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Twitter Job Cuts Said To Be Coming This Week

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-logo-150x150Twitter is said t be reducing its workforce by about 300 people or 8 percent of its entire staff, as the company attempts to trim costs in trying times.

The widespread job cuts could come before the company releases its third-quarter earnings on Thursday, according to Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the matter. It cautioned that the precise number of jobs affected could change.

A Twitter spokeswoman said in an email that the company doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation.

Twitter announced in October last year that it was laying off 336 employees.

Unlike many of its peers, the company has failed to grow significantly the number of its users or adequately monetize through advertising the number of users it already has on the site.

For the second quarter of 2016, the company reported that average monthly active users (MAUs) of the service for the quarter were 313 million, up 3 percent year-over-year and compared to 310 million in the previous quarter. Revenue at $602 million was up 20 percent year-over-year, but the company posted a loss of over $100 million under generally accepted accounting principles.

The company has been trying to give users better ways to express themselves on Twitter, including through streaming video and by not counting @names in replies and media attachments in the 140-character limit for a tweet.

The company had hired bankers to explore a sale, but, The Walt Disney Company and Alphabet, which had shown interest, later backed out from the process, according to reports. The company has seen a steep decline in its share price over the last one year.

Chinese Webcam Maker Recalling Devices After Hacking Uncovered

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

hangzhou-xiongmai-technology-webcams-150x150Up to 10,000 webcams will be recalled following a cyber attack that blocked access last week to some of the world’s biggest websites, Chinese manufacturer Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co has announced.

In Washington, a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence committee asked three federal agencies what steps the government can take to prevent cyber criminals from compromising electronic devices.

In a new type of attack last Friday, hackers harnessed hundreds of thousands of webcams and other connected devices globally to flood U.S.-based internet infrastructure provider Dyn with so much traffic that it could not cope, cutting access to websites including PayPal, Spotify and Twitter.

Hangzhou Xiongmai said it would recall some surveillance cameras sold in the United States after researchers identified they had been targeted in the attack.

Liu Yuexin, Xiongmai’s marketing director, estimated the number of vulnerable devices at fewer than 10,000 to be recalled. He said the company would recall the first few batches of surveillance cameras made in 2014 that monitor rooms or shops for personal, rather than industrial, use.

Xiongmai had now fixed loopholes in earlier products, prompting users to change default passwords and block telnet access, Liu said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it had discussed the attacks with 18 major communications service providers and was working to develop a new set of “strategic principles” for securing internet-connected devices.

Authorities have yet to identify suspects in the attack, but the Director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, said on Tuesday that an early analysis did not point to a foreign government.

Cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint concurred.

“The evidence that we have strongly suggests it is amateur, attention-motivated hackers,” said Allison Nixon, Flashpoint’s director of security research.

Nixon said the same infrastructure was used on Friday in an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt internet access to a major video game manufacturer, which she declined to identify.

“Nation states generally don’t attack gaming companies,” she said.

U.S. Senate intelligence committee member Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, sent letters on Tuesday asking DHS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission if they have adequate tools for combating the threat posed by “bot net” armies of infected electronic devices.

“Manufacturers today are flooding the market with cheap, insecure devices, with few market incentives to design the products with security in mind, or to provide ongoing support,” Warner said.

He asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler if communications providers have authority to deny internet access to electronics devices they deem insecure.

Xiongmai devices were unlikely to suffer similar attacks in China and elsewhere outside the United States, where they are typically used in more secure industrial networks, Liu said.

The company may take further steps to beef up security by migrating to safer operating systems and adding further encryption, Liu said.

T-Mobile Seen As Next Target Of A Merger

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

t-mobile-binge-on-150x150T-Mobile US Inc is the likeliest acquisition target as media giants partner up wireless carriers following AT&T Inc’s proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc, analysts said.

AT&T announced the deal late on Saturday, stoking urgency in the telecoms and media sectors, where carriers facing a saturated wireless market are looking for content to attract mobile users and producers of shows and movies are seeking digital distribution.

T-Mobile took most of the wireless industry’s subscriber and revenue growth in the third quarter. Its strong balance sheet and fast-growing wireless business makes it an attractive target for a pay-TV or media company, analysts said.

