Author: Nick Farrell

US wants to make unlocking phones legal again

pressieThe US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a plan which would give mobile-phone users the right to “unlock” their devices and use them on competitors’ networks.

The bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, is similar to legislation passed by the House of Representatives in February and is expected to have bipartisan support when it reaches the Senate floor for a vote.

In 2012 ruling by the Library of Congress, who looks after US copyright law, made phone-unlocking illegal. Unlocking could sent you to jail where you cannot pass go or collect $200.

The move supported US wireless carriers who were “locking” smartphones to their networks to encourage consumers to renew mobile contracts.

However, there is some move amongst the wireless carriers to make it easier for consumers to unlock their phones after their contracts expire.

Leahy’s bill reinstates the exemption given to mobile phones in the copyright law before the 2012 ruling and calls on the officials there to reconsider the issue during its next round of reviews in 2015, potentially expanding the exemption to tablets and other devices.

In addition to allowing consumers to unlock devices themselves, Leahy’s bill would allow consumers to authorise someone else to do it for them.

 

Alcatel-Lucent gives copper a new chance

alcatelAlcatel-Lucent appears to have given new life to a traditional copper telephone line.

The outfit’s Bell Labs research division claimed to set a new world record by delivering “ultra-broadband” speeds of 10,000Mbps over the aging infrastructure using a prototype technology called XG-FAST.

The prototype XG-FAST tech also demonstrated how existing copper access networks could be used to deliver symmetrical speeds of 1Gbps  or 1000Mbps.

It is being described as being an “extension” of G. technology that can provide Internet connection speeds which are “indistinguishable” from fibre optic Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) services.

BT uses Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology in the United Kingdom to deliver speeds of up to 80Mbps.  That technology works by replacing the existing copper cable between street cabinets and your local telephone exchange with a fibre optic line. The final copper line run from cabinets and into homes is then managed by VDSL2 technology.

G.fast takes even better advantage of the latest advancements in  Vectoring 2.0 to reduce interference. This allows it to operate at speeds of up to 1Gbps, by only by using higher frequencies (106MHz+) and over even shorter runs of copper cable.

If anyone were to design the a system based around it they would combine G.fast with Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp) or FTTrN technology, which takes the fibre optic cable even closer to homes.

 

TOR charged with protecting criminals

texasflagIt seems that the legal system in Texas believes that it can charge the TOR network for aiding criminals.

Tor has been sued in the state of Texas over a revenge porn website that used its free service.

Shelby Conklin, a criminal justice major at the University of North Texas is suing the website called Pinkmeth, which lets users upload and publicly share sexually explicit material without consent from the people in the pictures. The service is often used by hackers and ex-partners, and it’s illegal in 11 states.

It is still legal in Texas, a State where it is illegal to own more six dildos, or to flirt in a public place.

Conklin alleges Pinkmeth “gained unauthorized access to nude photographs” she owned and posted them to the internet. She thinks Tor ” was involved in an active “civil conspiracy” with Pinkmeth because the revenge porn website used the anonymous communications service to prevent others from tracking its location.

She wants a million dollars in damages for “mental anguish and loss in earning capacity” as a result of the publication and dissemination of the nude photos.

He case said that a Texas state court has “jurisdiction over TOR because it advertises and offers the services referenced above in Texas and to Texas residents and knowingly assists websites such as Pinkmeth in committing torts against residents of Texas.”

To win her case she needs to show that Pinkmeth actually communicated with TOR.

Of course the judge might dismiss Tor as a defendant in the case as its conduct could be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

IBM invests in big chip breakthrough

ibm-officeIBM, which has remodelled itself as a business services outfit, has surprised everyone by wanting to be a big player in the chip market again.

Biggish Blue said it will invest $3 billion over the next five years in chip research and development. It wants to find a breakthrough that can help revive its slumping hardware unit.

The plan was announced a week before its second quarter earnings, which, if they are anything like last quarter, will be dire for hardware.

Last quarter sales in its hardware sector plunged 23 percent from a year earlier and the company posted its lowest quarterly revenue in five years.

