Author: Nick Farrell

Putin the thumbscrews on Western tech companies

imperial_russiaTsar Vladimir Putin is taking his revenge on the US for bringing in sanctions against its Ukraine activity by cutting back on the use of American technology.

Apparently Putin is cross about the sanctions which froze the business assets of some of his closest business supporters. He thinks he should be allowed to supply missiles to pro-Russian supporters to use how they see fit without any world sanctions.

It looks like Putin is taking out his frustrations on US companies like Microsoft and IBM and ordering the country to be less reliant on Yankee tech.

Russia’s executive secretary of the commission for the State Duma, Andrey Chernogorov, was quoted as saying, “This all has to do with sanctions. Given the current international tensions, substituting imports with local software and hardware becomes the key to ensuring self sufficiency.”

The State Duma is currently in the process of drafting a bill which would seek to replace products from Microsoft and IBM in favour of software and hardware made by local companies.

It looks like the Russians will eventually only buy products that do not need to be imported or have licensed components.

It is not clear how that will play out yet. Probably some support or pressure to move to Open Source products. That might work well with the software, but hardware dependence on US, made in China, goods will be harder to shake.

Apple wants gazillions of big screens for iPhones

gala_appleFruity cargo cult Apple has asked its manufactures between 70 million and 80 million of its two forthcoming large-screen iPhones by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal has found sources which claim that Apple has predicted the numbers of people wanting iPhones with 4.7-inch (11.9-cm) and 5.5-inch (14-cm) displays is much larger than the initial order last year of between 50 million and 60 million for iPhone 5S and 5C models.

Foxconn and Pegatron plan to start mass producing the 4.7-inch iPhone model next month, and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, whose parent is Foxconn, will begin making the 5.5-inch version exclusively in September.

The Journal was full of the normal predictions about what the iPhone will deliver designed to create some hype in what is actually product similar to what is already out there.

But the numbers suggest that Apple seriously believes that it is on to a money spinner that will eclipse the sales of all other iPhones.

This is a bold statement, given that the smartphone market is saturated and developing markets have only shown slight interest in joining the Apple cargo cult.

Both iPhone 6 screens are expected to use in-cell touch panel technology, built into the screen and allowing for thinner construction than with standard touch panel films, that was introduced with the iPhone 5.

It is possibly this reason, rather than growing worldwide sales, which means that Apple has ordered so many. Word on the street is that there could be difficulties with in-cell production technology for the larger 5.5-inch size.

Apple has ordered shedloads more products because some will not work. Although this sounds sensible, it does mean that a lot of material will be junked. What might worry Apple is that if faults are not detected before they end up in the shops it might create a reputation for unreliability.

Autonomy chief financial officer wants to block HP settlement

HPAutonomy’s former chief financial officer is seeking to block the maker of expensive printer ink, HP from settling three shareholder lawsuits over its troubled purchase of the British software company.
Sushovan Hussain, said the “collusive and unfair” settlement in which HP officials are wrongly absolved of a $8.8 billion writedown.

Hussain, said the “collusive and unfair” settlement, if approved by a federal judge, would let HP “forever bury from disclosure the real reason for its 2012 write-down of Autonomy.

“This motion reveals the depth of the corruption that permeates the settlement,” the spokesman said. “The shareholders who have borne the losses get nothing, and learn nothing about what really happened.”

He said that it ignored HP’s destruction of Autonomy’s success after the acquisition.

The June 30 accord called for HP shareholders to end efforts to force current and former officials, including Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, to pay damages to the Palo Alto, California-based company over its disastrous $11.1 billion Autonomy purchase.

Instead, the shareholders agreed to help HP pursue sue former Autonomy officials like Hussain and former CEO Michael Lynch.

HP announced the $8.8 billion writedown in November 2012, just over one year after buying Autonomy, and claimed it as down to accounting fraud and inflated financials by Autonomy executives.

HP spokesman Howard Clabo shrugged and said that Hussain’s opposition to the settlement is baseless. He thought that at the end of the process, the jury will conclude that Hussain engaged in a multi-billion dollar fraud.

Stop taking a pizza the action, Italy tells Google

OgleItaly has given Google 18 months to sort out how it treats and stores user data.
According to the Italy’s data protection regulator has been investigating Google as part of a European drive to reform the internet giant’s privacy practices.

