Author: Staff Writer

Poor internet connections cost UK £11 billion

DaisyA survey commissioned by the Daisy Group estimates that slow net connections cost the UK a staggering £11 billion a year.

The research was carried out by One Poll on Daisy’s behalf, and surveyed 2,000 adults.

According to the report, 72 percent of the estimated 30 million workers in the UK use the net as part of their daily tasks.

Thirty nine percent of the respondents said home net connections were “much faster” than the ones used for work.

Daisy product manager Jan Wielding said too many businesses used basic ADSL connections aimed at home users. “These are the businesses that struggle to cope with the high bandwidth demands of software and apps that workers use.:

Wielenga said this was unacceptable, particularly when fibre and dedicated Ethernet are cheaper than ever and widely available.

Over 60 percent of the people surveyed said they used their smartphones for non related work activities. And when the business net goes down, nine per cent scurry to see if there are other jobs going, using their smartphones.

The survey appears to show that the average British worker loses 38 hours of productivity a year because of downtime or slow access – meaning something like £494 worth of productivity is lost a year.

Wielenga said that there is a lack of awareness in small to medium enterprises that a government sponsored Super Connected Cities scheme will subsidise the the cost of a much faster connection.

Daisy is hosting a webinar on the 26th of March, in conjunction with the CBI, to help SMEs through the maze.

OpenPOWER reveals hardware plans

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 09.25.15The OpenPOWER Foundation – a group backed by Google, IBM, Nvidia, Mellanox, Tyan and others, revealed its hardware plans to capture data centre business.

OpenPOWER has over 100 members worldwide and IBM claims, for example, that Power 8 microprocessors offer something close to 60 percent better price performance than the competition. The competition, by the way, is mainly Intel.

IBM claims the Power 8 microprocessor is the first CPU designed specifically for Big Data and analytics workloads.

OpenPOWER members showed a number of hardware elements in their plan to grab data centre business.

IBM and Wistron showed off a prototype of a high performance server using tech from Nvidia and Mellanox. IBM will deliver two systems to Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, with a throughput five to 10 times faster than existing supercomputers.

In the second quarter of this year, Tyan will release its TN71-BP012, using an OpenPOWER customer reference system and aid at large scale cloud projects.

Nviia, Tyan and Cirrascale have developed the Cirrascale RM4950, which is a GPU accelerated developer platform which will be available in volume in the second quarter of this year. That’s aimed at big data analytics and scientific computing applications.

Public wi-fi hotspots hit new high

1980-radio-shack-catalogThe number of public wi-fi hotspot deployments totalled 5.69 million and show no sign of slowing down at all.

Figures from ABI Research reveal that they will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.2 percent between this year and 2020, and by the end of that time there will be 13.3 million of them.

Liam Jye Su, a research associate at ABI, said: “Wi-fi deployments have been surprisingly robust, and more and more public locations have signed up on a free or ‘premium’ basis. This has discouraged the participation of third party operators in some locales because there is a need for the upgrade of service, coverage and legacy equipment, only beneficial for operators with significant economies of scale.”

Some mobile operators are re-considering their attitude to public hotspots because of the high cost of sales with a low return on investment on residential wi-fi. British Telecom and China Telecom, for example are entering partnerships with third parties.

Wi-fi hotspots also have the benefit for operators of offloading mobile data traffic, more especially in urban environments.

Germany bans not quite Uber alles

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 16.23.53A German court has ordered taxi service Uber to stop operating commercial services and threatened severe fines if the company breaches any transport laws.

A Frankfurt regional court said that if Uber broke the order, it would be fined 250,000 Euro, according to Reuters.

The Frankfurt court hasn’t stopped Uber from operating its service for taxis and limos.

Uber said it will appeal against the decision with its German general manager saying it regretted the decision the court made.

Aber will continue to offer its UberBLACK and UberTAXI services in Germany.

A company called Taxi Deutschland filed the suit against Uber because it would replace qualified taxi driers with unlicensed casual workers.

The judges appear to believe that Uber doesn’t just violate German laws, but European laws too.


Windows 10: Summer is a coming in

windows-10-technical-preview-turquoiseWe’ve already written how Microsoft is to give away Windows 10 to Chinese users but senior VP Terry Myers has revealed other elements that he hopes will give his company an edge on the operating systems front.

Speaking at a Windows technical conference in China, Myers said the firm will roll Windows 10 out this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages.

He showed off a feature called Windows Hello that supports biometric authentication rather than the usual typed in passwords. Hello will use facial recognition, iris recognition or fingerprints to unlock devices using the Intel RealSense F200 sensor.

He also said there will be a new version of Windows specifically aimed at the internet of things (IoT) market – and that version of Windows will be free and see applications in ATMs, ultrasound machines, and gateways.

Microsoft has signed deals with a number of organisations including the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Qualcomm, Intel and others.

