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Auto Industry Helps Texas Instruments Bottom Line

January 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Texas Instruments appears to have done rather well thanks to a growing demand for chips from the car industry.

The company posted fourth-quarter revenue of $3.27 billion, up 8 percent from the year-ago period and slightly above what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street predicted by reading their tarot cards.

This was mostly because TI deepened its focus on analogue and embedded chips which are in demand from carmakers, telecom companies and industrial customers.

Revenue from Texas Instruments’ largest market, “industrial,” grew a bit in 2014, while revenue from its communications market expanded as wireless carriers installed next-generation base stations.

TI has been winding down its unprofitable wireless business and refocusing on analogue and embedded chips. Factories that Texas Instruments bought at relatively attractive prices in recent years and the chipmaker’s robust sales force give it an advantage over smaller competitors.

The company’s fourth-quarter net income rose 61 percent to $825 million. Earnings per share were 76 cents.

Texas Instruments forecast first-quarter revenue of between $3.07 billion and $3.33 billion.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $3.26 billion for the fourth quarter and $3.19 billion for the first quarter.

 

Courtesy-Fud

Dropbox Acquires Startup Pixelapse

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox, never one to shy away from an acquisition, has purchased startup Pixelapse, which provides a GitHub-like version control service for “tens of thousands” of visual designers. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“Our new development efforts will be focused on bringing the same kinds of collaboration and workflow experiences that you’re used to in Pixelapse over to the core Dropbox product,” said the company’s traditional “hey we’ve been acquired” blog post about the deal.

The way Pixelapse works is simple and familiar to anyone who’s used a version control service like GitHub before: Visual design project files get stored in a dedicated folder. Make a change to a project asset, and those changes get synced to the cloud, where they’re viewable from a cloud interface. There’s even an activity feed to see who worked on what within a team.

If you or anybody else (the client you’ve shared the project with, the boss in charge of the project, or just the rest of the project team) wants, they can go back and view the entire history, comparing revisions and rolling back changes if necessary. You can even show off the history of a project to the public with an embeddable code widget.

If that sounds a lot like Dropbox’s existing version control, just tailored to a very specific vertical — namely, designers — collect your prize at the door. From Dropbox’s perspective, this is a shrewd move that enhances the platform’s appeal with a project management feature that developers love but designers could never access. The startup’s origins stem from co-founder Min Ming Lo’s time as a design intern at Google, where nobody had any idea what assets belonged to whom or how to give feedback.

For existing users, never fear. Pixelapse promises on its website that the service is safe for at least another year and that it’s still accepting sign-ups, which is a good omen given that so many similar deals of this type see immediate service shutdown.

 

 

New Internet Browser Vivaldi Launches

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Well known software developer Jon von Tetzchner has launched a new internet browser, offering an interface for high-volume users who “have problems fitting all their open tabs on one screen”, he said in a Reuters interview.

Known as Vivaldi and available on desktop computers from Tuesday, the browser’s initial launch covers the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

“A mobile phone and a tablet version are in the pipeline. We are working on it, but they won’t be out until they’re ready,” said von Tetzchner, who owns 90 percent of the company’s shares and has paid for the development.

“At some point it will need to fund it self and to reach that point we will need a few million users. I have no doubt that we will reach that number quite easily,” he added.

With features like personalized notes, bookmarks with small screen shots and speed dials with options for multiple groups and folders, Vivaldi hopes to attract high-volume users.

Despite tough competition from the likes of Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Corp’s Firefox and Opera Software’s browser, von Tetzchner believes there is still room for more.

“We welcome everyone, but this is first of all a browser for people who expect and need more,” he said. “There is without a doubt a demand for this type of browser even though I don’t expect it to take more than a few percent of the total market.”

Vivaldi has signed a few affiliation deals ahead of the launch and is in talks with several potential partners for functionalities like search and online shopping.

“We have made several deals and have started a dialogue with others. But because some of these are potential competitors, we’ve wanted to go live with the browser first.”

Named after the 18th century composer Antonio Vivaldi, the name carries an inescapable reference to von Tetzchner’s previous role as co-founder and long-time head of browser and mobile phone technology firm Opera Software.

 

Gas Stations Vulnerable To Cyberattacks

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Over 5,000 devices used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be hacked from the Internet by malicious attackers.

These devices, known as automated tank gauges (ATGs), are also used to trigger alarms in case of problems with the tanks, such as fuel spills.

