Author: Nick Farrell

Unsinkable Apple hits Selfiegate iceberg

Der Untergang der TitanicHistory says that Apple’s share price should be going sky high right now buoyed by the expected launch of a new iPhone6 and whipped to a frenzy by its free publicity provided by the Tame Apple Press.

However, the company shares are suffering their worst day and one brokerage warning of a stock downgrade unless its new products show better promise for profit growth.

Shares of the smartphone maker slumped four percent as users realised that the company’s iCloud was not the safest place to store their snaps. Apple has done its best to say that its security was not at fault in its Cloudgate boob, which saw naked snaps of Hollywood stars appear online, however evidence is mounting that is not the case.

It seems investors are starting to realise that Apple has not introduced a new product since the iPad in 2010 and is not expected to create anything brilliantly new with its coming iPhone.

It has been thought that an increasingly desperate Apple would unveil a version of a smartwatch next week but even the technology for that has been done to death as Jobs’ Mob’s own version was constantly delayed.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said unless next week’s shows massive incremental profit opportunities, he was likely to downgrade Apple’s rating.

Apple needed a security flaw in its iCloud exposing like a hole in the head. Apple wants its clouds to become repositories of sensitive home and healthcare data, and payments and financial information too.

Security experts have been warning for ages that Apple’s cloud is not up to snuff security wise and the current breach just proves how untrustworthy it is.

Facebook feature stuffs up your phone bill

shockThe phone companies are rubbing their hands with glee thanks to Facebook’s decision to autorun movies on their news feeds.

Facebook introduced a system where your films of cute cats, guilty dogs, pigglets being thrown into sausage machines and people being beheaded play automatically as you scroll down.

While that is not a problem for those on home broadband, it has been a major killer for mobile users.  Reports are coming in from the US where smartphone users are maxing out their data plans because their phones are downloading movies they are probably not even looking at.

Consumer finance site, said it had “seen many complaints from people who have been stung with data bills after exceeding their monthly allowance and who believe it to be because of Facebook autoplaying videos”.

It is not that difficult to fix as the autoplay feature can be switched off but it is not as if Facebook, or anyone else is rushing to tell users.Tap your “Settings” button and then scroll down and click “Facebook.” From there, click “Settings,” “Auto-play,” and then choose “Wi-Fi only” or “Off.” On Android, bring up the Facebook app and go to your account settings. Click “App Settings,” and then choose ‘Auto-play only on Wi-Fi’ or ‘Off.’


Intel re-ARMing

rearm 2It seems that Intel has decided that in the long term its rival ARM has the right idea. We revealed that in the Eye a couple of weeks back.

Intel’s Brian Krzanich told the Citi Global Technology Conference that while ten years down the road the company will continue to get a bulk of its revenue from PCs and servers, a significant part of its revenue will come from mobile, Internet-of-Things and other emerging market segments.

To do that it will need to come up with some ultra-low-cost devices that will still need computing and communications capabilities.

That will mean working out a way to “take our silicon leadership and our architecture down into we talk about parts that may only cost $0.50 and have comms, CPU, everything down there and can run on small batteries.”

Although this is the normal “internet of things” style talk, it is the first time that Chipzilla has given the world its coming vision. In this case it is a super small chip which can run an entire computer’s services for less than 50 cents.

Intel has stayed out of the cheap chips market because the margins are incredibly small, but it is starting to look like it has realised that the Internet of Things will mean low-margin, micro-controllers and other low-cost chips. This will make it difficult for Intel to maintain its traditional 60 percent mark up.

Krzanich said that in a decade, Intel is definitely going to be a broader company across the much broader spectrum of computing. He is also not predicting the death of the PC or the server any time soon.


Google gets into Quantum Lolcats

OgleSearch engine Google has decided that it wants to get into the business of working out if cats are potentially alive or dead.

It has created a research team led by physicist John Martinis from the University of California Santa Barbara to build new quantum information processors based on superconducting electronics.

Dubbed the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, the whole thing is a  collaboration between Google, NASA Ames Research Centre and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) to study the application of quantum optimisation related to artificial intelligence.

The idea is that by having an integrated hardware group, the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimisation and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture.

It will also be able to have someone who can feed and stroke the cats, which may or may not be alive.

Google has become more interested in artificial intelligence in recent years, probably because human intelligence seems to be suffering in the US as the nation stops teaching science in favour of a theory that someone’s invisible friend created the universe 6,000 years ago.

In January, Google bought privately held artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies, which says it all, really.


NATO goes nuclear on cyber option

wenn2114091NATO is going to revise its treaty so that a cyber attack on one of its members will count as a hostile threat for all of them.

The plan is that when President Obama meets with other NATO leaders later this week, they are expected to ratify the idea that a cyberattack on any of the 28 NATO nations could be declared an attack on all of them, similar to a ground invasion or an airborne bombing.

