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Mac Finally Gets Skype For Business App

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally making its way to the Mac.

The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.

When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.

Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.

The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.

In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.

This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.

 

Microsoft Kicks Off Two-for-one Lumia Phone Sale

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft announced the launch of a two-for-one deal for its Windows-based smartphones, tossing in a free Lumia 950 when customers buy a $649 unlocked top-tier Lumia 950 XL.

The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.

Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.

More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.

The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.

Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.

The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.

Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”

 

 

 

Qualcomm and LG Settle Dispute

April 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm has buried the hatchet with LG after the smartphone vendor agreed to pay more for its chips.

LG said the dispute with Qualcomm has been completely settled, although it did not say how much it had agreed to pay. Earlier it had claimed Qualcomm had overcharged for the chips under a licensing contract.

The news about the lawsuit settlement emerged following Qualcomm’s profit forecast for the second quarter in January, which was below what Wall Street’s tarot readers had predicted.

The company expected its mobile chip shipment to fall by 16-25 per cent in the second quarter. Additionally, it expected 3G and 4G device shipment to decline by 4 to 14 per cent. As for the first quarter of 2016, Qualcomm’s chip shipment fell 10 per cent , with a drop in revenue by 21.6 per cent. Revenue from licensing declined 10.4 per cent, suggests a Reuters report.

An LG spokesperson said that this kind of dispute was “actually nothing” and was similar to the ones that the industries had in the past.

“Qualcomm has lowered its royalty rate to LG in return for LG’s guaranteed purchase of Qualcomm processors, which are currently being used in its flagship handsets and will be used in upcoming flagship models,” added the official.

Qualcomm might have been a little nervy.  LG has invested millions to develop its own chipset, in an attempt to cut down its dependency on Qualcomm for mobile processors.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google Says A.I. Is The Next Big Thing In Computing

April 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that influences everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.

So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.

“I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, answering an analyst’s question during parent company Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.

He’s not predicting that mobile will go away, of course, but that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will come via smarter uses of data rather than clever uses of mobile devices like those that brought us Uber and Instagram.

Forms of artificial intelligence are already being used to sort photographs, fight spam and steer self-driving cars. The latest trend is in bots, which use A.I. services on the back end to complete tasks automatically, like ordering flowers or booking a hotel.

Google believes it has a lead in A.I. and the related field of machine learning, which Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has already pegged as key to Google’s future.

Machine learning is one of the ways Google hopes to distinguish its emerging cloud computing business from those of rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, Pichai said.

 

 

 

 

Homeland Security’s CERT Advises Windows Users To Uninstall QuickTime

April 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The cyber readiness team that’s part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has advised Windows users to get rid of Apple’s QuickTime media player.

“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends,” US-CERT wrote in an advisory published Thursday. “However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats. Potential negative consequences include loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, as well as damage to system resources or business assets. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”

US-CERT (U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team) based its alert on news Thursday from Trend Micro’s TippingPoint group, which said it had been told by Apple that QuickTime on Windows had been deprecated, or dropped from support, meaning no future security updates will be issued and development has been halted.

The last wasn’t new: Apple hasn’t significantly upgraded QuickTime for Windows since 2009, when it launched QuickTime X for OS X but didn’t port the new player to Windows. The most recent security update for QuickTime on Windows was issued three months ago.

Apple let TippingPoint in on the deprecation because the latter’s researchers had forwarded details about two vulnerabilities submitted to its Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) bug bounty program. After TippingPoint asked Apple for a status update on the bugs’ patches — it had handed Apple information about the vulnerabilities in November — representatives from the Cupertino, Calif. company got on the phone and told the researchers that QuickTime for Windows was a dead product.

On the same day that Apple and TippingPoint talked, Apple published instructions for uninstalling QuickTime from Windows PCs.

Apple has not changed its support policies for QuickTime on OS X, which will continue to receive security updates.

Few Windows users will miss QuickTime: Although the media player was once an integral part of its iTunes, Apple stopped bundling QuickTime with iTunes on Windows in 2011.

 

 

 

Schools Warned To Be On The Lookout For JBoss Ransomware

April 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

More than 2,000 computers at schools and other organizations have been infected with a backdoor in unpatched versions of JBoss that could be used at any moment to install ransomware such as Samsam.

That’s according to Cisco’s Talos threat-intelligence organization, which recently announced that roughly 3.2 million machines worldwide are at risk.

Many of those already infected run Follett’s Destiny library-management software, which is used by K-12 schools worldwide.

