HP does well this quarter

The maker of expensive printer ink HP appears to have turned a corner.

It reported a 3.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue, largely helped by a stabilizing PC market. Revenue rose to $12.68 billion from $12.25 billion.

However, the company’s net earnings from continuing operations fell to $611 million in the first quarter ended 31 January from $650 million a year earlier. This indicates that HP is not out of the woods yet.

The results were better than the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street predicted most expected $11.85 billion in revenue.

HP’s results included personal systems (what HP calls PCs) revenue of $8.25 billion, a 10 percent gain from a year ago. Total PC units sold rose eight percent, with notebook shipments rising 12 percent. Desktop PC sales stayed flat with the year-ago period.

HP’s largest source of profit is the ink and toner business which has been hit by competitors selling less-expensive ink cartridges and a general decline in printing of documents, especially by younger people.

Sales in that segment fell three percent in the latest quarter, improving from a 16 per cent drop in full fiscal year 2016.

Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak said the results were clear proof point that we’re on the march to stabilise supplies, revenue and constant currency by the end of this year.

Mobile Dialog expects good revenue growth

 

The maker of chips for Apple and Samsung said it expected “good revenue growth” in 2017, indicating a bumper year for high end consumer devices.

Dialog Semiconductor depends for about three quarters of its revenues on smartphone makers, in January already reported a five percent rise in fourth quarter sales to $365 million.

Dialog on Thursday said it expected sales of $255-$285 million in the first quarter of 2017, up from the $241 million it made in the year-earlier quarter.

Hopes for strong chip deliveries to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy have lifted the stock to a 17-month high, gaining 19 percent so far, this year and more than doubling from the 23.21 euro it hit in June.

Apple and Samsung are launching their new smartphones in the coming weeks. Expectations are high, especially for the 10 year edition of the iPhone, contains Dialog’s power management chip.

 

Sony releases the world’s fastest SD card

Sony has expanded its memory card line-up with the addition of the SF-G series cards – offering what it is claiming some rather impressive ultra-high-speed read and write times.

The SF-G series is supposed to be the world’s fastest SD card and is designed for high-performance DSLR or mirrorlesscameras, offering up to 299MB/sii write speeds, contributing to longer high-speed continuous burst mode shooting for high-resolution images with cameras supporting UHS-II.

Sony said the SF-G cards will allow more effective continuous burst mode shooting for high-resolution images so long as the camera in question supports UHS-II.

Write speeds will also be of considerable benefit to the wide range of high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras that are capable of shooting 4K quality video. Faster write speeds also mean a shorter buffer clearing time, when shooting fast-moving action.

The series’ read speed is reaches up to 300MB/s, resulting in faster and smoother performance when transferring large files across to other devices for editing and sharing.

Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony’s free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. No word on pricing yet.

Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC.

Brits arrest DT hacker

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has arrested someone for last year’s cyber-attack which infected nearly one million Deutsche Telekom routers.

The NCA fingered the collar of the 29 year old Brit at one of London’s airports, the coppers said in a statement.

The attack on Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest telecom company, took place in late November. Internet outages hit as many as 900,000 of its users, or about 4.5 percent of its fixed line customers.

German security experts thought the internet outages that have hit hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Telekom customers in Germany were part of a worldwide attempt to hijack routing devices.

Dirk Backofen, a senior Deutsche Telekom security executive said the attack was not an attack against Deutsche Telekom. “It was a global attack against all kinds of devices. How many other operators were affected, we don’t know,” he said.

Deutsche Telekom said the problems seemed to be connected to an attempt to make customers’ routers part of the Mirai botnet.

EE to build drones and balloons for better reception

UK telco EE has unveiled plans to deliver mobile and wireless broadband connectivity to internet blackspots via drones and helium balloons.

The company noted that its ‘air mast’ solution will be able to bolster 4G data services in rural locations, at major events, or in areas where natural disasters, such as flooding, have damaged traditional infrastructure.

EE CEO Marc Allera said that customers would be able to request a balloon with a mobile signal to hover over a certain area, providing them with an ‘on demand’ data service.

Dubbed ‘Helikites’ the sites will include a base station and antennae tethered to helium balloons. EE hopes to launch the first Helikite balloons later this year.

Drone technology is also under development to support the Helikite solution, it will not be introduced for the next year or two.

“I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand”, said Allera.

The idea is that an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb,

“We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies,” he added.

The company also provided details on a fleet of rapid response vehicles (RRVs) which will be used to provide 4G connectivity to police, fire and ambulance services under a contract with the Emergency Services Network (ESN). At least to start with, Helikites are not expected to be used in the ESN programme.

EE is currently upgrading over 100 sites to 4G every week as part of its aim to reach 92 percent geographic coverage in the UK over the course of 2017. The company is also rolling out an additional 3,000 sites using low 800MHz spectrum to be able to reach further distances in rural areas and improve indoor coverage.

Intel soups up its Atoms

Intel has souped-up its Atom chip, which is more famous for being an underperforming low-end chip for mobile devices.

The latest Atom C3000 chips have up to 16 cores and are more sophisticated than ever. Of course these are not going into smartphones – Intel has given up on that market. Instead they are made for storage arrays, networking equipment, and internet of things devices.

To be fair,  networking and storage devices don’t require much grunt, so a low-power Atom chip will work. Few Intel server chips have more than 16 cores. In this case though, the number of Atom cores means the chip can handle more streams of data.

