Author: Nick Farrell

Snowden wants to come in from the cold

snowdenUS spy agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is apparently negotiating a return to the US.
A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden said the man who the US wanted to give the death penalty for leaking details of its spy schemes was working with American and German lawyers to return home.

Anatoly Kucherena, who has links to the Kremlin, was speaking at a news conference to present a book he has written about his client. Moscow granted Snowden asylum in 2013, which hacked off the US government no end. Apparently they had just found a nice out of the way place to dump his body after they “took him for a walk.”

“I won’t keep it secret that he … wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue. There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I’m dealing with it on the Russian side,” Kucherena said.

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial for leaking extensive secrets of electronic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency. Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him.

Snowden has said in the past he would like to return home if he was assured he would be given a fair trial.

It is not clear what Snowden would get out of a return home. The US government still wants his blood and the only thing the US has promised so far is that it will not judicially murder him for treason.

Russian weather might be motivating Snowden to return, but being locked up and forgotten in a US jail must be a lot worse.

AMD searches for artificial reality love

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD has been showing the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco its LiquidVR SDK that will help developers customise virtual reality content for AMD hardware.

AMD said that LiquidVR SDK makes a number of technologies available which help address obstacles in content, comfort and compatibility that together take the industry a major step closer to true, life-like presence across all VR games, applications, and experiences.

Its theory is that which company wins the war to make virtual reality worthwhile will be the outfit that can build the strongest sense of “presence.” This is jargon for the feeling you have of actually being in the virtual world.

Like most things computer geeky it can be determined by a maths formula which is based on the speed with which the virtual world (within your view) updates as you move.

If you physically turn your head but there’s even a short pause before your view updates in the virtual world, the sense of actually being in the world is lost.

Oculus has signed up for AMD’s LiquidVR SDK and Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus said that achieving presence in a virtual world continues to be one of the most important elements to delivering amazing VR.

“We’re excited to have AMD working with us on their part of the latency equation, introducing support for new features like asynchronous timewarp and late latching, and compatibility improvements that ensure that Oculus’ users have a great experience on AMD hardware.”

AMD showed off several features of the LiquidVR SDK at the conference, including Affinity Multi-GPU, which lets multiple GPUs work together in VR applications (important for framerate improvements) and asynchronous shaders for Hardware-Accelerated Time-Warp, which is meant to improve motion-to-photon latency, or your sense of presence.

Apple fanboys get political

The late Steve Jobs with an iPadOwners of shiny expensive Apple gear are starting to use their phones to mount political campaigns.

According to the Guardian newspaper Apple fanboys are trolling their politicians with iMessage texts in protest over a law which would increase the length of time the government retains communications data.

Apparently the matter only interests Apple fans, either that or the Guardian can’t conceive of anyone in Australia other than iPhone users getting upset about what happens in politics.

According to the Guardian, Apple’s messaging service, built into iOS devices and the newest versions of Mac OS X, lets users send text, picture, voice and video messages through an SMS-style app or an email address.

Senator George Brandis, the Australian attorney general, was the first minister to be on the receiving end of Apple fanboy wit.

Users sent photoshopped pictures, Blade Runner quotes and questions to the senator, who has been at the forefront of pushing the data retention bill through the Australian legislature.

Journalist Lauren Ingram even messaged him the entire first chapter of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

What is strange about this story is not that internet users are trolling politicians, but that the Guardian has only named Apple users as doing it. Unlike usual Tame Apple Press advertising, it seems to be actually true.

It was only possible because the pair had taken part in Jobs’ Mob’s iMessage scheme and hooked up their government email as part of their attempts to be cool with the yoff of today.

Shortly after the iMessage bombardment began, Brandis unlinked his senate email address from the service – but other ministers didn’t move so quickly, and Buzzfeed News reports that Greg Hunt, the environment minister, had his iMessage account hooked up to his government email as well.

DT boss calls for Google regulation

330ogleThe CEO of Deutsche Telekom has made a very precise call for Google and Facebook to be regulated in the same way that telcos are.

Tim Hoettges said that there was a convergence between over-the-top web companies and classic telcos and there needs to be one regulatory environment to rule them.

