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Qualcomm Goes LTE For Microsoft

October 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has continued its friendship with Microsoft by extending its latest LTE-Advanced modem, the X12, to Windows 10 notebooks and tablets.

The chipmaker was the only major chip provider to optimize its architecture for Windows Phone, and Microsoft’s Lumia devices, which run on Snapdragon 808 and 810 chips.

The Windows 10 devices which come to market later this year will have the option to integrate cellular connectivity with the X12, X7 or X5 LTE modems, which support the Microsoft operating system’s native Mobile Broadband Interface Model (MBIM).

Qualcomm said this would give business users, in particular, a similar experience on their large-screened devices as on their smartphones, giving the particular examples of location-based services and security driving LTE usage on PCs and tablets.

Integrated cellular connectivity has not been so important for notebook users, outside of a few scenarios such as WiFi-less trains, most wireless access from notebooks, and even tablets, is over a WLAN.

Qualcomm makes WiFi chips for portable devices but it does not have such a big market share. Working with Microsoft means it could have a higher presence and a far better chance of delivering mass sales. The Surface Pro and its new Surface Book, is getting good reviews and might even be popular.


SanDisk Building Industrial Strength Components For IoT

October 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Consumers use flash memory cards in phones, tablets and cameras almost daily. But put those same cards in security cams, cellular base stations or the electrical grid and you’ll have a problem.

Industrial devices need flash that can work harder and withstand more extreme temperatures than consumer gear, and they’ll be operating out in the field years after a typical phone or camera card has been replaced. So SanDisk is introducing a line of components built for the Internet of Things.

IoT is expected to put thousands of sensors, meters, robots and machines into the field with growing needs to process and store data.

The SanDisk Industrial line includes cards for the familiar SD, microSD and eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard) standards, but built to tougher specifications.

For example, the SanDisk Industrial XT SD Cards and XT iNAND embedded flash drives announced Monday are rated to work in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit), compared with -25 Celsius for a typical consumer SD card.

The industrial cards can also write more data before they have to be replaced: as much as 128TB, far more than is typical for a consumer-grade part, said Martin Booth, director of SanDisk Industrial and SanDisk Automotive. This kind of endurance is what’s needed in IoT devices like remote video cameras that will capture video around the clock for as long as five years, he said. Otherwise they would have to be replaced more frequently, a costly proposition if the owner needs to send out a truck and a technician.

Another feature, Enhanced Power Immunity, will help prevent data loss in case of power failure. It uses special firmware for recovering data if the power is cut off, something ordinary flash cards may not be able to do if, for example, the user pulls a card out of a PC while it’s still transferring data.

The new parts range in size from 4GB or 8GB up to 64GB and will cost more than comparable consumer-grade products, but less than twice as much, Booth said.




Will Cannonlake Leap Intel Past Four Cores?

October 7, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s next-generation Cannonlake consumer-targeted processors could be the chip to leap from quad-core designs for the great unwashed.

An Intel engineer has been caught boasting on this Linkedin profile that he had a hand in Cannonlake system-on-chip (SoC) parts which integrated four, six, or eight processing cores with a Converged Coherent Fabric (CCF). He described this as acting like the Northbridge of an old-fashioned chipset setup.

Intel has not used this phrase before but it does explain some rather strange job adverts wanting a ‘Coherent Fabric Architecture Engineer.’ We have not met anyone in the fashion industry who was coherent let alone a fabric maker.

Intel has been making products with lots of processing cores but it seems addicted to four cores on consumer desktops (with or without the HyperThreading technology that extends it to running eight simultaneous threads.)

If the leak is right, then the 10nm Cannonlake family could be offered in hexa- and octa-core varieties.

Boosting the number of CPU cores on its next-generation products would allow the company to continue to tell software developers to concentrate on making the best use of CPU cores rather than looking to HSA and other than the general-purpose GPU  to boost performance.


AMD Giving More People The Boot

October 5, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

While we want AMD to do well to balance the Intel and Nvidia empires, it does seem that the outfit cannot get a break.  Today it announced that it is letting 500 staff go and will begin another wave of restructuring.

