Archive | July, 2014

Is Apple playing Ispy?

31 Jul

Just about any film that has watched spy movies is familiar with authorities asking a person to produce papers proving they are not a spy. According to a report by Reuters yesterday the Russian government is asking a similar question of United States technology giant Apple and European software giant SAP. The reason for the question was to make sure the two companies were not carrying embedded codes that could make their software government spying tools.

The revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 and public statements of US intelligence to strengthen surveillance of Russia in 2014 raised the question seriously the confidence of foreign software and hardware,” said Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov . “It is obvious that those companies that disclose the source code of their programs, are not hiding anything, but those who do not intend to cooperate with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products.”

Some of you are probably asking “Why isn’t Redmond-based Microsoft getting the same treatment?” The answer according to Mr. Nikiforov is that starting in 2003 the Redmond-based giant has been sharing all of their source with technology institute Atlas. Atlas then reports their finding to Russia government.

“Obviously, companies which disclose the source code of their programmes are not hiding anything, but those who do not intend to establish cooperation with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products,” Nikiforov said.

With the except of open source that have an external revenue source, most companies kept their source codes a highly guarded secret. The reason for this is that the source code is what translates the software into basic machine language. Meaning that whoever has the source code has the power to modify the software. An good example is Linux since it is open-source there are dozens of variation of the software available.

More articles you might try on this topic:

Microsoft rumored to have to smartphones on the way

30 Jul

Earlier this month Redmond-based Microsoft’s Nokia division released their Lumia 635 smartphone. While it was touted as a great low-end smartphone there was one big criticism about it not having a front-facing camera for ‘selfies’. That flaw will not be repeated in the phone that Microsoft Executive Steven Elop has dubbed the “selfie phone”.

The Verge first reported on the smartphone codename “superman” back in April. There still isn’t much know about the smartphone other then it will come with a 5MP (megapixel) front-facing camera for video chatting and taking all of those ‘selfies’. The only other things that are know about the “selfie phone” are that it will have a large 4.7-inch display, running Windows 8.1, have the snapdragon 400 processor and an 8MP rear-facing camera. It has also been confirmed by wmpoweruser that this smartphone will be the successor to the Lumia 720.

According to an article this morning by the Verge the “selfie phone” is not the only smartphone the Redmond-based giant has planned for the summer. They will also have a more high-end offer that is codenamed ‘tesla’. The telsa smartphone will feature Nokia’s high-resolution PureView camera. Not much else is known about what we can expect from the ‘tesla’. There have been some leaks of the Lumia 830 that could very well be the ‘tesla’. If the the ‘tesla’ is the Lumia it appears to have a 4.5-inch screen.

Other articles on this topic you might try are the following:

T-Mobile offers new simple choice

30 Jul

When you are the number 4 cellular provider you are always looking for new ways to out do your competitors. If you can poke a little fun at them so much the better. That is just what John Legere, CEO of Bellevue-based T-Mobile, did yesterday when he announced that starting tomorrow, through September, customers can sign up for the newly modified simple choice plan.

Leaving my office last week, I pulled alongside a bus covered with yet another ad for AT&T’s “Best-Ever Pricing” for families. These ads are everywhere. AT&T’s sinking some serious dough into marketing their latest-greatest family pricing, which strikes me as funny. Because their deal is no deal at all, and next to T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Family Plan, AT&T’s “Best-Ever Pricing for Families” is a joke,” Mr. Legere wrote in a blog post.

The AT&T “Best-Ever Pricing to Families”, Verizon’s “Everything” and Sprint’s “Framily” plans all cost $160 for a group of 4 compared to T-Mobile’s “Simple choice” that has a price tag of $100. The first three all come with unlimited talk & text compared to T-Mobile’s plan that also adds unlimited data. With AT&T and Verizon you do get 10GB of shared date on their plans but on Sprint they only include 1GB per line for a total of 4GB.

It infuriates me that they’re selling this to hardworking families who could use that money for more important things.  And they have the nerve to call it “Best-Ever Pricing.”  I just couldn’t stand by without speaking up and calling them on their BS,” Mr. Legere wrote in the same blog post.

One thing that did seem a little confusing at first when looking at T-Mobile’s plan it says unlimited data but also advertises 10GB (2.5GB per line) of 4G data. Further reading cleared this up that they include 10GB at 4G and dial the data speed down to 3G speeds. This modified “Simple choice” will only last through next year.

Sprint and T-Mobile been in negotiations for a merger. According to Reuters the merger could happen in September possibly explaining why Mr. Legere chose that month as the cut off for customers to sign up for the modified plan.

Remember warning labels are there for a reason

28 Jul

In today’s mobile society you cellular phones have become a necessity. We carry them everywhere we go all day so that we don’t miss calls, can tweet our friends and take pictures. When we get home our obsession with our cellular phones continues going as far as taking them to bed with us were we often use them as our wake up alarm. One 13-year old girl in Texas found that sometimes to obsession get be dangerous when the smartphone she put under her pillow.

