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BlackBerry’s Passport Smartphone Sold Out, Says CEO

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.

Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said ShopBlackBerry.com sold out the Passport in six hours, with Amazon.com selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.

“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.

But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.

Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.

Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.

“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”

He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.

The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.

 

 

Kuddle, Microsoft To Launch Child Safe Tablet

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Kuddle, a Norwegian photo-sharing app created for children, plans to roll out a child safe tablet with Microsoft on Dec 1, and expects to sign funding deals with several venture capital firms within weeks, its chief executive said on Monday.

The Oslo-based company said it was on track to reach its goal of one million users by year-end and plans to soon raise another $5 million of fresh funds on top of the nearly $6 million it has already raised.

“We are working with Microsoft on several child safe devices which will be sold on our online store,” Chief Executive Ole Vidar Hestaas said. “The first device will be an Ipad Mini sized tablet prized under $100 that will be ready ahead of the Kuddle Store launch.”

“This is a child friendly device and it is not possible to download games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) or apps like Snapchat,” Hestaas said.

Kuddle, which bills itself as a rival to Instagram, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and “likes” are anonymous.

Hestaas said the company also is in talks with Samsung and Microsoft’s Nokia phones unit on similar cooperation, and that it was also working on deals with European telecoms operators Telenor and Vodafone for child safe Kuddle SIM cards to be sold separately or linked up to one of its devices.

The app, which has a target of 1 million users by the end of 2014, is now available in 7 languages. The most significant growth has recently come from Brazil and the US.

Hestaas said he expects to conclude funding deals with several major international venture capital funds within weeks.

The firm’s present investors include Norwegian golf ace Suzann Pettersen.

 

 

BMW Begins Automated Driving Trials

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

German luxury carmaker BMW is partnering with Chinese internet giant Baidu to kick off highly automated driving trials in Beijing and Shanghai.

BMW research vehicles capable of highly automated driving have already undergone thousands of kilometers of trials on German autobahns. The project will now be expanded to include other large cities in China, BMW said on Monday.

“BMW is embarking on a further research project which will pave the way for highly automated driving in China as well,” the Munich-based automaker said in a statement.

“China’s fast-expanding urban centers present the engineers with challenges such as multi-level highways.”

Prototype cars developed in this project will initially be operated on urban highways in Beijing and Shanghai.

BMW needs a partner because cars with semi-autonomous driving functions need high-resolution maps to help measure precisely when they are in danger of hitting a curb, or missing a turn.

Cars currently have insufficient memory to store detailed maps of an entire country, so automakers need to team up with telecoms and internet providers to help autonomous vehicles download detailed maps on the go.

Baidu operates China’s largest search engine and is also a provider of map services and cloud services.

 

 

 

Mobile Devices OK’d For In-flight Use In Europe

September 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Airline passengers traveling on European airline flights will be able to leave their cell phones and other mobile gadgets on throughout the entire flight, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Friday.

European airlines can allow any kind of electronic devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones to remain switched on for the entire trip without having to use the airplane mode. Switching to airplane mode was mandatory until now.

“This is the latest regulatory step towards enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or WiFi services,” EASA said in a news release.

It is up to the airline to decide whether to allow the use of electronic devices. In order to do so, they will have to go through an assessment to ensure the aircraft systems are not affected by device transmission signals in any way.

However, to ensure safety on board, passengers will likely be asked by the cabin crew to stow their devices during taxi on the runway and take-off, an EASA spokesman said, adding that airlines can still set rules on when devices can be used.

 

 

RedHat Ups Game With Fedora 21

September 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

RedHat has announced the Fedora 21 Alpha release for Fedora developers and any brave users that want to help test it.

Fedora is the leading edge – some might say bleeding edge – distribution of Linux that is sponsored by Red Hat. That’s where Red Hat and other developers do new development work that eventually appears in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and other Red Hat based Linux distributions, including Centos, Scientific Linux and Mageia, among others. Therefore, what Fedora does might also appear elsewhere eventually.

The Fedora project said the release of Fedora 21 Alpha is meant for testing in order to help it identify and resolve bugs, adding, “Fedora prides itself on bringing cutting-edge technologies to users of open source software around the world, and this release continues that tradition.”

Specifically, Fedora 21 will produce three software products, all built on the same Fedora 21 base, and these will each be a subset of the entire release.

Fedora 21 Cloud will include images for use in private cloud environments like Openstack, as well as AMIs for use on Amazon, and a new image streamlined for running Docker containers called Fedora Atomic Host.

Fedora 21 Server will offer data centre users “a common base platform that is meant to run featured application stacks” for use as a web server, file server, database server, or as a base for offering infrastructure as a service, including advanced server management features.

Fedora 21 Workstation will be “a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and PC hardware” for use by developers and other desktop users, and will feature the latest Gnome 3.14 desktop environment.

