Author: Nick Farrell

IBM reshuffles its deck

vov24k_mediumIBM has reshuffled its senior management in a bid to turn around the outfit’s flagging fortunes.

Martin Jetter, who was credited with fixing Biggish Blue’s  Japanese operation has been shifted to senior vice president and head of its global technology services unit.

Jetter, who currently heads IBM’s operations in Japan, will initially report to Erich Clemanti and will succeed him as head of the services unit on January 1, when Clemanti will move to another unnamed senior leadership role.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said that Jetter was Big Blue’s Mr Fixit and led a remarkable transformation of IBM Japan, returning it to growth. Previously he did the same thing with  IBM Germany and GBS in Europe. “In each case, he and his team have moved quickly to embrace new approaches and new thinking,” Rometty said.

IBM has been falling behind as it struggles to keep up with shifts in the industry as hardware becomes increasingly commoditized. Lately, the outfit which was once best known for mainframe computers, has been moving to higher-margin businesses such as security software and cloud services, but growth in those areas has failed to offset other company weaknesses.

Last month, IBM paid $1.5 billion to Globalfoundries to take its loss-making semiconductor unit off its hands.

Samsung turns to metal in China crisis

Iron_Maiden_2010Samsung has released two premium designed, mid-tier handsets designed to give its low-priced Chinese rivals a good kicking.

The company has been suffering lately and its global market share down on year for the third straight quarter and its profit scraping at a three-year low.

Samsung suffered the most in China which is the world’s biggest smartphone market and it was knocked off its number one slot by Xiaomi.

The Chinese seemed to have a problem that Samsung’s lower-end products were pricey and not different enough compared to Xiaomi and Lenovo.

The Galaxy A3 and A5 are seen by analysts as Samsung’s first counter-attack. Initially launching in China in November, they will be Samsung’s first devices to feature fully metallic bodies and its thinnest smartphones so far.  The A3 and A5 are comparable to those of the top-of-the-line Galaxy S5, but have a lower screen resolution quality.

Samsung classified the new phones as mid-tier, and said they will be launched in other “select markets”, without disclosing the pricing.

However, it still might have problems and much depends on price. In comparison to the A5, Xiaomi’s Mi4 device is thicker but has a  faster processor and better display.

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Nokia deal created anti-trust issues for Microsoft and Samsung

samsung-hqSamsung has told a court that its collaboration with Microsoft on Windows phones raised antitrust problems once Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset business.

The filing comes from Microsoft’s lawsuit accusing Samsung of breaching a business collaboration agreement. It claimed that Samsung still owes $6.9 million in interest on more than $1 billion in patent royalties it delayed paying.

However Samsung said the Nokia acquisition violated its 2011 deal with Microsoft because it effectively required the sharing of secret information with a rival.

Samsung said it agreed in 2011 to pay Microsoft royalties in exchange for a patent license covering Samsung’s Android phones.

Samsung agreed to develop Windows phones and share confidential business information with Microsoft as part of that collaboration. Microsoft said it would reduce the royalty payments if Samsung met certain sales goals for Windows devices.

Once Microsoft acquired Nokia, it became a direct hardware competitor with Samsung, the filing said, and the South Korean company refused to continue sharing some sensitive information because if it had done so it would have breached US antitrust laws.

The agreements, now between competitors, invited charges of collusion,” Samsung said in the filing.

Antitrust regulators in the United States and other countries have approved Microsoft’s Nokia acquisition.

Security experts rubbish CBS hacking claim

face-palmSecurity experts have poured cold water on CBS hackettes Sharyl Attkisson’s claim that she was being hacked by the government,

In her new book Stonewalled, Attkisson claims that both her personal Apple laptop and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop were hacked in late 2012 while she was reporting on the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were “sophisticated” methods and unnamed sources confirmed for Attkisson that an unnamed government agency was behind the attack.

However Attkisson released a video she took with her mobile of one apparent hack of her personal Apple laptop. The video shows words typed into a Microsoft Word document rapidly disappearing. During the video, Attkisson’s voice can be heard saying she’s “not touching it.”

Computer security experts who reviewed the video have told Media Matters that Attkisson’s computer had a broken backspace key.