IBM thinks it can find ways to scale and shrink silicon chips to make them more efficient. The money will be spent researching new materials to use in making chips, such as carbon nanotubes, which are more stable than silicon, are also heat resistant, and can provide faster connections.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group said that the announcement was a message to investors is that IBM was committed to chips and thinks great innovation possible.

The investment is equal to half of all IBM’s research and development last year.

Oddly the company is preparing to divest its chip manufacturing business to focus on intellectual property so any developments will be in the nature of being fabless chipmaker. IBM was rumoured to be close to a deal with chipmaker Globalfoundries.

Apple worried about partner’s pollution

gala_appleApple is worried about its manufacturing partners’ carbon emissions and its own rising water consumption.

The company has been doing its best to cut back sharply on greenhouse gas output with lots of solar power plants and other eco-friendly investments. . Observers say it has improved its practices and earned better scores from groups such as Greenpeace.

Apple released its 2014 environmental responsibility report, saying investments in renewable energy helped slash its carbon footprint from energy use by 31 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013. That is despite power consumption soaring 44 percent over the same period.

Cynics said that it easy to do when you have outsourced most of your polluting manufacturing to China.

Apple agrees that its production partners Foxconn and Pegatron  for the largest portion of its carbon footprint.  It did not name them in the report of course.

 

 

Hacker jailed for six months

policemanA Northumbria University student has been jailed for six months for refusing to hand over his passwords to unencrypt his systems.

Christopher Wilson was suspected of hacking police websites after coppers claimed they needed to see his computer contents in the interests of national security.

However, like many cases like this, all is not as it seems. Wilson, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, caused the Northumbria Police website to shut down after ringing the force using a voice-changing device to warn of a cyber-attack.

Coppers investigating him found that he was sending online messages about “trolling the Newcastle police department” and infiltrating the secret files the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

He even suggested sending nasty messages on a condolence page set up for two female police officers shot dead in Manchester.

Wilson, who is currently excelling on a Master’s degree in computers and has set up his own business programming artificial intelligence systems, was doing his degree at Northumbria University.

A judge last year ordered him to hand over his passwords in the interests of national security last year but he refused to provide any of the 50 that that coppers wanted.

Wilson admitted failing to disclose a password in breach of the Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2000, an offence under terrorism legislation.

Judge Simon Hickey told him: “What you were doing was for your own satisfaction, showing what you could do with your undoubted skill with computers.

“But this is a serious offence and I can’t avoid an immediate custodial sentence.”

Reading the case you can’t help but wonder how daft everything got. Prosecutors did not try to claim he was successful in hacking anything but had an interest in doing so.

David Lister, defending, said: “He has expressed genuine remorse, he bitterly regrets his actions. He was 19 at the time and the impact of his Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s meant he matured more slowly than others.

Wilson’s was described as a bright and talented young man and is due to complete his Master’s next January and is on course for a distinction having excelled.

US Senate committee approves company snooping

Despite fears about personal data, the US Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill to encourage companies to exchange information with the government.

The move is supposed to help share information on hacking attempts and cybersecurity threats, the only problem is that you have to trust the US government not to misuse the situation.

Experts see the bill as the best chance for the current congress to pass some type of legislation to encourage better cooperation between the government and private companies to boost the cyber defences of critical industries.

It is a serious problem as cyber-attacks by a determined enemy could be the greatest threat to US national and economic security.

However, comprehensive cyber bills have been delayed by rows over liability and concerns about privacy. In the middle of it, came the news of the government surveillance programmes.

The bill must be approved by the full Senate and reconciled with similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives in April.

There are already signs that the measure has bipartisan support in the House. The Republican chairman and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee issued a statement on Tuesday backing the measure and urging the full Senate to vote quickly.

Under the bill, companies and individuals can monitor their own and consenting customers’ networks for hacking and voluntarily share cyber threat data, stripped of personally identifiable information, with the government and each other for cybersecurity reasons.

In return, the US director of national intelligence to increase the amount of information the government shares with private firms and the Department of Homeland Security to set up and manage a data-sharing portal.

The bill offers liability protections to companies that appropriately monitor their networks or share cyber threat data and limit the government’s ability to use data it receives.

