Hackers For Security Challenge

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors is searching for security researchers to hack its vehicles. The Silicon Valley based high-tech auto maker will hire up to 30 full-time hackers whose job will be to identify and resolve vulnerabilities in the sophisticated firmware that controls its cars.

“Our security team is focused on advancing technology to secure connected cars,” a company spokesman said via email. The focus is on “setting new standards for security and creating new capabilities for connected cars that don’t currently exist in the automotive industry. The positions are full time, and we will have internship opportunities as well.”

Tesla’s cars are among the most digitally connected vehicles in the industry with the battery, transmission, engine systems, climate control, door locks and entertainment systems remotely accessible via the Internet.

So the company has a lot at stake in ensuring that the connectivity that allows its vehicles to be remotely managed doesn’t also provide a gateway for malicious hackers.

Security researchers have already shown how malicious attackers can break into a car’s electronic control unit and take control of vital functions including navigation, braking and acceleration.

In 2013, two researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) showed how they could take control of a vehicle through the controller area network (CAN) used by devices in a car to communicate with each other. The researchers showed how attackers could send different commands to a car and cause it to brake or accelerate suddenly or jerk its steering wheel in different directions.

In that study, the researchers needed physical access to the CAN bus to carry out the attack. However, researchers have noted that similar attacks can be carried out wirelessly by accessing the CAN bus through Bluetooth connections, compromised Android smartphones and vehicle tracking and navigation systems like OnStar.

Such concerns have begun gaining wider attention with the federal government’s plans to require all vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications capabilities in all light vehicles over the next few years.

The goal is to have a standard in place that would allow vehicles to automatically exchange information, such as speed and location data, with each other, with a view to avoiding collisions.

Tesla has been among the most proactive carmakers in addressing potential security threats. It was the only automaker to attend the recent Def Con security conference in Las Vegas, where a security executive took the opportunity to promote the company’s responsible vulnerability reporting program and to recruit new team members.

 

 

IBM Softlayer Goes Bare Metal

August 28, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM’s Softlayer announced on Tuesday that it is offering bare metal servers that are deployed in less than 30 minutes and billed by the hour.

The new hourly bare metal servers are single tenant servers connecting directly to Softlayer’s global private network, which the company said allows for seamless integration between data centres without additional networking fees, offers unlimited inter-data centre bandwidth, and delivers exceptional performance and security.

Softlayer added that customers may choose from four base configurations with either the CentOS, Red Hat, FreeBSD, or Ubuntu Linux operating system installed.

Hourly rates range from $0.53/hr for the smallest server configuration up to $1.49/hr for the largest. The servers are available now at Softlayer’s global data centres in Dallas, San Jose, Washington DC, London, Toronto, Amsterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to the vendor, buying bare metal servers on an hourly basis provides businesses with the raw performance of physical servers for computing-intensive workloads, but with shorter commitments.

IBM Softlayer said, “The servers can stand alone or completely integrate with all other Softlayer bare metal, virtual, storage, and networking services, all in one seamless global platform.”

Softlayer CTO Marc Jones said, “We have always focused on providing customers the right balance of performance, commitment, and cost.

“As businesses deploy more powerful workloads in the cloud, there is increased demand for performance with even shorter demand cycles. Our new hourly bare metal servers are designed to hit the sweet spot of how much power they need, how long they need it, at price points that make sense.”

IDC research VP Melanie Posey noted that the cloud service lets businesses fluctuate their IT requirements based on daily challenges.

“The new hourly-rate bare metal servers use the same Softlayer platform, control system, and API as the virtual server services – providing customers with on-demand access to the right resources for the right workloads,” she said.

Courtesy-TheInq

Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Apple Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries Free Of Charge

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

 

 

 

Qantas, Virgin To Allow Smartphone Usage Throughout Flights

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Australian airlines Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said passengers may use mobile phones and tablets during their flights, after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices on planes.

The airlines said they would begin allowing passengers to use personal electronic devices for the duration of their flight after Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority followed a similar ruling from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013.

The Australian airlines will hope giving customers almost continuous access to personal devices will increase their appeal as they engage in a price war with each other and other market participants. Currently, passengers are forced to switch off devices until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

The two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week.

“We’re delighted to give Qantas customers the freedom and flexibility to use their personal electronic devices from the moment they board the plane until they disembark,” Qantas Domestic chief executive officer Lyell Strambi said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said the high number of passengers who travel with a smartphone or tablet shows “how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience”.

 

 

Amazon Acquires Live-Streaming Game Network Twitch For Nearly $1B

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has acquired live-streaming gamingnetwork Twitch Interactive for about $970 million in cash, reflecting Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’ vision to transform Amazon into an Internet destination beyond its roots in retail operations.

The deal, jointly announced by the two companies, is the largest deal in Amazon’s 20-year history and will help the U.S. e-commerce company vie with Apple Inc and Google Inc in the fast-growing world of online gaming, which accounts for more than 75 percent of all mobile app sales.

The acquisition involves some retention agreements that push the deal over $1 billion, a source close to the deal told Reuters.

“Twitch will further push Amazon into the gaming community while also helping it with video and advertising,” Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said in a note.

Twitch’s format, which lets viewers message players and each other during live play, is garnering interest as one of the fastest-growing segments of digital video streaming, which in turn is attracting more and more advertising dollars.