Matthew Brothers-McGrew, a senior specialist at Interhack was quoted as saying sometimes computers “malfunction, a key can get stuck, sometimes dirt can get under a keyboard and a key will inadvertently be held down.”

Brad Moore, also a senior specialist at Interhack said that based on what he saw and was able replicate, there were multiple explanations for this sort of action and a stuck backcase key was the easiest.

Peter Theobald, computer forensics investigator with TC Forensics said that if a hacker tried to infiltrate her laptop and delete her files there would be better ways to do it and it it wouldn’t be so obvious to her.

 

Disney patents anti-pirate search engine

hookMickey Mouse outfit, Disney has patented a search engine which it claims can keep the internet pirate free.

While it did not say where it would leave its Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which rely on pirates, it does beg the question why Disney would develop such a search engine.

Disney has obtained a patent for a search engine that ranks sites based on various “authenticity” factors. One of the goals of the technology is to filter pirated material from search results while boosting the profile of copyright and trademark holders’ websites.

The patent is titled “Online content ranking system based on authenticity metric values for web elements,” one of the patent’s main goals is to prevent pirated movies and other illicit content from ranking well in the search results.

 

According to Disney, their patent makes it possible to “enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites.”

“For example, a manipulated page for unauthorized sales of drugs, movies, etc. might be able to obtain a high popularity rating, but what the typical user will want to see is a more authentic page,” they explain.

Its patent describes a system that re-ranks search results based on an “authenticity index.” This works twofold, by promoting sites that are more “authoritative” and filtering out undesirable content.

“In particular, embodiments enable more authoritative search results … to be ranked higher and be more visible to a user. Embodiments furthermore enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites, child pornography websites, and/or the like,” Disney writes.

What Disney would do is give “official” sites priority when certain terms relate to a property of a company. These “authority” weights can include trademarks, copyrighted material, and domain name information.

What this will mean giving corporates more authority than those who might not like it. Therefore, a film review site will have less status than Disney’s official market site. Wikipedia will be much lower on the status list.

“The Disney.go.com web page may be associated with an authenticity weight that is greater than the authenticity weight associated with the encyclopaedia web page because Disney.go.com is the official domain for The Walt Disney Company. As such, with respect to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs™ film, the Disney.go.com web page may be considered more authoritative (and thus more authentic) than the encyclopaedia web page,” Disney writes.

It is not clear what Disney will do with its new patent. While it is possible to see that other companies might like it, it is generally only the corporates who care enough to want this sort of product, most people would stick to Google, Yahoo or Bing, where they know they will not just get the company line.

 

Australia will give your personal data to anyone

van-diemens-land-film1-thumb-630xauto-37783The former British penal colony of Australia is so concerned that terrorists might want to take over its super-hot, poisonous creature-filled, desert that it is going to bring in one of the most elaborate forms of internet monitoring in the world.

Both coppers and communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have suggested that Australia’s data retention bill will make China look like a liberal hippy commune in comparison.   Under the move, the government is going to hang on to all your browsing history and give it to whoever can get a court order.

However, it seems that terrorists are not the main target of the law. It seems that the whole thing is designed to protect corporates and movie studios from piracy.

Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin said that stored telecommunications metadata would be used to go after people who infringe copyright online.

Turnbull then clarified the position saying that if film studios want to use metadata to sue Torrenters, all they would have to do is ask the courts to give them access to it.  However this makes things even worse.

Currently the Aussie ISPs are resisting legal action trying to force them to reveal subscriber information through the courts to a copyright troll. The logic is that the courts would hand over all your browser history to anyone with the dosh to establish a court case.

It could mean that metadata could be demanded in family law cases and insurance cases. After all what is the best way to make sure your partner should not have custody if it can be shown to a court that he or she spends their days on porn or dating sites.

What is even more alarming is that so far this daft law has not been noticed by the Great Aussie public and no one seems to care.

Sony saved by expelling the Welsh

hollow-crown-welshIt seems that getting rid of its Welsh CEO Howard Stringer has been good for the struggling Japanese outfit Sony.

Sony reported a second-quarter operating loss which was a lot narrower than the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street had predicted. Part of the reason was that the PlayStation 4 games console reduced the impact of its sluggish smartphone division.