“An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system,” said HD Moore, the chief research officer at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. “Tank gauge malfunctions are considered a serious issue due to the regulatory and safety issues that may apply.”

Earlier this month, Moore ran a scan to detect ATGs that are connected to the Internet through serial port servers that map ATG serial interfaces to the Internet-accessible TCP port 10001. This is a common set-up used by ATG owners to monitor the devices remotely.

“Approximately 5,800 ATGs were found to be exposed to the Internet without a password,” Moore said. “Over 5,300 of these ATGs are located in the United States, which works out to about 3 percent of the approximately 150,000 fueling stations in the country.”

Rapid7 decided to run the scan after being alerted of the problem by Jack Chadowitz, the founder of Kachoolie, a division of BostonBase that provides secure tank gauge access services.

Chadowitz had already developed an online service where ATG owners, particularly those using “a Gilbarco/Veeder Root TCP/IP card or a TCP/IP to serial converter such as those commonly available from Digi or Lantronix,” can check if they are at risk.

Some systems provide the capability to protect serial interfaces with a password, but this functionality is not commonly enabled, according to Moore.

 

 

SAP Sees High Profit Potential In Cloud

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

European software giant SAP could eventually see its software delivered via the cloud deliver higher profit margins than its traditional packaged software, its finance chief told a newspaper.

“Such contracts become profitable over time. In the long term, they can definitely become more profitable than our classic license sales,” Luka Mucic told the Euro am Sonntag business weekly in an interview.

SAP said last week its push to deliver cloud-based products via the Internet – which allow customers to access powerful remote data centers for processing and storage – would dampen profitability until at least 2018.

Unlike the packaged software SAP has been selling for decades, for which clients pay a immediate license fee, cloud-based software is generally paid for by subscription over time, but most of the costs for the software provider are upfront.

Mucic said such contracts were loss-making for the first year of operation.

To strengthen its position in the fast-growing cloud market, SAP agreed in September to buy cloud-based travel and expenses software maker Concur for $7.3 billion in cash, its biggest takeover ever.

The company issued a triple-tranche, 2.75 billion-euro ($3.08 billion) bond in November to help finance the deal.

Mucic said SAP might add another, smaller tranche, perhaps as soon as the first half of this year, but said otherwise the company had no need for further capital.

“We are just examining whether this would be advantageous for us,” he said.

 

 

Researchers At Georgia Tech Develop An Auto Detect Keyboard

January 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have emerged from their smoke filled labs with an intelligent keyboard which cleans itself and can identify users by the pattern and style of their fingertips and keystrokes.

Dubbed the “human-machine interfacing” device, the keyboard was reported in the American Chemical Society’s academic journal “Nano.”

If it works it could provide a foolproof way to prevent unauthorized users from gaining direct access to computers and stop the return key being clogged with navel fluff.

Enabled by a system of “contact electrification,” the keyboard senses typing patterns, the level of pressure applied to keys and speed – and it is accurate enough to distinguish one individual user from another.

The keyboard harnesses energy generated from all that typing to either power itself or another small device.  This means that you have to keep working or your keyboard will not work, so after a holiday both you and your keyboard might be sluggish.

“Conventional security measures such as personal identification numbers, tokens, or passwords can provide only limited protection, since they themselves are subject to illegitimate activities,” the research team wrote.

“Based on contact electrification, which is ubiquitous but under-explored, between human fingers and keys, the intelligent keyboard (IKB) converts typing motions on the keyboard into locally electric signals that can be harnessed for either touch-sensing or energy-harvesting purposes. Most significantly, the IKB allows a direct identification of personality in data input using the dynamic electronic signals generated when striking keys,” the article stated.

The scientists anticipate their device can be potentially applied “not only to self-powered electronics but also to artificial intelligence, cyber security, and computer or network access control.”

Courtesy-Fud

Hacker Forum Working To On Evolving Malware

January 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Notorious malware kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM have been uncovered in a hacker forum as evolved versions, developed with advanced functionality, according to researchers at Trend Micro.

A threat response engineer at Trend Micro, Michael Marcos, said that he uncovered the malware while examining the Arabic language on a bogus “computer enthusiast site”, called dev-point.com forum.

“One of the notable topics in the forum talked about new malware ‘kjw0rm’ and a worm named ‘Sir DoOom’, which both came about after the release of the Njw0rm malware source code in the same forum,” he explained.

