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Microsoft Says ‘No’ To Edge Browser Extensions In 2015

October 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has confirmed that its Edge browser, the new default for Windows 10, will not get the support for add-ons in 2015 that it once promised.

“We’re committed to providing customers with a personalized Web experience, which is why bringing extensions to Microsoft Edge continues to be a high priority,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We’re actively working to develop a secure extension model to make the safest and most reliable browser for our customers, and look forward to sharing more in a future Windows 10 update in 2016.”

Previously, Microsoft had said that it would deliver add-on support this year, some time after the browser’s July debut as part of Windows 10.

The postponement was not a total surprise: Microsoft has yet to offer even an embryonic add-on infrastructure for Edge within the ongoing series of Windows 10 builds released to its Insider beta testers. Nor has it pitched advice or tools to the developers who might be interested in writing Edge add-ons, or in adapting existing ones that now run in Google’s Chrome browser, a scheme Microsoft has touted in the past.

With the arrival of Windows 10′s first major update just weeks away, it would have been impossible to give Edge add-ons to the bulk of the new OS’s users this year.

The lack of add-ons has made Edge a non-starter for some.

“Norton security software advises me not to make Edge my default browser because it doesn’t allow extensions or toolbars and to keep using Internet Explorer instead,” beefed Computerworld reader Kevin Quail last month, in an email. “I won’t use Microsoft Edge until they fix it.”

Others echoed Quail on Microsoft’s support forum, where they bemoaned the lack of add-ons, which has made them move to a different browser.

“The exact issue is this: Without extensions, many of the important security software features we rely on do not work,” added Christopher Zibart on a support discussion thread last week. “Two examples: LastPass and McAfee. Both need browser extensions, and both recommend reverting to [Internet] Explorer until Microsoft gets its act together.”

While it’s impossible to gauge the impact of missing add-ons on Edge’s adoption, the browser has not captured a majority of the Windows 10 browser market. Data from U.S.-based metrics vendor Net Applications indicated that Edge was the primary browser for 36% of all Windows 10 users last month, while Irish analytics company StatCounter pegged it at just 16%.

With 2015 out, the next opportunity for Microsoft to deliver a more functional browser to mainstream Windows 10 users will be in the first half of 2016.





Huawei Tops Xiaomi In Chinese Smartphone Market

October 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Xiaomi has been unseated from atop China’s smartphone market by Huawei, according to new research, a setback for a company that was often feted as “the Apple of China.”

Research company Canalys called it a “remarkable feat” by Huawei, best known outside China for its network equipment, and one that puts Xiaomi under tremendous pressure to maintain its growth rate elsewhere in the world.

Xiaomi caught the world’s attention two years ago when it hired Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who managed the development of Android, to help it expand overseas.

Xiaomi was out-selling Apple in China at the time, and it built a cult-like following selling smartphones with high-end features at low prices.

But China’s smartphone market has matured, and local players like Huawei and ZTE, anther network vendor that once sold low-end handsets, have been moving up the food chain.

It’s the first time Huawei has led China’s smartphone market. It’s shipments grew 81 percent year over year, Canalys said, while Xiaomi’s declined.

Huawei has won praise for a few new smartphones this year, including the P8 and the Mate S.

The research firm didn’t release its full market share figures, including where Apple stands in China; it said it would release its full report later this month.

China is the world’s biggest smartphone market — almost 100 million phones shipped there in the first quarter — but its growth started to slow this year for the first time in six years.

Xiaomi has often drawn comparisons to Apple, but not always in a good way. At a product launch last year, it was widely knocked for aping Apple’s marketing with a slide that read “One more thing…”

It has set itself a goal to sell 80 million phones worldwide this year. In September it said it was confident it would still reach that goal, after selling slightly less than 35 million handsets in the first half.





AMD’s Bet On ARM Does Not Appear To Be Helping

October 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Buried in the AMD results was a note which seemed to hint that AMD’s plan to flog ARM based server chips was not going very well.

Chief executive Lisa Su admitted that ARM-based server chips have experienced slower-than-expected reception from the owners of data centres and server farms.

AMD delayed its own ARM-based Opteron microprocessor, code-named Seattle, until the fourth quarter of this year. ARM was having a harder time proving itself to the multibillion-dollar market for high-end server chips.

