Tag: Russia

PC sales continue to decline

A not so mobile X86 PCMore tales of poor sales of PCs have emerged.

This time it’s Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which are showing a decline, according to IDC.

Sales fell in 2014 by a rather whopping 14 percent, representing 18.55 million units – it’s the second year in a row that this region has declined.

Even notebook PC sales fell, by 14.5 percent year on year.

IDC said that sales were inhibited by currency fluctuations and poor economics, but even given that, there’s a fairly constant underlying trend worldwide.

Russia accounted for 42.6 percent of total PC shipments in the region last year, and IDC said the plummeting sales sales were accounted for by the poor economy.

However, the picture in places is not so dim. Some countries showed a rise in sales on the back of PC upgrades from Windows XP.

In particular, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania all showed double digit growth in 2014.


Russia takes aim at Google

330ogleGoogle is under attack again by government agencies, but this time its Russia that’s being accused of anti-monopolistic practices.

Search site Yandev asked the anti-competition watchdog to investigate claims whether it was taking advantage of Google’s Android operating system and shutting out competing apps.

Google is denying it behaves in a monopolistic manner and according to Reuters said people have complete control over apps on devices.

The same wire says that the European Commission is also pursuing Google to answer questions about whether its dominance in the mobile operating systems marketplace precludes competition.

And that’s not the end of it – the USA is also putting Google under the magnifying glass, even though Google said it will keep Android as an open system.

Tsar Putin set to make proxies and Tor illegal

Putin + gunThe Russian Government is coming up with justifications for banning proxy server access and hacking Tor networks.

Leonid Levin, Chairman of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, proposed to consider limiting access to anonymising networks such as Tor and VPNs. Levin said that the world was a tough place and it needed tougher policing.

Levin also opined that restricting access to  proxy networks  which would “increase opportunities to counter the commercial distribution of malware” and also help to impede access to “forbidden” information.

Vadim Ampelonsky, the press secretary of Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor  supported Levin’s stance on Tor, claiming that the technological obstacles to blocking The Onion Router’s obfuscation protocols are “difficult, but solvable,”

The Safe Internet League, which consists of Russia’s state telecom company Rostelecom and two other major mobile providers, slammed Tor.  Its spokesman Denis Davydov said: “We strongly support the idea of limiting Russia’s access to anonymous networks, including Tor. The ‘Invisible’ Internet has made it possible for offenders of all kinds to hide their intentions from the state and use it to commit crimes: acquiring drugs and weapons, distributing child pornography, trafficking in human beings – including sex slaves – and leading political struggle.”

It a return to the old language of the cold war, he added “do not forget that Tor was developed and is used by Americans, including US intelligence agencies, to expand the hegemony of the United States around the world.”

Nanning anonymising networks would increase user-trust among the Russian people and lead to economic benefits, having described Tor as an ‘Anonymous network used primarily to commit crimes’.

Roskomnadzor already maintains a government blacklist of forbidden sites, updates to which are regularly circulated to network providers, who are then obliged to block the domains.

German government sites hacked

wargames-hackerA number of official Gernan government sites have been hacked by a group that claims affinity with the Russian government’s moves in Ukraine.
According to Reuters, the websites hacked include the pages of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A spokesman for Merkel told reporters that her site was inaccessible from around 09:00 GMT today.
The data centre that hosts the page had come under attack from hackers who are in sympathy with Russia’s views on Ukraine.
A group that described itself as CyberBerkut claimed responsibility for the hacks.
In addition to attacking Merkel’s site, the group also said that it had attacked Bundestag websites too.
Angela Merkel is in London this afternoon to meet British prime minister David Cameron.


Apple shuts Russia online shore

blue-appleDrastic fluctuations in the value of the Russian rouble has led Apple to shut down its online store in the country.

The reason is pricing for its products.  The rouble has fell in value by over 20 percent this week, and it continues to be in freefall, losing value today.

Apple moved to increase its prices by 20 percent but now feels that the currency is fluctuating so much it has to suspend trading.