There was concern after Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one, combining data collected on individual users across its services, including YouTube, Gmail and social network Google+. It gave users no means to opt out.

The Italian watchdog barked that Google’s disclosure to users on how their data was being treated remained inadequate, despite the company having taken steps to abide by local law.

The Rome-based regulator said Google would not be allowed to use the data to profile users without their prior consent and would have to tell them explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes.

The watchdog snarled that requests from users with a Google account to delete their personal data be met in up to two months.

A spokesman for Google said the company had always cooperated with the regulator and would continue to do so, adding it would carefully review the regulator’s decision before taking any further steps.

Google also agreed to present a document by the end of September that will set a roadmap of steps to comply fully with the Italian regulator’s decision.

If it does not it could cost Google a million euros in fines, which is such a small part of Google’s income it is a wonder if it will care. There are criminal proceedings which could get a few Google executives in the dock. Google executives have been in the dock before in Italy and it ended badly.
Regulators in France and Spain have already fined Google for breaking local laws on data protection, underscoring growing concerns across Europe about the volume of personal data that is held in foreign jurisdictions.

In Britain, the ICO regulator gave Google until September 20 last year to make changes to bring the policy into line with local law.

Apple installed back doors into iOS

gala_appleThe fruity purveyor of expensive smartphones, Apple, might have to explain to its users why it installed back doors into its gear.

Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski has revealed that Apple might have deliberately installed security holes in all of their iOS devices.

In his talk to the HOPE security conference Zdziarski demonstrates “a number of undocumented high-value forensic services running on every iOS device” and “suspicious design omissions in iOS that make collection easier.” He also provides examples of forensic artefacts acquired that “should never come off the device” without user consent.

Zdziarski said Apple did that all the while it shored up the security in the rest of the iOS to make it harder to break in.

The irony is that according to Zdziarski the iPhone is “reasonably secure” to a typical attacker and the iPhone 5 and iOS 7 are more secure from everybody except Apple and the government.

For example, he has noticed that just because you lock your Apple device, it does not mean that your device’s data is encrypted. The only way to encrypt it is to shut it down. This means that as long as your device is on, you are “at risk of spilling all data”.

Commercial forensic tools will be able to perform deep extraction using these backdoor services.
He thinks Apple might have bowed to the demands of the security services and law enforcement to install such security holes to make it easier for them to break in with a warrant.

Apple has stated that it will be transparent when faced with government requests, but Zdziarski thinks that this is still a breach of customers’ trust. The back doors are obviously undocumented and not mentioned to customers at all.

Tor used to distribute Ransomware

Al CaponeA new breed of Crypto ransomware which uses Tor to hide its antics has hit the streets.

Critroni has been flogged on underground forums for the last month or so and is now being used by the Angler exploit kit.

Security experts say that it is the first crypto ransomware seen using the Tor network for command and control.

It is bad news. The ransomware landscape has been ruled by CryptoLocker and that bit of code has proved really hard to defeat. CryptoLocker encrypts all of the files on an infected computer and then demands that the victim pay a ransom in order to get the private key to decrypt the data.

Coppers in the United States and Europe took down the GameOver Zeus malware operation, one of the key mechanisms that attackers were using to push CryptoLocker. Since then security researchers spotted advertisements for the Critroni ransomware. Critroni also is known as CTB-Locker, and was first used in Russia.

You can pick up Critroni ransomware for $3,000 and researchers say it is now being used by a range of attackers, some of whom are using the Angler exploit kit to drop a spambot on victims’ machines.

Once on a victim’s PC, Critroni encrypts a variety of files, including photos and documents, and then displays a dialogue box that informs the user of the infection and demands a payment in Bitcoins in order to decrypt the files.

Victims have 72 hours to pay up. The ransom payment is usually about $300, for victims in the US, Canada and Europe.

One of the unique features of Critroni/CTB-Locker is that it uses the C2 function hidden in the Tor network Tor for its command-and-control infrastructure.

Fedor Sinitsyn, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab said that the executable code for establishing Tor connection is embedded in the malware’s body.

Embedding Tor functions in the malware’s body is difficult from the programming point of view, but it helps to avoid detection.