Those interested in testing the Fedora 21 Alpha release can visit the Fedora project website.

Courtesy-TheInq

FBI Is Concerned About Encryption On Smartphones

September 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation expressed some concerns about moves by Apple and Google to include encryption on smartphones, the agency’s director has stated.

Quick law enforcement access to the contents of smartphones could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases, FBI Director James Comey said in a briefing with some reporters. Comey said he’s concerned that smartphone companies are marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” according to news reports.

An FBI spokesman confirmed the general direction of Comey’s remarks. The FBI has contacted Apple and Google about their encryption plans, Comey told a group of reporters who regularly cover his agency.

Just last week, Google announced it would be turning on data encryption by default in the next version of Android. Apple, with the release of iOS 8 earlier this month, allowed iPhone and iPad users to encrypt most personal data with a password.

Comey’s remarks, prompted by a reporter’s question, came just days after Ronald Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, decried mobile phone encryption in a column in the Washington Post.

Smartphone companies shouldn’t give criminals “one more tool,” he wrote. “Apple’s and Android’s new protections will protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially. They will protect those who desperately need to be stopped from lawful, authorized, and entirely necessary safety and security efforts. And they will make it impossible for police to access crucial information, even with a warrant.”

Representatives of Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments on Comey’s concerns.

 

BlackBerry Shrink Loss, Sees Rising Sales

September 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd reported a smaller quarterly loss on Friday and is showing encouraging signals about its endangered smartphone business as well as its software and services sales, spurring a more than 4 percent jump in its shares.

The Canadian company, a smartphone pioneer pushed to the margins by Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android software, is now focusing more on software and services than on hardware as it works through a long turnaround.

On the services front, the company reported a huge number of conversions in its second quarter to its heavily promoted new device management platform. But BlackBerry’s hardware unit also offered hopeful news, posting an adjusted profit for the first time in five quarters, helped by lower manufacturing costs and strong demand for its low-end Z3 handsets in emerging markets.

“This is the first time in a long time that we have actually made money on hardware,” Chief Executive John Chen told reporters, while hinting at plans to unveil new phones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2015. “We think we can continue on that track, so hardware is no longer going to be a drag to the margin and the earnings.”

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s revenue in North America rose from the previous quarter, but sales slipped elsewhere. Its total revenue was down more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

“They’re taking all the right steps, which is great. It’s encouraging to see,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “Now we’ve got to see what Chen can do about the revenue decline.”

BlackBerry shares were up 5.2 percent at C$11.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and up 4.6 percent at $10.26 on Nasdaq.

 

General Motors Hires Its First Cybersecurity Chief

September 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

General Motors Co has named an engineer to serve as its first cybersecurity chief as the No. 1 U.S. automaker and its rivals are starting to focus on how to better secure their vehicles against hackers.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker promoted manager Jeff Massimilla to the post as part of an eight-month review of its product design and engineering, said GM Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss.

“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” Reuss said. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”

Vehicles rely on tiny computers to manage everything from engines and brakes to navigation, air conditioning and windshield wipers. Security experts say it is only a matter of time before malicious hackers are able to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.

Security researchers in recent years have uncovered vulnerabilities in those systems that they say make cars susceptible to potentially dangerous attacks.

For example, at last year’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek exposed methods for attacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. In August of this year they published a list of the world’s “most hackable” cars.

A group of well-known hackers and security professionals in August sent an open letter to GM and other automakers asking them to implement basic guidelines to defend cars from cyber attacks.

The non-profit group, known as “I am the Calvary” has suggested that carmakers adopt a five-part cyber-safety program to make their products less susceptible to attacks by hackers.

Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said that the move reflects the increasing importance of cybersecurity to the industry.

 

 

Jimmy Johns The Latest Chain To Fall Victim To Data Breach

September 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s said there was a potential data breach involving customers’ credit and debit card information at 216 of its stores and franchised locations on July 30.

An intruder stole log-in credentials from the company’s vendor and used the credentials to remotely access the point-of-sale systems at some corporate and franchised locations between June 16 and Sept. 5, the company said.

The chain is the latest victim in a series of security breaches among retailers such as Target Corp, Michaels Stores Inc and Neiman Marcus.

Home Depot Inc  said last week some 56 million payment cards were likely compromised in a cyberattack at its stores, suggesting the hacking attack at the home improvement chain was larger than the breach at Target Corp.

More than 12 of the affected Jimmy John’s stores are in Chicago area, according to a list disclosed by the company.

The breach has been contained and customers can use their cards at its stores, the privately held company said.

Jimmy John’s said it has hired forensic experts to assist with its investigation.

“Cards impacted by this event appear to be those swiped at the stores, and did not include those cards entered manually or online,” Jimmy John’s said.

The Champaign, Illinois-based company said stolen information may include the card number and in some cases the cardholder’s name, verification code, and/or the card’s expiration date.