This should put the fear of god into Russia, which was believed behind computer attacks that disrupted financial and telecommunications systems in Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008, and is believed to have used them in the early days of the Ukraine crisis as well.

NATO is a bit behind when it comes to cyber security, although it now has just built a nice new computer security centre.  It does run computer exercises but it possesses no cyberweapons of its own and has no cunning plan how it might use the weapons of member states to strike back in a computer conflict.

The United States and Britain, have spent billions of dollars on secret computer offensive programs but they have not told NATO leaders what kind of weapons they might contribute in a NATO-led computer conflict.

The change in NATO’s definition of an “armed attack” will leave deliberately unclear what would constitute a cyberattack so large that the alliance might think that this would be a declaration of war.

Apparently the alliance is hoping that the impact of the attack will help define the matter. Defence experts point out that deterrence is all about ambiguity, and the implicit threat that NATO would enter a computer conflict in defence of one of its members is full of those ambiguities.

Apple faces firestorm over celeb hacking

lawrrenceIt appears that the Tame Apple Press are finally giving up on Jobs’ Mob and admitting that the leak of racy celebrity photos was actually caused by a security fault on Apple’s iCloud.

Earlier this week it looked like Apple was going to avoid any mention in the hack as the press insisted that such an attack on the iCloud was impossible because it had this magical thing called “encryption.” Apple even went as far as denying that the iCloud was breached by hackers who posted nude pictures of celebrities.

Photos from the celebrities were stolen individually, the company said. The celebrity accounts were “compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that is all too common on the Internet,” Apple insisted.

However by yesterday it was clear that Apple was not going to get away with that. Journalists were starting to ask real security experts about how hackers got the information and it was fairly clear that there was a bit of a tiny weeny hole in the iCloud.

Reuters, which normally spins pro-Apple adverts pretending to be news, sheepishly admitted that the highly public affair remains potentially one of Apple’s worst public crises in years. Speculation continues to spread on blogs about flaws in the iCloud service.

Brandwatch, a company that analyses sentiment on social media, blogs and other sites, found Apple had received 17,000 mentions on Twitter were related to the security breach and the negative words associated Apple’s iCloud service include “violation,” “disgusting violation,” “criminality,” “failure,” “glitch” and “disappointment”.

What is worrying Reuters is that it could upset Apple’s coming launch of the iPhone 6 which actually includes features that use the iCloud for mobile payments. After all, if you are in the middle of a security crisis the last thing you want is to tell potential customers that the same technology which handed over naked pictures of beautiful celebs to the paparazzi can be doing the same thing with your credit card information.

“This could be a scary time publicly for Apple,” JD Sherry, vice president of cybersecurity provider Trend Micro wrote in a Tuesday blogpost. “They haven’t had many, Antennagate and Apple Maps come to mind, and this would most likely trump those.”


Russian sex mad geckos die in space

lizardA team of sex mad geckos who were sent by the Russians to see what they could do in zero gravity returned to earth stone dead.

The geckos were sent aboard Russian satellite Foton M-4 to study effects of zero gravity on reproductive systems.

According to officials at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, the geckos – four females and one male died a week before the landing.

Apparently the satellite’s other randy cargo, the fruit flies were still alive and bred like crazy in space.

As the Foton satellite was not equipped to transmit live feeds back, Russian scientists will have to pick apart the 44 days of footage to know when exactly and why the geckos met their death.

Other than the fruit flies the entire experiment was a disaster. The Foton-M4 satellite was launched on 19 July, 2014 from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan. Though slated for two months, the capsule was recalled after 44 days following problems that began a few days after the launch.

Celebrity leak was Apple cock up

lawrrenceThe coverage of the leak of celebrity photos from Apple’s iCloud has been surprisingly free of blaming Job’s Mob for the leak.  

In fact, some of the coverage has even praised Apple’s security for its magical encryption which apparently absolved Jobs’ Mob of all the blame for the hack.

The large-scale hacking found snaps on the accounts of Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Ariana Grande, Victoria Justice and Selena Gomez.

However Next Web has found proof hat the leaks were caused by a breach in Apple’s iCloud service.

A Python script emerged on GitHub that appears to have allowed malicious users to ‘brute force’ a target account’s password on Apple’s iCloud, thanks to a vulnerability in the Find My iPhone service.

The vulnerability allegedly discovered in the Find My iPhone service appears to have let attackers use this method to guess passwords repeatedly without any sort of lockout or alert to the target. Once the password has been eventually matched, the attacker used it to access other iCloud functions.

The tool was published for two days before being shared to Hacker News and Apple has moved to actually fix the hole.

Find My iPhone  has been used before for such attacks.  It that case hackers were holding victims ransom, locking their phones and demanding money in exchange for giving their phone back.