T-Mobile shares jumped 9.5 percent on Monday after it announced third-quarter financial results. At least nine analysts raised their target price on the No. 3 wireless company, which said it added 851,000 postpaid subscribers in the quarter.

T-Mobile has taken market share from bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T, and that momentum is expected to continue, analysts said.

“The takeout target over the next twelve months has got to be T-Mobile,” New Street Research analyst Spencer Kurn said. Potential buyers include Comcast Corp, satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp, and Mexican telecom company America Movil, analysts said.

Comcast and Dish declined to comment. America Movil could not be immediately reached for comment.

“Content of all kind is rapidly landing on the internet and the internet itself is rapidly transforming toward mobile,” T-mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert told Reuters.

T-Mobile is “very interested” in exploring strategic opportunities, he said.

Sprint Corp, which is aggressively working towards reviving its wireless business, is another takeout candidate, analysts said.

Sprint received more calls than usual from bankers over the weekend after the AT&T-Time Warner deal was announced, Chief Executive Marcelo Claure said on an earnings call on Tuesday.

“Our strategic value to many has significantly grown,” he added.

Samsung’s 8GB mini-DRAM Going Mobile

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-sdramWe should start seeing 8GB appearing as standard in flagship mobile phones soon thanks to Samsung’s new silicon that packs 8GB of DRAM in a single tiny package.

The RAM uses LPDDR4 technology and the 10 nm process. The arrival of 64-bit processors has allowed phone RAM to increase beyond 4GB but few manufacturers could be bothered. Even Samsung passed on it. However, now it seems that with the new generation of RAM Samsung thinks it is worthwhile and will be jumping directly from 4 to 8GB by next year.

LPDDR4 is currently the fastest type of low power memory in the mobile market. Samsung says it is the same as PC-class DDR4 RAM and has twice the speed, operating at 4,266 Mbps, versus the PC’s 2,133 Mbps.

By using 10 nm processing, the DRAM only takes up 15 x 15 x 1 mm and can be stacked above or under other chips. While we can’t see the point of the technology in mobile phones, it does make a lot of sense in tablets.

While Samsung has hinted that it is going to release the technology on the mobile world, by the end of the year so we should see next year’s flagship models with 8Gb next year.


Is TSMC Going For Qualcomm?

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

TSMC thinks that it can win back Qualcomm’s chip business with its 7nm process technology, but has all but given up expecting it to return for 10nm.

Qualcomm was once TSMC’s biggest customer until 14nm came along and it placed orders with Samsung instead. Qualcomm reportedly reached a deal with Samsung under which Samsung would make the Snapdragon 820 chips in exchange for Samsung using Qualcomm’s chips in its flagship smartphone devices.

Apparently Samsung swung a similar deal with Qualcomm for its 10nm chips in exchange for Qualcomm supplying the chips for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8. TSMC worked out it would not get the deal when Qualcomm did not tape out Snapdragon 830 chips on TSMC’s 10nm FinFET process.

TSMC will remain the sole provider of A11 chips for Apple. Other TSMC 10nm customers include MediaTek, HiSilicon and Xilinx.

But according to Digitimes TSMC thinks its 7nm will woo Qualcomm back into the fold, although it is not clear why this would be the case. After all, Samsung only has to negotiate another deal for its next generation of smartphone and assuming it does not catch fire, Qualcomm will be quids in.


Can Astronomers Find New Stellar Objects From An X-Ray Blast??

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-blastAstronomers are scratching their heads over two mysterious objects in space that are unlike anything scientists have seen before. The objects blast superbright, superfast X-ray flares and could represent a brand new type of astrophysical phenomenon, the researchers said.

When these weird X-ray sources flare up, they become 100 times brighter in less than a minute. About an hour after a flare, the brightness returns back to normal. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” Jimmy Irwin of the University of Alabama, who led the study, said in a statement. “Astronomers have seen many different objects that flare up, but these may be examples of an entirely new phenomenon.”

Other objects in the universe can also create bright X-rays. These objects are called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs), and they typically stem from black holes or neutron stars — the small, dense corpse of a star gone supernova. But the newly discovered sources are hundreds to thousands of times brighter than typical ULXs, the researchers found.

“These flares are extraordinary,” Peter Maksym, a study co-author from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in the same statement. “For a brief period, one of the sources became one of the brightest ULX to ever be seen in an elliptical galaxy.”