Improvements should be made to spectrum policy for the telecommunications industry, and that the loosening of regulation would encourage the type of investment that governments and policy-making bodies are currently seeking from carriers.

Hoettges said that policy-makers should leave telecoms groups adequate operational freedom to develop IoT-related services such as smart meters and intra-communicating cars, commenting: “We favour net neutrality, but we need to be allowed to have quality classes to enable new services in the Internet of Things.”

Being in favour of net neutrality is different from his US rivals who want everyone to pay them twice for a service that the rest of the world gets for half the price.

Interest in the possible government regulation of Google grows in line with the ever expanding services, reach and influence of Mountain View’s empire.

In fact there have been calls for the regulation of Google since 2012 when Dr Robert Epstein laid out some of the most popular arguments for the regulation of Google, partially-based on evidence, fines following controversies such as the extraction of wifi data during the gathering of photographic information for Google Maps, and partially on his view of Google’s real place in the economy as an ungoverned monopoly.

IBM sued for alleged securities fraud

IBM logoBig Blue has been sued by a shareholder who thinks the company committed securities fraud by failing to write down a money-losing semiconductor unit before agreeing to pay another company $1.5 billion to take that unit off its hands.

In October IBM’s said it would sell the unit to GlobalFoundries (GloFo) and take a related $4.7 billion pre-tax charge.

IBM also announced third-quarter results that day. Its share price fell nine percent over the next two trading days, wiping out more than $18 billion of market value.

According to the complaint, IBM inflated its stock price before selling the semiconductor unit by carrying the unit’s property, plant and equipment assets on its books at $2.4 billion, when it should have known the assets were worthless.

The shareholder moaned that potential bidders had been unwilling to pay much more than $1 billion for the entire unit, including intellectual property and personnel, suggesting that the hard assets had no or negative market value.

The shareholder in question is the City of Sterling Heights Police & Fire Retirement System in Michigan. It also named three IBM officials as defendants, including Chief Executive Virginia Rometty.

It seeks class-action status on behalf of shareholders.

“Defendants presented a misleading picture of IBM’s business and prospects,” the complaint said. “When the truth about the company was revealed to the market, the price of IBM common stock fell precipitously.”

Former HP executive chairman red-faced in dock

HPFormer senior suit at the maker of expensive printer ink, Ray Lane, has admitted to a sex discrimination trial that he made a mistake in judgment involving the harassment of a female venture capitalist .

Lane, who previously served as executive chairman of HP and president of Oracle told the court, in the case connected to his former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, he stuffed up completely.

He should have informed others that Trae Vassallo told him about unwanted advances by her colleague, Ajit Nazre, during a 2011 business trip.

“I made a mistake. It was my mistake. I cared more about her feelings than anything else. I thought it should be her choice whether to tell others at the firm and start an investigation, he said.

Eventually, he would have taken action, but at the time, he suggested to Vassallo that she think it over and discuss it with her husband, in part because he “feared somewhat for her safety”.

The firm did start an investigation after Vassallo told more partners.

Vassallo had complained that Nazre tried to enter her hotel room at night, wearing a bathrobe and, Lane said, holding a glass of wine.

Lane told the court he worried Nazre “could have pushed his way in” and the situation “could have gone in a different direction”.

In the suit, Pao alleges she suffered discrimination and retaliation after Nazre pressured her into an affair in 2006 that she soon ended. The discriminatory conduct eventually spread to other partners, leading her to miss out on a key promotion, she alleges.

After Pao told Lane about the affair in 2007, Lane told her to consider marriage to Nazre, she said in her suit. Lane denied telling Pao to marry Nazre.

Lane said Nazre’s bonus was cut that year as punishment for the affair.

Vassallo, who testified in the case last week, said Lane had told her to be “flattered” by Nazre’s advances.

Lane denied saying that, but an independent investigator hired to look into Nazre’s actions testified that Vassallo had told him Lane did say that, but she believed he was joking.

Huawei dusts off US invasion plans

huawei-liveChinese phone maker Huawei is planning a campaign to win over US consumers, rolling out new mobile phones and wearable devices backed by a marketing effort.