The Njw0rm’s source code was leaked in May 2013. The evolved kjw0rm is currently available in two versions, both of which have advanced infiltration and infection mechanisms.

The first Kjw0rm V2.0 appeared initially on the forum in January 2014, while the updated 0.5X version and new Sir DoOoM malware followed in December.

The V2.0 malware is the most basic of the three and reportedly hides itself in bogus files within infected systems.

“The propagation method of this malware targets all folders in the root directory of the removable drive,” read the advisory.

V0.5X follows a developed version of the same tactic, and Sir DoOoM adds an anti-virtual machine capability.

“[V0.5X] obfuscated some portions of the malware code. The malware author utilises an obfuscator tool that converts characters to hex values, adds filler functions, and performs computations that make analysis more difficult and time-consuming,” explained Marcos.

“[Sir DoOoM] also has an anti-virtual machine routine. It first searches for a list of the installed programs in the affected computer.

“If this variant found itself in a computer where a virtual machine program is installed, it will uninstall and terminate itself from the affected system. This prevents analysts testing to determine malware behaviour.”

Trend Micro senior engineer Bharat Mistry told V3 that the variants are dangerous as they add several advanced functions.

“Previous versions were there mainly for password stealing from browsers. As the malware has evolved, after the initial infections it now has the ability to download and execute Visual Basic code [VBS],” he said.

“VBS is a powerful coding language and can be used to interact directly with the operating system on the infected device.

“Also it now has the ability to recognise if it is being used in a security testing environment known as a sandbox by looking for the presence of a virtual machine.

“Finally the replication has also advanced with the use of hidden files on removable storage devices such as USB sticks.”

He added that the new powers could be used to mount a variety of attacks.

“The malware can be used to perform a number of different functions, including download, installation and execution of additional files or tools to potentially gain administrator or privilege credentials,” he said.

“Once this is gained hackers then have the ability to move laterally in the organisation and start looking for crown jewels or simply advertise that a point of presence has been created in a organisation that could then be ‘rented’ out to perform attacks, such as DDoS.”

Kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM’s appearance follows the discovery of several evolved attack tools. These include the defence-dodging Skeleton Key malware and the advanced Cryptowall 3.0 ransomware.

Courtesy-Theinq

Cablevision To Launch Wi-Fi Phone Service

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Cablevision System Corp said that it would launch in February a wireless Internet phone service to give customers an alternative to more expensive data plans from cellular companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The “Freewheel” phone service, which runs on any WiFi connection, is an attempt by Cablevision to retain and potentially add subscribers at a time when cable companies are losing out to lower-priced, bundled TV and Internet services from telecom firms.

Cablevision said the phone service was the first of its kind to be launched by a cable company and aims to tap users seeking to download unlimited amounts of data on their mobile phones using WiFi, which is less expensive than a cellular connection.

Such services could pose a challenge to traditional telecom carriers. Currently, carrier Republic Wireless and Massachusetts-based startup Scratch Wireless offer users similar services that use WiFi to control data costs.

“There has been a dramatic shift in how consumers use their mobile devices: today, it’s all about data, and WiFi is now preferred and clearly superior to cellular,” Kristin Dolan, chief operating officer of Cablevision, said in the statement.

Cablevision, controlled by New York’s Dolan family, has been investing in its “Optimum” WiFi network since 2007, setting up over 1.1 million WiFi hotspots or access points in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Cablevision’s WiFi phone service will be offered at $29.95 per month and $9.95 per month for subscribers of its “Optimum Online” service. It will be available exclusively on the Motorola Moto G smartphone that users will have to purchase, the company said.

The $180 Android phone will be sold to “Freewheel” users without a contract at a discounted price of $99.95, it added.

 

 

 

China Further Restricts Internet, Blocks VPN Access

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China is further tightening its grip on access to the Internet by blocking services that allow users to get around government censorship.

Several foreign-based operators of virtual private network (VPN) services said Friday that access to their services in China had been disrupted as a result of the crackdown and users are facing a harder time getting to some foreign websites.

Virtual private networks work by establishing an encrypted pipe between a computer or smartphone and a server in a foreign country. All communications are sent inside the pipe, effectively shielding Internet traffic from government filters that determine whether a site can be accessed. VPNs are used by Chinese citizens to get to external news sources and by resident foreigners and businesses for day-to-day communications.

StrongVPN, a commercial provider that operates a network of servers around the world, said users in China had recently begun experiencing connection problems to some of its sites. Comments alongside a company blog post indicate the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.

