Tag: microsoft

Microsoft Freaks out over security

Microsoft campusSoftware giant Microsoft said that people using all versions of Windows could be affected by the recent Freak phenomenon.

Freak is a vulnerability caused by software engineers making encryption weaker in operating systems as a result of an order by the USA in the 1990s.

Previously, it was known that the Freak vulnerability affected devices such as Apple and Android operating systems.

Microsoft described Freak “as an industry wide issue that is not specific to Windows operating systems”.

Microsoft doesn’t believe that peoples’ computers have yet been publicly exploited.

Microsoft said it is working with its partners to give information to customers to help them secure their machines. The security advisory can be found here.

Microsoft tech support scammer had a bad day

Microsoft campusA tech support scammer managed to present two different types of fail by losing his temper with the person he was trying to rip off.

Tech support normally requires the patience of Job and the art of being a scammer involves convincing another person that you really are who you claim.

However one scammer took things to a new level by threatening to kill a man who twigged what he was doing.

Jakob Dulisse of British Columbia had been called by people pretending to be Microsoft tech support before, so when a scammer called him and tried to ask for access so he could install malware on his computer that would steal banking information, passwords, and PayPal credentials he told him to go forth and multiply.

Apparently the scammer was a little shocked at that and resorted to threats to kill – as you do.
“You do understand we have each and every information, your address, your phone number,” the scammer said in the recorded call. (You can listen to excerpts at the CBC link.) “We have our group in Canada. I will call them, I will provide your information to them, they will come to you, they will kill you.”

But that  was only part  of it when Dulisse asked why the man would try to steal from unsuspecting people that the conversation took what Dulisse calls a “sinister turn.”
“He admitted that he was in India… and then he said, ‘If you come to India, you know what we do to Anglo people?’ I said, ‘No.’

“He said, ‘We cut them up in little pieces and throw them in the river.'”

Dulisse found the threats “chilling, but hard to take seriously.”

What was amusing about the call was while he was making those sorts of threats he was still trying to get Dulisse to give him remote access to his computer.

It was probably better that the scammer find a new occupation, as he is clearly in the wrong career.

Android ruled the smart roost in 2014

Android building, WikimediaIn 2014 Android was dominant as the operating system for smart devices – including smartphones and tablets.

And while Google’s Android OS will rule the roost this year too, as more “intelligence” goes into cars, glasses, and watches, ABI Research thinks its dominance will reach its peak between 2014 and 2019, showing only a modest CAGR of 10 percent.

Android will have competition from Chrome and Firefox, according to Stephanie Van Vactor, an analyst at ABI Research.

She predicts that those will show CAGRs of 29 percent and Chrome respectively in that time period.

Of course Chrome is also a Google product, but she thinks Android will work well with it.

The move to smart devices means that people will have a lot more choice in choosing an operating system. The research company didn’t say how well it thinks Microsoft’s OS for smartphones and the like will do.

 

Alibaba gets its own US cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeAlibaba is launching a cloud computing hub in Silicon Valley which is the first that the e-commerce giant has set up outside of China.

The new California data centre marks the Chinese company’s latest expansion onto an US market dominated by Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Alibaba’s Aliyun cloud division intends the new data centre to cater initially to Chinese companies with operations in the United States. Later it will target US businesses seeking a presence in both countries.

Ethan Yu, a vice president at Alibaba who runs the international cloud business said that it was all part of Alibaba’s international expansion plans. The next stage would be a cloud on the East Coast, or somewhere in the middle of the US.

Aliyun is similar to Amazon Web Services and was part of the company’s in-house technical infrastructure. It has since expanded to lease processing and storage space for small and medium Internet businesses in China.

Aliyun, also known as Alibaba Cloud Computing, holds about a 23 percent market share in the Chinese market. It faces both Chinese and foreign competitors, from carriers like China Telecom to Microsoft and Amazon. Its existing data centers span the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Schmidt triggers Euro debate

Google's Eric "Google Glass" SchmidtThe chairman of Google was summoned to meet the European Competition Commissioner yesterday, as investigations continue into alleged monopolistic habits.

Margarethe Vestager called Eric Schmidt in to discuss a number of complaints about Google, according to a report by Reuters.

Vestiges has already met a number of people complaining about Google, including executives from Microsoft and German press Axel Springer.

Google has, according to the report, has tried to settle the complaints about search engine three times, but all blandishments from the behemoth have been rebuffed.

If the competition commissioner finds that Google has been squeezing out other players in the European market, she could decide that the company has to dish out a tenth of its global revenues, that’s around $6 billion or so.

China irritates tech firms

chinaflagA law set to be passed by Chinese authorities would make tech vendors provide the government with encryption keys and put backdoors in systems.

According to Reuters, the law relates to counter terrorism and the legislation is likely to be passed into law in the near future.

