Tag: newstrack

Linus rubbishes parallel computing

torvaldsThe creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds has discretely muttered that he does not think that the world of parallel computing is much chop.

In his typically understated way, he hinted that parallelism was “snake oil” and that a huge body of ideas related to that flavour of computing was “garbage”,

“The whole “let’s parallelise” thing is a huge waste of everybody’s time. There is this huge body of “knowledge” that parallel is somehow more efficient, and that whole huge body is pure and utter garbage. Big caches are efficient. Parallel stupid small cores without caches are horrible unless you have a very specific load that is hugely regular,” Torvalds said.

He said that people want mobility, so “the crazies talking about scaling to hundreds of cores are just that – crazy. Why give them an ounce of credibility?”

Torvalds said that the only place where parallelism matters is in graphics or on the server side, where we already largely have it. Pushing it anywhere else is just pointless.

“End users are fine with roughly on the order of four cores, and you can’t fit any more anyway without using too much energy to be practical in that space. And nobody sane would make the cores smaller and weaker in order to fit more of them – the only reason to make them smaller and weaker is because you want to go even further down in power use, so you’d still not have lots of those weak cores,” Torvalds said.

Just in case you missed his subtle point he added: “Give it up. The whole “parallel computing is the future” is a bunch of crock.”

Needless to say there was a controlled and not-at-all-holiday-tipple-fuelled debate about this statement on various news groups. Most of it was about the language Torvalds used – and not just the swear words. The wonderful world of parallelisation is so complex that there are many words to describe different aspects about what it actually means and if you use the wrong ones then the grammar pedants will tear you to bits.

Generally though the feeling about Torvalds’s comments was that the it was not that parallelism which was to blame.  In theory it should all be wonderful.  But the software running it is still not up to snuff.


Samsung sued by Dutch

dutch-childrenDutch based telecommunications company KPN has sued Samsung in the US state of Texas, claiming that it stole  some of its patented ideas.

The European network is suing the world’s largest smartphone company for using patented technology, with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 among the listed devices.

Apparently KPN has been negotiating with Samsung for some years to reach a licensing agreement, but talks broke down.

As the court filing was made in the US, it seems KPN is focused on that market, but it is unclear if Samsung is infringing the same patent in other global regions, or if this was just “stage one” of a wider campaign.

Texas is a little more patent friendly to trolls, which does weaken the Dutch case somewhat. After all, if you really believed in your case you would choose a court where the jurors were a little less likely to automatically agree with you.

It is also not clear which patents Samsung is said to have broken – so far no news source from the US has said.


US claims it can kill VPNS with Star Trek

article-2096522-11973640000005DC-278_468x355US spooks claim that they have has VPNs in a “Vulcan death grip” and can “uncloak” any encrypted traffic. 

In a story which appears to have been written by Der Speigels Star Trek nut who was the only one in the office during the holiday break,  the  National Security Agency’s Office of Target Pursuit (OTP) has said that it maintains a team of engineers dedicated to cracking the of virtual private networks (VPNs).

A slide deck [shurely holodeck. Ed] from a presentation by a member of OTP’s VPN Exploitation Team, dated September 13, 2010, details the process the NSA used at that time to attack VPNs.  Der Speigel gleefully pointed out that the tools with names drawn from Star Trek and other bits of popular culture.

In 2010, the NSA had already developed tools to attack the most commonly used VPN encryption schemes: Secure Shell (SSH), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption.

The NSA has a specific repository for capturing VPN metadata called Toygrippe. The repository stores information on VPN sessions between systems of interest, including their “fingerprints” for specific machines and which VPN services they have connected to, their key exchanges, and other connection data. VPN “fingerprints” can also be extracted from Xkeyscore, the NSA’s distributed “big data” store of all recently captured Internet traffic, to be used in identifying targets and developing an attack.

When an IPSec VPN is identified and “tasked” by NSA analysts, according to the presentation, a “full take” of its traffic is stored in Vulcandeathgrip, a VPN data repository. There are similar, separate repositories for PPTP and SSL VPN traffic dubbed Fourscore and Vulcanmindmeld.