Of course, we predicted  this would happen. The company is betting the farm on its coming Zen chip, but this will not appear until next year.  Meanwhile it is facing shrinking sales and nearly impossible competition.

Under the restructuring AMD will outsource some IT and application development services.  It will give 500 people, or five percent of its staff, their pink slips and P45s. The company will take a charge of $42 million, with $41 million of that recorded in the just-ended third quarter. AMD said it expected savings of about $58 million in 2016 from the restructuring plan.

This is about the same time AMD hopes to clean up with its Zen chips.

AMD said it will cut white-collar jobs and is not shutting or idling any fabricating operations. The jobs will be lost across AMD’s global operations, including Austin, Texas, and company headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. AMD only has 9,700 employees at the end of last year, so 500 is rather a chunk.

AMD reported its second-quarter revenue fell 35 percent from the year-earlier period, claiming that no one wanted to buy PCs.

The company has been shifting to gaming consoles and low-power servers, but it really has not moved fast enough or come up with the sort of “wow” technology which is needed to see off Intel.



Microsoft, Google Cease Fire In Global Patent Deal

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has been pursuing a more collaborative approach under CEO Satya Nadella, engaging longtime rivals like Salesforce, VMware and Apple. There hasn’t been much love between Microsoft and Google, but an announcement on Wednesday points towards an easing of those tensions.

Google and Microsoft have reached a broad agreement on patent matters, with a legal settlement ending some 20 lawsuits between the companies in the U.S. and Germany. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal brings a laundry list of lawsuits to a close.

“Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues,” they said in a joint statement. “As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility.”

They also agreed to collaborate on patent matters and work together “to benefit our customers.”

The suits that have been settled include those related to mobile phones, video encoding and Wi-Fi technologies. That doesn’t mean Microsoft has given up its campaign to collect royalties from Android device makers for the mobile operating system’s alleged infringement of Microsoft patents.

It’s not clear from the statement what patent matters the companies will be working on together in the future, but changes have already begun. The two companies agreed earlier this month to work together (alongside other firms like Netflix and Mozilla) on a royalty-free video codec.

It remains to be seen if the settlement will lead to more work between Microsoft and Google in other areas. A major sticking point for consumers has been the lack of a Google-made YouTube app for smartphones and tablets running Windows.



Ghost Push Malware Giving Android A Hard Time

October 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Put your Android whatever back in its sand bucket. It is facing another threat. This one is spooky sounding and has been dubbed Ghost Push by Yang Yang and Jordan Pan of the Trend Micro security labs outfit.

The threat presents itself to people who download things from untrusted third-party stores, which is not everyone, and seems to behave in a way that is sophisticated – unlike perhaps people who download things from untrusted sites. Ghost Push is not new and neither is this method of infection.

“Halloween is still a month from now yet Android users are already being haunted by the previously reported Ghost Push malware, which roots devices and makes them download unwanted ads and apps. The malware is usually packaged with apps that users may download from third-party app stores,” said Yang and Pan.

“Further investigation of Ghost Push revealed more recent variants which, unlike older ones, employ routines that make them harder to remove and detect.”

Pan and Yang said that there are some 20 variants of Ghost Push in the wild, and that the threat has been active since April. It has ramped itself up during September and is presenting the worst side of itself in India and Indonesia, where 32 and 24 percent of infected devices can be found.

Trend does not think that this ghost theme is related to the XcodeGhost malware that bothers iOS users, but it does think that someone quite sophisticated is behind the attacks.

“It is likely that a team of cyber criminals are behind Ghost Push and they are not exactly new to the malware creation industry,” the researchers wrote.

“This group has already published 658 different malicious applications (1,259 different versions) in third-party app stores unrelated to Ghost Push. One of these apps has infected more than 100,000 devices, two more than 10,000 and seven more than 1,000.”

Third-party download sites are the reason for most of the affected devices and applications, but Yang and Pan said that a couple made it through to the official Google Play store.

“We also found two legitimate apps unrelated to Ghost Push that the same creators published on Google Play, which have since been removed,” they said, explaining that these apps accumulated some 10,000 downloads before being pulled.

