Author: Nick Farrell

FCC leaks terrible net neutrality decision

face-palmThe US FCC was expected to bow to public pressure and allow some semblance of net neutrality in the Land of the Free.

It was to be a brave move – after all a huge chunk of the FCC has connections with phone companies and the watchdog is widely seen as being in the telco pockets.

But the problem was that a huge chunk of the American public had told the FCC that they did not want the telcos strangling their bandwidth or making them pay extra for a reasonable service. In fact, more than four million Americans made it clear to the FCC that they were not going to stand for this thing.

However a new leak shows that the FCC is considering a proposal which it is called a hybrid proposal. It would expand the FCC’s powers to regulate broadband while also allowing cable providers to charge more money for fast lanes.

The “hybrid” proposal now under consideration has not been finalised but according to media leaks and discussions with interested parties they would expand the FCC’s powers to regulate broadband while also allowing a carve out for cable providers to charge more money for fast lanes. However, the rules will only allow the FCC to intervene to promote competition.

The idea is that would not upset the comms companies because they would be allowed to do what they like.

All those people who voted against such a scheme are a little miffed. Apparently, they thought if enough people voted against such a scheme the US government would have to listen. After all the US is supposed to be a democracy and follow the will of the majority and not corporates.

Apparently not.

Protesters having been gathering outside the White House and in a dozen US cities to demonstrate against a “hybrid” solution now being considered to end a stalemate over regulating the internet.

 

Universal Credit IT pilot project about to fail

system-failure-computer-greenWord on the street is that the government’s Universal Credit pilot project is set to fail and the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee will be grilling the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and then serving him in a white wine sauce.

So far all the statistical evidence on how successful Universal Credit has been with the one percent of claimants who have been taken on board is being kept under wraps. However, it appears that under the scheme rent arrears have soared to 90 percent and that the largest landlord was moaning like crazy.

It is possible that it will cost £500m to write off  the IT involved in the project.

A Channel 4 whistleblower confirmed that the IT still only works for single claimants and after four years, and £750 million spent on the project, complex cases are still done manually.

The DWP says that is not true and the project is all a box of fluffy ducks, although apparently the box is tenanted by ducks who can’t pay the rent.

Peter Fitzhenry of Warrington’s largest landlord, the Golden Gates Housing said that only one or two tenants have been offered personal budgeting support from DWP that was promised under Universal Credit. He also says that even when rent payments are received directly from DWP, they are often incorrect, or do not include the tenants’ names.

The government appears to be getting ready to blame the supplier, ATOS, and this is because the project was awarded under Labour.  However, that might cause a few problems because ATOS was not a ministerial decision and was decided by the civil service. Rather than this being Labour’s fault, it might be a civil service person whose pinstriped bottom is still gracing her or his Whitehall chair.

Luxembourg Amazon deal under EU scrutiny

luxembourg_villeEU watchdogs are investigating how Amazon avoided paying billions in tax using a dodgy deal with the Luxembourg government.

Leaked tax documents from accounting firm PwC in Luxembourg show how Amazon sidesteps the 30 percent tax rates so they can price rivals out of the market.

The Luxembourg documents, obtained in a review led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, contain some of the first hard numbers and details on how Amazon pays virtually no tax for its non-US earnings.

The deal was hatched in secret in 2003 and was part of a cunning plan by Amazon after it was investigated by French tax authorities and the US Internal Revenue Service. In 2011, Amazon reported US tax authorities were demanding $1.5 billion in federal tax and penalties covering 2005 to 2011 in connection with the royalties payments. In 2012 the French government slapped a $252 million tax bill on Amazon. The company is appealing both matters in court.

So to fix this problem, Amazon hatched up a deal with teeny weeny countryLuxembourg. Almost all Amazon’s income outside the US ends up in a Luxembourg company, Amazon EU Sàrl, which was the beneficiary last year when Amazon notched up £4.3 billion ($7.9 billion) of sales in the UK and paid only £4.2 million in income tax.

A secret appendix to an annual report filed with the Luxembourg government shows the missing cash went in two related-party deals. Amazon EU paid €379 million in “service fee expense” and €519 million in royalties to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies.

So, in other words, Amazon Europe paid €105 million to Amazon Technologies in Nevada to license the rights to Amazon’s intellectual property – the patents and software for the websites, including that button that buys a book with one click.

Amazon Europe onsold the rights to use this intellectual property to Amazon EU for €519 million – five times what it had paid the US Company. ­Amazon Europe made an instant profit of €414 million, which would have been taxable, except that Amazon Europe is a limited partnership and does not pay tax in Luxembourg.