Russia is suffering from a combination of sanctions imposed on it because of Ukraine, and because the price of oil is in freefall too.

Russia’s primary export is oil and gas.

Apple did not say when or if it would open its online store in Russia.  Earlier this week the Russian state bank put up interest rates to 17 percent, prompting fears of a recession in the country during 2015.

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.


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.

Sandworm team uses Microsoft bug

dune-sandwormFor the last five years, Russian hackers have conducted a single operation to spy on computers used by NATO, the European Union, Ukraine and companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors.

Cyber intelligence firm iSight said it did not know what data had been found by the hackers, though it suspected they were seeking information on the Ukraine crisis, as well as diplomatic, energy and telecom issues.

According to iSight, which dubbed the operation “Sandworm Team” because it found references to the “Dune” in the software code used by the hackers, the operation used a variety of ways to attack the targets over the years.

Things have become worse since August since the Sandworm Team  found a hole of their in most versions of Windows to exploit.

ISight said it told Microsoft about the bug and held off on disclosing the problem so the software maker had time to fix it.

A spokesVole said the company plans to roll out an automatic update to affected versions of Windows today.

iSight said they believed the hackers are Russian because of language clues in the software code and because of their choice of targets.

Hulquist said the hackers were supported by a nation state because they were engaging in espionage, not cybercrime.

For example, in December 2013, NATO was targeted with a malicious document on European diplomacy. Several regional governments in the Ukraine and an academic working on Russian issues in the United States were sent tainted emails that claimed to contain a list of pro-Russian extremist activities.

Hulquist said its researchers had uncovered evidence that some Ukrainian government computers were infected, but they were unable to confirm specific victims among those systems that had been targeted.

The iSight research is the latest in a series of private sector security reports that link Moscow to some of the most sophisticated cyber espionage uncovered to date.




Putin wants Obama’s internet kill switch

Putin + gunTsar Vladimir Putin of Russia is envious of the fact that President Barak Obama can flick a switch and turn off the internet.

Apparently the Kremlin is to discuss taking control of the .ru domain and measures to disconnect Russians from the web in the event of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at home.

Putin will discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens from the web “in an emergency”, the Vedomosti newspaper reported.

It means that it would strengthen Russia’s sovereignty in cyberspace, but also bring the domain .ru under state control.

Putin controls the TV and the country’s newspapers, but has left the internet as an open place for discussion. At the moment it is policed by state-sponsored bloggers and Putin fans.

The move seems to come as Putin is squaring off against Western media which it thinks is unfair in  its coverage of the invasion of the Ukraine.  Apparently Putin is furious that the Western media does not agree with his decision to arm Russian nationalists so that they can shoot down passenger jets or refuse to print his claim that the Ukraine government are really Nazis.

Of course the fact that the Russians beat up a BBC team that went to investigate reports of Russian servicemen killed in Ukraine does not really endear him to the Western hacks.

According to Vedomosti, Russia plans to introduce the new measures early next year.  Russia has mooted building a “national internet”, which would in effect be a domestic intranet. These proposals go further, expanding the government’s control over ordinary Russian internet users and their digital habits.

It would be technically possible for Moscow to shut off the internet because Russia has “surprisingly few” international exchange points. All of them are under the control of national long-distance operations, like Rostelecom, which is onside with Putin.

Putin is popular but the economy, which is already teetering on the verge of recession, is reeling from ever more stringent Western sanctions over Moscow’s alleged support for separatists in eastern-Ukraine.

Software errors cause Euro GPS to get lost

gallioEurope’s global positioning satellite project is not off to a good start after software was blamed for placing the satellites in the wrong orbit.

It does not bode well when a software project which is supposed to help Europeans find themselves to within 10 feet, can’t place its own satellites in the correct orbit, but that is exactly what has happened.

To be fair, the problem was not with the European Union’s Galileo satellites but  software errors in the Fregat-MT rocket’s upper-stage.