“Follett identified the issue and immediately took actions to address and close the vulnerability,” the company told Cisco.

Follett provides patches for systems running version 9.0 to 13.5 of its software and says it will help remove any backdoors. Its technical support staff will reach out to customers found to have suspicious files on their systems.

Governments and aviation companies are also among the organizations affected, Cisco said.

Compromised JBoss servers typically contain more than one Web shell, Talos advised, so it’s important to review the contents of a server’s jobs status page. “This implies that many of these systems have been compromised several times by different actors,” the company said.

Web shells are scripts that indicate an attacker has already compromised a server and can remotely control it. The list of those associated with this exploit are listed in Talos’s blog post.

Companies that find a Web shell installed should begin by removing external access to the server, Talos said.

“Ideally, you would also re-image the system and install updated versions of the software,” it said. “If for some reason you are unable to rebuild completely, the next best option would be to restore from a backup prior to the compromise and then upgrade the server to a non-vulnerable version before returning it to production.”

 

 

 

Is Oculus Giving Your Private Data To Facebook?

April 11, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Last week, a report in The Independent said that the Oculus Rift VR headset knows when it’s switched on and when its user is moving around. All this is a given, surely, but not so ideal are the parts about marketing and advertising, which is where most of the news site’s concerns lie.

Buried among the mundane it finds this: “We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our service. We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.”

Oculus has spoken out about the report. In a statement given to UploadVR, Oculus said that the policy is in place to ensure it offers the best virtual experience and made no suggestion that things would be changing.

“We want to create the absolute best VR experience for people, and to do that, we need to understand how our products are being used and we’re thinking about privacy every step of the way,” a rep for the company said.

“The Oculus privacy policy was drafted so we could be very clear with the people who use our services about the ways we receive or collect information, and how we may use it.

“For example, one thing we may do is use information to improve our services and to make sure everything is working properly—such as checking device stability and addressing technical issues to improve the overall experience.”

Oculus also noted that, while Facebook owns it and runs some of its services, they are not currently sharing the collected data.

“We don’t have advertising yet and Facebook is not using Oculus data for advertising—though these are things we may consider in the future,” it said.

This isn’t the first time Oculus has ticked real people off, with the firm falling victim to a fallout over prices and upset Minecraft when it was only a flicker in the Zuckerberg eye and a rustle through the pages in his wallet.

The once loved and Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift took a bit of a personality whacking after going through the Zuckerberg system and, while it was a market leading proposition, now finds itself at elbow, or temple, level with a range of competitors.

 

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Is nVidia Ready For Virtual Reality?

April 7, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

nVidia has opened virtual reality (VR) for professional use with the launch of its VR Ready program.

The gaming world is gearing up for VR with the release of the Oculus Rift and pre-orders for the HTC Vive, but Nvidia’s VR Ready is aimed at developers and companies looking to make VR software.

VR Ready consists of VR-certified GPUs and laptops, and an SDK called VRWorks. These should help developers create VR software for business use, such as enabling architects to provide virtual tours of a building.

Nvidia is working with hardware firms like HP and Dell to offer workstations certified as ‘VR ready’, as well as offering its Quadro M5500 mobile GPU that provides laptops with the graphics grunt to run VR software smoothly.

The M5500 is built around Nvidia’s latest Maxwell GPU architecture and has 2,048 CUDA cores. The company claims it to be the fastest mobile GPU in the world. The GPU can be found in the MSI WT72 laptop, which is the first mobile workstation to receive the VR Ready certification.

“It lets designers, engineers and others run VR-powered design reviews anywhere, improving product quality and speeding workflows. With it, companies can use immersive technology to train remote employees,” said David Weinstein, director of professional VR at Nvidia.

On the software side, VRWorks is stuffed full of complex sounding tools and tech to give developers the things they need to create VR apps that don’t resemble something plucked from Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.

These include multi-resolution shading, front buffer rendering, GPU affinity and GPU direct. We don’t really understand all that, but in essence the tech allows developers to harness the power of multiple GPUs and deliver high-res visual effects at the nausea-beating 90 frames per second.

This is definitely the year of VR. We have tried the HTC Vive and were very impressed. And with the likes of Nvidia creating the tools and tech to give developers the means to make a range of VR software, it looks like the tech’s future won’t just be limited to gaming enthusiasts and early adopters.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Price Slashed By $319

April 5, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, powered by Intel Core i5 processor, can now be had at a significant discount for a limited period of time.