Critroni is in English and Russian right now, so it is expected that countries which use those languages will be a target.

 

Russians hack Wikipedia entry on flight MH17

imperial_russiaAs it looks like the missile that downed flight MH17 was fired by pro-Russian separatists armed by Tsar Vladimir Putin, another war is breaking out on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Tsar Putin’s government has been caught out removing sections of Wikipedia which accuse it of providing the missiles that were used to down the civilian airliner.

The Twitter bot which monitors edits made to the online encyclopaedia from Russian government IP addresses has spotted that changes are being made to a page relating to the crash.

A user from within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) changed a Russian language version of a page listing civil aviation accidents to say: “The plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers,” which is what Tsar Putin wants you to think.

This replaced text, written an hour earlier, which said MH17 had been shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The government was caught by an automated Twitter bot called congress-edits was created to monitor for changes made from US Congress computers and immediately tweet them.

That source code powering that project was made public, allowing the creation of RUGovEdits which performs a similar role in Russia.

Tsar Putin has denied any responsibility over the shooting down of the jet, which should have been an end to the matter. He said that the “government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”

If you read that literally he is saying that the Ukrainian government was responsible for him having to arm the separatists, and also had to face blame for the trigger happy nutjobs mistaking a passenger plane for a Ukrainian government cargo plane.

Normally it is the US government which tinkers with Wikipedia entries with staff of Congress members often having a crack at improving their boss’s image.

Microsoft once offered an engineer money to update articles on two competing standards.

Apple blames Intel

gala_appleApple has been forced to delay its coming 12-inch MacBook because the chipmaker Intel keeps delaying its Broadwell chip.

To be fair Apple has not confirmed plans to launch a 12-inch MacBook yet, but that is normal. But it is also normal to know when the product is likely to be shipped and this one is going to be late.

The news of a 12-inch MacBook emerged in October and trusted KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo said the device would combine the portability of an 11-inch MacBook Air with the productivity of the larger 13-inch version. The analyst claimed that Apple put its Retina display onto this 12-inch MacBook.

Taiwan’s Economic Daily News claims that with Intel’s delays with Broadwell, Apple will have to push back the launch date.

It claims that Apple will not be able to ship its purported 12-inch MacBook Air until late 2014 or early 2015.

The problem is the technical issues that Intel is having with its  14-nanometer Broadwell chips. The chips in question have faced numerous delays and the problems are not going away.

Word on the street is that Intel’s U series Broadwell chips destined for Apple’s upcoming MacBooks may not ship until February next year.

Apple was supposed to release this model in autumn, with mass production set to commence in the third quarter. The 12-inch MacBook will boast a redesigned chassis with an ultra-thin profile, as well as a revamped trackpad that would ditch the fan and the mechanical trackpad button.

Apple’s MacBook will not be the only major release affected by Intel’s continued Broadwell delays. Several other Apple products may face similar hurdles. The first Broadwell chips designed for iDevices are not expected to start shipping until early 2015, while those designed for the Retina MacBook Pro and the iMac may not ship until mid-2015.

All this means is that Jobs’ Mob will not have any major product launches for ages.

Axe falls at the Volehill

Microsoft campusCorporate axemen have been stalking the corridors of Redmond and have so far claimed the heads of 18,000 employees, in the largest staff cull at Microsoft.

The cuts are the first major change made by Satya Nadella, the company’s new chief executive, who said Microsoft needed to be more nimble and focused.

The job cuts are 14 percent of its work force and most of them will come from the Nokia mobile phone business Microsoft acquired this year.

More than two thirds of the up to 18,000 jobs that Microsoft said it would cut will come from Nokia groups, or from overlap at Microsoft resulting from the deal.

Ironically morale at the Volehill had improved since Nadella took over, which might not have happened if people realised that job cuts were on the table.

Nadella has pledged big changes and make some quick decisions releasing Microsoft’s lucrative Office applications for the iPad. And he departed from past practice at the company by making its Windows operating system free for mobile devices to improve its market share.

But Microsoft has become bureaucratic and slow moving and has nearly double the 127,000 employees it had a decade ago. Apple has 87,000 and half of them in its retail stores.

 

Hype begins for new iPhone

gala_appleIt seems that the fruity cargo cult Apple has started the hype for the launch of its new iPhone.