An engineering sample of AMD’s long awaited 8 core server SOC code named “Hierofalcon” has been spotted and tested and according to WCCTech it looked pretty good. Itis based around 8 ARM-64bit A57 cores running at 2.0Ghz. And although Hierofalcon maxes out at frugal TDP of 30W.

So even the promising reviews aren’t enough for AMD to be optimistic about the ARM based gear.

Su said in an analyst conference call that the company expects to see “modest production shipments” of Seattle in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, AMD’s Intel-compatible “x86″ server chips will be the company’s mainstay product offering for data centres.

She said that AMD was continuing its ARM efforts and is seeing them as a longer term bet.



Imagination Launches New IoT Connections

October 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Imagination will supply RPUs to those who want the solution from a third party instead of making it themselves, and it can also provide them with RF IP, if they need it for their products, the outfit said.

Imagination offers complete connectivity products which encourages customers to be more interested in buying other gear to match.

Imagination has partnered with some RF providers, but it’s also working with RF technology that was built in-house by some of its customers, to ensure these technologies are compatible with its Ensigma basebands.

Customers who don’t already have their own RF technology can license Imagination’s own Ensigma RF, either as IP blocks for SoC integration or for standalone use.

One of these customers is Toshiya Matsui, general manager of Toshiba who said he used multiple Imagination IP cores in its highly integrated IoT processors.

“This includes the Ensigma Explorer RPU that provides the high-speed Wi-Fi which is a hallmark of these processors. The fact that Imagination also offers RF made it easy for us to take these processors into production.”

Chakra Parvathaneni, vice president of Ensigma business operations at Imagination, said that more connectivity solutions will become integrated into the SoC.
Imagination has been preparing for this transition with the “world’s most complete end-to-end connectivity IP solutions from RF to baseband.”

Ensigma Explorer and the lower powered Whisper RPU families were shipping in their millions.

Insigma connectivity IP is licensed under three different IP subsystems:

Ensigma Whisper Wi-Fi 802.11n 1×1 which is a subsystem for wearables, home automation, and healthcare.

Ensigma Whisper Bluetooth Smart and 802.15.4 which is a subsystem for wearables and IoT sensors

Ensigma Explorer Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO which is a subsystem for higher-performance video streaming, Wi-Fi cameras and access points.


Samsung Unveils Second Tizen Based Device

October 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has debuted the second smartphone powered by the its own Tizen operating system, its latest bid to increase the popularity of its own software ecosystem.

Samsung said the Z3 will go on sale in India on Oct. 21 for 8,490 Indian rupees ($130.59). While this is more expensive than the 5,700 rupees launch price for its predecessor, the Z1, the new phone offers better hardware including a faster processor, a higher quality screen and improved cameras.

The world’s top smartphone maker is trying to reduce its dependence on Google Inc, whose Android operating system powers Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones. The company has also launched other products this year powered by Tizen, including the Gear S2 smartwatch and premium televisions.

A person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters in June Samsung plans to launch more handsets running on Tizen this year. Samsung needs to attract more smartphone users to the operating system in order to gain more third-party developer support, analysts say.

The Z3′s low price could attract buyers in markets like India, where smartphone penetration is still relatively low. Researcher Counterpoint said the predecessor Z1 smartphone was Samsung’s best-selling smartphone in India during the second quarter, thanks in part to its low price.



Sony Says 2016 Is Make-Or-Break Year For Smartphone Unit

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony Corp’s chief executive pegged 2016r as a make-or-break year for its struggling smartphones, saying it could consider other options for the unit if it failed to turn profitable.

After years of losses, Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai has engineered a successful restructuring drive at Sony, with recent results showing improvement thanks to cost cuts, an exit from weak businesses such as PCs, as well as strong sales of image sensors and videogames. But its smartphone business has been slow to turn around.

“We will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards,” Hirai told a group of reporters on Wednesday. “Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

Sony and other Japanese electronics makers have struggled to compete with cheaper Asian rivals as well as the likes of Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Sony phones including its Xperia-branded smartphones held only 17.5 percent of the market in Japan and less than 1 percent in the North America, according to company data last year.

The electronics giant in July lowered its forecast for its mobile communications unit to an operating loss of 60 billion yen in the current fiscal year from an earlier estimate of a 39 billion yen loss.