EBay has listed the brand new 128 GB Surface Pro 3 for just $679.99. Microsoft Store, on the other hand, is selling the same device for $999. This means, buyers can save a significant $319.01 with this deal. It is worth noting that even though this device got released in 2013, it runs on Windows 10 Pro out of the box.

This discounted variant is now available in Silver hue. Here is the link to order the 128 GB Surface Pro 3 tablet. Upon ordering the device, buyers can avail free shipping service from eBay.

Meanwhile, here is a summary of Surface Pro 3 specifications for those planning to purchase this 2-in-1 slate. This device carries a 12.0-inch ClearType display, packed with 2,160 x 1,440 screen resolution.

The Pro 3 comes with support for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a slew of ports like USB 3.0, Headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port and a Charging port. The Intel Core i5 processor onboard is backed by a solid 4 GB of RAM configuration. It sports a 5-megapixel rear and front-facing camera units.

This slate comes with microphones at the front and the rear, along with stereo speakers amplified by Dolby Audio. When it comes to memory configuration, in addition to the built-in 128 GB storage space, the Surface Pro 3 also features a microSD slot for expansion. This tablet has a 36-watt battery cell onboard.

The Surface Pen is part of the device bundle. However, the smart keyboard / Type Cover has to be purchased separately.

 

Microsoft Wants Windows 10, Cortana At Center Of Home Automation

April 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft’s long term goal is to make home automation a breeze in Windows 10, and the company featured several related Internet-of-things announcements at its ongoing Build conference.

Windows 10 will work with a wider range of devices and appliances by integrating new Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) protocols, scheduled to be released in 2017. Additionally, Cortana will allow users to easily automate tasks using a Windows PC, mobile device, Xbox console or Raspberry Pi 3.

Users will be able to program ”actions” so Cortana can be used to switch on lights, air conditioning or even unlock cars. For example, users will be able to speak, “lights” to their smartphones, and the bulbs will turn on.

Or even better, users can tell Cortana to “unlock home door,” which will open the door and trigger a series of additional actions like switching on the lights and the air conditioning. A command like “party” could switch on the music and the disco lights.

Actions can also be based on the time of day or on information from connected sensors. The actions can be attached to specific profiles in Cortana like “activate smart home.” The connected devices will need to be discovered by Windows 10 and be on a list of approved devices, much like how the OS discovers and lists wireless printers and other hardware.

But Windows doesn’t support all devices right now, and the OS works with only those based on the AllJoyn protocol. Support for a wider range of devices will come with the integration of protocols established by the OCF, which will unite the disparate IoT standards under one umbrella.

Until the integration is complete, Microsoft released an “open-source” bridge to connect OIC tools, called IoTivity, with the AllJoyn APIs. It will help AllJoyn devices talk to OIC-compatible IoT devices.

 

 

Windows 10 Passes 20% User Share Mark

March 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

For the first time since its debut, Windows 10 accounted for more than one-fifth of the visits to sites tracked by the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), which mines traffic to more than 4,000 websites on over 400 different domains maintained by U.S. government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the National Weather Service.

The bulk of the visits to DAP websites originate in the U.S.

So far Windows 10 has recorded 20.2% of visits in March by Windows PCs, smartphones and tablets. That was a one-percentage point increase from February and more than two percentage points above January’s.

Although Microsoft irregularly trumpets the number of devices running Windows 10 — the last time was nearly three months ago — data from DAP and metrics vendors like Net Applications and StatCounter are the only publicly available sources for monitoring Windows 10 adoption.

But these external measurements are rough at best.

A case in point: Because overall traffic to DAP websites plummets on weekends — total visits by Windows devices on Saturday and Sunday are typically less than half that of a weekday — Windows 10 may be unrepresented, as more Windows PCs used during the work week are business machines, which predominantly run the corporate standard, Windows 7.

Microsoft has just over four months left to boost Windows 10 adoption by pushing the free upgrade to eligible Windows 7 and 8.1 devices. That deal is set to expire July 29, on the one-year anniversary of Windows 10′s launch.

Windows 10 adoption growth has slowed each month this year. At the pace of past three months, Windows 10 should account for approximately 26% of DAP’s traffic by the end of July. (Other data sources have repeatedly portrayed global adoption of Windows 10 at lower rates than in the U.S.)

Will that match whatever goal Microsoft set when it decided to give away upgrades? Microsoft’s not saying, and even if it did, there would be no way to verify any claim.

 

 

 

 

Is Apple Trying To Rain On Intel’s Parade?