Other elements of the counter terrorism law include a reqirement for companies to locate their servers and user data in China, as well as forcing vendors to censor content that China believes is related to terrorism.

China already forces banks to buy from home grown vendors, rather than buying abroad.

Reuters said that the implications of this new piece of legislation would be to forbid secure VPNs, to send financial information securely, and to hide any detail of a commercial business.

Google might find itself thanking its lucky stars that it doesn’t do business in mainland China, but other vendors including Apple, Intel and Microsoft will certainly be hit by the legislation.

Microsoft gives kids a cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeAs part of its push to dominate the cloud, software giant Microsoft is giving away free Office 365 subscriptions to students outside the US.

Schools will have to buy subscriptions for staff and faculty, but once they do, students  – and even teachers – can self-install for no charge by using a school-issued email address at the Office in education website.

This will give Microsoft a huge customer base for its products, after signing up, kids will get access to the newest Office, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and Publisher, and be able to install them on up to five computers and five phones or tablets.

An account also comes with Office Online and a 1TB of OneDrive storage.

The move could totally kill off moves by Google to get its cloud storage system into schools, or for that matter Apple’s push to get its expensive tablets into the education market.

The advantage of Microsoft giving away the software to school kids is that it instils a generation with training on its software which will be carried over to business decisions made later in life.

In the US, Apple and Google have been making inroads into the schools market, based on marketing in Apple’s case and cheaper software in Google’s.

US tech economy suffering because of paranoia

Senator McCarthy On 'Face The Nation'The US economy is officially suffering because its government is not reigning in its paranoid security services.

One of the world’s biggest markets, China, has said that it is no longer using high-profile US technology brands for state buys, amid ongoing revelations about mass surveillance and hacking by the US government.

That means that key brands, including Cisco, Intel, Apple and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorised brands.

The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list.

Chinese companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals. Some claim it has cost the US government many billions of dollars figure on the impact of the leaks.

US companies have been moaning that the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. However, the US government has claimed that its aggressive spying plan meant that Americans were safer and spying on everyone was the only way to catch terrorists.

This included backdoors being placed in US products sold overseas. Those revelations sparked a change in Chinese policy by forcing Western technology companies to hand over their source code for inspection. That led to an outcry in the capital by politicians who accused Chinese companies of doing exactly the same thing, when they hadn’t.

Microsoft said its fourth-quarter earnings that China “fell short” of its expectations, which chief executive Satya Nadella described as a “set of geopolitical issues” that the company was working through.

HP said its fiscal first-quarter earnings had “execution issues” in China thanks to the “tough market” with increasing competition from the local vendors approved by the Chinese government.

However Cisco has been suffering the most. Earlier this month at its fiscal second-quarter earnings, the networking giant said it lost 19 percent of its revenue in China, amid claims the NSA was installing backdoors and implants on its routers in transit.

Microsoft used Cortina to predict the Oscars

motoring-graphics-g_844446aThis years’ Oscars were a reasonably successful test bed for Microsoft’s new predictive technology — Cortina.

Microsoft predicted 20 of the 24 Oscar winners which is not a bad average and follows its accurate prediction of almost all of the World Cup’s knockout matches – a little better than the octopus.

Cortina could not work out who would win the original screenplay, original score, animated feature and film editing categories. It got all the rest.

The software uses Bing-analysed historical data and Vole told us in advance who it thought would win.

Microsoft uses a prediction model for the Oscars that is managed by Microsoft researcher David Rothschild at the company’s New York City research lab. Rothschild correctly predicted 21 of 24 Oscar winners last year, and 19 of 24 winners in 2013.

In comparison, Vegas odds from the Wynn casino weren’t nearly as good. The Wynn predicted best picture, best actress, best actor, best supporting actress, best supporting actor, and best director, but only managed to guess four of six correctly. Microsoft predicted all six accurately.

Practically this goes beyond fortune telling for vacuous entertainment events. This is Microsoft’s chance to prove the company’s abilities to manipulate data sets is better than anyone else’s.
Its main goal is to show that Bing algorithms and data itself is pretty powerful. These things are an interesting way to show users that Bing has a lot of horsepower beyond just providing good search results, a spokesVole said.

 

Open saucy Microsoft puts Azure on Ubuntu

Every silver has a cloudy liningMicrosoft has released its Azure hosted service so that it can run Linux.

Microsoft showed off a preview of Azure HDInsight running on Ubuntu and the makers of the open saucy gear Canonical claims that it is a recognition that Ubuntu is great for running Big Data solutions.

For those who came in late, Azure HDInsight, is Microsoft’s Apache Hadoop-based service in the Azure cloud. It is designed to make it easy for customers to evaluate petabytes of all types of data with fast, cost-effective scale on demand, as well as programming extensions so developers can use their favourite languages.