“I do have a feeling that a turnaround in our electronics business has shown progress. The result of three years of restructuring are starting to show,” he said. “But we still need to carry out restructuring in smartphones.”



Google Issues Patch For Latest Stagefright Flaw

October 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google has released fixes for two new Stagefright-related vulnerabilities, one of which affects Android versions going back to 2008 and puts millions of users at risk.

The flaws were found by security company Zimperium, which also unearthed the original Stagefright flaws in April.

In an advisory Google said it didn’t appear that attackers have started exploiting the vulnerabilities yet.

The latest flaws are only slightly less dangerous than their predecessors, which allowed a device to be compromised merely by sending a specially crafted multimedia message (MMS). An attacker needed only to know the victim’s phone number.

To exploit the latest flaws, dubbed Stagefright 2.0, an attacker would have to convince a user to visit a website and play a piece of audio or video content.

The vulnerabilities relate to problems with how Android processes metadata within that content, Zimperium said in a blog post.

Google has released an over-the-air update for its Nexus Android devices and had notified its partners of the issues by Sept. 10, the company said.

Zimperium held off releasing proof-of-concept exploit code but will allow some of its partners to see it later this month, it said.

In light of the number of users affected by Stagefright, Google said in August it would begin issuing monthly security patches, mirroring steps taken years ago by companies including Microsoft for desktop software.

Still, fixing software problems on mobile devices is a disjointed affair and users are dependent on device manufacturers and operators for timely patching. After Google’s announcement, major manufacturers including Samsung and LG also committed to monthly patching.



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.



Windows 10 Breaks 100M Device Mark

October 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Windows 10′s user share growth slowed considerably in September, but by the month’s end approximately 110 million customers were running the new OS, data released today signaled.

According to U.S. analytics company Net Applications, Windows 10′s user share — a measure of the fraction of unique users who ran the OS when they went online — grew 1.4 percentage points in September to 6.6%.

Microsoft launched Windows 10 on July 29, making September the second full month that the upgrade for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 devices was available to download and install.

September’s user share increase was substantially smaller than August’s record setting 4.8 percentage points.

Windows 10 accounted for 7.3% of all Windows devices in September, a slightly higher number than its raw user share number because Windows powered “just” 90.5%, not 100%, of all systems tallied by Net Applications. During September, Windows 10′s share of all Windows devices climbed by 1.6 percentage points.

Net Applications’ data represented 110 million Windows 10 PCs, assuming a total of 1.5 billion Windows devices globally, the figure Microsoft typically trumpets.

Microsoft has not publicized a Windows 10 download or installed data point since late August, when it said that 75 million devices worldwide were running the OS.

Net Applications’ Windows 10 user share portrait backed up the findings of another analytics developer, Ireland’s StatCounter, which has also portrayed the OS’s growth as slowing after its first month of availability.

By StatCounter’s measurements, Windows 10 gained 5.9 percentage points ofusage share — more of an activity indicator, as it counts web page views by OS — in the first four weeks after its launch. During the most recent four weeks, or from Aug. 31 to Sept. 27, Windows 10 grew by a much smaller 1.4 points.

Net Applications’ numbers also validate the slowdown in a different way. During the final three weeks of August, an average of 1.8 million devices were added to Windows 10′s rolls daily. But in September, the average daily increase dropped to less than half of that, to about 794,000 devices.

Even so, Windows 10 continued to best Windows 7′s performance during a similar stretch. In 2009, the then-new OS had accumulated a 6.2% share of all Windows personal computers through its second full month, or more than a point under Windows 10 at the same post-launch moment.

With about 110 million devices now running Windows 10, Microsoft is at the 7% mark toward reaching its goal of putting the OS on 1.5 billion systems by mid-2018.




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.



IBM Will Use Apache Spark To Find E.T.

October 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM is using Apache Sparke to analyse radio signals for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Speaking at Apache: Big Data Europe, Anjul Bhambrhi, vice president of big data products at IBM, talked about how the firm has thrown its weight behind Spark.

“We think of [Spark] as the analytics operating system. Never before have so many capabilities come together on one platform,” Bhambrhi said.

Spark is a key project because of its speed and ease of use, and because it integrates seamlessly with other open-source components, Bhambrhi explained.