March 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s cunning plans for computers that will recognize human emotion using its RealSense 3D camera, have been killed off in the short term by Apple.

RealSense is a mix of infrared, laser and optical cameras to measure depth and track motion. It can be used on a drone that can navigate its own way through a city block, but it is also good at detecting changes in facial expressions, and Intel wanted to give RealSense the ability to read human emotions by combining it with an emotion recognition technology developed by Emotient.

Plugging in Emotient allowed RealSense to detect whether people are happy or sad by analyzing movement in their lips, eyes and cheeks. Intel said that it could detect “anger, contempt, disgust, fear,” and other sentiments.

A few months ago the fruity cargo cult Apple acquired Emotient. Intel has removed the Emotient plug-in from the latest version of the RealSense software development kit.

It is not clear at this point if Apple told Intel that it invented the plug in and so it had to sling its hook, or if Intel did not want Jobs’ Mob anywhere near its technology.

The RealSense SDK has features that allow it to recognize some facial expressions, but it’s unclear if they’ll be as effective as the Emotient technology.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google To Retire Chrome App Launcher

March 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google ha announced that it will be retiring its Chrome App Launcher on Windows, OS X and Linux in July, citing user indifference.

“We’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome,” said Marc Pawliger, a Chrome engineering director, in a short post to a company blog Wednesday.

“Beginning in a few weeks, Chrome will no longer enable the launcher when users first install a Chrome app,” Pawliger added. “Anyone who currently has the launcher will receive a notice informing them that the launcher will be going away. In July, existing instances of the launcher will be removed.”

Chrome App Launcher debuted on Windows and OS in 2013, and on Linux the following year.

The launcher was separate from the Chrome browser, and added another user interface (UI) for customers to manage. At the time of its release, the launcher was seen as one more tactic Google used to try to subvert a machine’s actual operating system, and in places substitute the Mountain View, Calif. company’s own browser-based Chrome OS UI.

Chrome apps will not go away, Pawliger stressed: They can still be called from the browser itself via the multi-colored icon at the far left of the bookmarks bar, or by typing chrome://apps in the search field.

Web apps designed for Chrome can be downloaded and installed from Google’s Chrome Web Store, the only authorized distribution mart.

Pawliger did not indicate the specific version of Chrome that will automatically eliminate the app launcher, but it could be as soon as version 52, which under an every-six-week schedule, would release in early July.

Chrome’s production code, dubbed the “Stable” branch, now stands at version 49.

 

 

 

Is Acer Deciding To Split?

March 25, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Acer plans to implement a corporate restructuring project and divide its business into three major segments – PC, cloud and data center management, and re-investment businesses.

According to Digitimes,  the company may set up three entities to handle related businesses and then transform itself into a holding company to control the three subsidiaries.

Acer’s PC business should cover PCs monitors, projectors and servers, while the cloud and data center business will cover mainly Acer’s build your own cloud and e-Enabling Data Center business units.

The cunning plan is to give flexibility for Acer to either attract strategic investors or off-load businesses that are not making enough cash. The planned holding company may be formed in the second half of the year.

Courtesy-Fud

 

U.S. Government Gives ZTE Breathing Room On Export Restrictions

March 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. government will grant Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone maker ZTE Corp a three-month reprieve on tough export restrictions it imposed this month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

The department on March 8 imposed some of the toughest-ever U.S. export restrictions on ZTE for allegedly breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The agency said it would ease the restrictions until June 30.

Experts had said the restrictions would have caused disruption across ZTE’s sprawling global supply chain.

The restrictions would have banned U.S. companies from exporting to ZTE any technology, software or equipment such as chips and processors made in the United States.

The decision would also have prevented software makers from selling typical office applications like Microsoft Windows – or even providing updates.

The easing, which will suspend the restrictions as of Thursday, could be extended provided that ZTE was timely in performing undertakings and cooperates with the U.S. government in “resolving the matter”, the Commerce Department said. An agency spokesman declined to comment further.

Shenzhen-based ZTE said it continued to work with the U.S. government over the export curbs.

The restrictions have drawn protests from the Chinese government and rocked ZTE’s business.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had noted the statements from the U.S. Commerce Department and ZTE.

“We hope both parties appropriately resolve the issue via continuing to have dialogue and consultations,” she told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

The Commerce Department investigated ZTE for alleged export-control violations following Reuters reports in 2012 that the company had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of American-made hardware and software to Iran’s largest telecoms carrier.