Amazon EU ended up paying 0.5 per cent tax. Amazon Europe’s money ended up tax-free in Gibraltar.

Luxembourg is not exactly being forthcoming about providing information about the deal either. In fact, the European Commission complained that Luxembourg has provided only limited information about the Amazon deal.

This is causing problems because there is nearly €1.2 billion of cash generated by Amazon which is missing. Some think the cash might have been “invested” in Amazon Data Services Ireland. However, either way it is proving very difficult to find.

Zalman loses its cool over dodgy deals

Melting-ice-polar-bearCooling product company Zalman has gone bankrupt following the discovery of some somewhat unorthodox actions by its CEO and vice presidents.

The South Korean company was thought to be doing well, as its products were under the bonnet of rather a lot of PCs.

The reason for its bankruptcy is not anything to do with its own products or performance, in fact this news shocked Zalman employees. What appears to have happened is that the company has collapsed is due to the actions of its parent company Moneual, and its CEO and vice presidents.

Moneual CEO Harold Park, and vice presidents Scott Park and Won Duck-yeok, have, or so it is alleged, spent the last five years producing fraudulent documentation relating to the sales performance of Zalman.

They had been giving inflated sales figures and export data for Zalman’s products to get loans from the bank, it’s alleged.

By increasing sales and exports, Park and his associates were able to secure bank loans totalling $2.98 billion, it’s alleged.

According to The Korea Times, Moneual failed to repay its huge export bonds that matured on October 20, 2014, and filed for bankruptcy.  Zalman’s stock price also began a quick downfall. However, the numbers just do not add up – Moneual has been repeatedly reporting major profits, with their 2013 annual report being nearly 1.2 billion dollars in sales and over 100 million dollars in profit. Regulators investigated and it appears that there was evidence of a well-designed corporate fraud.

Moneual allegedly acquired Zalman in 2011 as part of the fraud. They are said to have forged Zalman’s export and accounting documents, greatly overstating their export and income reports, in order to become eligible for huge bank loans. The employees knew that the company was a sham but, despite the unearthly profit reports of the past few years, no government officials noticed.

Moneual received about $620 million in loans from several Korean banks and another 275 million dollars as export credit from the Korea Trade Insurance Corp, making the owners of Moneual richer by nearly $900 million.

The company’s owners have been arrested and, alongside many top and mid-level executives of the company, are now facing prison if convicted of the charges. However Harold Park has US citizenship and his brother has Canadian, and there’s some concerns that Korean law could face trouble prosecuting them.

No one expects Zalman to survive. The company does hold a number of patents relating to cooling and fan noise reduction technology and it seems likely a patent sale will happen eventually. However, these are unlikely to be worth $3 billion.

Nvidia turns in good results

nvidia-gangnam-style-330pxGraphics chip maker Nvidia posted higher fiscal third quarter revenue than many of the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street expected.

Revenue in the fiscal third-quarter ended Oct. 26 was $1.225 billion, up 16 percent from the year-ago quarter, compared with Wall Street’s random guess of $1.202 billion.

For the current fourth quarter, Nvidia said it expects revenue of $1.20 billion, plus or minus two percent. Analysts on average expected fourth quarter revenue of $1.198 billion.

Third-quarter net profit was $173 million compared to $119 million a year ago.

Nvidia did better by focusing on using its Tegra chips to in entertainment and advanced navigation systems in cars made by companies including Volkswagen’s Audi, BMW and Tesla.

In the third quarter, revenue from Tegra chips for automobiles and mobile devices jumped 51 percent to $168 million. Nvidia’s PC graphics chip business expanded 13 percent to $991 million.

German publisher realises Google calls the shots

history-of-print-16th-century-printing-companyGerman publisher Axel Springer has just worked out what the rest of the world already knew – Google controls the press.

Springer has scrapped a move to block Google from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, saying that the experiment had caused traffic to its sites to plunge.

Traffic flowing from clicks on Google search results fell by 40 percent and traffic delivered via Google News had plummeted by 80 percent in the past two weeks.  This mimicked what happened when Google changed its algorithm and destroyed many tech news sites overnight.

A two-week-old experiment to restrict access by Google to some of its publications had caused web traffic to plunge for these sites.

He discovered, somewhat belatedly that publishers no longer decide who sees their content, it is more or less decided when Google decides who will appear in its search items.

Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner said his company would have “shot ourselves out of the market” if it had continued with its demands for the US firm to pay licensing fees. Springer had sought to restrict Google’s use of news from four of its top-selling brands: welt.de, computerbild.de, sportbild.de and autobild.de, the company said.

Springer, which publishes Europe’s top-selling daily newspaper Bild, said Google’s grip over online audiences was too great to resist, a double-edged compliment meant to ram home the publisher’s criticism of what it calls Google’s monopoly powers.

Publishers in countries from Germany and France to Spain have pushed to pass new national copyright laws that force Google and other web aggregators to pay licensing fees – dubbed the Google Tax – when they publish snippets of their news articles.

Under German legislation that came into effect last year, publishers can prohibit search engines and similar services from using their news articles beyond headlines. Last week, Spain’s upper house passed a similar law giving publishers an “inalienable” right to levy such licensing fees on Google.

The only problem is that if they do that, they end up cutting their own throats.

 

 

Lenovo sees a 19 per cent jump in profit

lenovo2Lenovo reported a 19 percent jump in profit in the second quarter, but revenue fell short of what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street expected.

Quarterly revenue rose seven percent to $10.5 billion, but sales from its mobile device division fell six percent to $1.4 billion.

The ThinkPad maker tightened its hold over global PC sales even as the broader market shrunk. Sales of both laptops rose 0.9 percent and desktops sales increased by 6.4 percent.

Net profit was $262 million, exceeding the $260 million expected by analysts.

The company additionally named Jerry Yang, the Yahoo co-founder, to its board of directors. Yang, who is also an Alibaba Group Holding Ltd director, formerly served as a Lenovo board observer.

On October 1, Lenovo bought  IBM’s low-end server business. Of the transactions, Lenovo said that the acquisition will make Lenovo the third largest player in the global and the number one player in the China x86 server market.

“This has enabled Lenovo to capture the significant growth opportunities in the enterprise hardware systems space,” a spokesLenovo said.

 

Infosys to hire “stupid” Americans

jeff-daniels-says-dumb-and-dumber-sequel-still-on-aiming-for-summer-2013-startIndian outsourcer Infosys plans to hire over 2,100 Americans as part of its programme to scale up its global presence and boost key work areas like client relationship management and consulting.

The only problem is that it has been accused of thinking that Americans are stupid and selecting Indian employees over Americans in the past.

Like most rivals, India’s second biggest IT services provider gets the major chunk of its business from clients in the United States, but relies on its Indian to provide the staff.

Infosys said the hiring will include up to 300 management and technology graduates who will work across multiple technology domains including digital, big data, analytics and cloud.

Up to 180 graduates will be recruited into the Infosys consulting practice in the United States, the company said.

Chief Executive Vishal Sikka, who is based in the United States, has said he wants to revive growth through automation and artificial intelligence as clients modernise their technologies.

Last year Infosys was accused of discrimination against “stupid Americans” and is currently facing a class action lawsuit.  The lawsuit was filed by VMware specialist Brenda Koehler in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Wisconsin who claimed that Infosys has been abusing the visa system and actively discriminates against hiring American workers for staff positions.

Her complaint followed another by Jay Palmer, a former staff of Infosys who failed in his legal action against the firm.  He claimed he was called a “stupid American” repeatedly. During a board meeting, he saw other staff wrote “No Americans/Christians.”

Qualcomm has China crisis

china-syndrome-one-sheet1Qualcomm is facing a little trouble in Big China as it is starting to look like its antitrust investigation is going pear shaped. Meanwhile problems collecting royalties could harm its business in China next year.

To make matters worse it is facing similar investigations in the United States and Europe.

Qualcomm should be making a large profit in China. The country is expanding high-speed 4G network is driving demand for smartphones with leading-edge technology.

But it looks like Qualcomm could face a fine of more than $1 billion in China as a result of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) investigation, and the company could be forced to make concessions that would hurt its highly profitable business of charging royalties on phones that use its patents.

Qualcomm admitted that it faces a new probe by the European Commission about rebates and other financial incentives in the sale of its chips. Another preliminary investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission concerns a potential breach of licensing terms.

Qualcomm President Derek Aberle said that his company was co-operating with the Chinese to come up with potential ways to resolve the problem.

Qualcomm has also been struggling to collect licensing revenue from some device makers in China, including local manufacturers the US chipmaker has done little or no business with in the past.

But the fear is that concessions on royalties that Qualcomm is forced to make in China could spread to manufacturers in other countries.