It is a brave move considering that it was only two years ago that the company was branded a spy by US senators who knew at the time that there stance was a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

China’s second-largest smartphone maker, already with more than $40 billion in annual revenue from a wide range of telecom gear and products, is preparing to introduce Americans to several of its smartphones and wearable devices this year, including its youth-oriented “Honor” phone.

Huawei’s US spokesman Bill Plummer said the company’s 2015 US plans will include traditional advertising, online promotion and sports team sponsorships.

He said the company wanted to change its marketing approach to shed its image as a purveyor of cheap technology products.

In December, it touted its new Honor 6 Plus phone on a billboard in New York’s Times Square. Plummer said that was “a sign of things to come”.

He declined to say how much Huawei will spend on its new marketing campaign or what sports team, or teams, it had in mind. In the UK it already sponsors Arsenal, cricket teams in India and rugby clubs in Australia.

At the Mobile World Congress over the weekend in Barcelona, Huawei took the wraps off a smartwatch that will be sold in over 20 countries including the US.

Huawei now intends to appeal directly to consumers with several new phone models, both low end and high end. It hopes to secure deals with carriers, selling online through marketplaces, such as the one operated by Amazon.com, and on its own fledgling gethuawei.com US direct-sales website.
US senators are mostly concerned with Huawei’s networking equipment, but in consumer land, Huawei has a huge problem with brand recognition.

 

LG and Samsung make iWatch screens

Samsung HQ Silicon Valley - MM picLG Display and Samsung Electronics are to supply screens for Apple smartwatches when the shiny toy finally hits the shops.

The Electronic Times reported that LG Display will be the sole supplier of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens for the Apple watches that go on sale in April.

Samsung Display will also become a supplier for the next version of the smartwatch that is expected to go on sale either sometime in the second half of this year or early 2016.

No-one is confirming the rumour, but it makes sense and is probably true.

Apple has scheduled a special event on March 9, where it is expected to showcase Apple Watch. To have got this far in the production process, Jobs’ Mob should have sorted out its display supplier months ago.

The watch, which will let consumers check their email, pay for goods at retail stores and monitor personal health information, represents Apple’s only product introduction since the 2010 launch of the iPad.

The watch is likely to sell millions, but only because of the Apple logo. It has been shipped so late and with half of the promised healthcare enhancements dropped, because Jobs’ Mob could not get them to go.

Oracle sues customer for suing

Oracle-Announces-X5Database outfit Oracle found itself in hot water over Oregon’s failed health exchange website and on the receiving end of a law suit complaining about breach of contract, has counter-sued.

Its case does not focus on the fact Oracle could not get the site working, but five former staff and campaign advisers to the state’s former governor, worked behind the scenes to kill the site for political reasons.

Oracle said it might file similar claims against former Governor John Kitzhaber and his former chief of staff, Mike Bonetto.

The new lawsuit by Oracle seeks about $33 million in damages it says the company lost from the fallout over the Cover Oregon program.

The lawsuit claims Kitzhaber’s staffers and advisers, who did not work for Cover Oregon, “improperly influenced” the decision to shutter the site and then blamed Oracle to defuse the political consequences.

Named in the lawsuit are Kitzhaber’s former campaign manager Patricia McCaig, consultants Kevin Looper and Mark Wiener, former business policy director Scott Nelson and former spokesman Tim Raphael.

Oracle argues the website was ready to go before the state decided to switch to the federal exchange in April.

However it claims that going live with the website and providing a means for all Oregonians to sign up for health insurance coverage didn’t match the former Governor’s re-election strategy to ‘go after’ Oracle,”

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement said that political operatives Patricia McCaig, Kevin Looper, Scott Nelson, Tim Raphael, and Mark Wiener acted in the shadows and took actions to undermine the ability of Oregonians to receive health coverage; create a false narrative blaming Oracle for the state’s failures; and ultimately interfere with Oracle’s business.

It seems that Oracle’s strategy is to say the site worked, when the State said it didn’t, and rely on the fact that Kitzhaber is not exactly popular any more.

Kitzhaber resigned last week after criminal probes into an influence-peddling scandal involving allegations that his fiancée used her position in his office for personal gain.

