Author: Nick Farrell

The internet belong US

pressieThe US government has ruled that if data is on the internet, anywhere in the world, it has to be turned over to one of its spying organisations for processing.

President Barack Obama’s administration is insisting that that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas.

This means that anyone who uses an iPhone anywhere in the world will see their data inside a US government database.

Microsoft and Apple insist that enforcement of US law stops at the border, but the government seems to think that it rules the world.

A magistrate judge has already sided with the government’s position, ruling in April that “the basic principle that an entity lawfully obligated to produce information must do so regardless of the location of that information.”

Microsoft appealed   and the case is set to be heard in two weeks.

The US government said that content stored online is not protected by Fourth Amendment protections as data stored in the physical world. It quoted a law put out by President Ronald Reagan called the  Stored Communications Act (SCA).  This said that overseas records must be handed over domestically when a valid subpoena, order, or warrant forces them. No one thought that the SCA stuffed up the Fourth Amendment so there is no need to change the laws.

However Microsoft said Congress has not authorised the issuance of warrants that reach outside US territory. It points out that the government cannot issue a warrant allowing federal agents to break down the doors of Microsoft’s Dublin facility.

Microsoft said that consumer trust in US companies is low in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations and the government will make overseas operations impossible.

It has the backing of Apple, AT&T, Cisco, and Verizon agree. Verizon said if the government wins, it would produce “dramatic conflict with foreign data protection laws.” Apple and Cisco said (PDF) that the tech sector would be blacklisted by foreign governments.

Recently the senior counsel for the Irish Supreme Court wrote in a recent filing that a US-Ireland “Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty” was a way for the US government to obtain the e-mail held on Microsoft’s external servers.


GCHQ uses internet as a toy

chamberThe British spy agency GCHQ has developed tools to seed the internet with false information.

According to security writer Glenn Greenwald  the British spooks have the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplify” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.”

GCHQ’s capabilities were found amongst documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  The British even use a trick to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.

The software tools were built by backroom boffins working for GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). It appears to be a clear indication that the British are using  propaganda and internet deception. We have seen already the use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

However the GCHQ document called “JTRIG Tools and Techniques” shows just what sort of skulduggery the British are up to online.

According to Greenwald, the document us designed to notify other GCHQ units of JTRIG’s “weaponised capability” when it comes to the dark internet arts, and “serves as a sort of hacker’s buffet for wreaking online havoc”.

Spanish wi-fi outfit goes under

Spanish flagSpanish wireless networks provider Gowex has filed for bankruptcy a week after an accounting fraud at the firm was revealed.

The Spanish High Court said its founder could face a jail sentence of more than 10 years.

Gowex has apparently decided to file for bankruptcy because it was in a state of “imminent insolvency” and faced a “financial standstill” after a high number of contracts were ended and new projects were cancelled.

Former Chief Executive and Chairman Jenaro Garcia Martin’s head is on the bloc after admitting that he had misresented the financial accounts for at least the last four years.

He has been charged with false accounting, distortion of economic and financial information, and insider trading.

Garcia Martin made the admission before the High Court on Monday and had his passport seized and was banned from leaving Spain. He was also ordered to report to a court every week and was given 15 days to pay a 600,000-euro ($818,400) bail or face jail.

High Court examining judge Santiago Pedraz was worried that Garcia Martin might attempt to flee as he faced a jail sentence of more than 10 years. He also had  3 million euros in a Luxembourg-based bank account.

Gowex started insolvency proceedings last week and had a maximum of four months to reach a deal with creditors or enter into administration.

A judge now has to rule on whether Gowex was correct to file for bankruptcy.

Gowex hired PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out a forensic audit of its accounts, but the accountants said that it could not carry out the audit because it could not find authorised representatives of Gowex and get access to the information.






Apple’s A8 chip goes like the clappers

gala_appleFruity purveyor of expensive mobile phones Apple has developed a new A8 processor chip based on new 20-nanometre technology for its mobile platform.

The new chips are expected to be under the bonnet of the new iPhones and iPads which are expected this Autumn.

The A8 chip is being made by a joint venture of Samsung and TSMC and word on the street is that the new A8 chip is capable of clock speeds of up to 2.0 GHz or more because its chip is fabricated using 20nm technology.

The 20nm technology means the chip consumes less power in comparison to the current generation A7-powered that are clocked at 1.7 GHz and adopt 28nm chip tech.

This entire change means that the A8’s 20nm chip gives power savings and goes like the clappers. Otherwise, the A8 follows the 64-bit dual-core processor architecture of the A7 chip.

Apple’s design seems to be based on packing more transistors into its 64-bit dual-core architecture instead of just increasing the number of cores. This is against the philosophy of other designers who want smoother multitasking. It appears that Apple wants more marketable clock speeds.

Samsung suspends supplier contract over kiddie labour

android-china-communistSamsung has suspended business with a Chinese supplier over allegations of employing child labour.

The move comes a week after a US watchdog report accused the supplier of using underaged workers and Samsung promised to investigate.