The data is then replayed from the repositories through a set of attack scripts, which use sets of preshared keys (PSKs) harvested from sources such as exploited routers and stored in a key database called CORALREEF. Other attack methods are used to attempt to recover the PSK for each VPN session. If the traffic is of interest, successfully cracked VPNs are then processed by a system called Turtlepower and sorted into the NSA’s Xkeyscore -traffic database, and extracted content is pushed to the Pinwhale “digital network intelligence” content database.

All this can apparently move any Klingons using a technique first seen in the game Star Control II but never actually used on Star Trek.

Why you need to put a MacBook in the oven

603716_com_hpim3203aFor a long time I have been suggesting that a hammer is the best cure for all things which emerge from the Apple Cargo Cult, but it turns out that I might have been wrong and it is better to put them in the oven.

Sterling over at iFixIT was having huge problems with heating problems on his MacBook Pro.  Apparently, the geniuses at Apple decided that people would pay more money for a laptop which sets your groin on fire.

While most Apple fans are happy to live with this poor state of design rather than get a real computer that works, Sterling spent the weekend trying to improve on Apple’s design instead.  Now since this is considered heresy in the Apple world, where you are not even allowed to replace a battery without permission from Steve Jobs without voiding your warranty, it is fairly clear that Sterling did not care. On an average day, his laptop hovered between 80 and 90ºC. One time he saw it climb as high as 102 C which was hot enough to make a nice cup of tea.  Apple fanboys would tell you that this is an additional feature.

In March, in living proof that you get what you pay for, it died and his novel answer was to reflow it.  This involved heating it up until the balls of solder melt back into their assigned spots.

He disconnected all eleven connectors and three heat sinks from the logic board, and turned the oven up to 340º F. He baked it for seven minutes.

After it cooled, he reapplied thermal paste, put it all back together, and cheered when it booted. It ran great for the next eight months.

Then, two weeks ago, it died again so he rebaked it and it ran again.


Android to swamp 2015 smartphone market

7d0b48c2aafb49dba955a982d484463eNext year could see the rise of the new Android defeating platforms, according to new research.

Sales of smartphones based on newly emerging platforms, including Android One, Firefox OS and Tizen, are expected to increase significantly in 2015.

According to beancounters at Gartner,  the ratio of feature phones to total global handset shipments already dropped to 34 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and is expected to dip to as low as 10 percent in 2018.

The narrowing price gap between smartphones and feature phones is the main reason for feature phone subscribers to switch to smartphones.

Microsoft Mobile’s decision to phase out its feature phones has also encouraged handset makers to roll out more Android One-, Firefox- and Tizen-based models, priced from$50-100, to cash in.

Mozilla teamed up with China-based handset makers including TCL, ZTE, Huawei as well as chipset vendor Spreadtrum Communications to form a supply chain for Firefox smartphones.

In cooperation with regional telecom operators, the Firefox supply chain has launched 14 models in 30 markets. Some Firefox models available in the Philippines and India are even priced below US$30.

In reply, Google has been promoting Android One smartphones and with Micromax to promote Android One smartphones in India and chipset vendors Qualcomm and MediaTek and handset vendors HTC, Asustek Computer, Acer and Lenovo to develop next generation Android One phones, which are expected to come in the first half of 2015.

But it faces some competition from Samsung with its first Tizen-based smartphone, the Z1, in early 2015. The Z1 is expected to come with a 4-inch display, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and priced below US$100.


Smartphone brands cleared by Taiwan’s watchdog

White Puppy-02Tawian’s watchdogs have cleared China’s Xiaomi and other smartphone brands of breaching data protection laws after national security concerns triggered a government probe.

The National Communications Commission said all the 12 brands it had tested, which also included handsets sold by Apple, Samsung, LG and Sony , did not violate the laws.

James Lou, an NCC official who was involved in the testing, said the commission, however, would request mobile phone makers make information transmission more secure.

The probe was started over concerns that the Chinese handset makers Huawei and ZTE were being used as snooping tools by the Chinese.

Taiwan is a bit sensitive to security matters involving China, which is its largest trading partner, but has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a renegade province.