Qualcomm said it was difficult to predict the outcome of the U.S. and European investigations.

The European probe is separate from a four-year-old complaint to the European Commission from a subsidiary of Nvidia over alleged patent-related incentives and exclusionary pricing by Qualcomm.

Qualcomm forecast revenue for fiscal 2015 of between $26.8 billion and $28.8 billion. Analysts on average expected $28.91 billion.

The chipmaker reported revenue of $6.69 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter, ended Sept. 28, up 3 percent from the year-ago period. Analysts on average had expected $7.016 billion.

Qualcomm posted fourth-quarter net income of $1.89 billion, up 26 percent from a year ago.

Apple gear plagued with malware

giant bugPalo Alto Networks has discovered a new family of malware that can infect Apple desktop and mobile operating systems.

For a while now, Jobs’ Mob has made much of the fact it is “super secure” even while its gear is turned over in seconds at hacker conferences.  But now the hardware is becoming more popular it is clear that hackers are starting to write code that can disable anything that Apple comes up with.

The “WireLurker” malware can install third-party applications on regular, non-jailbroken iOS devices and hop from infected Macs onto iPhones through USB connector-cables.

Ryan Olson, intelligence director for the company’s Unit 42 division said that had seen indications that the attackers were Chinese. The malware originated from a Chinese third-party apps store and appeared to have mostly affected users within the country.

The malware spread through infected apps uploaded to the apps store that were in turn downloaded onto Mac computers. This is bad news for Apple which always claims that its store is closely vetted in comparison to the Google operation.

According to the company, more than 400 such infected apps had been downloaded over 350,000 times so far.

So far, there is no evidence that the attackers had made off with anything more sensitive than messaging IDs and contacts from users’ address books. But then again what sort of information would an Apple user have?  There cannot be many Chinese spooks who want a Coldplay or U2 collection. As far as companies are concerned,

Apple was told about the bug two weeks ago and has not done anything.  Once WireLurker gets on an iPhone, it can go on to infect existing apps on the device, somewhat akin to how a traditional virus infects computer software programs. Olson said it was the first time he had seen it in action. “It’s the first time we’ve seen anyone doing it in the wild,” he added.

Apple security adopts hauhau method

i_257It seems that the Apple Cargo cult is taking the same approach to security that the Maori Hauhau did during the New Zealand wars.

Like Apple, the Hauhau was a strange cult built by a bullied people but under a charismatic leader. The Hauhau also believed, despite evidence, that they could bounce bullets off their chests.

Apple has the same view about security. Apple’s security technologies for Mac OS X cannot for the life of itself see the iWorm, a piece of malware discovered in late September that infected thousands of computers.

Apple released an update for its XProtect antivirus engine to detect iWorm, but the update only detects when iWorm’s installer is launched.

Patrick Wardle, director of research with Synack, a computer security company based in Redwood City, California said that computers already infected with iWorm before the update would still be compromised.

Wardle said unless the user has another antivirus product installed that has a correct signature, those infections aren’t going to go away.

Wardle said Apple is likely aware of the Gatekeeper’s weaknesses, as it appears the way it works was a conscious design decision.

In other words, you cannot rely on Apple to secure your machine, probably because the belief that Apple’s do not get viruses is hardwired into the reality distortion field. Still you get what you pay for.

 

Dell counter attacks against rivals

Conan 1While Michael Dell was fighting to take his tin box outfit private, his rivals used the uncertainty to steal his customers – now he is counter-attacking.  

Dell opened the Dell World conference and wasted no time denouncing the “turmoil” his rivals in the industry are going through.

“They’re splitting away businesses, spinning off pieces of their businesses, and one has to ask the question: who is this for? Does this actually help the customers? Does it help them create the next great innovative products?”

It is deeply ironic for Dell. At the time HP Meg Whitman was calling Hewlett-Packard a “paragon of stability” compared to his company and IBM smugly told his customers that he was doomed.

Now Dell can point out that Whitman is breaking the the company in two. And IBM is selling its x86 server business to Lenovo and fighting to keep its profits above water.

Because the company is private, Dell does not have to worry about those quarterly targets and can plan.  He even had a dig at Carl Icahn who made him pay millions more to take his company private.

“Dell can focus on a future that’s “beyond the next quarter, the next year or the next shareholder activist,” he said.

Dell’s PC shipments grew almost 20 percent in the U.S. last quarter, Michael Dell said, faster than those of HP and Apple.

Today Dell is expected to announce a new “converged infrastructure” system called the PowerEdge FX, he said, which combines servers, network and storage in a new design that offers “the most density in the world.”