“These show that this group possesses ample technical knowledge to effectively victimise thousands of devices and evade detection,” Yang and Pan said.

Once a device is infected the malware can launch other applications and services and steal personal information.


Facebook Rolled Out Updates For Mobile Profiles

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc introduced updates to mobile profile pages to enable users to better personalize their profiles and more easily control their privacy settings.

Facebook has been looking to improve and ease its mobile profile experience as it makes more of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue off of phones. The updates also come during New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, where Facebook is courting the world’s largest advertisers and companies.

Among the new features are profile videos, or a short looping video clip that users can create in place of a static profile picture. The feature is similar to Vine, a video sharing app owned by Twitter Inc.

Users can also set a temporary profile picture that reverts to their old picture at a specified time. Those who want to support a sports team or charitable cause for a specific week, for example, can choose a picture to display for a short time period.

Facebook also introduced more ways to control privacy settings so that users can curate what pieces of information are public and which are only viewable to “friends,” or people that they have allowed to view profiles.



Qualcomm Appears To Be Going To India

September 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Chipmaker Qualcomm is spending a fortune to set up shop in India by making itself the friend of the Indian government.

Qualcomm said it would invest up to $150 million in Indian startups via a venture fund. The announcement coincides with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Silicon Valley. Modi is keen to make India a technology hub with lots of mobile resources to help the country grow.

Qualcomm wants to move into India as the China market starts to dry up and it falls foul of regulators.

Executive chairman Paul Jacobs met the Indian prime minister at the Digital Economy event in San Jose and said the venture fund was in support of the government’s Digital India and Make-in-India initiatives.

Jacobs said that Qualcomm shared Modi’s vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

“India is at the cusp of a technology revolution and mobile technologies will lay the foundation for Digital India. We are committed to providing local innovative start-ups with the support needed to help India’s IOE ecosystem grow, increasing consumer choice and availability,” he said.

.The new venture fund, which will be advised by Qualcomm Ventures — an investment arm of the group — is expected to fuel innovation and foster promising Indian startups which are contributing to the Mobile and Internet of Everything ecosystem. It will also aim to provide startups with financial, marketing, technology and business support to help propel them forward in the competitive Indian market.


Facebook Pursuing TV Advertisers For Its Network

September 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc unveiled a slew of new advertising products on Sunday, most of which are aimed at luring television advertisers onto the 1.5-billion user social network.

The advertising options, most of which will also be available on Facebook-owned Instagram, are designed to take advantage of the social network’s strengths on mobile devices. It has the world’s most popular smartphone app and generates more than three-quarters of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue on phones.

Facebook is trying to convince advertisers, especially those who use video, that their dollars will be better spent on mobile platforms rather than on TV as users, especially millennials, spend more time on their phones than watching television. The rollout of the new products come ahead of New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, which runs from Monday to Friday and gathers the world’s largest advertisers and companies. Facebook also announced on Sunday that it has 2.5 million active advertisers in total, up from 2 million in February.

Digital video advertising spending is growing rapidly, projected to increase 13 percent to nearly $15 billion by 2019, according to eMarketer. Television ad spending, by comparison, is expected to grow 2 percent in the same time period to $78 billion. “Facebook is listening to the ad community and giving them what they are looking for,” said Debra Aho Williamson, social media marketing analyst with eMarketer. “Does Facebook want video ad dollars? Yes.”

On television, advertisers can buy ads based on how many people they will reach, an approach Facebook has adopted to ease the transition between television spending and digital spending.

In addition, it can target highly specific audiences, such as women aged 18 to 35 years old who have shopped on a specific website, which TV cannot do.



Did Intel Deliberately Slow PC Sales?

September 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel might have caused slow PC sales at the beginning of the year to boost the price of its Skylake chips later.

A recent study shows that the slump in PC sales in the first half was deliberately made to help Skylake sell better since August. Initially analysts believed that sales of the Skylake are hindered by existing stocks of previous Haswells, but it turns out this was untrue.