“When not flaring, the sources appear to be normal neutron-star or black-hole X-ray binaries,” in which another star orbits a dead neutron star or a black hole, the authors wrote, “but they are located in old stellar populations,” unlike other known objects that have repetitive flares as bright as the mystery objects.

The best comparison is likely a magnetar, a young neutron star with a powerful magnetic field, the researchers said. Magnetars also produce bright X-ray flares. While magnetars are thought to be young stars, the two flaring objects in this study reside near elliptical galaxies, which contain older stars. So the objects are likely too old to be magnetars, the researchers said.

After a flare, magnetars take only a few seconds to return to a baseline level of X-ray radiation. The new flaring objects take about an hour to settle down. In between flares, the mystery objects remain much brighter than magnetars do.

Another ultrabright and inexplicably fast X-ray flare observed in 2005 inspired the researchers to search for additional mysterious X-ray sources. The scientists looked through archival X-ray observation data of 70 different galaxies from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory dating back to 1999 and found two more strange X-ray sources. 

One of the unidentifiable objects in this study lies just outside Centaurus A (NGC 5128), an elliptical galaxy located about 13 million light-years from Earth. The other is in a globular cluster of stars located just outside NGC 4636, another elliptical galaxy located 47 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

The source in Centaurus A flares about once every 1.8 days, the study found. Due to limited observation data, the researchers could determine only that the object in NGC 4636 flares at a minimum of every four days.

“Now that we’ve discovered these flaring objects, observational astronomers and theorists alike are going to be working hard to figure out what’s happening,” said co-author Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Alberta in Canada.

The study was published today in the journal Nature.


China’s Alipay Teams Up With Payment Terminal Maker Verifone On Mobile App

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

alipay-150x150China’s Alipay has teamed up with U.S.-based Verifone to integrate its mobile app on Verifone payment terminals at merchants in Europe and North America, the latest such deal to reach Chinese consumers traveling abroad.

Alipay, which counts 450 million active users in China, is the top mobile payments player there. It is a unit of privately held ANT Financial, which is in turn an affiliate of publicly traded Chinese Internet giant

It has begun actively expanding outside Asia this year via partnerships with Western payment providers. Verifone terminals are used by most of the top 200 retailers in the United States, a spokesman said.

Instead of seeking to go head to head with major payments players outside its home market, Alipay targets the fast growing Chinese tourism market, which numbered 117 million travelers in 2014, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and is forecast to double by 2020.

Through the Verifone deal announced on Monday, Alipay is targeting top-tier merchants across retail, luxury goods, health supplement and department stores.

Alipay and rival WeChat, a unit of Tencent,together make up 90 percent of the Chinese mobile payments market, with gross merchandise value estimated at more than $1 trillion last year, dwarfing other mobile payment systems around the world, according to iResearch China estimates.

Sabrina Peng, the president of Alipay International, said in a recent interview that her company’s ambition is to become a global payments provider over the next decade, with 60 percent of its transaction volume coming from outside China. “We are targeting 2 billion users in the next 10 years,” she said.

French payment terminal supplier Ingenico announced in August an expanded deal with Alipay to allow merchants across Europe to use Ingenico’s payment gateway to accept payments from Alipay users visiting the region.

The Alipay service is also being integrated into terminals from Concardis, a payments provider for merchants in German-speaking Europe.

Alipay has a similar deal with mobile payments start-up Zapper in Britain to allow Chinese tourists to use QR codes in more than 1,000 restaurants there.

Is Planet Nine Tilting Our Solar System?

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The putative “Planet Nine” may have tilted the entire solar system, researchers say. 

In January, astronomers revealed evidence for the potential existence of another planet in the solar system. Researchers suggest that if this world — dubbed Planet Nine — exists, it could be about 10 times Earth’s mass and orbit the sun at a distance about 500 times the distance from the Earth to the sun.

Previous research suggested that Planet Nine would possess a highly tilted orbit compared with the relatively thin, flat zone in which the eight official planets circle the sun. This led scientists to investigate whether Planet Nine’s slant might help explain other tilting seen elsewhere in the solar system.  

Now, researchers suggest that Planet Nine’s influence might have tilted the entire solar system except the sun.