Myerson also announced the Qualcomm DragonBoard 410C which is a Windows 10 developer board with integrated wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS, and uses a smartphone style Snapdragon 410 chipset.

He claimed that Windows 10 is the only operating system that has a reach across such a broad family of hardware.


Smart city connections rise over a billion

Internet of ThingsEven though there’s little in the way of standards for the internet of things (IoT), the revolution is already here, according to research published by Gartner.

In a report released today, Gartner said that 1.1 billion connected things will be used by smart cities this year but that figure will soar to 9.7 billion by 2020.

But a significant number of connected things this year will be down to so called smart homes and smart commercial buildings – right now the share is 45 percent but the percentage will reach 81 percent by 2020.

Gartner said most of the money will be spent from the private sector. It released figures which showed that public services and in particular healthcare are lagging behind other sectors including transport and utilities.

For the home, connected devices include smart LED lighting, such as Philips Hue lights, healthcare monitoring, smart locks, and sensors that detect things as diverse as motion and carbon monoxide. The highest growth will be in smart lighting – in 2015 there will be only six million units shipped but that will grow to 570 million units by 2020.

Major applications in cities include IoT deployments for parking, traffic and traffic flow. And the UK is leading the way in the field.

Commercial IoT applications will span multiple industries and firms specialising in analytics will see a rise in revenue as big data generated by the billions of devices will represent challenges for the industry.

Freescale-NXP merger challenges the giants

renesas-chips (1)The proposed merger of Freescale and NXP will result in a semiconductor company that challenges the giants.

That’s according to chief analyst Dale Ford at IHS, who said the merged entity will be in the top 10 semiconductor companies in the world, outranking other giants such as Broadcom and ST Microelectronics.

He said the strength of uniting Freescale and NXP will be shown in automotive applications particularly.

NXP, formerly the semiconductor division of Dutch giant Philips, used to compete in the same market, said Ford.

But the new top 10 will look fundamentally different. By revenues, Intel will remain number one with 14.14 percent, followed by Samsung, Qualcomm, SK Hynix, US DRAM firm Micron, Texas Instruments and Toshiba.

The merged company will be second place in the micro controller market, and it will also have significant share in the digital signal processing (DSP) market, much used in consumer applications.

IHS noted in its report that Freescale is practically an exclusive source for power architecture processors – and although its share in this market is tiny compared to ARM and X86 semiconductors, it has big wins in the military aerospace market.

Apple buys into white box servers

novità-apple-2013Cupertino based Apple Inc has decided to ditch HP and Dell to supply its servers and instead is looking to Taiwanese firms to supply its data centre needs.

That’s according to Taiwan wire Digitimes which said some of the local white box server manufacturers have already received orders from Apple for boxes.

One of the major manufacturers of servers is Quanta, which used to specialise almost wholly in making notebooks for big vendors but has diversified its business over the last two years.

It offers servers at a price that undercuts Dell and HP and will customise the machines for customers which already include giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Apple said recently it will open data centres in Ireland and in Denmark and it’s also spending billions on building up data centres in the USA.

The company is also cuddling up to IBM and wants to release tablet machines that will appeal to enterprises rather than the home users it has depended on in the past.

Goodbye, Microsoft Internet Exploder (sic)

windows-10-technical-preview-turquoiseIt’s fair to say that Microsoft’s browser – Internet Explorer – has not been the favourite browser in the world.

But Microsoft has now confirmed that it will put IE in the background when it releases Windows 10 – that’s not until autumn this year.

Instead of pushing Internet Explorer – which has landed it in a lot of bother with government regulatory authorities, Microsoft is to produce a leaner meaner browser which is codenamed Spartan.

Microsoft got into trouble with different governments because IE was bundled with its operating system.

According to web site the Verge, Microsoft won’t kill off Internet Explorer completely but will supplement it with Spartan.

People got so fed up with Internet Explorer in the past that many opted for alternative browsers such as Opera or Firefox.

Microsoft is eager to show that under the stewardship of newly fledged CEO Satya Nadella, things ain’t what they used to be.

Although there’s no official launch date for Windows 10, the perception in the supply chain is that if it comes out before autumn, it will be something of a miracle.

Smart machines need ethics

robby the robotGartner said CIOs need to develop “ethical programming for smart machines”.

What does that mean? According to Frank Buytendijk, a research VP at Gartner: “People must trust smart machines if they are to accept and use them. The ability to earn trust must be part of any plan to implement artificial intelligence (AI) or smart machines, and will be an important selling point when marketing this technology.”

But not all programming needs to be ethical – vapourware is by its very nature not at all ethical, said Gartner. “The first release of any software is seldom complete.”

But when you get to so-called smart machines like virtual personal assistants, the responsibility for ethics is shared between the service provider and designer. For example, asking a bit of smartphone software which bridge is the best to hurl yourself off is clearly far from ethical. Instead, the software should point you in the direction of a psychoanalyst or support worker.

Where ethics really becomes important is when you put a smart machine – like an autonomous car, in charge of life and limb.