The Independent reported that Apple has “refused to comment” on any security flaw in iCloud today. So the Tame Apple press can go on telling users that Apple security is perfect.

US tech companies rally against China

55_Days_at_Peking-633098393-largeUS companies are moaning that Chinese regulators are ganging up on Western tech outfits in a bid to shut them out.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China is fuming about a series of investigations scrutinising at least 30 foreign firms, as China enforces its 2008 anti-monopoly law.

According to the Chamber, multinational firms are under “selective and subjective enforcement” using “legal and extra-legal approaches,” the Chamber said in a report.

A survey of 164 members showed 49 percent of respondents felt foreign companies were being singled out in recent pricing and anti-corruption campaigns, compared to 40 percent in a late 2013 survey of 365 members. Twenty-five percent said they were uncertain, or did not know, and 26 percent said no.

Lester Ross, vice chairman of the chamber’s policy committee, said the expansion of the enforcement was welcome in principle, but regulators were using “extra-legal” means to conduct investigations.

“They have taken what are, in many instances, vague or unspecified provisions in the law and moved to enforce them, and sought to enforce those means through processes that do not respect the notion of due process or fairness,” Ross said.

The Chamber wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and asked them to get tough with Beijing on its use of anti-competition rules.

China is using competition law to advance industrial policies that nurture domestic companies, the U.S. Chamber, based in Washington, said in the letter.

It is not just the Americans who are concerned. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China in August expressed its concern over the antitrust investigations, saying China was using strong-arm tactics and appeared to be unfairly targeting foreign firms.

The Chinese argue that some business operators in China have not adjusted their practices in accordance with the anti-monopoly law.  Others have a clear understanding of the laws, but they take the chance that they may escape punishment.

Anti-trust watchdogs have bitten Qualcomm’s local subsidiary after it said in February the company was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless communication standards.  Yesterday Microsoft was given 20 days to reply to queries on the compatibility of its Windows operating system and Office software suite.

Microsoft defies judge’s cloud ruling

cloud 1A US judge has demanded that software giant Microsoft hand over emails which are stored on a foreign server to the government. Microsoft however has refused to do so until its appeal is heard in another court.

Apparently, the emails are sitting on a server in Ireland. If the ruling stands then it means that Microsoft could fall foul of EU law, where the emails are stored and if Redmond does allow the data to fall into US government hands, it can kiss good-bye to billions of EU cloud business.

Practically it means that if you have your data stored in a cloud owned by a US company you are effectively giving that data to US spooks. In fact, the US government could then sell on that data to US business rivals.

Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the US District Court in Manhattan had on July 31 upheld a magistrate judge’s ruling on the emails.  It is not clear why the government wants to read the emails just that it applied for a warrant.

Microsoft has been desperate to prove to customers that it does not allow the US government unchallenged access to personal data on its servers.

Preska had delayed enforcement of the government’s search warrant so Microsoft could appeal.

But prosecutors later said that because her order was not a “final, appealable order” and because Microsoft had yet to be held in contempt, there was no legal reason to enforce the stay.

Preska agreed, saying her order “merely confirmed the government’s temporary forbearing of its right to stay enforcement of the order it secured.”

Microsoft is still refusing to comply with the judge’s order, pending attempts to overturn it. A spokesVole said that everyone agreed this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen,

This appears to be the first case in which a corporation has challenged a US search warrant seeking data held abroad. It is backed by AT&T, Apple, Cisco Systems and Verizon.



Microsoft. Explain yourself!

bad-dogThe Chinese government has told Microsoft to explain to its finest antitrust watchdogs why it is an imperialist software outfit hell bent on playing monopoly behind the bamboo curtain.

It is giving Microsoft 20 days to come up with an answer which does not involve a dog eating its homework, the monopoly was being played when Microsoft got there, or the Chinese antitrust laws were chewed by Steve Ballmer who thought they were food.

A Chinese antitrust regulator is apparently concerned that Windows operating system and Office software suite is not compatible with other forms of software, which is a surprising new thing that no one appeared to have noticed given that the nation has run on pirated Windows XP for decades.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) repeated that it suspected the company has not fully disclosed matters relating to the compatibility of the software and the operating system.

In a statement, Microsoft said it was “serious about complying with China’s laws and committed to addressing SAIC’s questions and concerns”.

Microsoft is one of at least 30 foreign companies which have been put under the Chinese water torture as the government seeks to enforce its six-year old antitrust law. Critics say the law is being use to kick foreign businesses out of the country, while it builds its own homegrown IT industry.

Last month, a delegation from chipmaker Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), led by company President Derek Aberle, met officials at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

NDRC claimed the US chipmaker is suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless communication standards.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is expected to make his first visit to China as chief executive later this month and will probably tell the Chinese what is going on.