Tech Trader Daily has found that Intel significantly reduced shipments of its central processing units in the first half of the year, to leave PC maker inventories drained and empty.

This is normal practice since Intel needed to have all its PC makers and retailers with empty enough stocks in order to fill them up quickly with new Skylake models in August. But this year the plan worked too well. The Skylake stocks quickly evaporated and the first supply aps appeared between the months of August and September, with Intel quickly assuring its customers that new Skylake batches will return in stores as fast as possible.

Normally Chipzilla has a cycle of unit buildups in the first half of a financial year and then a controlled drain of units in the second half. This helps PC makers and retailers build systems in the first half and then sell them bundled without being compromised by stand-alone units selling alongside them at a higher pace in the second.

This time Intel launched the Skylake in the second half of the year, August onwards, so the cycle was stuffed up. Now it seems that this will mean a low supply of Skylakes in the first half of 2016. If you can find them, you might need to stock up now.

Intel is making piles from this. PC makers mainly build their systems on Skylakes and since the supply is low the price is high. Intel does not have to discount to shift the technology, the suppliers have to buy it at any price. Particularly as Intel’s only real x86 market, AMD, is having a bit of a snooze.

A full transition to Skylake will probably happen in winter, but the ongoing process at the moment gives Intel the much-needed money to financially buffer a slowdown in sales next spring.  All this gives a warning about what will happen if AMD goes under and Intel takes total control.


eBook Sales Appear To Be Falling

September 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It is starting to look like the shift from hard content to digital content that killed off physical cds is not going to happen to books.

In the first five months of 2015, publishers’ revenues from e-books sales fell 10 per cent to $610.8 million, according to the Association of American Publishers, compared to a 2.3 per cent drop in print book sales in the fiction, nonfiction and religious categories (that the industry calls trade books.)

Anyone with common sense will tell you that the reason ebook sales are falling is because greedy publishers jacked up the price until people failed to see the point of ebooks. Ebook prices have risen and serious readers still prefer the tactile pleasure of a physical book and will choose that over a digital book for the same price.

Ebooks generated 24.9 per cent of publisher revenues between January and May, down from a peak of 26.5 per cent in the year earlier period.

Barnes & Noble reporting slight gains in comparable sales in its core book selling business after years of declines that had led many to wonder whether the largest remaining bookstore chain might suffer the same fate as Borders, which went out of business four years ago.

On the e-reader front, about 12 million devices industries wide were sold last year, down 40% from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011.


Intel’s Xeon Future Leaked

September 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

While the focus has been on Intel’s Skylake it appears that Chipzilla has not forgotten its server products.

CPU World has gotten its paws on a roadmap which predicts we will see a few Xeon chips for servers over the next two quarters.

Xeon E3-1200 v5 series for single-socket workstations will be released in the fourth quarter of 2015 and these will be under the “Greenlow” platform that will also include C236 series chipset. The CPUs will use Skylake microarchitecture and fit into socket 1151. Also in Q4, the company will expand Xeon D family for microservers with a few new models.

Xeon E3 line will be followed by Xeon E5 server processors in the first half of 2016. In the first quarter of the next year, Intel is going to launch Xeon E5-1600 v4 and E5-2600 v4 “Broadwell-EP” series for single- and dual-socket systems.

The Xeon E5-2600 v4 will have up to 22 CPU cores and support for DDR4-2400 memory. The E5-1600 v4 processors will have up to eight cores. Both E5-1600 v4 and E5-2600 v4 will be compatible with existing Grantley-EP platform and C610 series chipset.

Xeon E5-4600 v4 series for quad-socket servers will be launched in the second quarter of 2016.

Codenamed Broadwell-EP 4S they will be identical to the E5-2600 v4 series. Also in the second quarter of 2016, Intel will release Xeon E7-4800 v4 and E7-8800 v4 “Broadwell-EX” CPUs, compatible with existing Brickland platform.

Xeon Phi x200 products will be available in Q3 2016. These parts will use “Knights Landing” design.



Adobe Releases Another Patch For Flash

September 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Adobe has released a Flash patch package that really deserves your attention.