While other outfits have to pay for their advertising, Apple manages to attract huge attention for its product launches thanks to its fans in key newspapers.

This morning it was “leaked” that Hon Hai has begun mass production of Apple next-generation iPhone.

You can tell if a story has been written with the idea of marketing Apple products on the sly, because they are full of marketing phrases such as “game changing” and “wildly popular.”

While the worst offender is traditionally the New York Times, Reuters has also sacrificed its credibility with unethical marketing plugs.

This morning, someoneat Reuters wrote this:

“Mass production of a 4.7-inch successor to the wildly popular iPhone 5 series of smartphones will begin during the third week of July.” Firstly, the iPhone 5 was not “wildly popular” in comparison to other smartphones, secondly the 4.7 inch screen size is pretty backward.

So far the so called “next-generation” iPhone appears to be thinner than the earlier models but has no especially interesting software, in fact it will be playing catch-up until a 5.5 inch model is released later.

It does seem clear that manufacturing of the latest iPhone has begun. A report from a China state-run news service said Hon Hai is planning to hire 100,000 workers.  Of course Apple’s Tame Apple press suggest this will be to “meet future demand for the gadget.”

Pegatron also began recruitment of over 10,000 workers for its mainland facilities to manufacture the phone, according to the Economic Daily News report.

This hype  is going to get worse until the first queues start to form outside the Apple cathedrals of delight. But with mass production started, the chance of a leak is much higher and we will soon know what it looks like.

AMD loss shocks Wall Street

AMD_lassDespite winning all sorts of console contracts, AMD managed to disappoint Wall Street by posting a loss this quarter and gave a revenue forecast for the current quarter that missed expectations.

AMD’s stock fell 15 percent in extended trade after the outfit said it had a net loss of $36 million in the June quarter, compared with a loss of $74 million, a year earlier.

Intel’s results had created expectations on Wall Street that the worst is over for the personal computer industry.  However this seems to suggest that AMD does not think so.

AMD has been expanding into new markets like game consoles and low-power servers and it aims to obtain half of its revenue from those additional businesses by the end of 2015.

Some of the dafter analysts think that the problem is because AMD is too dependent on the PC and does not make enough cash making mobile gear. That argument falls flat when you realise that Intel made a stonking profit but its mobile division bled cash.

Generally it was nothing to do with falling PC sales, or a drift to mobile. AMD’s biggest problem is debt. Each quarter it has to pay $49 million to service its huge debt pile.  If this were not, there the company would have reported a non-GAAP operating profit of $67 million.

In fact AMD’s revenue rose 24 percent to $1.44 billion in the second quarter. The company said its third-quarter revenue would rise 2 percent, plus or minus 3 percent, from the June quarter. That would be about $1.47 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $1.44 billion in the second quarter and $1.57 billion in the third quarter.

Revenue in the Computing Solutions Group dropped 20 percent from a year ago, to $669 million, as microprocessor unit shipments declined. But notebook processor sales rose, while AMD sold fewer desktop processors and chipsets. GPU revenue declined as well, partially offset by a rise in chips sold into graphics workstations and add-on cards.

 

IBM disappoints with better than expected results

IBM logoIt seems that IBM cannot really win.  It released results which were much better than expected but it appears that shareholders were not impressed.

Net profit rose to $4.1 billion, or $4.12 per share, from $3.2 billion, or $2.91 per share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, the company earned $4.32 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $4.29.

However, analysts were quick to find fault. At the heart of the problem was the IBM’s software business which only grew one percent in the quarter to $6.5 billion, slower than forecasts of three percent.

Software revenue was IBM’s bread and butter and it had been growing quite well over recent years. The slowdown means that IBM is getting fewer contracts.

IBM Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter expected that software revenue would pick up to mid-single digits in second half of 2014.

There were a few one off problems too. In January, IBM sold its customer care business, which brought in approximately $1.2 billion in full year revenue in 2013, to hardware distributor Synnex, a sale the company expects to negatively affect revenue comparisons by $300 million per quarter.

Last quarter, the company saw a $870 million restructuring fee, which was largely completed and contributed to savings quarter over quarter.

One bright point was that it saw growth in its strategic sectors as business analytics was up 7 percent, cloud revenue grew 50 percent, and security revenue rose 20 percent.