Another VPN provider, Golden Frog, told customers they might have more success connecting to services in Hong Kong or The Netherlands than those in the United States or Australia.

The Chinese government appears to be using two techniques to disrupt service, said Andrew Staples, a spokesman for Golden Frog. One, deep packet inspection, examines the data in Internet packets to try to determine if it’s a VPN connection. The other, IP blocking, shuts off traffic destined for the Internet addresses used by VPN servers.

 

 

Box Riding High After Success IPO

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Box made a splashy entrance on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, opening at $20.20 per share, or 44 percent higher than the price it had set for itself the night before.

With 12.5 million shares for sale, the initial public offering raised some $175 million that Box can now use to invest in its business, and a market capitalization of $1.6 billion.

By Friday afternoon, the stock — trading under the symbol “BOX” — had reached as high as $24.73 per share, or 77 percent above its IPO price.

“It was unbelievable,” said Steve Sarracino, a founder and partner at Activant Capital, noting that current prices were giving Box a valuation on a par with the $2 billion it saw in its last private funding round in July.

“We were watching closely because for the first time it looked like the public market was going to impose discipline on the private market, but they blew right through there. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it tells us the market is risk-on,” he said.

Wall Street’s warm reception can only come as welcome reassurance for Box, whose IPO journey has been a rocky one. After originally filing to go public last March, the company ended up postponing those plans, citing unfavorable market conditions.

Looking ahead, though, there’s no doubt Box will have to move quickly. Storage is a commodity business,analysts have noted, and Box will have to make sure customers see it as a provider of more than just storage.

 

 

 

RHEL Finally Available On IBM’s Power8

January 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has made the Power8 version of the latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) beta available through its Power Development Platform (PDP) as the firm continues to build support for its Power systems.

IBM and Red Hat announced in December that RHEL 7.1 was adding support for the Power8 processor in little endian instruction format, as the beta release was made available for testers to download.

This version is available for developers and testers to download from today through the IBM PDP and at IBM Innovation Centres and Client Centres worldwide, IBM announced on its Smarter Computing blog.

“IBM and Red Hat’s collaboration to produce open source innovation demonstrates our commitment to developing solutions that efficiently solve IT challenges while empowering our clients to make their data centres as simple as possible so they can focus on core business functions and future opportunities,” said Doug Balog, general manager for Power Systems at IBM’s Systems & Technology Group.

The little endian support is significant because IBM’s Power architecture processors are capable of supporting little endian and big endian instruction formats. These simply reflect the order in which bytes are stored in memory.

The Power platform has long had Linux distributions and applications that operate in big endian mode, but the much larger Linux ecosystem for x86 systems uses little endian mode, and supporting this in Red Hat makes it much easier to port applications from x86 to Power.

Suse Linux Enterprise Server 12 launched last year with little endian support for the Power8 processor, as did Canonical’s Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

However, Red Hat and Suse are understood to be continuing to support their existing big endian releases on Power for their full product lifecycles.

IBM sold off its x86 server business to Lenovo last year, and has focused instead on the higher value Power Systems and z Systems mainframes.

In particular, the firm has touted the Power Systems as more suitable for mission critical workloads in scale-out environments like the cloud than x86 servers, and has been forging partnerships with firms such as Red Hat through its OpenPower Foundation.

Courtesy-TheInq

NASA Test New Robotic Helicopter

January 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The robotic rovers navigating around Mars are limited by what their onboard cameras are capable of viewing.

If they could see further ahead, they might be able totravel three times as far in a single Martian day, enabling them to better find sites to explore and gather more information, faster, than they can today.

To speed up the rovers’ work, NASA is considering sending a robotic helicopter to Mars that could act as a scout for their explorations.

“So why would we want to put a helicopter on Mars?” asks Mike Meacham, a mechanical engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a video presentation. “If I’m the rover right now, I can’t really see the terrain behind me. But if I had a helicopter with a camera on it, all of a sudden, I can see a whole lot more.”

Dubbed the Mars Helicopter, the robot could be an add-on to future Mars rovers. Weighing 2.2 pounds and measuring 3.6 feet from the tip of one blade to the other, the helicopter would be able to detach from the rover and fly on its own.

So far, JPL engineers have built a proof-of-concept prototype and have been testing it in a 25-foot vacuum chamber.