‘I didn’t think much of it, so I went back to sleep and then I woke up again and it was more prominent,’ Ariel Tolfree said.
When she lifted her pillow she was shocked to find that her smartphone had a meltdown that destroyed the phone and scorching the pillowcase and sheet where that came in contact with the device. Ariel showed her parents what happened. After they recovered their shock at the sight and what could have happened, the family contact Samsung about what took place. The person they spoke to at Samsung was quick to point out to them that the problem was likely the fault of the replacement third-party battery.

After talking to Samsung the Tolfree family took their stort to the local news station to let more people know about what could happen to anyone taking their phone to bed.

“The whole phone melted,” her father, Thomas, told FOX 4 in Dallas. “The plastic, the glass. You can’t even really tell it was a phone.”

When the new station contacted Samsung they explained that they do put out a warning with every smartphone that warns against using third-party replacements and confining their smartphones in tight clothing on under pillows. Samsung also said that they felt bad for what happened and would replace the phone, mattress, sheets, pillowcase and pillow. They did ask the family to send them the melted remains of the phone so that they could fully investigate and figure out if their suspicions are correct or if they need to make any changes.

Other article you might also want to read on this topic are the following:

Stubhub hackers caught

24 Jul

On Wednesday authorities wrapped up an 8 month long investigation into a hacking attack on the popular ticket exchange site Stubhub. The international investigation resulted a total of 10 people in New York, London and Toronto. 6 of the 10 involved in the international ring were arranged in Manhattten.

Today’s arrests and indictment connect a global network of hackers, identity thieves and money-launderers who victimized countless individuals,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said at Wednesday’s news conference.

Stubhub was alerted to the attack in December of last year and quick contacted the authorities. The authorities sifted through over 1.000 customer accounts that were found to have been affect by the malicious scheme that stole information and made purchase that were estimate at $1.6 million or more. Some of the fraudulent purchases charge to the account were tickets to Jay Z and Elton John concerts, a New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game and Broadway shows like The Book of Mormon.

It is important to note, there have been no intrusions into StubHub technical or financial systems,” spokesman Glenn Lehrman said.

Much the same as other attacks that have hit other retailers, restaurants and e-commerce sites the attack didn’t break into the main server. It was instead an ambush attack where the perpetrators will place malware at the checkout were it will latch-on to customer’s accounts as they would buy or sell their tickets. The malware can then burrow into that persons computer to retrieve passwords, credit card information and other account information.

According to Stubhub they have reimbursed all of the customers that were victimized in the attack. They also helped those customers change their passwords. They didn’t say if they were providing any type of account monitoring.

Authorities advise that advise keeping a close watch on back statements and use monitoring services. Other precautions that are advisable to help prevent other such incidents are to have updated security software, such as, firewalls, anti-malware and account encryption.

Will Microsoft update Windows 8.1 next month?

22 Jul

According to an unofficial source, we can expect to see a second update to Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 operating system. The Russian website PCPortal.org.ru has the new update scheduled for an August 12, 2014 release. The leaked source was immediately picked up by both neowin and Redmondpie with mixed results on whether or not there is any truth in them.

The leaked information didn’t have much information on what we can expect as far as enhancements to the operating system. The one thing we probably be sure of is that this update will not contain the start menu that we saw pictures of earlier this month. It will probably be more keyboard and cosmetic enhancements like the ones we were giving in the first update back in April of this year.

These recent leaks are not the first ones. Shortly after the first update a pirate group, WZOR, leaked information about a second update to be released in either August or September. Those leaks had the start menu as part of the update. In the same leaked report WZOR talks about Windows 9 having a more classical version of the “metro” interface and have some cloud-based features.

When Redmond-based Microsoft first released Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 it was not too well received by most users. There were several reasons ranging from navigation to lack of key features. The complaints did get back to Microsoft and since then they had been giving up periodic fixes starting with the Windows 8.1 upgrade that came out in October of last year.

According to a report by the next web, last month, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 still only accounted slightly more than 12% of Windows users. These numbers have been going up with each big update to the operating system.

 

cancellation of ‘Orange is the new Black’ found to be a hoax

14 Jul

Fans of series Orange is the new black were shocked on Friday when the on-line satire newspaper Empire News announced that Netflix had canceled the multi-nominatd show. To add some authenticity to their story they printed an exert from a non-existent press release by Netflix CEO Reed Hasting.

“We regret to inform Netflix members that ‘Orange is the New Black’ has been permanently cancelled,” the site indicated Reed Hastings, the CEO and co-founder of the video streaming network, said in a press release on July 7. The fake press release went on to say, “Also, starting September 1st, 2014, past episodes will no longer be available for streaming on Netflix.”

Not long after the story was posted fans were relieved to see a post on the Facebook page of, Kate Mulgrew, one of the shows stars. “Everyone can stop writing me and breathe easy. #OITNB HAS NOT been cancelled. It’s renewed for a 3rd season which is currently in production. The website reporting the story is a hoax.”