Revenue fell 2 percent to $24.4 billion in the second quarter, above analysts’ average estimate of $24.1 billion. The wooden spoon was won by the Asia Pacific region which fell nine per cent. Revenue in the Americas fell 1 percent/

Net profit rose to $4.1 billion, or $4.12 per share, from $3.2 billion, or $2.91 per share, a year earlier.

 

 

 

Intel suffers

intel_log_reversedBuried in Intel’s glowing results was one anomaly – its tablet business was taking off while its mobile unit revenue fell like a free falling team of elephants.

It was possible to see a significant spike in tablets using its chips, up 10 million last quarter, but its mobile revenue was just $51 million. This was an 83 percent drop from a year earlier.

While it is possible to explain some of that drop by a fall in its phone modem chip business it turns out that this was the cost of “contra revenue”,

As president Ronald Reagan found out, giving money to contras is always going to get you into trouble and what you are seeing is the cost of Intel buying its way into the market.

For 2014 anyway, Intel is selling a chip into low-end tablets that costly and complex to design into devices than rivals.  Tablet makers are happy because they get a higher end Bay Trail chip  for their cheap tablets but Intel’s bottom line  suffers and it smacks of desperation.

It all means that Intel can say it is “on track” to reach its goal of selling 40 million tablet processors this year but this means that more “successful” Intel is at getting device makers to use its chips, the more money it will lose.

Intel does not seem to care either.  It has said that it is tablet program is expected to take the company’s entire profit margin down by as much as 1.5 percentage points this year.  Intel can afford it, but it is questionable if his makes sense and it if would be better to invest in the 3.30 at Ascot.

Intel thought Bay Trail chip it is selling to tablet makers would wind up in high-end devices which cost a fortune. Instead, Intel’s opportunities have been in lower-end devices such as the Asus Memo Pad, a device that costs around $150.

Intel does not expect the mobile unit to turn profitable next year, but the losses should narrow, CFO Stacy Smith told the world+dog.

CEO Brian Krzanich believes that over time we can make this a profitable business.

AMD eyes Nintendo for chips

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD thinks it can get back into the portable console business, and is hinting at a new deal with Nintendo involving its 3DS.

The vice president of AMD’s custom semiconductor business Saeid Moshkelani noted that AMD was doing rather well in consoles. It was providing the graphics processors for the Wii U, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

However, portable consoles, such as the 3DS and PS Vita use other processors and AMD wants a piece of that action.

Of course, he admits, that market appears to be drying up but he said that “believe it or not” the 3DS is still selling.’

He said that before AMD could invest any time on a project it would have to be worth at least $100 million annual revenue for us to go for it.

He said that no Android console has made anything like that amount of money and it is extremely hard to imagine Sony producing another handheld console after the PS Vita, which leaves Nintendo – who have confirmed they definitely are making another portable.

Nintendo has said that whatever their next handheld is it will share the same operating system as their next home console and therefore the same games and apps.

Though there are various models, Android does not face software shortages because there is one common way of programming on the Android platform that works with various models.

It is not clear if AMD actually has Nintendo in the bag as a customer, but the fact Moshkelani is talking about it makes it a good bet.

 

Bing says “thanks for the memories” EU

Bill GatesSoftware giant Microsoft has followed Google and set up a system which will allow Europeans to be forgotten.

Microsoft started taking requests from individuals in Europe who want to be removed from its Bing search engine results following a court judgment in May guaranteeing the “right to be forgotten.”

Google complied with the ruling in May, and started removing some search results last month.

The European Court of Justice of the European Union ordered Google to remove a link to a 15-year-old newspaper article about a Spanish man’s bankruptcy, effectively upholding people’s “right to be forgotten” on the Internet.

The ruling, which affects the EU’s 500 million citizens, requires that Internet search services remove information deemed “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.”

If it does not remove the link, then there could be fines. The rule only applies to EU countries, meaning links that have been removed in Europe will still appear in search results elsewhere, including the United States.

Microsoft  has released a four-part questionnaire. Microsoft advises those interested in completing the questionnaire that it will “help us to consider the balance between your individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, consistent with European law.”

If you want to be forgotten by Bing you should go here https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/eu-privacy-request .