This is the latest salvo from the firm, and the advice so far is to drop everything and apply it immediately. Out-of-band releases are always interesting, and the suggestion is that the fix is a rush job to deal with some particularly nasty threats.

“If you’re running Adobe Flash on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer – it’s time, once again, to make sure that you’re running the latest version of the software. Adobe has issued a security patch for the Flash Player tackling critical security holes that could allow a malicious hacker to gain access to your computer, infect it with malware and steal your data,” said security guru Graham Cluley.

“Most of the nearly two dozen vulnerabilities patched in Adobe’s latest update could be exploited to execute malicious code on victims’ computers, and relate to buffer overflow flaws, memory corruption and stack corruption. Windows and Mac users are advised to update at the earliest opportunity.”

Adobe also urges users to get their skates on in its official announcement, saying that some of the Flash issues are critical.

“Adobe has released security updates for Adobe Flash Player,” it says. “These updates address critical vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.”

Adobe Flash is less Flash Gordon and more Gordon Bennett these days. People have fallen out of love with the web software and it is increasingly gaining pariah status.


Internet Growth Rate Slowing, According To U.N. Study

September 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population remains offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said on Monday.

Internet access in rich economies is reaching saturation levels but 90 percent of people in the 48 poorest countries have none, its report said.

The access growth rate is expected to slow to 8.1 percent this year, down from 8.6 percent in 2014. Until 2012, growth rates had been in double digits for years.

“We have reached a transition point in the growth of the Internet,” the report said.

The commission, set up in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO, the U.N. scientific and cultural agency, said the milestone of four billion Internet users was unlikely to be passed before 2020.

It said growth in Facebook subscribers was outpacing growth in the Internet.

“Over half the world’s population – some 57 percent, or

more than 4 billion people – still do not use the Internet regularly or actively,” the report said.

It blamed the cost of extending last-mile infrastructure to rural and remote customers, and a sharp slowdown in the growth of mobile cellular subscriptions globally.

By the end of this year, 3.2 billion people will have some form of regular access to the Internet, up from 2.9 billion in 2014. That is 43.4 percent of the world’s population, still far short of a U.N. target of 60 percent by 2020.

Women in poorer countries were particularly disadvantaged, the report said. In the developing world, 25 percent fewer women than men had Internet access, a number that rises to 50 percent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Only about 5 percent of the world’s estimated 7,100 languages were represented on the Internet, the report said. Many Internet users could not understand Latin script, so even reading domain names was a challenge, it added.



Goldman Sachs Using Snapchat For Recruiting Workers

September 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

In its latest attempt to appeal to millennials, Goldman Sachs Group Inc released a series of quick-hit recruiting ads on Snapchat on Friday, becoming the first major Wall Street bank to turn to the instant-but-fleeting messaging app for potential hires.

The ads appear on Snapchat’s Campus Story function, a curated platform for user-generated contents such as pictures and videos at college campuses nationwide. Goldman’s 10-second recruitment clips appear between user-generated content segments.

In the videos, Goldman says it is seeking a “Campus Environmental Leader,” “Youth Sports Coach” or “Crowd Funding Champion,” and provides a link to

Only Snapchatters whose phones indicate they are in and around a campus, or were there in the last 24 hours, are able to post to and view the Campus Story.

Goldman’s efforts to reach out to millennials comes amid mounting indications that careers in banking and finance hold a diminishing appeal among recent graduates. Even at elite business programs like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the percentage of students opting for banking as a career is down by half or more since before the recession.

The move is the latest leg of Goldman’s bid to appeal to soon-to-be college grads and push back against the prevalent view of investment banking as an all-work-and-no-play career.

Goldman is also one of the few in the industry adding employees now. During the bank’s second-quarter earnings call, Goldman said its workforce grew 8 percent over the last four quarters, and rose 1 percent between March 31 and June 30. At the end of June, the bank had 34,900 employees.

Snapchat, which allows its more than 100 million users to send messages that disappear in seconds, is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most highly valued startups. As of May, the messaging app is valued at $16 billion.