Orange is the new Black debuted on the video streaming service last year and quickly became a fan favorite and a hit with critics. The series is based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman who was sentenced to 15 months in a woman’s minimum security prison after being implicated in drug smuggling ring. While in prison she must deal with her lesbian girlfriend that implicated her and everyday prison life.

Since leaving prison Ms. Kerman has turned her life around and is now vice president for a Washington-based communication firm that works with foundations and non-profits. Ms. Kerman also serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association. Earlier this year Ms. Kerman was honored by the John Jay College Center on media, crime & justice when she received the Justice Trailblazer Award.

 

 

DARPA’s self-guided bullet

13 Jul

Many of the technical advances of today seem to come straight from the science fiction movies of the past. The latest weapon system being developed by DARPA (defense advanced research project agency) seems to have come straight out of the 1984 movie Runaway where the antagonist uses a miniature self-guide projectile. The bullet that DARPA, named EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance). is working on might not quite be as advanced as this fiction mini-missile and made for a much more noble cause.

“It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops by indicating their presence and potentially exposing their location,” DARPA explains on their website.

The 4” long projectile uses an optical guidance system and has fins more like a missile than a bullet. A YouTube video posted by DARPA on July 10, 2014 shows the projectile being shot from a .50 caliber sniper rifle and making adjustments in flight to hit its target. The test was conducted in February of this year. The EXACTO gives snipers an affective range of 2,000 meter (approximately 1.4 miles).

More articles worth reading on this topic are the following:

 

 

Happy 20th birthday Amazon

11 Jul

Today Amazon is known as ‘the world’s largest on-line retailer’. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant sells everything from apps to shoes, boast a video streaming service, has their own brand of mobile devices and much more. 20 years ago this month it was much different story when Jeff Bezos first started his on-line bookstore in his garage.

The story of Amazon actually started on the far away from Seattle. It was 1994 when a young vice president at the wall street investment firm of Shaw & Co read a report on the future of the Internet. After reading that report he had dreams of getting in on the growth of the Internet and this new thing called the world wide web. So, he gave up his position and went on a cross-country journey that end in the city of Bellevue, Washington. It was there, in July of 1994, that Mr. Bezos went on to realize his dream and start a business called Cadabra. Once Mr. Bezos went to incorporate his business he changed the name of the business to Amazon.

It wasn’t long after Mr. Bezos started his little company that he sold, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter. From those humble beginnings, as an on-line bookstore, the little company known as Amazon started on its rapid growth. Soon Amazon became more than a bookstore as that purchased other companies, such as, Zappos.com, Drugstore.com, PlanetAll and many others. Then, there were other additions, such as, the Prime Network, e-readers, a computer tablet and the most recently Amazon’s first smartphone.

The journey wasn’t always easy as other companies, contractors and others have had their battle’s with the Seattle-based company. Eventually, Amazon has made through with a few bumps and bruises.

So, this month we celebrate the 20th birthday of the company that grew from that little start-up book retailer to ‘the world’s largest on-line retailer’. Hears to you Amazon on your 20th birthday.

 

Queen Elizabeth II christens the HMS Queen Elizabeth

7 Jul

On July 4, 2014, as the Red Arrows, the RAF acrobatic flying team, and a squadron of military helicopters flew over the Rosyth dockyards in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II christened the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Duke of Edinburgh(Lord High Admiral since 2011), Admiral George Zambellas(First Sea Lord), David Cameron and Gordon Brown(the current and former Prime Ministers respectfully), Alex Salmond(First Minister of Scotland) and senior naval officers from the United States and France joined Queen Elizabeth II for the festivities. During the ceremony the Queen broke a bottle of whiskey, instead of champagne, over the bow of the aircraft carrier and named it after Queen Elizabeth I, the 16th century monarch and daughter of King Henry VIII.
“May God bless her and all who sail in her,” Queen Elizabeth said. She then added, “In sponsoring this new aircraft carrier, I believe the Queen Elizabeth will be a source of inspiration and pride for us all.”
The 920 foot-long aircraft carrier is the first of the Queen Elizabeth class. When it is ready for service in 2020 she will be the home of up to 1,600 military personal. The enormous vessel will alse have a capacity of 40 aircraft including the Lockheed-Martin F35 Lightning II fighter, the AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin helicopter, Boeing’s Chinook helicopter and the AgustaWestland Apache helicopter. It will be armed with a radar-guided 20mm(0.79in.) Gatling gun on a swivel base known as the Phalanx CIWS (close in weapon system) and a compliment of 30mm guns and mini-guns. The behemoth will be powered by two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and four diesel generators that will give the HMS Queen Elizabeth a top speed of 25 knots (28.8mph).
Other articles you might try on this topic:
http://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/387227/HMS-Queen-Elizabeth-Britain-s-biggest-ship-launches-today
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jul/04/hms-queen-elizabeth-vital-statistics
http://www.marinelink.com/news/christened-elizabeth372420.aspx