“Planet Nine may have tilted the other planets over the lifetime of the solar system,” said study lead author Elizabeth Bailey, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 

Prior work found that the zone in which the eight major planets orbit the sun is tilted by about 6 degrees compared to the sun’s equator. This discrepancy has long been a mystery in astronomy.

Bailey and her colleagues ran computer simulations that suggest that the tilt of the eight official planets can be explained by the gravitational influence of Planet Nine “over the 4.5-billion-years-ish lifetime of the solar system,” Bailey told

Bailey did note that there are other potential explanations for the tilt of the solar system. One alternative is that electrically charged particles influenced by the young sun’s magnetic field could have interacted with the disk of gas and dust that gave rise to the planets in ways that tilted the solar system. Another possibility is that there might have been an imbalance in the mass of the nascent sun’s core.

“However, all these other ways to explain why the solar system is tilted are really hard to test — they all invoke processes that were possibly present really early in the solar system,” Bailey said. “Planet Nine is the first thing that has been proposed to tilt the solar system that doesn’t depend on early conditions, so if we find Planet Nine, we will be able to see if it’s the only thing responsible for the tilt, or if anything else may have played a role.”

The scientists detailed their findings yesterday (Oct. 18) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences and European Planetary Science Congress in Pasadena, California.


Tesla To Get Into Ride-sharing Business

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

tesla-motors-logo-150x150Tesla Motors Inc has plans to introduce a ride share services program and will announce details next year, the luxury electric vehicle maker said on its website, a service first outlined by Chief Executive Elon Musk in his master plan in July.

News of the Tesla Network was in a disclaimer about the self-driving functionality on new Model S vehicles. Musk said last week Tesla is building new vehicles with the necessary hardware to eventually enable full autonomy, although the software is not yet ready.

“Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year,” read the disclaimer.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Car makers have rushed to invest in so-called mobility services, hoping to capture the potential trillions of dollars in revenue from selling both vehicles and such on-demand services, while carving out a stake in the industry dominated by Uber.

Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to investors on Thursday that although a Tesla Network could “excite the market” over its potential earnings stream, it was a costly proposition.

“While we think ride-sharing/hailing is the future of mass-market mobility, we have some financial concerns with the idea of an OEM-owned fleet,” Johnson wrote.

Venture capitalists and corporate investors had poured nearly $28 billion into the ride services sector in the past decade as of June, according to a Reuters analysis.

General Motors has made the biggest bet, investing $500 million in Lyft in January. GM’s upcoming electric Chevrolet Bolt was designed expressly with car sharing in mind, executives have told Reuters.

Money-losing Tesla lacks the deep pockets of GM, and ride services companies like Uber and Lyft burn billions of dollars in price wars to secure regional dominance, as occurred with Uber in China before it ceded to local rival Didi Chuxing.

In his “Master Plan, Part Deux” in July, Musk outlined a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleet using a phone app, allowing it to “generate income for you” and lower the cost of ownership.

Musk said that in cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet.

Is Sharp Making A Comeback?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Troubled Japanese television manufacturer Sharp is expecting significant improvement in annual profit due to restructuring with its new owner Foxconn.

Shares in the outfit soared more than 10 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that Sharp forecasts operating profit of about $385 million for the business year through March which was much better than expected.

Meeting the forecast would mark the first operating profit in three years for Sharp, which is rebuilding under Taiwan’s Foxconn which bought two-thirds of the telly maker in August.

Sharp slashed about 6,000 jobs in the last financial year through early retirement and an operations overhaul including withdrawal from its money-losing North American TV set business.

Sharp said it expected profit to improve but revenue to fall. Its shares subsequently jumped nearly 11 percent to their highest price in about six months, far outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average share price index.

However the prospects of Sharp’s mainstay display panel business are not that hot. The global panel market is on the cusp of improvement as a production cutback resolved a supply glut.

But Sharp still has to find ways to compete with Chinese peers rapidly expanding capacity, and with South Korean makers far ahead in next-generation technology.

Sharp said it would provide a full-year earnings forecast on 1 November when it announces its second-quarter results.


Without A Touchscreen Is Nintendo’s Switch DoA?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-switchNow that Nintendo has finally teased the world with its Switch hardware reveal, everyone of course wants to know more and bigger questions about Nintendo’s strategy have become top of mind.  Analysts have brought up a number of potential issues facing Nintendo as it moves forward. Most importantly, who is Nintendo really targeting with its new product and how is the company positioning the Switch against powerful consoles like next year’s Xbox Scorpio or this year’s PS4 Pro?