Because of the difference between the atmosphere on Earth and on Mars, the helicopter’s blades would have to spin at about 2,400 rpm to provide lift, NASA said.

“The system is designed to fly for two to three minutes every day,” said Bob Balaram, a chief engineer at JPL. “There’s a solar panel on the top and that provides us with enough energy for that short flight, as well as to keep us warm through the night. So in those two to three minutes, we expect to have daily flights of about half a kilometer or so.”

For now the JPL team is focused on relentlessly testing the helicopter.

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Unveils Hologram Visor

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp surprised the tech world with the unveiling of a prototype hologram visor that can bring the Minecraft video game, Skype calls and even the landscape of Mars to three-dimensional life.

The veteran tech pioneer, which long ago lost the mantle of the world’s most inventive company, is making a bold play to regain that title in the face of stiff competition from Google Inc and Apple Inc.

Virtual or enhanced reality is the next frontier in computing interaction, with Facebook Inc focusing on its Oculus virtual reality headset and Google working on its Glass project.

Microsoft said its wire-free Microsoft HoloLens device will be available around the same time as Windows 10 this autumn. Industry analysts were broadly excited at the prospect, but skeptical that it could produce a working model at a mass-market price that soon.

“That was kind of a ‘Oh wow!’ moment,” said Mike Silver, an analyst at Gartner who tried out the prototype on Wednesday. “You would expect to see a relatively high-priced model this year or next year, then maybe it’ll take another couple of years to bring it down to a more affordable level.”

Microsoft does not have a stellar record of bringing ground-breaking technology to life. Its Kinect motion-sensing game device caused an initial stir but never gripped the popular imagination.

The company showed off a crude test version of the visor – essentially jerry-rigged wires and cameras pulled over the head – to reporters and industry analysts at a gathering at its headquarters near Seattle.

It did not allow any photographs or video of the experience, but put some images on its website.

 

 

ARM Develops IoT For Students

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

ARM has created a course to teach IoT skills to students at University College London (UCL)

The course is designed to encourage graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to seek careers in IT.

The IoT Education Kit will teach students how to use the Mbed IoT operating system to create smartphone apps that control mini-robots or wearable devices.

Students are expected to be interested in building their own IoT business, or joining IoT-focused enterprises like ARM. The course will also try to limit the number of Stem graduates pursuing non-technology careers.

ARM reported statistics from a 2012 study by Oxford Policy and Research revealing how many engineering graduates (36 percent of males, 51 percent of females), technology graduates (44 percent, 53 percent) and computer scientists (64 percent, 66 percent) end up with non-Stem jobs.

The IoT Education Kit will be rolled out by UCL’s Department of Electronics from September 2015, with a week-long module for full-time and continuing professional development students.

The Kit comprises a complete set of teaching materials, Mbed-enabled hardware boards made by Nordic Semiconductor, and software licensed from ARM. A second teaching module for engineering graduates is being developed for 2016.

“Students with strong science and mathematical skills are in demand and we need to make sure they stay in engineering,” said ARM CTO Mike Muller.

“The growth of the IoT gives us a great opportunity to prove to students why our profession is more exciting and sustainable than others.”

UCL professor Izzat Darwazeh also highlighted the importance of Stem skills, saying that “many students are not following through to an engineering career and that is a real risk to our long-term success as a nation of innovators”.

Courtesy-TheInq

LG Refutes Claims Of Overheating Qualcomm Phone Processors

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

South Korean smartphone maker LG Electronics Inc said on Thursday that it has not experienced any overheating problems with Qualcomm Inc’s new Snapdragon processor that is powering a curved-screen device going on sale later this month.

“I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip’s performance is quite satisfactory,” Woo Ram-chan, LG vice president for mobile product planning, told reporters at a press event for the company’s G Flex2 smartphone.

The comment came after Bloomberg reported a day earlier that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s top smartphone maker, decided not to use the new Qualcomm processor for the next flagship Galaxy S smartphone after the chip overheated during testing. Samsung and Qualcomm have declined to comment on the report, which cited unidentified sources.

Samsung is widely expected to unveil the new Galaxy S smartphone in early March, and Bloomberg reported that the Korean firm will use its own processors instead.

But LG’s Woo said on Thursday that internal tests for the G Flex2, powered by the new Qualcomm processor, show that the new product emits less heat than other existing devices. The new phone is scheduled to start selling in South Korea on Jan. 30.

“I don’t understand why there is a issue over heat,” he said.