However, privacy advocates are worried about giving companies any form of immunity and the long history of abuse of consumer data by both the private sector and the government.

Chinese worked out Siri first

ipad3Apple’s attempts to get the rights for its Siri voice activated search technology recognised behind the bamboo curtain have failed.

A Beijing court has ruled that a Chinese company invented the technology and this was copied by Apple.

This clears the way for the Chinese company to continue its own case against Apple for infringing intellectual property rights.

Zhizhen sued the US firm in 2012 for intellectual property rights infringement, saying Apple’s Siri used on devices including the iPhone violated Zhizhen’s own voice system patents.

Apple had sued Zhizhen Internet Technology and China’s State Intellectual Property Office to court to seek a ruling that Zhizhen’s patent rights to a speech recognition technology were invalid.
According to the People’s Daily state newspaper the Beijing First Intermediate Court ruled in Zhizhen’s favour.

Apple said it intended to take the case to the Beijing Higher People’s Court.
In a statement, Apple said it did not know about Zhizhen’s patent before it introduced Siri and it did not believe it was using it anyway.

Qualcomm snubs TSMC

nand-chipsThe dark satanic rumour mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn which claims that Qualcomm has placed its first batch of FinFET chip orders with Samsung.

The industry had expected the order to go to TSMC even though it was using a 16nm node process.

Samsung will built the FinFET technology using a 14nm process.

The move is a boot in the nadgers for TSMC which was confident that could ramp up output optimising its high yield rates on chip production, and therefore helping clients to reduce production costs.

Digitimes said that chip vendor Altera had previously chosen Intel to develop its 14nm FinFET products, but was forced to switch to TSMC due to lower yield rates at Intel.

MediaTek, a major rival of Qualcomm, has been working with TSMC in 28nm and 20nm processes and will continue to develop chips using TSMC’s 16nm FinFET Plus process.

However others see Qualcomm’s rumoured move as logical. The outfit hates putting all its eggs in one basket and works with multiple foundry houses on 28nm or more mature processes, including TSMC, Samsung, Globalfoundries, UMC and SMIC.

US arrests Russian hacker

skullkThe US has arrested a Russian national and charged him with hacking.

The Department of Homeland Security said Roman Valerevich Seleznev hacked into American retailers’ computer systems to steal credit card data from 2009 to 2011.

It has taken the Secret Service a while to find Seleznev, who was indicted in Washington state in March 2011 on charges including bank fraud, causing damage to a protected computer, obtaining information from a protected computer and aggravated identity theft.

At that time it was suggested that Seleznev hacked into websites ranging from those run by the Phoenix Zoo, a branch of Schlotzsky’s Deli and many other small restaurants and entertainment venues.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson implied that the hacks were the work of organised crime and that Seleznev was probably working for the Russian mafia.

“This important arrest sends a clear message: despite the increasingly borderless nature of transitional organized crime, the long arm of justice – and this Department – will continue to disrupt and dismantle sophisticated criminal organizations,” Johnson said.

 

 

 

Public cloud services grow like topsy

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeBeancounters at IDC say that public cloud services reached US$45.7 billion last year and will experience a 23 percent compound annual growth rate through 2018.

More than  86 percent of the 2013 total came from cloud software, which encompasses both SaaS (software as a service) applications and PaaS (platform as a service) offerings, with the remaining 14 percent generated by cloud infrastructure.

ERM (enterprise resource management) application software made up $10.8 billion in public cloud revenue last year, followed by CRM (customer relationship management) products with $8.1 billion

Meanwhile Server made $4 billion and collaboration software $3.4 billion, with the remainder of the total spread over security and other markets, IDC said.

The top SaaS vendors are Salesforce.com and ADP followed by Intuit, Oracle and Microsoft.

This means that Oracle’s recent claim to have become the industry’s second-largest SaaS company are probably sales puff.

ADP is an established seller of hosted services for payroll and other human resources functions. It generated more than $11 billion in revenue during its last fiscal year, and in 2011 made a big push into human capital management with Vantage, a cloud-based suite.

Amazon.com first in the PaaS market, with Salesforce.com and Microsoft tied for second place, followed by GXS and Google.