“Nintendo’s Switch reveal trailer unveiled a product positioning which aims to defend against the increasingly robust encroachment of the smartphone and tablet gaming opportunity yet still appeal to traditional console gamers that are looking for a big-screen gaming solution in the home. It has designed the Switch to deliver a flexible solution to cover multiple types of usage, but must avoid delivering a substandard experience by trying to be all things to all users,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS, which is now forecasting that Switch will sell 2.85 million units globally next March when it launches.

“Interestingly, the Switch reveal trailer was squarely targeted at young adults, which suggests that Nintendo is refocusing its early marketing on more traditional console gamers and those that also increasingly like gaming on the move. To build success with these buyers the offering must include third-party titles that are supported on other platforms,” Harding-Rolls continued. “Nintendo looks to have killed off its motion controllers with the Switch and opted for a more traditional form of gaming experience. This suggests the company is serious about getting third-party publishers to support the platform with multi-platform titles. Potentially, this will help Nintendo’s ambition to target young adult gamers.”

Third-party support does seem to be better already. Wii U had a list of just 21 publishers and developers at its launch while Switch has close to 50. Support, of course, is something that’s always in flux, but it’s crucial for Nintendo to get its messaging right with consumers if it wants to maintain that support from third parties. “They need a proper message. Right now I am concerned they are pitching it as just another tablet with controllers,” said DFC Intelligence’s David Cole.

“Nintendo’s ability to market a clear use case message to the audience [will be key]. Nintendo failed to do this with the Wii U and paid the price,” added Harding-Rolls.

SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen believes Nintendo needs to do a better job in defining its audience. “I have my reservations with regards to the breadth of the audience it targets. The Switch will likely be most popular among a younger audience: its functionality is uniquely geared toward pre-teens and teenagers. While the device seems much less like a toy than we’re used to from Nintendo, its features like backseat multi-player and the ability to have several people play using a single piece of the controller target Nintendo’s traditional audience. The reveal video makes a lot more sense to me if you swap out all the adults in it with kids,” he noted.

It’s clear that the widespread adoption of gaming on smartphones has had an impact on Nintendo, and indeed the company is pushing out its own mobile titles like Super Mario Run this holiday, but will that approach truly serve as a stepping stone to the Switch, or will it ultimately cannibalize Nintendo’s new hardware?

Dr. Serkan Toto, an analyst who specializes in the mobile market in Asia, remains skeptical. “Sorry, but is a portable/home console approach really that innovative in 2016? I am most concerned about the target group of the device: who else but die-hard Nintendo fans will buy the Switch? The Switch lacks a killer feature, and I think it will be very difficult for Nintendo to win back the casual gamers that are mostly on mobile now,” he commented. “In Japan, for example, the mobile gaming sector is already 2-3 times bigger than consoles. Even the PS4 struggles over here. It’s going to be a huge challenge to try to reverse that trend.”

So will Super Mario Run make a difference? “I find it very difficult to picture a scenario where a critical number of mobile, free-to-play users converts to console and buy hard- and software for several hundred dollars upfront. Different markets, very difficult to bridge,” Toto continued.

As ever, the biggest factor in the Switch launch and its chances for success could be its price. “Price pretty much depends on specs, and success depends on both price and specs. If the specs are close to PS4, I think they can price around the same ($249), and at most $299. If specs are weaker, price could be lower,” noted Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter.

“Assuming they are close to PS4, they are making porting of games easy for developers (and inexpensive), and I think they will get a lot of third party support. If the specs are weaker, porting will be costly and less likely to occur. So my ‘prediction’ is that if specs and pricing are similar to PS4, the Switch will get a lot of third party support and will be immensely successful. If specs are weaker or if pricing is too high, sales will suffer because of lack of third-party support or because of uncompetitive pricing.”

Analysts agreed that $299 really is the highest Nintendo could acceptably go. “They must find a way to release the Switch at US$299 to stand a chance, that’s the threshold,” said Toto. “It’s not impossible by offering the device in multiple versions, i.e. without the home dock. ‘Hardcore’ video game fans can, at US$299, already get fantastic devices from Sony and Microsoft. The portable gaming use case, at scale, has been taken over by smart devices.”