The big idea is that people that already use Hadoop on Linux on-premises like on Hortonworks Data Platform, because they can use common Linux tools, documentation, and templates and and now they can extend their deployment to Azure with hybrid cloud connections.

It is not all one way traffic.  Canonical has Juju which  is a Cloud Orchestration tool. This is the result of years of effort to optimize Big Data workloads on Ubuntu. This will mean that Azure will effectively gain access to this.

Ballmer is still excited about Microsoft

ballmerThe shy and retired former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has been quietly supporting Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software in his usual understated manner.

Last week after the Windows 10 event Ballmer expressed his continued love for the company, despite the fact he was forbidden to take to the stage and bounce anymore.

For those with memories like goldfish, Ballmer was chief executive at Microsoft for 14 years before Satya Nadella took over last year. In August, Ballmer resigned from Microsoft’s board, to concentrate on a basketball team he had bought so he could have something to shout at.

Nadella appears to be making all the sorts of changes that shareholders want, but Ballmer was not delivering.  However Steve does not seem to be flinging chairs about now that Nadella is undoing all his hard work.

He made one of his rare tweets saying that:

“Today made all MSFT employees proud, customers excited and shareholders salivate. The wave of windows 10 hw, services OS rocks. I love MSFT.”

It seems like Ballmer is just as excited about the reborn Microsoft as he always was. Still he does have a lot of shares in the outfit, so we guess he still has to be.

 

Microsoft snaps up Israeli firm

Microsoft campusMicrosoft has spent $200 million on an Israeli firm that makes digital pens and semiconductors for touch screens.

According to financial news website Calcalist, the 190 people who work for N-trig will work for Microsoft’s Israeli division.

N-trig makes pens for use in smartphones, for tablets and for slim notebooks.

Microsoft already owned a 6.1 percent chunk in N-Trig to incorporate its pen in the Surface Pro 3 tablets it makes.

Reuters said N-trig revenues in the first half of 2014 amounted to $20.6 million. Its customers include Sony, HP, and Lenovo.

Microsoft is keen to re-position itself in the next wave of the IT market.

Microsoft and Samsung settle over royalties

 9545A court case between Microsoft and Samsung over patent royalties appears to have sorted itself out.

Microsoft  sued Samsung last year claiming the spy TV maker had breached a collaboration agreement by initially refusing to make royalty payments.

This was soon after Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset business in September 2013.

The lawsuit claimed Samsung still owed $6.9 million in interest on more than $1 billion in patent royalties it delayed paying. Samsung has countered that the Nokia acquisition violated its 2011 collaboration deal with Microsoft.

Microsoft has not said how much Samsung is paying it. In 2011, a technology analyst at Citigroup estimated that Microsoft was getting $5 per Android handset sold by phone maker HTC under a patent agreement, and that Microsoft was looking for up to $12.50 per phone from other handset makers it had yet to come to an agreement with.

Microsoft denied this figure but if it applied the $5 price to Samsung, the Korean company could be paying Microsoft about $1.6 billion per year.

Samsung said it had agreed in 2011 to pay Microsoft royalties in exchange for a patent license covering phones that ran Google Android operating system. Samsung also agreed to develop Windows phones and share confidential business information with Microsoft, according to court filings.

 

Windows on subscription gets closer

windows-10-technical-preview-turquoiseMicrosoft seems to be moving closer to the idea that its Windows operating system will be sold using a subscription as a service.

The subscription, much like Office 365, will be paid once a year but appeared to have been abandoned when Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be free, for anyone upgrading from Windows 7 or 8.

Even though Microsoft has not fully detailed its Windows 10 pricing strategy, it recently filed for a trademark for ‘Windows 365’, which adds a bit of fuel to the subscription based version of Windows.

A trademark might have been lodged to stop other people using it, but when Microsoft does announce a subscription version of Windows, ‘Windows 365″ would likely be the name.

So far, there has been no sign that Redmond is rushing to release ‘Windows 365’ in the immediate future, as it is pushing Windows 10 at every possible instance. For now, know that Microsoft has claimed this branding right, it could be something seen in the future.

 

Qualcomm faces billion dollar fine

qualcomm-snapdragonUS tech giant Qualcomm may face a fine of as much as $1 billion after antitrust regulators decide on its future.
And it may also face sanctions that make it cut its royalties by a third.
Reuters reports that talks between Qualcomm and the authorities in China are close to reaching a conclusion.
The article quotes Xu Dunlin, head of China’s antitrust agency, as saying his authority will soon release details of the settlement.
The ruling will have a significant effect on Qualcomm because nearly fifty percent of its worldwide revenues from from the country.
Further, much of its profits come from royalties through its licensing division.
Reuters says that it’s not just Qualcomm that faces a problem from the Chinese agency.  It is also investigating Microsoft and Samsung to see if they infringe its antitrust rules.
It’s estimated that Qualcomm generates over $25.5 billion in revenues from the Chinese mainland.