Foxconn presses for the end of human zoo

foxconn-tvFoxconn has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with its plan to replace its increasingly tricky staff with robots.

After all, robots will always work, and will not get depressed, kill themselves, or moan to western news media that they are being exploited.

CEO Terry Gou who once famously described his staff as animals, and he was the zoo keeper said that in three years, Foxconn will probably use robots and automation to complete 70 percent of its assembly line work.

Previously Gou said he hoped to one day deploy a ”robot army” at the company’s factories, as a way to offset labor costs and improve manufacturing.

This will be great news for Apple, which is Foxconn’s biggest customer, and found that its image was a little tarnished by the fact that its main supplier was installing nets to catch people who threw themselves off buildings.

Labour watchdog groups have complained that Foxconn workers have in the past faced long hours and harsh treatment from management.

Last year, Gou said that the company already had a fully automated factory in the Chinese city of Chengdu that can run 24 hours a day with the lights off.

Gou declined to say more about the factory, or what it produced, but Foxconn has been adding 30,000 industrial robots to its facilities each year, he said in June.

Gou said his company needed to adopt more automation, due to the potential for labor shortages. Young people won’t do this kind of work, and won’t enter the factories, he moaned.

ISIS aiming for social media heads

o-ANONYMOUS-facebookTerrorist outfit the Islamic State has decided to take out the heads of the major social media companies for daring to take on the outfit.

On Sunday, an image circulated showing Islamic State supporters allegedly threatening Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, in retaliation for the social network engaging an escalating war against the militant group.

ISIS relied heavily on American-built social media to provide a megaphone. Lately, however, the networks have fought back and shut down its access.

Now the social media that enabled ISIS to become the most famous terrorists on the planet—Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook is at war against them.

Twitter has gone through numerous waves in which tens of thousands of ISIS accounts have been banned in an attack designed to lessen their influence.

ISIS tried to arrange a cyberprotest in favor of a right to free speech in order to gain the attention of the world.

At noon ET on Feb. 26, the full might of ISIS’s social media operation was supposed to get #IslamicStateMedia and #الحملة_العالمية_لنصرة_الدولة_الإسلامية trending everywhere and squarely in the spotlight.

However it was taken to the cleaners by Kurds and conservative American activists who rhetorically attacked their common enemy so that neither the Arabic- nor English-language campaign had any success whatsoever.

ISIS social media jihadists were outnumbered and outdone during their own highly publicised campaign.

It turned out that Twitter made it impossible for ISIS to win by setting in motion the biggest strike against the Islamic State that social media has yet seen.

Some accounts were suspended three to seven times within one single day. But the incentive of the campaign kept these Islamic State supporters coming back again and again.

ISIS is now spending more time and effort than ever before to maintain their social media.

Apparently they are wanting blood with threats calling for the killing or harming of social media bosses appearing on the accounts they can still use. But it is looking like this is a rear guard action.

Two chip companies in $40 billion merger

shut-up-and-take-my-moneyTwo chip companies have surprised the world by agreeing to merge.

While the tech press focused on Apple’s watch, and non-existent car, NXP Semiconductors, and Freescale Semiconductor hatched out a super-merger in comparative quiet.

TechCrunch’s excuse for its hacks not spotting the mega-merger was because “no-one has heard of the two companies anyway.”

In the interests of educating hacks – Freescale makes embedded chips, the Internet of Things, while NXP is best known for its chips headed for cars. They are both huge and were both expected to get bigger under the trend for mobile and automotive chips.

Under the deal the two companies announced a “definitive agreement” that will see Freescale shareholders pick up 0.3521 NXP shares and $6.26 in cash for each of their current shares.

Freescale made $1.10 billion in revenue, and $63 million in net profit last quarter. NXP is larger, recording $1.537 billion in revenue, and $149 million in net income in the quarter.

Either way, this deal is huge and could put the fear of god into companies that US tech hacks might have heard of, such as Intel and AMD who would really like to get their feet under the table of the embedded market.

Now they are now facing a rival who is not only comfortably been in the market for years, but now is big enough to play the sorts of games that they play in the x86 market.

It looks like the US tech press might have to make themselves a little more familiar with the new outfit – what ever it ends up being called.