According to a Russian newspaper Izvestia a nonstandard operation of the integrated management system was likely caused by an error in the embedded software. As a result, the upper stage received an incorrect flight assignment, and, operating in full accordance with the embedded software, it has delivered the units to the wrong destination.

Both the upper-stage and the software for it were developed by a Moscow-based government-owned corporation, the Academician Pilyugin Scientific-production Centre of Automatics and Instrument-Making, or the Academician Pilyugin Centre.

The Arianespace satellite launch company, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos are currently investigating the incident.  It just seems a pity that the Europeans did not have a rival to the Russian or American mapping systems.


Russians hack Wikipedia entry on flight MH17

imperial_russiaAs it looks like the missile that downed flight MH17 was fired by pro-Russian separatists armed by Tsar Vladimir Putin, another war is breaking out on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Tsar Putin’s government has been caught out removing sections of Wikipedia which accuse it of providing the missiles that were used to down the civilian airliner.

The Twitter bot which monitors edits made to the online encyclopaedia from Russian government IP addresses has spotted that changes are being made to a page relating to the crash.

A user from within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) changed a Russian language version of a page listing civil aviation accidents to say: “The plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers,” which is what Tsar Putin wants you to think.

This replaced text, written an hour earlier, which said MH17 had been shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The government was caught by an automated Twitter bot called congress-edits was created to monitor for changes made from US Congress computers and immediately tweet them.

That source code powering that project was made public, allowing the creation of RUGovEdits which performs a similar role in Russia.

Tsar Putin has denied any responsibility over the shooting down of the jet, which should have been an end to the matter. He said that the “government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”

If you read that literally he is saying that the Ukrainian government was responsible for him having to arm the separatists, and also had to face blame for the trigger happy nutjobs mistaking a passenger plane for a Ukrainian government cargo plane.

Normally it is the US government which tinkers with Wikipedia entries with staff of Congress members often having a crack at improving their boss’s image.

Microsoft once offered an engineer money to update articles on two competing standards.

Internet recycles news

typewritIt appears that the world wide wibble is recycling news as a way of saving time.

This time last year our reporters wrote a yarn about how the Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), was  upgrading to old style typewriters to avoid a US style internet leak.

Apparently the FSO is so worried about a Snowden style leak that it has bought 20 new electric typewriters for $15,000.

The story went the way of all flesh, but this morning the world wide wibble was all a flush with the news that the Russians were replacing their computers with typewriters.

It appears that the Izvestiya newspaper ran the story this week and it was picked up by serious news sources. Only it did not. Izvestiya mentions the G20 summit in London, which was also last year.

What appears to have happened is that the story suddenly did a round on Facebook and hacks looking for a new story to tell their news editor pitched it as something new.

It is not like there is a new angle on it either; the story was the same as it was when Techeye and Izvestiya first mentioned it.  The story appears in the Washington Post which even linked to a USA Today story from a year earlier  The Guardian which ran the story last year at least added that the Germans were doing the same thing.  We have also seen news blogs which are repeating the same headline from 2013.  Of course the story is all over Facebook.


Russia insists that data is kept at home

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeThe Russian government has enacted a law which means that all cloud data must be kept within the confines of the country.

The move will mean that if US cloud operators want to work in Mother Russia they cannot send the data to their main warehouses in the US or EU.

Bill number 553424-6  specifies that “when collecting personal data, including information and telecommunications network, the Internet, the operator must ensure that record, systematisation, accumulation, storage, updated, modified, removing the personal data of citizens of the Russian Federation, in databases, of information located in the territory of the Russian Federation.”

On the face of it, it looks like the Russians are protecting their citizens from being spied on by the evil US spooks, but it also makes it easier for the government to spy on its own citizens.

Russia Today said the law could provide businesses with some major headaches.  Airlines, for example, rely on hosted software and software-as-a-service providers are not going to be keen to have to build new data centres.

The law comes into force on September 1st, 2016, giving Russian companies plenty of time to set something up.  It could be a boom time for local hosting companies.