 

 

Hackers Prefer Your Medical Records Over Your Credit Cards

September 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Your medical records are worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market.

Last month, the FBI warned healthcare providers to guard against cyber attacks after one of the largest U.S. hospital operators, Community Health Systems Inc, said Chinese hackers had broken into its computer network and stolen the personal information of 4.5 million patients.

Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features.

“As attackers discover new methods to make money, the healthcare industry is becoming a much riper target because of the ability to sell large batches of personal data for profit,” said Dave Kennedy, an expert on healthcare security and CEO of TrustedSEC LLC. “Hospitals have low security, so it’s relatively easy for these hackers to get a large amount of personal data for medical fraud.”

Interviews with nearly a dozen healthcare executives, cybersecurity investigators and fraud experts provide a detailed account of the underground market for stolen patient data.

The data for sale includes names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information. Fraudsters use this data to create fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs that can be resold, or they combine a patient number with a false provider number and file made-up claims with insurers, according to experts who have investigated cyber attacks on healthcare organizations.

Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a U.S. credit card number, according to Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company. He obtained the data by monitoring underground exchanges where hackers sell the information.

 

ARM Shows Off The Interet Of Things Processor

September 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

ARM has unveiled a 32-bit Cortex-M processor for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, promising to double the compute and digital signal processing (DSP) capability of its present microcontroller units (MCUs).

ARM said that the Cortex-M7 single computer chip will power high-end embedded applications used in next generation vehicles, connected devices, and smart homes and factories.

“The addition of the Cortex-M7 processor to the Cortex-M series allows ARM and its partners to offer the most scalable and software-compatible solutions possible for the connected world,” said ARM CPU group GM Noel Hurley. “The versatility and new memory features of the Cortex-M7 enable more powerful, smarter and reliable microcontrollers that can be used across a multitude of embedded applications.”

The Cortex-M7 processor achieves a performance score of five Coremark/MHz, ARM claims, which the firm says allows the Cortex-M7 to deliver a combination of high performance and digital signal control functionality that will enable MCU silicon makers to use in it highly demanding embedded applications while keeping development costs low.

Launching with early licensees such as Atmel, Freescale and ST Microelectronics, The Corex-M7 is expected to be used in smart control systems employed in a range of applications such as motor control, industrial automation, advanced audio, image processing, a variety of connected vehicle applications and other IoT devices.

Features of the Cortex-M7 include: a six stage, superscalar pipeline delivering 2,000 Coremarks at 400MHz in a 40LP process; AXI interconnect supporting 64-bit transfer and integrated optional caches for instruction and data allowing efficient access to large external memories and powerful peripherals; and tightly coupled memory interfaces for rapid response.

ARM said that the updates in the new chip of faster processing of audio and image data and voice recognition will be immediately apparent to users.

“The core also provides the same C-friendly programmer’s model and is binary compatible with existing Cortex-M processors. Ecosystem and software compatibility enables simple migration from any existing Cortex-M core to the new Cortex-M7,” ARM claimed. “System designers can therefore take advantage of extensive code reuse which in turn offers lower development and maintenance costs.”

ARM said the Cortex-M7 could be available in devices as early as next year.

Earlier this month, ARM announced that it signed 50 licensing agreements with silicon partners to fab chips based on its 64-bit ARMv8-A processor, claiming it has seen growing momentum for the architecture.

A total of 27 companies signed agreements for the company’s ARMv8-A technology in September, including all of the silicon vendors selling application processors for smartphones plus most of those targeting enterprise networking and servers.

Courtesy-TheInq

Google Envisions High Altitude Internet-connected Balloons Circling The Earth

September 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is hoping to launch a fleet of high-altitude balloons that will orbit the planet, providing Internet connectivity to remote areas — and it plans to do so within a year.

That’s the plan that Astro Teller, head of Google’s secretive “moonshot factory” GoogleX, told an audience at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference in Cambridge today. The effort - known as Project Loon — should prove to be a good way to get wireless Internet access to billions of people who don’t have it today, according to a report in MIT Technology Review.

The Review also noted that Teller said Google should soon have enough balloons to prove that the project, which is focused on connecting cell phone users, is feasible. “In the next year or so, we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said.

Google, working with local cellular providers, has been testing balloon-powered Internet access for more than a year now.

The company is tackling a huge problem. For two/thirds of the world’s population, a fast and affordable Internet connection is out of reach. Google is trying to solve this problem with a network of balloons that fly above the Earth twice as high as commercial airplanes.

In June 2013, Google launched 30 high-altitude balloons above the Canterbury area of New Zealand as part of a pilot test with 50 users trying to connect to the Internet using them.

Then in April, the company announced that one of its balloons circled the Earth in 22 days.