Anonymous takes the Nintendo

urinalsNever mind pouring buckets of ice on your head, a group of Anonymous protestors have been literally taking the wee when it comes to complaining about British spying.

A video has been posted online that appears to show activists from the We Are Anonymous group drinking their own urine in protest at GCHQ.

The police refused to accept a potty full of urine on behalf of GCHQ so activists ceremoniously drank it.

People taking part in the four-day-long peaceful protest were warned by the long arm of the law that they were not allowed to take snaps of GCHQ spies as they popped inside for a meeting with Moneypenny and M.

Activists who are angry at reports that GCHQ and its American sister agency NSA have developed large programmes of mass surveillance of phone and internet traffic, organised the protest over the weekend.

Gloucestershire Police told protesters that there was a small matter of legality standing in the way of them snapping pictures of staff based at Cheltenham.

Other than the potty protest, the rest of the weekend was a bit of a damp squib. The protest got off to a slow start yesterday with confusion over when the protests would take place and only a handful of people turned up.


Samsung teams up with Nokia

arr_treasureSamsung and Nokia have signed an agreement to bring Nokia’s HERE mapping service to Samsung’s shiny toys.

Apparently HERE for Android will be initially exclusive to Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone line, and it will also be bringing a mini version of HERE to Samsung’s Tizen-based smartwatches, including the newly-announced Samsung Gear S.

HERE was the love child of Nokia’s Ovi mapping service and Navteq, which was another purchase from the former rubber boot maker. HERE is one of the main competitors to Google Maps and powers Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, Amazon Maps, and Garmin GPS devices.

For those who came in late this deal has nothing to do with Microsoft, which only bought Nokia’s “Devices & Services” division. The remaining parts of the company deal with maps, cellular networking technology, and R&D.

But the move will take Samsung further away from the Google ecosystem. Nokia’s business model is to charge for access to the map data, which presumably is what Samsung is doing, plus a little more to get HERE for Android as an exclusive.  However Samsung loses money for every user of its map app, while Google makes money from flogging its adverts.


Grand Ayatollah blasts high-speed internet

Detail showing fleeing Persians (King Darius centre) from an AncThe nation which once led the world with its technological expertise is now blasting high-speed internet connections as against its religion.

A Grand Ayatollah in Iran has been looking up his copy of the Koran and decided that access to high-speed and 3G Internet is “against Sharia” and “against moral standards”.

Writing in his bog, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, one of the country’s highest clerical authorities, issued a fatwa, stating: “All third generation and high-speed internet services, prior to realisation of the required conditions for the National Information Network, is against Sharia and against moral and human standards.”

Internet access has been an ongoing struggle between Iran’s hardliners, who retain key bases of power in the judicial, intelligence and security branches of government and wish to maintain strict censorship and control over all information. The problem is that more than half of the country’s 42 million Iranians use the internet.

Authorities frequently slow the speed of the internet as a means to render it effectively useless, thereby depriving the citizenry of the online access it needs for professional, educational, and commercial use. But at least their souls are safe and no one can get the information needed to question authority.

The Grand Ayatollah’s ruling might cause a few problems for president Hassan Rouhani who has said that Iranian people deserve better than to wait for information on the internet.

Conservative, religious, and security organisations and officials are terrified that they will lose control of their population if a faster internet is introduced. The also want the development of the National Information Network, (National Intranet) which was begun under the previous Ahmadinejad administration and will give the government total control over Internet access inside Iran.

Public face of Red Hat quits

8th_Doctor_FezRed Hat has announced that its long serving CTO Brian Stevens is quitting after 13 years in the job.

Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO of Red Hat made the announcement and gave a brief line of thanks for Steven’s years of service. In the interim, the office of the CTO will be managed by Paul Cormier, President of products and technologies at Red Hat.

On the surface there appears nothing untoward about the exit, other than the fact no-one at Red Hat saw it coming.

There have been some dark rumours that all is not well under the cappello rosso and some are saying that Stevens may have left because of friction between Stevens and Cormier. Stevens office had been moved out from underneath Cormier’s control and there might be some feuding going on.

Stevens, whose Red Hat page was taken down minutes after the news was released, had been with Red Hat since 2001. Before that he had been the CTO at Mission Critical Linux, and a senior architect at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), where he worked on Digital’s UNIX operating system. He is best known for his work on the X Window System, the foundation of UNIX and Linux graphic systems.

Stevens was often the public face of Red Hat and t Gigaom Structure on Red Hat and OpenStack. In April  he laid out Red Hat’s future technology plans at Red Hat Summit.

He has been a key player in Red Hat’s march to the cloud. Red Hat was not among the early adopters of OpenStack when it got started in July 2010 and it was Stevens, who got the company involved. Today Red Hat is the top code contributor to OpenStack.