SuperData’s van Dreunen added that a high profile bundle, like Zelda, which we know is a launch title, could play an important role in incentivizing consumers. “I’m hoping they’ll keep it under $300, ideally bundled with a Zelda or Mario Kart. Anything over that will severely limit its market potential,” he said.

Harding-Rolls sees $300 as the max as well, commenting, “The reveal suggests it is competing more significantly with traditional home consoles, but with the edge of mobility. Pricing will need to be competitive in this context and anything over $300 may not be a convincing proposition.” He pointed to similarities with Nvidia’s Shield as evidence that Nintendo may very well end up in that price range.

“The new console shares a number of design, positioning and component similarities with Nvidia’s Shield tablet. As such it is likely that Switch will be capable of displaying 4K video content and judging by the pricing of the original Shield tablet is likely to sit in the $250-$300 range,” he said.

Excitement is currently sky high for the Switch. In fact, as noted by Bloomberg yesterday, right after Nintendo said it would unveil the console, its shares climbed almost 5% leading to a market value gain of $1 billion (the stock is up 3.34% as of this writing today). The company’s stock is up more than 50% in 2016 in large part because of its embrace of smartphone gaming, but how Nintendo balances its portfolio and its message on mobile and Switch will be fascinating to watch in the next 6-12 months and it will reveal a lot about the future of the firm.


Are Intel Processors Have A Security Issue?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Researchers claim that they have discovered a bug in Intel chips that could compromise system securities.

According to IOActive, which describes itself as an ethical hacking company, researchers there can bypass address space layout randomization (ASLR), which is often used as a defense against malware.

The ASLR function randomizes code locations which is intended to cause systems to crash rather than be completely compromised.

Alfredo Pironti, a senior security consultant at IOActive, said that the flaw means that hardware security is important in preventing hacks.

Pironti said: “This is an interesting case as it shows that software isn’t always the easiest point of entry, particularly for those hackers that have a deeper knowledge of hardware and its vulnerabilities. But this is not the first case of something like this happening, and hardware side-channel attacks are something we have been aware of for a while.”

He continued: “It is worth noting that these attacks are often more expensive and time consuming to conduct, compared to classical software attacks. Usually they also have stricter conditions, such as running a specific software on the victim’s machine and being able to collect CPU metrics. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be vigilant. Cybercriminals are more sophisticated, well-funded and – worst of all – patient than ever before, and are always looking for new and surprising ways to infiltrate. This is why it is vital that companies have their chips pen tested during the development stage, as the cost and complexity of remediating an attack of this kind is enormous.”


Automakers, Google Unhappy With CA Rules Governing Self-driving Cars

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

google-self-driving-car-150x150Alphabet Inc’s Google unit and automakers express their dissatisfaction with California’s proposals to set new, mandatory rules for testing self-driving cars in the state, which industry officials said could hobble their efforts in the home to much of self-driving vehicle testing and development.

Automakers and Google raised a litany of concerns about California’s proposal at a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday. They expressed opposition to the state proposal to require compliance with guidelines that federal regulators issued last month, but made voluntary.

They questioned why California would require a new autonomous vehicle data recorder and what data they would be required to test, and they objected to a proposal they said would force a 12-month delay between testing a vehicle and deploying it on public roads.

Automakers also questioned whether police should be able to get any self-driving data within 24 hours without seeking a warrant or subpoena.

California regulatory policy is important to automakers and technology companies because of its impact on operations in the state, and because the policies enacted in the most populous U.S. state often influence what other states and other countries do.

The proposed requirement that manufacturers generate a year of driverless testing data before applying for an operating permit drew objections from General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co, Ford Motor Co, and Google.

The state’s approach “could greatly delay the benefits that self-driving vehicles can bring to safety and mobility for individuals,” said David Strickland, who heads the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets that includes Google, Ford, Lyft, Uber Technologies Inc  and Volvo Car Group.

Brian Soublet, deputy director of the California DMV, said Wednesday the department wants concrete suggestions to help improve its proposal. Soublet said the department will be considering potential changes over the next several months but he did not give a timetable for finalizing the rules.

“The goal is making sure that we can get this life-saving technology out on the streets,” Soublet said.

California’s proposal would allow for the absence of a human driver and a steering wheel in advanced self-driving cars. In December, California had proposed to require licensed drivers and controls in self-driving vehicles.