Samsung said its investigations had found an “illegal hiring process” at Dongguan Shinyang Electronics which supplies mobile phone covers and parts.

Samsung added that it had previously found no child workers at the Chinese company in three audits since 2013. The latest audit ended on June 25.

The company said that it would cut all ties with the supplier if the allegations were true.

“If the investigations conclude that the supplier indeed hired children illegally, Samsung will permanently halt business with the supplier in accordance with its zero-tolerance policy on child labour,” it said.

US-based China Labor Watch released a report on last week claiming that the Chinese firm used child labour. The watchdog said it had found “at least five child workers” without contracts at the supplier.

Samsung demands suppliers adopt a hiring process that includes face-to-face interviews and the use of scanners to detect fake IDs, to ensure no child labourers are employed.

China Labor Watch said that Samsung’s monitoring system was ineffective because it was failing to catch the use of child labour by the supplier.




Amazon faces off with the French

Obama BarackUS bookseller Amazon is engaged in a war of words with the French government.

Last month, the French parliament stood up for small book retailers and voted to ban major online book retailers, including Amazon and the French retailer FNAC, from offering free delivery on book orders.

The idea was that if customers had to pay for delivery for books they would be more inclined to shop at their local bookshop.

However it appears that they did not think the law through properly. Amazon did start charging for delivery, it was just that it charged a Euro cent.

It posted the following FAQ saying:

“We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders. We have therefore fixed delivery costs at one centime per order [0.01 Euros, or roughly a US penny] containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders.”

France has had a long running war on major US tech companies flogging books.

In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing. In 2012, there was a spat between French lawmakers and Google over the country’s desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results.

In most cases, the solution involved a quick and easy way to regain the upperhand. Google suggested it would sooner cut off French media sites than pay them for the snippets of content it features in search results. This would kill off the newspapers online efforts, or give a commercial advantage to those who did not insist Google paid up.

Chinese couple sell kids for game apps

android-china-communistA Chinese couple has been arrested for selling its children to pay for its online game app addiction.

According to Guangdong TV, A Hui and A Mei were so severely addicted to online games and bankrupted themselves to pay for game items. When it came to a choice between their addiction and their children, they flogged off the kids to child traffickers.

Not only would this give them a windfall, but they would not have financial burden of supporting their children. A Hui told most of the problem was the fact his wife was “fond of” playing online games and likes to buy game items.

He also would not give up his in-app purchases and could not support his first son and they sold him to Fujian-based child traffickers. When the wife A Mei bore another son, they felt they would not be able to support their second child too. As they were both saw some interesting in-app items, so they him too.

Child trafficking is a big problem in China where kids are sold to street peddlers, street gangs and to couples from other countries who want to adopt Chinese children. The country executes those who are accused of the crime, but  several traffickers seem to get away with it.

It appears that A Hui’s father blew the whistle on the couple’s antics when he started to wonder what was happening to his grandchildren. He was so shocked when they told him, that he called the cops.

A Hui and A Mei are awaiting trial in the detention centre and will be sentenced soon for the crime.


Los Alamos focuses on Trinity

KiwiLos Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is getting a next-generation $174 million supercomputer based around Intel’s Knight’s Landing Chip.

Dubbed “Trinity” the supercomputer will maintain the safety and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Ordered by the National Nuclear Security Administration the computer is being developed with Cray and will be housed at Los Alamos’ Metropolis Computing Centre.

Officials say Trinity will run the largest and most demanding simulations of stockpile stewardship, assuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the country’s nuclear stockpile without underground testing.

Cray is using an array of new computer technologies in Trinity, and when it is delivered in 2015 it could be the fastest in the world. The world’s fastest computer is Tianhe-2 at China’s National University of Defence Technology, which delivers 33.86 petaflops of peak performance which should give you an idea how fast Trinity will go.

The Linux-based Trinity supercomputer will use Cray’s latest Aries interconnect will contribute to the speed boost, connecting server closets, processors, storage arrays and other components..

Trinity will have 82 petabytes of distributed storage, some of the highest capacity Cray has put into a supercomputer. It will provide throughput of 1.7Tbps (terabytes per second) for internal data transfers. The supercomputer will use the Lustre file system.

Trinity will have Intel’s Xeon Phi processors code-named Knights Landing, which can deliver 3 teraflops of peak performance, making it Intel’s single fastest chip to date. Knights Landing is based on Intel’s Silvermont CPU architecture, which is the basis for the chip maker’s latest smartphone and tablet chips.

The Knights Landing chipset will have Micron’s Hybrid Memory Cube technology, which provides speed and power efficiency upgrades over DDR memory. HMC provides 15 times more bandwidth than DDR3 DRAM and draws 70 percent less energy, with five times more bandwidth than the emerging DDR4 memory.


Microsoft braces for job cuts

Steve BallmerMicrosoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella has issued an email warning that he will “flatten the organisation and develop leaner business processes”,

Normally that is the sort of announcement which is a prelude to huge job cuts, wringing of hands, and little voles being cast out into the cold and the snow.