Iran proudly shows off stealth jet and folk fall for it

iranian-fake-jet-1The Iranian PR machine pulled off another stunt over the weekend, proudly proclaiming that the country’s top boffins managed to develop a super advanced fighter jet. Dubbed the Qaher F-313, the mockup was unveiled during a ceremony to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution and quite a few dignitaries turned up to spice up the show, including President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

State media covering the event were quick to point out that the plane was indigenously designed and produced in Iran. Vahidi said the jet could evade radar thanks to its very low radar cross section and its capability to conduct low-level operations. Press TV reports that the aircraft is similar to the F/A-18 and the F-5E/F Tiger II, although it looks nothing like the two Northrop designed planes. In fact, the mockup looks like the lovechild of an F-35 and X-36, with one small difference. Iran’s stealth jet is a fake, and a bad one at that.

The images show a tiny jet with an oversized cockpit. The canopy material seems to be plexiglass and the cockpit is just plain ridiculous. It features a mix of cheap avionics for homebuilt aircraft, including an audio panel, transponder and NAV/COM courtesy of Garmin. Basically it is the sort of thing some ultra-light enthusiast would botch together in a shed. The avionics don’t even appear to be wired. The canopy mechanism is all wrong and even the size of the cockpit is ridiculous, as it doesn’t appear to be spacious enough to accommodate a pilot.

The air intakes are tiny, the wing doesn’t look like any airfoil NACA would bless with its stamp of approval, even on a bad day. There is no engine on board, either. The skin of the aircraft also looks funny, with plenty of imperfections on all surfaces. It also features huge, fixed canards and a tiny nose, way too small to accommodate a decent radar. It looks like something straight out of a video game and we would love to meet the poor coder who is supposed to develop its fly-by-wire software.

However, in spite of everything, plenty of journalists and anti-globalist conspiracy kooks fell for it, in what can only be described as a stunning display of gullibility. Some even went on to say that Iran already has a functioning prototype, since they couldn’t tell the difference between a tiny RC model shown in a state TV video and a 5th generation fighter jet. Apparently the sound of a screeching turbofan dubbed over the footage was enough to fool them.

Iran has a long tradition of rolling out vaporware and countless paper projects. Iranian spinners often talk about fancy defence projects, including indigenous tanks, missiles and superfast torpedoes. Most of them never get built in any significant numbers, so Iran’s defence projects are a bit like Google’s Nexus gear. In this case, it’s more of a paper mache affair than a paper project.

On a related note, last month Iran announced that it managed to send a monkey into space and bring it back safely to the earth. However, western observers now claim there is no evidence that the suborbital flight was successful. Iran released some press photos of the monkey, but on closer inspection it turned out that the images show two different animals. One of them apparently bought the farm.

Emerging markets open up to increased data centre investment

datacentrebatteriesAccording to a report from Tariff Consultancy Ltd, which focuses on data centre development in 11 emerging markets, Russia and Turkey are way ahead of the pack.

TCL looked at Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and the Ukraine. Of these, the four largest are Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Bulgaria respectively, though in the group, Russia by itself is expected to account for half of all data centre floor space by the end of the year.

Generally speaking, the size of the data centres are relatively small, TCL noted. In the 11 regions, the average size was just over 800 square markets, which is a great deal less than in established markets. The largest facility has up to 10,000 square metres of raised floor space. However, over the next five years, the total space should rise to 143,000 square metres, up from 109,000 at present – or a 30 percent increase going into 2018.

Pricing will also increase, with the average rack space rental increasing 10 percent up to 2018. The most expensive pricing is in the Russian market.

Trends outlined in the report mirror a transformation in the regions which are seeing more and more development and investment, both from foreign investors and by government, with a view to boost economic growth in the countries. This could also, of course, prove a boon to channel players looking for new markets to open up in. Ultimately, TCL concludes, the development of data centre space in these emerging markets proves high spec housing and hosting is no longer exclusive to established markets.