Author: Nick Farrell

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.”

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.