Amazon was also the top of the infrastructure category, followed by Rackspace, IBM, CenturyLink and Microsoft.

Most public cloud services are a in the US which makes up for 68 percent of the overall public cloud market. This figure will fall to 59 percent by 2018 as Western Europe’s take rises from 19 percent to 23 percent and growth picks up in emerging markets, IDC said.

While punters are falling over themselves for cloud software, IDC said that part of the growth is due to the fact that on-premises vendors such as Oracle and SAP have now managed to build out broad SaaS portfolios to offer their customers.

Cloud services account for relatively little of those companies’ overall revenue right now, but that is sure to change over time.

KitKat will always be in Jelly Bean shadow

android-china-communistHopes that the use of Android 4.4 KitKat would continue to grow dramatically appear to be unfounded.

In May there was a sudden rise in the use of Android 4.4 by five percent.  That led many to predict a meteoric rise in the use of the operating system.

However figures reported this month show a much more modest growth.

Google said that based on data collected in a 7-day period ending 7th July, which shows that Android 4.4 KitKat is sitting at a 17.9 per cent distribution. This is a slight increase from before but the increase of 4.3% is slightly less than the 5.1 percent from May.

Numbers for older builds of Android have started to decrease as well. Gingerbread has fallen from 14.9 per cent to 13.5 per cent which finally allowed KitKat to overtake it. Froyo has dropped as well from 0.8 per cent  to 0.7 per cent  Ice Cream Sandwich from 12.3 per cent to 11.4 per cent; and Jelly Bean from 58.4 per cent to 56.5 per cent which still puts it in the majority.

Various OEMs such as Motorola and OnePlus promise to update their products to Android L it seems unlikely that Android 4.4 KitKat will ever do as well as  Jelly Bean.

Samsung smartphone sales slump

smartphones-genericThere are signs that the rise of electronic’s giant Samsung is losing its impetus after it issued unexpectedly weak quarterly earnings guidance.

It is looking as like the outfit is headed for its worst results in two years and that its plans to deal with cheaper Chinese rivals are not working.

The South Korean company said it saw better business conditions in the third quarter,  butit faces slowing market growth, intensifying price competition from the cheap and cheerful market.

While smartphones drove Samsung to record profits last year, the market is maturing. Research firm IDC predicts global shipments growth will slow to 19.3 percent this year from 39.2 percent in 2013, while average sales prices will also drop.

Some analysts said Samsung may have no choice but to slash prices for mid-to-low tier devices, where growth is stronger, and target Huawei and Lenovo.

That will help defend market share it would also hurt margins, curbing its earnings recovery in the short term.

Samsung said that it cautiously expects a better third-quarter outlook with the release of a new smartphone lineup, lower marketing costs and a seasonal lift in demand for its memory business. Its flagship Galaxy Note 4 is expected to hit the market in September.

Samsung estimated on Tuesday that its April-June operating profit likely fell 24.5 percent from a year earlier to $7.12 billion, the sharpest percentage drop since the first quarter of 2011 and the weakest level since the second quarter of 2012.

In a separate statement, Samsung said second-quarter earnings would be hit by slower global smartphone market growth, competition in China, inventory buildup in Europe and the strength of the won.

 

Intel scores Panasonic fab contract

intel_log_reversedThe sales teams at Chipzilla have opened the champers after scoring a key contract with Panasonic.

Intel chips will now be under the bonnect of Panasonic’s upcoming TVs, stereos and other audiovisual gear.

Intel signed an agreement with Panasonic to make next-generation system-on-chips to process audio and video. The chips will be made using Intel’s 14-nanometer process.

Under the plan Chipzilla will work with Panasonic’s System LSI division, which makes video encoding/decoding and chips for TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and other products.

It seems that Panasonic will design the chips, which will then be sent to Intel’s fabrication plants for manufacturing. The Panasonic SOCs will be based around 3D transistors.

Intel said that adding a high-profile customer like Panasonic will enhance the visibility of Intel’s fledgling chip manufacturing operations.

The company has been slowly expanding its custom-chip business, opening up its factories to external companies as a way of making back some of the costs of upgrading factories.