Self aware machines are still a long way off but that’s when we’ll really be in trouble. Gartner says self aware machines will be responsible for their own behaviour.

If they behave unethically or perform illegal acts, perhaps they will need to be taken to a digital court and punished accordingly.

It’s all a bit Isaac Asimov but self aware machines are, right now, merely an idea.

Judges fired for watching porn

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 17.29.05The Lord Chief Justice has shown he is capable of being the Lord High Executioner after he fired three judges for watching pornography on official court kit.

Although the three judges weren’t looking at material that’s illegal in the UK, both the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice described their use of official accounts as “wholly unacceptable” and “inexcusable”.

The three judges are Timothy Bowles, Warren Grand and Peter Bullock – they’ve had their legal judges wigs removed from their heads. A fourth judge, Andrew Maw, resigned before the official inquiry was completed.

It’s most unusual for English judges to be shown the door and losing three at the same time is not really going to raise the public’s estimation of the process of justice.

The fact is that all four people have been remarkably daft for using their official IT kit to look at naughty pictures – it’s all too easy for IT departments to see what users are getting up to in their spare time on machines that have been issued to functionaries and executives.

The material isn’t illegal and no one would have given a toss if they’d viewed the smut on machines they paid for themselves.

HP releases storage for SMEs

HPThe storage division of HP said it has released a series of storage products aimed at mid sized companies who don’t want to spend much cash.

HP claimed it has released the most affordable solid state drive (SSD) read caching product which starts off at $1,599.

HP also said it is offering hybrid flash storage in the shape of a StoreVirtual Storagesystem which it claims is 12 times faster than systems using spinning hard drives.

It is also releasing a scalable StoreOne Backup appliance and StoreEasy storage file serving appliances aimed at protecting SME data in case of a catastrophe and providing cloud backup.

HP said it is wooing its channel partners to target the SME market with a range of products that cost 23 percent less than its more grown up products for big enterprises.

It said that the scalable nature of its StoreOnce 2900 Backup appliance, for example, with up to 31.5 terabytes of storage in a 2U system.

HP has also refreshed with StoreEasy storage products using ProLiant Gen9 servers that start at under $5,500.

Most of these products will be available by the end of this month, HP said.


IBM teams up with Twitter

ibm-officeBig Blue is very busy with its cloud data services and data analytics and today has penned an agreement with Twitter aimed at enterprises and developers.

The deal means IBM will deliver cloud data services with Twitter built in – meaning that companies can use analytics to mine meaningful data from the flood of tweets that hit cyber space every day.

IBM described Twitter as unlike any other data source in the world because it happens in real time, and is public and conversational.

IBM claims it can separate the signal from the noise by analysing tweets with millions of data points from other data that is public.

The deal means that developers can search explore and examine data using its Insights for Twitter service on Bluemix.

The company said it can also analyse Twitter data by configuration Biginsights on Cloud and combine the tweets with IBM’s Enterprise Hadoop-as-a-service.

It has already given 4,000 of its own staff access to Twitter data.


Facebook clarifies what you can post

thumb-mark-zuckerberg-facebook-pro-4566Facebook has decided to come on out and give people some guidance on what it allows to be posted on the social network.

In a post on its blog, Facebook issued what it calls “community standards” and claims it wants to balance “the interests of its diverse” population.

It said it will remove content, and disable accounts if it believes “there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety”.

It also said it would remove content if it believes content is particularly sensitive.

It also wants to encourage respectful behaviour. It insists that people use their authentic names and identity.

It asks that people respect copyrights, trademarks and “other legal rights”.

If someone commits what it sees as abuse, it says that it may reserve the right to ban people from Facebook.

But it said not all disagreeable or disturbing content violates its community standards.

In all, it is a particularly vague set of rules that more or less gives Facebook the right to decide what it doesn’t want on its social networking pages.

China edges into DRAM market

chinaflagThe major players in the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) market continue to be South Korean and Taiwanese companies, with only one US company, Micron competing in the marketplace.

But it looks like that’s set to change because a consortium of Chinese vendors bought Silicon Solution, a fabless firm quoted on Nasdaq.

Memory watch analysts DRAM Exchange said the consortium of high end investors was backed by the Chinese government. The government has pledged to invest 120 billion yuan in the semiconductor industry and this move shows just how seriously China takes the aim.

Right now, said the analysts, China’s imports of semiconductors – be they CPUs, DRAM and Flash memory exceed its petrol imports.

Intel is in bed with some Chinese semiconductor companies, and that, in itself is a significant factor.

China spent over $10 billion in importing DRAM last year – that’s 20 percent of the worldwide production of the semiconductors. Of that imported memory, 55 percent was for mobile memory, while PCs represented 19 percent and server memory eleven percent.

So it’s logical that to reduce this trade gap, China continues to invest in DRAM to give it a degree of self sufficiency.

How that will pan out for the competition remains to be seen.