Everyone expected a loss after Sony took an impairment charge of $1.58 billion on its mobile division but the fact that it was not grim was being seen as proof that the restructuring announced in May by Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida is working.

Sony’s operating loss reached $77 million in July-September, compared with the $1.47 billion estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The company posted a net loss of $1.22 billion for the quarter and held its full-year net loss forecast at $1.07 billion.

Sony upped its operating profit forecast for its gaming division to $300 million for the year after shifting 3.3 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the second quarter, moving it further ahead of rival Xbox One, made by Microsoft.

Weighing on electronics was the mobile division, where Sony lowered its smartphone sales outlook to 41 million handsets from 43 million, compared with 39 million last year.

Yoshida, the CFO, said the company would greatly shrink its smartphone business in China, where it has been squeezed by nimble local rivals like Xiaomi, while the incoming chief of the mobile division, Hiroki Totoki, would focus on improving carrier relationships.

Yoshida said a weaker yen was a negative for Sony as it loses 3 billion yen for every yen the Japanese currency falls against the dollar.

 

Android creator walks from Google

Forbidden-Planet-528x812Andy Rubin, co-founder of the  Android mobile business and head of its robotics effort is leaving Google.

According to a statement from Google, Rubin will start a company to support startups interested in building technology-hardware products.

It is possible that Rubin is getting a little bored. Last year, Google’s browser and applications chief Sundar Pichai replaced Rubin as head of the Android division, bringing the firm’s mobile software, applications and Chrome browser under one roof.

Android was pretty much Rubin’s baby having built it into a free, open-source software platform now used by most of the world’s largest handset manufacturers. He switched from that role to lead a series of robotics acquisitions for Google in 2013.

Word on the street is that Rubin likes to run his own show and was facing constraints on his activities at Google. However, Rubin himself has said that he did not really have any problems with independence at Google and left because he wanted to do something new on his own.

Top TV makers reject OLED

tv58Samsung and LG have decided that the world is not ready for OLED and the next generation of TVs will run on quantum dot technology.

The problem is that they can’t come up with a way of making OLED affordable for the mass market.

Quantum dot involves incorporating a film of tiny light-emitting crystals into regular liquid crystal displays (LCD). The manufacturing process is relatively straightforward and offers improved picture quality at much cheaper cost than using organic light-emitting diodes (OLED).

The manufacturers think that the resulting lower prices could help the technology catch on far quicker. One industry analyst estimated a 55-inch quantum dot TV would be priced 30 to 35 percent more than a current LCD TV, while an OLED TV could be 5 times more expensive.

LG’s 65-inch ultra-high definition OLED TV cost $11,350  which is a big problem.

The only real difficulty is that the quantum dot material comes from a small pool of suppliers, including Quantum Materials and Nanoco who are almost certain to jack up the prices as it might be in short supply.

Nanoco said a South Korean plant being built by partner Dow Chemical will start quantum dot production in the first half of 2015. Analysts believe the output is destined for a local client.

LG plans to make quantum dot TVs in addition to OLED TVs. Analysts regarded that a tacit acknowledgement that OLED needs more time for prices to come down before eventually becoming the new standard.

LG Chief Financial Officer Jung Do-hyun told analysts after the company reported earnings that OLED is the fundamentally superior product.

Samsung Vice President Simon Sung said that quantum dot is among many technologies under consideration.

Sony is the only major electronics manufacturer selling quantum dot TVs. Researcher DisplaySearch forecasts 1.95 million quantum dot TV shipments next year, for just 0.8 percent of the market, growing to 25.5 million by 2020. IHS Technology sees OLED TV shipments at 7.8 million units by 2019 from 600,000 in 2015.

 

Dell comes back from the dead

i-walked-with-a-zombie-from-left-everettBeancounters at IDC are claiming that Dell’s US shipments grew 19.7 percent during the third calendar quarter of 2014.

If this is the case, then it would appear that business is turning around for the tin box shifter.

Jeff Clarke, Dell’s vice chairman, Operations, and president, Client Solutions said that the reason for the increase was a strong notebook performance in the US and accompanying overall worldwide growth reflects the continued momentum. He said Dell did not intend to slow down.

“You can expect us to maintain our strategy of investing in the PC business, with more additions to our portfolio to be announced next week at Dell World,”Clarke said.