But it seems that Nadella is in no hurry to make his full announcement. It seems that he is waiting until July 22 when he will announce Microsoft’s quarterly earnings.

After buying Nokia, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, which makes the outfit far bigger than Apple and Google. Nadella clearly needs to make some cuts, but this will mean Vole’s first major layoffs since 2009.

In a 3,105-word memo sent to employees today and posted on Microsoft’s website Nadella set out his vision for the company five months after taking over as CEO from shy and retired Steve Ballmer.

He described Microsoft as a “productivity and platform company” focused on mobile and cloud computing. This is a little different from Ballmer’s reinvention of Microsoft as a “devices and services” company, which could signal less emphasis on manufacturing hardware.

“Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy,” Nadella wrote in the memo.

Nadella has asked his managers to “evaluate opportunities to advance their innovation processes and simplify their operations and how they work”,

In other words, they will have to choose who will have to go.

He did not address the unprofitable Bing search engine directly in the memo. Investors want Microsoft to ditch the software, but Nadella so far has seen the software as having a point.

Outsourcing giant reports record results

India_flagIt appears that the downturn in the outsourcing market is over with Infosys, India’s second-largest software services exporter, beating estimates.

The company reported a 21.6 percent rise in quarterly net profit and retained sales growth outlook for this year on surging demand for outsourcing services.

The news is a little surprising as Infosys seems to been reeling under a staff exodus and loss of market share to rivals.

Vishal Sikka, a former senior executive at German software Company SAP took over as CEO last month seen nearly a fifth of his staff leave after 18.7 per cent left in the last quarter.

Infosys added 61 customers in the quarter, maintained its revenue growth forecast for the year to March 2015 at 7-9 percent, as expected.

Consolidated net profit for the quarter ended June 30 rose to $480.20 million. Revenue in the quarter rose 13.3 percent to $212 million.

Microsoft tries to snatch victory from defeat

Bill GatesSoftware giant Microsoft has attempted to claim victory in its quest to shut down the Bladabindi and Jenxcus botnets which infected more than 4.7 million PCs.

Vole went on its own to play cyber cop against the botnet and found itself in a PR nightmare after its actions resulted in shutting down hundreds of legitimate sites.

Microsoft has also identified at least another 4.7 million infected machines, though many are likely still controlled by the botnet.

The botnet has the most members in India, followed by Pakistan, Egypt, Brazil, Algeria and Mexico.

Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel of the unit, said Microsoft would quickly provide government authorities and Internet service providers around the world with the IP addresses of infected machines so they can help users remove the viruses.

“Those victims are currently not aware they are infected,” Boscovich said in an interview.

Boscovich claims that the operation is the most successful of the 10 launched to date by Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, based on the number of infected machines identified.

What Vole did was intercept traffic headed to servers at Reno, Nevada-based Vitalwerks Internet Solutions. Apparently, the criminals were using free accounts on its services.

But it did not go that well, Vitalwerks slammed the way Microsoft handled the operation, saying some 1.8 million of its users lost service for several days.

Microsoft has apologized, blaming “a technical error” for the disruption, saying service to customers has been restored.

Apple snubs Samsung

Samsung rules the roostAs we have been expecting for some time, Apple is pulling away from manufacturing its chips with Samsung and having TSMC make them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, TSMC has shipped its first batch of microprocessors to Apple.

The move is being seen as Apple punishing Samsung for daring to compete against it and means that TSMC has supplanted Samsung Electronics as Apple’s chief chipmaker for iPhones and iPads.

The business relationship between Apple and Samsung will continue as Jobs’ Mob will continue to rely on the Korean electronics giant for some of its microprocessors.

Prior to the TSMC deal, Samsung was the exclusive supplier of Apple’s microprocessors since the very first iPhone launched in 2007. Jobs’ Mob has also been trying to find other people to make its screens.

The Tame Apple Press is rubbing its paws with glee with Business Insider   saying that all this could not have come at a worse time as Samsung has already been feeling the effects from the slowdown in sales.

We are not sure it thought that comment through, because the same problem is applying to Apple too.

There are a few flaws in the WSJ story. Firstly it is not clear how many microprocessors TSMC has shipped to Apple and given that it is the first batch we would not have thought it to be that many.

Secondly “sources said” the chipmaker has begun manufacturing Apple’s processors with its “advanced 20-nanometer manufacturing technology”.

It also said that the pair are testing next-generation microprocessors on a 16-nanometer process that will be used in “large scale” next year. This gives a better clue as to what Apple is doing.

Samsung spent $22 billion last year making it the biggest spender, capital investment-wise in the process improvements. It is about a year behind TSMC in actually making products.

TSMC has a 20 nm process ready and the 16 nm node is expected to be taped out late this year (Q4 2014) or very early next year (Q1 2015). Rather than punishing Samsung, Apple appears to have made a pragmatic technology decision which will give it 20nm and 16 nm technology before anyone else.  Then, by the time Samsung has caught up, it will have to bid alongside Intel and TSMC at a cheaper rate.

This is assuming of course that TSMC does not have some other process improvement up its sleeve.


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. 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 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.”