Xiaomi, whose budget smartphones are popular throughout Asia, was previously accused of breaching data privacy. In August, the company said sorry and changed a default feature after a Finnish security company said Xiaomi collected address book data without users’ permission.

Taiwan’s government began performing independent tests on Xiaomi phones after media reports said that some models automatically send user data back to the firm’s servers in mainland China.

The probe was then widened to include local and foreign handsets. The NCC report said handsets made by HTC Corp, Asustek, Far EasTone, Taiwan Mobile and InFocus Corp, whose handsets are made by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry were also cleared of breaching the data protection laws.

Iran expands smart censorship

Achaemenid_Elite_ImmortalsThe former religiously tolerant Achaemenid empire, which became the religiously less tolerant Sassanid Empire before becoming the cross-eyed religiously intolerant Iran wants to expand its policy of “smart filtering” of the Internet.

For those who came in late, the Iranians have a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely.

The policy appears to follow President Hassan Rouhani’s push to loosen some social restrictions, but it was not clear if it would mean more or less internet freedom. Iranians on Twitter expressed concern that, as part of the new policy, the government would try to block VPN access to such sites.

Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said  that this smart filtering plan is implemented only on one social network in its pilot study phase and this process will continue gradually until the plan is implemented on all networks.

He appeared to be referring to Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, which is already being filtered, but not blocked.

“Implementing the smart filtering plan, we are trying to block the criminal and unethical contents of the Internet sites, while the public will be able to use the general contents of those sites,” Vaezi told a news conference.

The policy would be fully in place by June 2015, he said.

What they are after is snaps of porn to images of women not wearing the mandatory Islamic dress as well is politically damaging comments.

The Iranian government has been worried by the rise of social media.  It was used in the anti-government protests of 2009 to organise and spread news about a movement that was eventually crushed by security forces.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, floated the idea of replacing the unternet with a national intranet that would not be connected to the worldwide web, however that seemed a little too silly to fly.


LG in sabotage probe

lg-ultra-hdProsecutors raided the headquarters of LG as part of a probe into whether the South Korean company had damaged the washing machines of rival Samsung Electronics at retail stores in Germany.

Apparently there is an increasingly bitter rivalry between the two companies which compete in home appliances, TVs and smartphones.

Samsung had asked the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to investigate LG employees who were seen deliberately destroying several of its premium washing machines on display at two stores in September ahead of the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

Investigators searched the Seoul offices of LG home appliance head, Jo Seong-jin, and others and secured documents and computer hard disks related to the IFA fair, Yonhap News Agency said. They also combed through LG Electronics’ home appliance factory in the southeastern city of Changwon and gave it a rigorous parting.

LG said that it regretted today’s raid.

“Our company – a global company – was raided as a result of a rival’s unilateral and excessive claims, and we are concerned that this would seriously undermine our corporate activities and external credibility,” it said.

It appears that Samsung is a little worried that someone might sabotague its stands at the forthcoming CES show.

Samsung sued LG Electronics employees after the incident in Germany, and LG said the company has counter-sued Samsung employees.

Prosecutors banned LG’s Seong-jin from leaving the country ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to be held January 6.


Driverless cars could kill off ambulance chasers

 ambulanceOne of the first casualties from the introduction of driverless cars could be the end of ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers.

Google, which just announced a “fully functional” prototype of its self-driving car, is looking for auto industry partners to bring the technology to market within the next five years.

According to legal blogger Eric Turkewitz, who is a a personal injury lawyer with the Turkewitz Law Firm in New York, the  matter of lawsuits regarding the cars will, he thinks will be reduced by the number of collisions due to human error.

“Each year about 30,000 people will die in the US from car crashes, and about two million are injured, and that is after considering a significant drop in fatalities from safer cars and seat belts over the prior decades.”

The cars will see the other cars/pedestrians and slow down or stop despite the daydreaming, being drunk, or having a snooze. The number of deaths will be reduced. Your insurance premiums will be theoretically reduced.

“And that meanest the need for my services as a personal injury attorney will be reduced,” he sadly said.

What might save his job is the fact that regulators and insurance companies are reluctant to embrace even incremental steps that allow hands-free driving.

Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who predicts hands-free driving systems will not be offered soon because of legal and insurance barriers.

Federal safety regulators say they still need to do more research on the potential safety and benefits of autonomous technology. Odd really, they didn’t do that when the car first came out.

Hollywood makes up settlement figures

1910-carl-laemmleFor years Hollywood has been claiming that it has made giant settlement figures with those it considered pirates, to use fear to drag the IT industry into doing its bidding.

But now, thanks to the Sony hack, those figures are being questioned.

At the end of 2013, Hollywood claimed it managed to get  IsoHunt to ‘pay’ $110 million and Hotfile agreeing to ‘pay’ $80 million. In both cases, we noted that there was no chance that those sums would ever get paid.

TorrentFreak has been combing through the Sony emails and found that the Hotfile settlement was really just for $4 million, and the $80 million was just a bogus number agreed to for the sake of a press release that the MPAA could use to scare others.

“The studios and Hotfile have reached agreement on settlement, a week before trial was to start. Hotfile has agreed to pay us $4 million, and has entered into a stipulation to have an $80 million judgment entered and the website shut down,” the email from Sony’s SVP Legal reads.

The $4 million was paid out, in three separate payments, but Hollywood would have lost a fortune bringing the case.

It is also unlikely that any of the $4 million went back to any content creators, it would have been used to fund MPAA’s vast “anti-piracy” machine, allowing it to be used for other lawsuits and funding investigations by state Attorneys General.

It makes you wonder if anything they say involving money has any shred of truth.


Qualcomm’s Chinese nightmare to spread

1900-intl-forces-including-us-marines-enter-beijing-to-put-down-boxer-rebellion-which-was-aimed-at-ridding-china-of-foreigners-Making China’s antitrust probe go away is going to cost Qualcom more in the long run.

Word on the street is that other countries are going to have a look at the firm’s highly profitable patent licensing business, and may even call into question its worldwide contracts with smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is close to completing a 13-month investigation into the US chipmaker as soon as possible.  It will almost certainly mean that Qualcomm will have to write a cheque for a record fine and change the way it licenses its technology to handset makers in China.

Qualcomm has tried to paint the situation as being part of the sort of problems western companies have working in China but it seems that the mess will not end behind the bamboo curtain. Anti-trust probes in Europe and by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seem to be connected to China’s investigation, Qualcomm has admitted.

Qualcomm is the top patent holder for mobile phone technology, including many that form industry standards like CDMA and LTE. Charging royalties based on the mobile phone selling prices, even those made with competitors’ chips, provided more than half of its $8 billion net income in 2014.

The NDRC, one of China’s anti-trust regulators, has said it suspects Qualcomm of overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless communication standards.

Qualcomm is expected by industry sources to agree to changes in how it charges royalties on mobiles flogged in China, which will hurt its bottom line.

It could affect its contractual relationships not just with local manufacturers such as Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE and Xiaomi, but also with bigger global players that make and sell phones in China, such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics.

Daft patent war averted

3fe8db8858c39f54433f183e26cf400f94346c028d4ae31c8ec349fc12868e98What was shaping
up to be the daftest and most expensive patent war in history has been averted.

Apple and Microsoft had teamed up to form a super patent troll called the Rockstar Consortium in a bid to take out Android. The Troll outbid Google, Intel  – and a few others – in buying thousands of Nortel patents.

The “Rockstar Consortium” was not subject to promises that Apple and Microsoft initially made  to license the patents under reasonable terms and launched its patent attack on Android last year.

It seems that a a settlement of sorts has been reached. Rockstar has agreed to sell its patents to RPX (with Google and Cisco picking up much of the bill).  RPX has so far been a “good guy” in that it collects patents to stop trolling.

It’s making sure that basically anyone can license these patents under FRAND (fair and reasonable, non-discriminatory) rates. The price being paid is approximately $900 million.

This is considerably less than the $4.5 billion Microsoft and Apple paid but this was for only 4,000 of the 6,000 patents.  It is safe to assume that Apple and Microsoft kept the 2,000 valuable patents.

Google and Cisco will license these patents to stop the majority of the lawsuits and can defend themselves if they feel threatened.