Ron Medford, director of safety for Google’s self-driving car project, said California’s proposal to require manufacturers to obtain local approval is “unworkable.” The rule could prevent manufacturers from testing a vehicle that can travel from one area to another.

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog urged California to prohibit autonomous vehicles without a human driver until federal regulators enact enforceable standards.

Big Blue Appears To Be On The Up Swing

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

The ever shrinking Biggish Blue posted better-than-expected third-quarter revenue thanks to its moves to the cloud and analytics businesses.

Since Ginni Rometty took over IBM, the outfit has attempted to shift toward more profitable areas, such as cloud services, artificial intelligence, analytics, and security. Meanwhile it has killed off its traditional hardware and services businesses.

Revenue from those areas, which the company calls “strategic imperatives,” rose 16 percent to $8 billion in the third quarter. Cloud revenue jumped 44 percent compared with a 30 percent rise in the second quarter, it said.

Curiously though, shareholders were not that impressed and were more concerned about the fact the company had reported its 18th straight quarter of declining revenue. Shares were down 3.1 percent at $150.60 in after-market trading.

IBM has made a string of acquisitions focused on elements of its strategic imperatives business, including The Weather Company and Truven Health, spending $5.45 billion so far this year. IBM spent $821 million on acquisitions in the same period last year.

IBM’s operating gross margin fell 2.1 percentage points to 48 percent in the quarter, as a result of higher investments in the company’s cloud business and the shift to a subscription-based as-a-service model.

The company’s revenue marginally fell to $19.23 billion in the quarter ended 30 September from $19.28 billion a year earlier, but beat the average analyst estimate of $19 billion. Net income fell to $2.85 billion from $2.95 billion.


Will EA’s Battlefield 1 Be A Hit?

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The conventional wisdom said that military first-person shooters avoided World War I because it wasn’t a “fun” war. EA DICE set out to prove the conventional wisdom wrong with Battlefield 1, and the initial wave of reviews suggests they succeeded.

As Polygon’s Arthur Gies noted in his 9 out of 10 review of the game, one of the ways DICE accomplished that was by using its single-player War Stories mode as a way to convey just how horrific the war really was.

“Battlefield 1 navigates the tonal challenges of the awful human cost of WWI well, in part by not ignoring them,” Gies said. “There’s a consistent acknowledgment of the abject terror and hopelessness that sat atop the people involved in the conflict on all sides, in part thanks to a grimly effective prologue. There’s also less explicit demonetization of the ‘enemy’ – something that feels like a real relief in the military shooter space, which seems hell-bent on giving players something they can feel good about shooting at.”

War Stories is a mostly unconnected series of short campaigns that total about six hours of playtime in total. The anthology puts players in the roles of different individuals in different combat zones, each one with their own distinct motivations and skill sets.

“Battlefield 1 feels like a move away from military shooter doctrine in plenty of ways,” Gies said. “But the biggest departure is in how little shooting there can be, at least compared to the game’s contemporaries. From tank pilot to fighter ace, from Italian shock trooper to Bedouin horse-back resistance fighter, I was never bored, because I was never doing the same thing for long.”

The change in setting also impacted the multiplayer portion of the game, which Gies appreciated. While DICE made some changes in player classes that Gies seemed to think unnecessary but “mostly fine,” he was particularly taken with the way the series’ signature physics-driven chaos and destruction felt fresh in a new (old) setting.

“Small issues aside, Battlefield 1 marks an impressive, risk-taking reinvention for the series,” Gies said. “That the multiplayer is as good and distinctive as it is is less surprising than a campaign that takes a difficult setting and navigates it with skill and invention. The end result is a shooter than succeeded far beyond my expectations, and one that exists as the best, most complete Battlefield package since 2010.”

Like Gies, GameSpot’s Miguel Concepcion gave the game a 9 out of 10. Also like Gies, Concepcion labelled the game as the best Battlefield since Bad Company 2, praising the War Stories single-player mode and its novel approach to entertaining while also attempting to inform players as to the horrors of the war.

“Beyond these heartfelt tales of brotherhood and solemn reflection, War Stories gracefully complements the multiplayer scenarios as a glorified yet effective training mode,” Concepcion said. “Along with practice time commanding vehicles and heavy artillery, it provides an opportunity to learn melee combat, as well as how to survive against high concentrations of enemy forces.”