Dell was showing off its PC business in which it said had its seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year gains in global share and grew more in the third quarter than its top two US competitors combined.

Dell also talked about its commercial portfolio which appeared to be focusing on higher performance PCs and thin clients.

Dell also claimed there was a growing demand for flexible 2-in-1 products in the work environment with the Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1.

Now that the outfit has gone private we have no way of checking any of this as it does not have to share anything and we have to take its word for it.

Tim Cook is gay – so what?

tim-cook-glareThis morning the Tame Apple Press is full of praise for Apple CEO Tim Cook “coming out as gay as if it is really important.

Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple CEO Tim Cook, unprompted, has said that he is gay. It was news that comes as no surprise to anyone, so why in 2014 was it news?

Cook’s sexuality has been known  for ages, in fact when he took over, I mentioned it in his biography only to have it cut out by the news editor. “Who the hell cares?” he diplomatically pointed out. Indeed.

If Cook had come out in Oscar Wilde’s time, when it was illegal, it would be news. However, this is 2014 and being gay is normal. The sort of people who do not think it is normal are the sort of people who have all sorts of undesirable prejudices and no one wants to be like. Even the concept of “coming out” is a relic of a time when homosexuality had to be secret and not considered normal.

Why does it matter? The Tame Apple Press says that such an announcement will “save lives” because kids will no longer be bullied for their sexuality. After all if Tim Cook can come out then the other kids will say “It is ok the guy who makes our great gadgets is gay so we will accept you”. Clearly the Tame Apple Press has no understanding of the minds of bullies.

So if it does not really make a difference why is Cook saying it?

Apple has been in the press a lot lately and the news has not been good. Its iPhone 6 bent and caught fire, it was implicated in the bankruptcy of its Sapphire Glass maker, Apple Pay was rejected by retailers, its iCloud was hacked and celebrities had their naked selfies exposed, the iWatch is late and will probably be a turkey.

Fairly or unfairly there are mutterings are that “none of this would happen under Jobs” and “Apple is not the same”,

The feeling is that Apple needs a “personality” as a leader and Cook is decidedly lacking in that regard. This announcement was like a back-story episode in Season 2 of a sci-fi drama. We have known that someone is two dimensionally evil, hates aliens, or has a phobia about custard, but in this episode we are shown the reason. This is “fleshing out of the character” is not designed to provide information, but is supposed to make a 2D character more three-dimensional.

The problem is that Tim Cook’s only back-story is that he is gay – the very thing that for the last two decades humanity in the Western world has decided is normal. As a result, he is still as two dimensional as his phones because really… who cares what Cook bonks?

 

UK NHS keeps Windows XP on life support

heart-rate-on-a-screen-ekg-machineNHS Trusts are insisting on keeping Windows XP machines despite concerns that they are about as secure as a celeb’s naked picture on the iCloud and have cost £5.5 million from Microsoft to support.

According to Citrix, the mobile workspace company, which filed a freedom of information act request to get its data, all the of 35 NHS Trusts are still using Windows XP and that just five are using  desktop virtualisation technology to handle migration away from it.

Jason Tooley, UK country manager at Citrix, said that like the rest of the public sector, the NHS is under tremendous pressure to do more with less and the IT department is no exception.

He called on NHS trusts across the UK to harness technology today to transform IT processes for the better. Using IT — including desktop and application virtualisation — can positively impact the entire workplace, delivering increased productivity and ultimately improved patient care.

Microsoft announced Windows XP’s end of life on 8 April 2014 but the British government has an extension on support until 8 April 2015 and with this in mind. More than 74 percent of the trusts surveyed admitted their last devices wouldn’t be migrated until March 2015.

Another 14 percent are unsure when they will transition their last computer away from Windows XP and in addition to the five that are already using virtualisation, just two more plan to take a similar path before the deadline.

There are rumours that the UK government could end up signing another extension with Microsoft to provide a second year of support and it’s likely to cost the same £5.5 million it shelled out for help this year.

Under that deal, Vole provides security updates for the 12 year old OS as well as Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 for the entire UK public sector, and a similar deal was signed by the Dutch government for the same level of support.