The deal, expected to close in the second half of the year, is an unusual step for Amazon, which tends to build from within or make smaller acquisitions. Tech rival Google was earlier in talks to buy Twitch, which launched slightly more than three years ago, one person briefed on the deal said.

Neither Amazon nor Twitch would discuss how the deal came together or comment on Google’s interest.

In an interview, Twitch Chief Executive Officer Emmett Shear said the startup contacted Amazon because its deep pockets and ad sales expertise would allow the startup to pursue its strategic objectives more quickly.

“The reason why we reached out to Amazon, the reason I thought working for Amazon, having Twitch being a part of Amazon, would be a great idea for us (because) they would give us the resources to pursue these things that we honestly already want to pursue and they’d let us do it faster,” Shear said.

 

Are Graphics Cards On The Way Out?

August 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

JP Research has issued a report on GPU sales and reached the conclusion that the days of the add-on graphics card are fading.

According to JPR’s report, sales of add-on graphics cards declined 17.5 per cent quarter-over-quarter and 17.6 per cent year-over-year. In comparison, last year’s quarter-over-quarter rate for the same period was 5.5 per cent. Nvidia took the biggest kicking in terms of decreases, seeing a decline of 21 per cent. AMD had a fall of 10.7 per cent.

Some of the decline can be put down to improvements to CPU-GPU integration and both Intel and AMD have been doing better at this in the last two years. But enthusiast gamers are facing the problem that their old cards are good enough for the majority of today’s games.

So far there has not been much of a move to 4K gaming, which could improve GPU sales, but the 4K monitor is still a long way from being cheap enough. The cheapest models retail for about €500/$600, but unfurtonately they are crippled by high response time and low refresh rates.

At the moment many games developers are building for consoles and then porting over to the PC, which means that graphics cards are hardly breaking out in a sweat trying to run them.

Courtesy-Fud

Does The NSA Have A “Bing” Like Search Engine?

August 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Uncategorized

National Security Agency (NSA) has its own homegrown search engine that it offers to similarly minded US intelligence outfits.

Website the Intercept was first to report this and attributes its news to information provided by whistleblowers. It said that the search engine is shared with a number of other US organisations and institutions.

The search tool is called ICREACH, according to the report, and has been available and in use for some years.

Documents gathered by the Intercept show the system in use in 2007, and calls the information that it offers “wholesale sharing”. The news website reports that the system is capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, and makes sense of email, phone call, fax, internet and text message metadata. It can also share location information culled from mobile phones.

“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the US Intelligence Community,” (IC) the report notes.

“This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”

We asked the NSA to comment on this, and it said that intelligence sharing is an important security feature and has been for some time.

“The appropriate and prudent sharing of information is a pillar of the post-9/11 Intelligence Community (IC),” the NSA said. According to the spy agency, the US Congress and two US administrations have requested that data and information not get “stove-piped” within separate US intelligence agencies.

“By allowing other IC organisations to query legally collected foreign-intelligence repositories of appropriately minimised data, analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC agencies. The highest priority of the Intelligence Community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyse and understand information related to potential threats to our national security,” the NSA said.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Microsoft Slash Prices On Surface 2 Tablets

August 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has lowered the prices of its Surface 2 tablets by as much as 22%, dropping the entry-level Windows 8.1 RT device to $349.

It’s unknown whether Microsoft discounted the Surface 2 to clear inventory before it discontinues the tablet, in preparation for a successor, or simply to move a slow-selling product.

A clue may be in the length of the limited-time sale: Microsoft said that the reduced prices were good from Aug. 24 to Sept. 27, or “while supplies last,” and set the maximum number of devices per customer at a generous five.

Intriguingly, Microsoft is to host a press event on Sept. 30 to unveil the next edition of Windows, code named “Threshold” but perhaps officially to be called “Windows 9.” Rumors have circulated that Windows RT will also be revamped to drop the desktop mode and/or to add support for the pen bundled with the Surface Pro 3.

If those claims are accurate, the Sept. 30 event would be a perfect time to tout a revamped Windows RT and unveil replacements for the Surface 2.

Microsoft cut prices by $100 for each of the three Surface 2 models it sells: two Wi-Fi only tablets with 32GB or 64GB of storage, and a 64GB device that can connect to a cellular data network at LTE speeds.

The lowest-priced 32GB Surface 2 is now priced at $349, a 22% discount, while the 64GB tablet now costs $449, an 18% reduction. The sole LTE model, now $579, received a 15% price cut.

Microsoft’s Surface 2 is powered by Windows RT 8.1, the touch-centric, tile-interface that runs only “Modern,” nee “Metro,” apps. Windows RT cannot handle legacy Windows applications.

The Surface 2 was the follow-up to the disastrous Surface RT, the tablet which sold in such small volume — and which Microsoft built in such large numbers — that the company was forced to take a $900 million write-off in mid-2013.

Although the Surface Pro 2, which went on sale alongside the Surface 2 in October 2013, was updated to the Surface Pro 3 in May of this year, the Surface 2 has not been refreshed since its launch.

At its new price, the 32GB Surface 2, which boasts a 10.6-in. display, costs less than Apple’s entry-level 16GB iPad Mini with a 7.9-in. Retina-quality screen. That iPad Mini lists at $399.

Microsoft is selling the re-priced Surface 2 on its online store.