Concepcion was also taken with the audiovisual impact of the game, long a selling point for the Battlefield franchise.

“However accurate or inaccurate Battlefield 1 is–lite J.J. Abrams lens effects notwithstanding–the immersive production values superbly amplify the sights and sounds that have previously existed in other war shooters,” Concepcion said. “Examples include the distinct clatter of empty shells dropping on the metal floor of a tank and the delayed sound of an exploding balloon from far away. The brushed metal on a specific part of a revolver is the kind of eye-catching distraction that can get you killed. Beyond the usual cacophony of a 64-player match, salvos from tanks and artillery guns add bombast and bass to the large map match. And many vistas are accentuated with weather-affected lighting with dramatic results, like the blinding white sunlight that reflects off a lake after a rainstorm.

“With Battlefield 1, EA and DICE have proven the viability of World War 1 as a time period worth revisiting in first-person shooters. It brings into focus countries and nationalities that do not exist today while also shedding light on how the outcome of that war has shaped our lives.”

In giving the game four stars out of five, Games Radar’s David Roberts also lauded the way DICE balanced a fun shooter with the horror of war.

“Even though Battlefield 1 skews toward fun rather than realism whenever it gets the chance, it’s as much about the reflection on the real history of these battles and the people who fought in them as it is about the gleeful embrace of ridiculous virtual combat,” Roberts said.

Like his peers, Roberts was impressed by the game’s War Stories single-player mode, but found the anthology format slightly restricting.

“As much as I enjoyed the narratives these missions tell, I wished each one had a little more time to breathe,” Roberts said. “Each chapter is about an hour long, and just when you get invested, they’re over. Battlefield 1’s War Stories barely skim the surface of the history, but – to be fair – this is in-line with the game’s focus on fun over fastidious accuracy.”

As for the multiplayer, Roberts said its “as good here as it’s ever been” for the Battlefield franchise. Even though the setting meant trading in the modern assault rifles of previous Battlefield games for more antiquated rifles and iron sights, Roberts said the overall impact has been an improvement on the game’s online modes.

He also found the franchise focus on destruction was given new meaning by its fresh context.

“When all’s said and done, when the matches end and the dust settles, you’ll see that large portions of the maps have transformed, their buildings pockmarked by blasts, their fortifications turned into piles of rubble,” Roberts said. “Even though bloody entertainment is at Battlefield 1’s heart, the post-game wasteland is a reminder of the toll that conflict takes on the people it consumes. Whether in single or multiplayer Battlefield 1 absolutely nails the historical sense of adventure and expectation before swiftly giving way to dread as the war takes a physical and mental toll on its participants. And this – as much as the intimate, brutal virtual warfare – is the game’s most impressive feat.”

While EGM’s Nick Plessas gave the game an 8 out of 10, he included slightly more critical comments than some other reviewers doling out equivalent scores. He was generally upbeat about the War Stories approach, but said it “misses the forest for the trees somewhat by not giving any story enough time for effectual investment.” He also identified two other issues that hamper the gameplay segments of the single-player mode.

“First, enemy AI leaves much to be desired, so that even on Hard difficulty your foes’ failure to react, flank, or recognize you as a threat syphons some of the fun out of fights,” Plessas said. “Second, the game adds a focus on stealth with a collection of mechanics like enemy awareness levels and distraction tools. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the Battlefield games’ fast pace and stiff controls don’t suit stealth very well, and the enemies’ recurring AI deficiencies makes these sections a slog.”

As for online, Plessas said new features like Behemoth vehicles (zeppelins, trains, and warships) were well-handled, as were “elite” classes like flamethrower troops. The addition of cavalry troops and era-appropriate weapons and planes will also require players to adjust the tactics they might have relied on in previous Battlefield games. However, the adjustment may not be as drastic as one might expect.

“These comparisons are integral because they represent the crux of what is truly new in Battlefield 1,” Plessas said. “A World War I setting is novel indeed, but this installment in the franchise is fundamentally the Battlefield game we have played before-and returning players may fall into a familiar groove quicker than expected. This isn’t necessarily bad for those in love with Battlefield, however, and while the setting may be the most significant shift, those invested in the series will find Battlefield 1 as another terrific reason to load up.”


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