Apple copies Intel and drinks milk and honey

Apple's Tim CookFruity cargo cult Apple is set to copy Intel’s success by shifting an ever increasing amount of development work to Israel.

Chief Executive Tim Cook was in Israel on Thursday to visit the company’s new research and development offices in Herzlyia.

Jobs’ Mob also has an R&D center in Haifa, in the country’s north, which is Apple’s second largest research and development hub outside of the US.

Jobs’ Mob recently bought two Israel outfits – Anobit Technologies and PrimeSense which both make microprocessor chip designs.

Apple has also hired most of the Israeli employees of a chip-design division that Texas Instruments decided to shut down in 2013 in Ra’anana, some 10 miles north of Tel Aviv and has been hiring like crazy for its chip design center in Haifa.

On its current jobs posting site for Israel, Apple is advertising for a range of hardware and software positions, including silicon and semiconductor design and testing engineers who will be required to work in labs.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Shlomo Gradman, chairman of the Israeli Semiconductor Club as saying that Apple’s Israeli acquisitions and its expanding local workforce show that the company is becoming more and more independent on the chip level, where it once had to rely on external suppliers.

Cook said in the meeting with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin that Israel and Apple have got much closer together over the last three years than ever before

AMD does not think Chromebooks are worth it

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD chief technical officer Mark Papermaster has dismissed Chromebooks as “not worth it” and explained why his outfit is not behind the technology.

He said that it was important to look at Chromebook and what Google’s grand plan with it is.

“For us, it’s just a business decision, when you need our type of CPU and graphics technology that can make a difference.”

Chromebook sales are tiny. IDC estimated that 4.6 million Chromebooks were sold in 2014, compared to 304 million PCs for the year.

Intel has come to dominate Chromebook sales with Celeron and Atom chips, although some models also feature third-party ARM chips inside.

But Chromebooks are generally considered low-cost productivity machines and AMD is trying to place itself as a graphics and media chipmaker. Carrizo, dedicates four “Excavator” CPU cores against eight Radeon graphics cores and16 percent of the die is dedicated to CPU cores.
“For us, it’s when do you need our CPU and graphics capability that can make a difference,” Papermaster said. “Again, you’ll see that there’s these rock-bottom markets… so those don’t have our value proposition.”

“We play in the whole range of the market. We’ll play in the low-cost value” market, Papermaster added. “You have to at least get paid for that value when you’re working on graphics. You go below that, and you’re looking at $7 chips.”

Intel buying its way into China

Intel Q4_14_ResultsMegachip maker Intel has decided that the only way to get around the inscrutable Chinese is to invest in shed loads of scrute and buy its way into the market.

Intel is pouring billions of dollars into expanding its influence in China, where fewer than half the country’s roughly 500 million mobile phone users have smartphones and the market is ruled by Qualcomm.

Intel is apparently trying to use its relationship with PC clients in China as a foot in the door to mobile devices. It is chummy with Lenovo, the No. 1 global PC seller, and its hardware powers a handful of Lenovo smartphones. It is also mates with Chinese internet giant Tencent, which includes a joint research centre, helps ensure that the WeChat maker’s software works smoothly with Intel chips.

Intel paid $1.5 billion in September for a 20 percent stake in state-run Tsinghua Unigroup, which controls two domestic mobile chipmakers. It did not need to spend that much, in some observers thought that it was double the outfit’s value. In December, Intel said it would pay $1.6 billion to upgrade its factory in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, which cost $300 million to build a decade ago. The plant, designed for back-end testing, will absorb some of the work previously done in a shuttered Costa Rican facility.

That appears to suggest that Chipzilla is shifting a lot of its tech to China. The idea being that it will intergrate itself into the local supply chain and impress the Chinese officials, who are having a few problems with Qualcomm. Intel may be more favorably treated by Chinese regulators because of its stake in Tsinghua Unigroup—as well as its willingness to build high-end local labs. So far, Intel hasn’t been touched in China’s crackdown on foreign companies.

The next battle is believed to be for wearable tech and if Intel has invested in Chinese start-ups it might have a leg-up and a way to make these as cheap as possible.