“Spark is speeding up even MapReduce jobs, even though they are batch oriented by two to six times. It’s making developers more productive, enabling them to build applications in less time and with fewer lines of code,” she claimed.

She revealed IBM is working with Nasa and Seti to analyse radio signals for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence, using Spark to process the 60Gbit of data generated per second by various receivers.

Other applications IBM is working on with Spark include genome sequencing for personalised medicine via the Adam project at UC Berkeley in California, and early detection of conditions such as diabetes by analysing patient medical data.

“At IBM, we are certainly sold on Spark. It forms part of our big data stack, but most importantly we are contributing to the community by enhancing it,” Bhambrhi said.

The Apache: Big Data Europe conference also saw Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth outline some of the key problems in starting a big data project, such as simply finding engineers with the skills needed just to build the infrastructure for operating tools such as Hadoop.

“Analytics and machine learning are the next big thing, but the problem is there are just not enough ‘unicorns’, the mythical technologists who know everything about everything,” he explained in his keynote address, adding that the blocker is often just getting the supporting infrastructure up and running.

Shuttleworth, pictured above, went on to demonstrate how the Juju service orchestration tool developed by Canonical could solve this problem. Juju enables users to describe the end configuration they want, and will automatically provision the servers and software and configure them as required.

This could be seen as a pitch for Juju, but Shuttleworth’s message was that the open-source community is delivering tools that can manage the underlying infrastructure so that users can focus on the application itself.

“The value creators are the guys around the outside who take the big data store and do something useful with it,” he said.

“Juju enables them to start thinking about the things they need for themselves and their customers in a tractable way, so they don’t need to go looking for those unicorns.”

The Apache community is working on a broad range of projects, many of which are focused on specific big data problems, such as Flume for handling large volumes of log data or Flink, another processing engine that, like Spark, is designed to replace MapReduce in Hadoop deployments.



Is Oculus Going Cheap With VR?

September 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Oculus and Samsung had a few milestone announcements to make at yesterday’s keynote for the Connect 2 developer event. Gear VR got an update and halved in price. Oculus signed a few important content partnerships.

Samsung Gear VR, the wearable accessory that allows you to strap a compatible Samsung phone to your face and see the virtual worlds within, got a new version that now costs only $99. That’s without the phone of course, so you will have to BYOD.

Oculus, on the other hand, is bringing some much needed expansion to the content side of the equation. There’s games, movies, TV shows, streaming video, all becoming available in the next few months. This is widely expected by our tech journalist colleagues to finally bring VR into many more homes. We tend to agree that that’s a very real possibility.

Among the more important content partnerships are that with Fox, who’s bringing over 100 of its movies to the Oculus VR Cinema, and Lionsgate. But what’s really expected to bring VR into your average Internet-connected living room is the fact that Netflix follows suit, as will vimeo and Hulu in the fall.

Kids will be able to stare like zombies for hours on end into a VR version of their favourite gamers’ video feeds via Twitch. Hooray!

Facebook also announced 360 degree videos that will become available on the news feed. Disney, Vice, GoPro, Saturday Night Live and others have already been signed up to produce content.

We expect a version of VR goggles to come out soon enough with an Intel Realsense or similar technology, so we’ll be able to tune into someone’s surroundings in realtime. Microsoft’s Hololens seems like a perfect tool for such scenarios.

It’s without a doubt exciting times in the area of VR. Now, whether it will falter like 3D TV has, or live on to see another “day”, it’s too soon to tell. We will be following the developments closely.



More Anti-trust Scrutiny For Google Over Android OS

September 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has initiated a preliminary investigation into whether Google Inc utilizes its Android operating system to dominate competitors as more consumers go mobile, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The Android mobile platform is a key element in Google’s strategy to maintain revenue from online advertising as people switch from Web browser searches to smartphone apps. The FTC had previously investigated Google for allegedly breaking antitrust law in a separate case but that probe ended in a settlement.

Reuters reported in April that some technology companies had complained to the U.S. Department of Justice about Google’s anti-competitive practices and urged the regulator to investigate allegations that Google unfairly uses its Android system to hurt rivals.

The FTC and the Justice Department conferred, and decided that the FTC would take the case, one source said. The probe is in its very early stages, according to sources.