Google’s vision is to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on stratospheric winds about 12.4 miles high, providing Internet access to remote and underserved areas. The balloons communicate with specially designed antennas on the ground, which in turn connect to ground stations that connect to the local Internet service provider.

Though the concept seems far-fetched, Google X is the division of Google that came up with Glass, wearable computers that are in the prototype stage, and self-driving cars which have been logging miles on highways and city streets.

 

Every Three Minutes A Mobile Device Is Wiped, Says Fiberlink

September 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

One mobile device is wiped every three minutes as part of a corporate security compliance, according to a study of 130,000 devices managed by MaaS360, the Fiberlink mobile device management platform.

Fiberlink, an IBM company, manages millions of mobile devices for businesses worldwide through the MaaS360 platform. The company said today that a study of data from 2013 revealed that, on average, businesses wipe 10% to 20% of their entire device population every year.

Everyone wipes. Fiberlink’s data showed businesses from every vertical and size are clearing data from mobile devices to address security concerns.

Remote mobile data wipe capability has become a controversial, if not de facto, standard among corporate privacy policies and is a key feature offered by mobile device management (MDM) platforms. Even cloud storage service providers are offering the capability today.

Corporate attitudes toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are often poorly formed and can, in general, fall into one of three categories: There’s no official BYOD policy, devices are banned or no one talks about it.

As more companies embrace BYOD and the lines continue to blur between personal and professional use, companies are finding new ways to balance security concerns with employee productivity. One method is to have employees agree to a remote wipe policy, which can sometimes mean personal data on the phone is lost as well.

One method of dealing with the sensitive personal data that employees don’t want deleted is “dual persona” mobile devices, or smartphones and tablets that run two separate mobile operating systems that allow disparate instances.

Dual-persona capability allows businesses to lock down corporate data on one OS, while allowing users to take advantage of whatever apps they want to run on the other “personal” OS.

According to Fiberlink’s study of its own clients, 63% of devices are partially wiped and 37% are fully wiped.

Additionally, 49% of wipes are done automatically and 51% are done by someone at the organization.

The most common reasons for automatic wipes are because devices have been jailbroken or because companies are enforcing enrollment and application compliance policies, Fiberlink’s data showed.

 

BlackBerry Launches New Passport Smartphone

September 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry launched an unconventional new smartphone dubbed the Passport on Wednesday, as it undertakes one of the most critical phases of its long turnaround.

The one-time smartphone industry pioneer recently concluded a three-year long restructuring process and has largely halted the bleed, but it is now up to Chief Executive John Chen to prove that the company’s new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profitability.

“BlackBerry is still fighting for survival. They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.

“Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market.”

BlackBerry debuted the Passport on Wednesday in Toronto, with simultaneous events also held in London and Dubai.

The launch of the Passport, which boasts a big square screen and a unique touch-sensitive tactile keyboard, will kick off a frenzied spell for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry. The company is set to report fiscal second-quarter results on Friday and within a couple of months it is also expected to launch the long-awaited BlackBerry Classic, which bears similarities to its once wildly popular Bold smartphone.

“BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now,” Colello said. “It doesn’t quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again. The big question really is whether any of these devices will kick-start it.”

The company is hoping the Classic and the launch of its new mobile device management system – BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) – will help it claw back ground ceded to rivals in both the hardware and services market.

The BES 12 platform will allow IT managers at large firms and government agencies to not only manage and secure BlackBerry devices, but also all Android, iOS and Windows-based devices on one platform.

Chen, a well-regarded turnaround expert in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.

 

 

Lyft Car-Sharing Service Acquires Rival Hitch

September 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Car-sharing service Lyft has purchased Hitch, a startup in the mobile app-enabled car-pooling business, to integrate the service with its own shared rides business that it set up last month.

“Similar to Lyft, Hitch has always believed the shared rides experience is inherently social, and we’re excited that they’re joining the team to accelerate this movement together,” Lyft wrote in a blog post Monday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hitch co-founders Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro will join the Lyft team as the company expands personal transit to more cities across the U.S. Hitch offers its service in San Francisco.

“We observed too many empty cab seats and noticed that public transit could be improved with the addition of dynamic routing,” the Hitch co-founders wrote in a blog post. “We built an app, a sophisticated engine optimized for pairings, and started to grow our platform–with new users and drivers alike.”

The Hitch platform will close for drivers and passengers starting Tuesday. Current Hitch drivers will move to the Lyft community, to which many are already signed on as ride-sharing drivers, Lyft said.

The company said it had seen “incredible” growth and demand for its shared rides business Lyft Line in San Francisco, which launched in August. Lyft Line held out the promise that it would connect people with a ride already going the same way for up to 60 percent less than an original Lyft ride. Lyft Line would roll out first in San Francisco on iOS, with support on Android and services in other cities to follow, the company said at launch.

Rivals Uber and Sidecar have also begun similar car-pooling services.