World on the street is that  the UK government may wait for Windows 10 to come to its rescue and there’s a distinct possibility we will be talking about an NHS stuck on Windows XP this time next year.

Samsung promises a smartphone refresh

1920s-telephone-advertSamsung has promised to revamp its smartphone line-up to tackle what has been its worst third-quarter results since 2011.

The outfit said that it needed to take on competitors in the rapidly growing mid-to-low range segment, after third-quarter earnings set it on course for its worst year since 2011.

Samsung’s  market share fell like a free-fall team of parachuting elephants which had to forgotten to pack a key ingredient of their act. Samsung was behind Apple in the premium market and was eclipsed by Lenovo and Xiaomi at the bottom end.

Executives said the South Korean giant would overhaul its lower-tier line-up to boost price competitiveness and use higher-quality components to set its devices apart.

Samsung Senior Vice President Kim Hyun-joon said during a conference call with analysts that the mid-to-low end market is growing rapidly, and Samsung planned to respond actively in order to capitalise on that growth.

Samsung said its third quarter operating profit fell by $3.9 billion, matching its guidance issued earlier this month.

While the company expects profits to pick up in the fourth quarter on strong demand for televisions and memory chips, analysts still expect Samsung to record its worst annual operating profit in three years.

Profit for the mobile division fell 73.9 percent which was its worst performance since the second quarter of 2011.

Part of the problem was that Samsung spent most of the quarter without launching a new flagship device, and continued to struggle in the mid-to-low tier markets against cheaper and value-packed offerings like Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S.

Robert Yi, Samsung’s head of investor relations, said the firm would launch new mid-tier models in the fourth quarter, although he did not say what features they would have.

Samsung expects average selling prices for handsets will rise in the fourth quarter due to an increase in premium smartphone sales, namely of the Galaxy Note 4, and as demand picks up in the holiday shopping season.

 

Microsoft beats Apple to releasing a watch

Swiss Watches the BrandSoftware giant Microsoft has beaten Apple to releasing a new watch.

Dubbed the “Microsoft Band,” which sounds a little like the volunteer brass band which plays at company events, the watch will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime,

According to a Volish bog, the wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality.

It seems that Microsoft only wants to release the gear in the United States presumably because that is where the fittest people in the world can be found, who are always on their way to a gym. It will cost $199.

Jobs’ Mob showed off its smart watch on September 9, but it will not be in the shops until next year. It will be priced at $349

Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.

The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.

 

US companies take down Chinese hacker group

1220aAn alliance of US tech companies including Novetta and Microsoft hasbeen targeting the Hikit malware and have worked out a way to disrupt the Chinese cyber espionage gang Axiom’s antics.

Dubbed Operation SMN, the coalition of security companies has apparently given the hackers a Chinese burn after it detected and cleaned up malicious code on 43,000 computers worldwide infected by Axiom.

The effort was led by Novetta and included Bit9, Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, iSIGHT Partners, Microsoft, Tenable, ThreatConnect Intelligence Research Team (TCIRT), ThreatTrack Security, Volexity, and was united as part of Microsoft’s Coordinated Malware Eradication (CME) campaign against Hikit.

Hikit is custom malware often used by Axiom to burrow into organisations and nick data. It works quietly and evades detection, sometimes for years.

Axiom used a variety of tools to access and re-infect environments including Derusbi, Deputy Dog, Hydraq, and others. Ludwig says, they expanded the group and its scope “so that we absolutely did the best possible job of clean-up and removal” and rolled it all into a Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) released Oct. 14.

Novetta thinks that while the MSRT was comprehensive, it may be only a temporary setback for Axiom, which will just work out another way of doing the same thing.

Novetta says it has “moderate to high confidence” that Axiom is a well-resourced and well-disciplined subgroup of the state-backed “Chinese Intelligence Apparatus.”

Axiom has been found in organisations that are of strategic economic interest, that influence environmental and energy policy and that develop integrated circuits, telecommunications equipment and infrastructure.

The target organisations are often related in some way, and once Hikit has burrowed its way into a computing environment, it can create a “mini-network,” communicating laterally with other Hikit installations within the organisation or related outside groups. What makes it difficult to track is that it uses proxies and never communicates with the command-and-control server directly. Hikit talks to companies in such a way that the traffic does not look dodgy.