Both Google and the FTC declined comment. In a blog post in April, a top Google executive defended the way the company handles Android, saying other firms could use Android without Google but that working with Google benefits consumers by giving them a better experience with their phone.

The FTC probe focuses on Google’s requirements that its search, maps and other products be given a prominent place on handsets. The demands make it impractical for handset makers to put Google rivals on their smartphone’s home screen.

Android is the top smartphone platform with 51.6 percent U.S. market share, according to an August report from analytics from comScore. Apple is in second place with 44.1 percent.

Fairsearch, a technology trade group, said it welcomed the FTC probe, adding that Google”has used a range of anticompetitive tactics.”

“The stakes are extremely high, because Google’s behavior impacts the entire mobile ecosystem, including map and location services, and app developers,” the group said in a statement.

App makers offering alternatives to Google’s popular products, such as HERE for maps or Microsoft for search, would benefit if the Mountain View tech giant’s hold on Android is weakened, though a slow legal process means they likely will not see relief anytime soon, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.



Red Hat Releases Fedora 23 To Address Security Issues

September 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Red Hat has torn the roof off the sucker once again with the release of Fedora 23 in beta form.

Coming in three incredible versions, Fedora 23 Cloud, Fedora 23 Server and Fedora 23 Workstation, this new edition picks up where the old one left off and runs with it.

The biggest news for fans is the use of compiler flags to help improve security. These are designed to help protect Fedora 23 beta binaries against memory corruption vulnerabilities, buffer overflows and similar issues.

This is the latest iteration of Red Hat’s Linux-based operating system that likes to think of itself as the leading-edge open source operating system across all use cases. It’s hard to believe, but absolutely true.

The dazzling array of updates starts with Red Hat Fedora Server Beta, which offers a new role through the rolekit service in the form of a cache server for web applications, with the underlying functionality delivered by memcached.

Also new is the fact that rolekit can now be triggered by anaconda kickstart to determine what function should be started with the next reboot, and I think we can all agree that’s been a long time coming.

Cockpit also sees some big changes, including a basic cluster dashboard for Kubernetes, Support for SSH key authentication and support for configuring user accounts with their authorised keys and compatibility with multipath disks.

Meanwhile in Fedora 23 Workstation Beta, the fun keeps coming with a preview of GNOME 3.18. Changes to the software application will allow it to offer firmware updates and access to Libreoffice 5. Improvements have also been made to Wayland, with the ultimate aim being to make it the default graphic server in a future release.

Sadly, that’s where the thrillride ends as Cloud Beta contains very little new of note – but we are warned to stay tuned for news of Fedora 23 Atomic Host, said to be coming soon. We’re literally on the edge of our seats and will bring you the news as soon as we get it.


Firefox To Get Instant Messaging Courtesy Of WebRTC

September 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Mozilla has announced its latest release of the Firefox browser, which brings some new personalization options as well as extra functionality to its instant messaging platform, Firefox Hello.

Firefox 41 becomes the first browser to include instant messaging, as part of Hello, the RTC product that it has developed in association with Telefonica.

The RTC protocol exists in all modern browsers but its implementation varies. It is hoped that one day, users will be able to communicate from browser to browser with no separate apps or plug-ins.

The open-source browser has added the ability to give your profile a photo, and requires Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), a protocol designed to limit the effects of a compromised key.

There’s enhanced IME support for anyone still using Windows Vista, and improved box-shadow rendering performance. Windows 7 users can no longer rely on the Windows Advanced Rasterisation Platform (WARP), if they did. WARP is an element of Direct X and has been superseded by a Mozilla solution.

But it is the instant messaging service that will prove most interesting, as it, hypothetically, removes the need for Skype and Google Hangouts.

It is known that Microsoft is already working to bring Skype into line with RTC on the web, and Google Hangouts already uses a fancified Web RTC, meaning that Firefox users can chat to Chrome users straight away.

This hopefully means that somewhere down the line we have a single messaging standard. You only have to look back a few years to a time when everyone was using the XMPP and Jabber, which meant that chatting between clients, and having a single universal client, was a possibility.

Like the retirement of Concorde, we seem to have gone backwards since then, but the rise and adoption of WebRTC suggests we could soon be back to where we were, and beyond.

Firefox 41 is available across Windows, Mac and Linux as a free download.