Tsar Putin bans iPhone and iPad

Movie-Ivan-the-Terrible-by-Sergei-EisensteinApple will be banned from selling its iPhone and Apple iPad in Russia, from January as the Russian Orthodox Tsar Putin orders a crackdown on the cargo cult.

Initially appeared that Apple was being banned from Russia because it has a gay CEO and Putin is homophobic in such a way which caused a business group to dismantle a memorial to Steve Jobs in St. Petersburg. It turns out that the reason is a little more sensible.

The iCloud that has Russian authorities concerned because data saved in it is not stored locally and is wide open to any US spook who wants to have a look at it. It could also contain pictures of homosexual romps in the Kremlin which could be distributed on 4Chan for a laugh.

The law was not created to harm Apple specifically, as it applies to all online services including social networks which have their servers in the US. However, it will probably harm Apple more.

Apple could put up a server farm in the country, but that that would mean that the data could be sniffed by the Russian spooks, and Jobs’ Mob only gives its data to the Americans.

What will get sticky is when Russia enforces the ban at the retail level. Those in Russia who currently own an iPhone or iPad that supports iCloud, might have to put up with relentless searches from the authorities.

It is not a big problem for Apple. Unlike China where there are people prepared to sell a kidney to own one of its phones, Russians are a little more pragmatic about handing over two months’ salary for a gadget which will be out of date in a year. An iPad and iPhone ban will only extend to the Russian mafia who are the only ones who can afford them.

 

Government to force better mobile coverage

TortureRackThe British government launched a consultation on new legislation to force mobile operators to improve coverage around the country.

Sajid Javid, the government’s culture secretary, said the  consultation will complement the work industry is doing and allow the Government to hear from the wider telecoms sector, businesses and the public,”

Traditionally governments hope that private enterprise will undertake such work voluntarily.  They drop some broad hints, coupled with threats of legislation and private enterprises rushes to it.  But for some reason the concept of rural coverage has not been a starter for the big telcos, so now the government has to make its threats clearer.

One possible option to eliminate poor coverage, which affects about one fifth of the UK, may include a national roaming plan, where subscribers will be able to switch between operators offering the strongest signal, the government said.

The government said it is keen to have comprehensive mobile coverage across the country to boost productivity and help provide jobs and economic security.

While this makes sense, it is the sort of thing that gives telecoms companies nightmares.

EE, the country’s largest mobile operator, said in a separate statement it does not want to implement national roaming as that would deteriorate network reliability and may also lead to price rises.

Vodafone agrees saying implementation “would be technically far more complex, slow to implement and would cause serious problems with network resilience”.

However the consultation include infrastructure sharing, allowing mobile networks to put transmitters on each other’s masts, and obliging the networks to cover a certain percentage of the UK.

What might happen is a group of telecoms will finally give in and agree to provide the sort of coverage the government wants.

Russians destroy shrine to Steve Jobs

Church fireThe Fruity Cargo Cult Apple’s attempts to spread the worship of its founder Steve Jobs has fallen foul of Russia’s backward homophobia.

This week Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the badly kept secret that he was gay, and while that was well received in most of the world it has created a backlash in Russia.

The two-metre-high monument, in the shape of an iPhone, was erected outside a St Petersburg college in January 2013 by the West European Financial Union companies called ZEFS.

But Russia has strict laws against “gay propaganda” and ZEFS said that the memorial had been removed from the courtyard of the Techno Park in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo.

“In Russia, gay propaganda and other sexual perversions among minors are prohibited by law,” ZEFS said, noting the memorial had been “in an area of direct access for young students and scholars.”

“After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the monument was taken down to abide to the Russian federal law protecting children from information promoting denial of traditional family values.”

The move is clearly an attempt to butter up Tsar Vladimir Putin who considers homosexuality a moral issue. Putin insists that there is no discrimination against gay people in Russia and the law was needed only to protect young people. It has also encouraged those of a less intelligent disposition to beat up and lynch young gay people.

But Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, was not gay and it is not clear what  Maxim Dolgopolov, the head of ZEFS who ordered the removal of the monument

“Sin should not become the norm. There is nothing to do in Russia for whose who intend to violate our laws,” he said.

Dolgopolov’s implication is that Apple is a gay cult lead by its founder and ruled by its immoral boss and is working to subvert the children of Russia with its homosexual ways. The whole concept is silly, and if Apple were big in Russia it could have seriously damaged its business reputation.