Cisco’s Mark Chandler celebrated the deal as a “common sense” solution. And, it certainly beats all out patent litigation war. But it’s still just about moving money around, rather than encouraging innovation. He notes that in settling this as a group, it helps keep things from getting totally out of control.

Samsung begins production of 8Gb LPDDR4 memory

samsung-hqSamsung has begun volume production of its 8Gb LPDDR4 memory chips, with expected commercial shipments in 2015.

Moving to a new memory standard should significantly reduce the memory subsystem’s power consumption and will provide significant boosts to clock-speed.

Samsung claiming that its LPDDR4 can hit 3.2GHz, if the wind is behind it and it is going downhill. Meanwhile the mobile bus widths are significantly smaller than the 64-bit channels used by desktops and the higher clock speed per chip will help close the gap between the two.

Vendors are claiming that LPDDR4 clock speeds will outpace DDR4 thanks to its higher amount of total bandwidth potentially delivered to tablets and smartphones. Meanwhile, the power savings are expected to be substantial.

While there is no serious risk of a desktop or laptop DDR4 system being outperformed by a tablet or smartphone there is some indication that the gap might be closing a little.

So far no manufacturers have announced plans to adopt LPDDR4 in specific products, but once Samsung is shipping in volume it is going to happen quickly. Hot Hardware is predicting that the Galaxy S6 would be a good first candidate.

Ireland to hand over stored emails to USA

irelandThe Irish government told the Americans that it is OK for them to use a treaty to ask it to turn over emails stored in Irish servers.

Microsoft is appealing a search warrant in the US for private email communications located in the company’s facility in Dublin, arguing that US law does not allow the government to issue search warrants to obtain customer data stored overseas.

But the Irish have been telling the court that while it should respect “Irish sovereignty” there was another way that the US could get the email out of Microsoft.

Ireland has a legal treaty with the US which would require it to hand over any emails as part of a criminal case anyway.

Ireland is citing an existing mutual legal assistance treaty with the U.S. that law enforcement can use to obtain the email. In its brief Ireland said it “would be pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible, a request under the treaty, should one be made”.

Dara Murphy, Ireland’s minister for data protection, ahead of the filing said that the right of individuals to the protection of their personal data is an essential foundation for modern society and the growing digital economy.”

“We must ensure that individuals and organisations can have confidence in the rules and processes that have been put in place to safeguard privacy.”

In other words, while Ireland is happy to hand over the emails, it can’t be done by a US court ordering anyone about.  It has to be done through the proper channels and at diplomatic levels.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post that the warrant the US government wants means that US law enforcement has authority on Irish territory, something that can be done only with the consent of the Irish government.

It would set a dangerous precedent if the US court allows it. It will mean that US laws will effectively apply in other countries – ironically meaning that the mantra used by the US revolutionary’s about “no taxation without representation” is actually now referring to them.


North Korean unternet went dark

2014040401712_0North Korea experienced a complete unternet outage for hours before links were restored this morning.

At the moment it is unclear what caused the country’s internet to go dark – it could have been a technological glitch or a hacking attack. The US government denied that it was involved in any cyber action against Pyongyang in revenge for attacking its paymasters in Hollywood recently.

US President Barack Obama had vowed to respond to the major cyber-attack on Sony, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose”,

North Korea’s internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline.

South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North, also had a motive. It recently revealed that a nuclear power plant operator had been hacked, probably by North Korea.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the leak of data from the nuclear operator was a “grave situation” that was unacceptable as a matter of national security, but she did not mention any involvement of North Korea.

Most North Korean’s would have been unaware that the internet was broken. Very few of its 24 million people have access.

Almost all its Internet links and traffic pass through China. North Korea is dependent on a single international provider, China Unicom.

Apparently the United States asked China to shut down servers and routers used by North Korea that run through Chinese networks.  It also asked them to identify any North Korean hackers operating in China and, if found, send them back to North Korea. It wants China to send a strong message to Pyongyang that such acts will not be tolerated.

If the Chinese had switched off the internet for a few hours to send a message to North Korea they did not tell anyone about it.

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said while it opposed all forms of cyberattacks and that there was no proof that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hacking.