Under the bonnet of the C3000 is RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) capabilities, which is mostly found on high-end Xeon chips. The feature corrects data errors on the fly and prevents networking and storage equipment from crashing.

Intel is also providing development kits for writing storage and networking applications for the chips.

The new chips are already shipping to testers and will become available in the second half of this year.

The Atom C3000 succeeds the C2000 which were originally targeted at microservers and networking and storage equipment. The Atom C2000 is currently in the centre of a row over a flaw that could crash servers and networking equipment. Apparently the C2000 came with a flaw which caused it to die after two years. Intel has provided a temporary fix, but the company is working on a permanent fix.

The Atoms are not the only thing that Intel is making for networking gear. It also has the new Xeon D-1500 chips for networking and storage gear that require quicker turnover of processed data. The chips integrate 10-gigabit ethernet controllers and have a technology called QuickAssist to drive throughput of compressed data up to 40Gbps (bits per second).

Swedish ISPs tell Big Content to bork off

Despite getting a ruling from the Swedish Supreme Court, Big Content will have its work cut out trying to get Swedish ISPs to block The Pirate Bay.

Last week Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry ended a three year battle by getting a court to block a ‘pirate’ site

However other ISPs said that the ruling does not apply to them, so connectivity to the site will continue until a court orders otherwise. This means that Big Content will have to get a court order each time it wants to block the site for each ISP. It will then have to go through the whole performance again each time the Pirate site moves IP addresses.

There is also the chance that other courts might reject Big Content’s applications. In an October 2015 trial at the Stockholm District Court, Big Content lost a case and had to appeal.

Last Monday the court ruled that Bredbandsbolaget, the ISP at the centre of the action, must block The Pirate Bay.

Swedish ISPs don’t like the idea of becoming copyright policemen and are continuing to fight. Last week ISP Bahnhof even hinted that it may offer a technical solution to customers who are prevented from accessing the site.

Even the leading telecoms firms, which have been keener on striking an accord with Big Content say that they have no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it is forced to do so by law.

Bloke builds his own open saucy self-driving car

A self-driving car does not have to cost you a fortune if you can get away from the car industry, according to a University of Nebraska student.

According to MIT Technology Review Brevan Jorgenson used open source software to convert his Honda Civic into a high tech self-driving car,

His homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars.

Jorgenson built the lot using plans and software downloaded from the internet, plus about $700 in parts.

He started his project after George Hotz of Comma.ai, a San Francisco startup that was developing a $999 device that could upgrade certain vehicles to steer themselves on the highway and follow stop-and-go traffic.

Hotz was forced to cancel plans to launch the product after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In November, he released the company’s hardware designs and software for free, saying he wanted to empower researchers and hobbyists.

The whole thing is powered by a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma’s now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car’s electronics, and a 3-D-printed case. Jorgenson got the case printed by an online service and soldered the board together himself.

Subsequent tests revealed that the Neo would inexplicably pull to the right sometimes, but a software update released by Comma quickly fixed that. Now fully working, the system is similar in capabilities to the initial version of Tesla’s AutoPilot.

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, says that federal and state laws probably don’t pose much of a barrier to those with a desire to upgrade their vehicle to share driving duties. NHTSA has authority over companies selling vehicles and systems used to modify them, but consumers have significant flexibility in making changes to their own vehicle, says Smith, who advises the US Department of Transportation on law and automation.

Tosh will flog off most of its chip business

Troubled Toshiba will raise $8.8 billion by selling most of its flash memory chip business, seeking to create a buffer for any fresh financial problems.

Tosh has been talking about flogging off part of its successful Flash memory business for a while because that would sort its problems out a bit quicker.

But it decided to abandon that cunning plan to sell just 19.9 percent at the instigation of its main creditor banks which are worried about potential writedowns that may come on top of $6.3 billion hit to its US nuclear unit.

Prioritising its need to raise capital, Toshiba said last week it is now prepared to sell a majority stake or even all its prized chip business.

Toshiba has not decided on the size of the stake to be sold, preferring to focus on the amount that can be raised although it would like to retain a one-third holding that would give it a degree of control over the business, sources in the outfit have leaked.

The sale is the best and the only way Toshiba can raise a large amount of funds and wipe out concerns about its credit risk. The sale should be completed by the end of March next year.

It wants to restart the sale process as soon as possible and may sell to multiple buyers rather than one bidder with interest already received from investment funds, other chipmakers and client companies, he also said.

Other potential financial risks that Toshiba may have to deal with include Landis+Gyr AG, an unlisted German meter maker it acquired in 2011 and whose earnings have not matched expectations.

When Toshiba was offering 19.9 percent of its chip unit, it received offers ranging from $1.8 billion to $3.5 billion.

Western Digital is still interested in buying a stake in Toshiba, two sources said without specifying how big a holding it would be prepared to buy. The California-based firm and Toshiba jointly operate a NAND flash memory plant in Japan.

Nintendo’s CD refusal pays off

In the 1990s the former maker of playing cards  Nintendo faced much mock when it decided against using CDs on its Nintendo 64 system and stuck with expensive and (in comparison) lower-capacity cartridges.

Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, both used CDs and Nintendo’s choice lost a lot of loyal third-party supporters who went to the PlayStation.

Now retro collectors are saying that Nintendo’s stubbornness was actually far sighted because optical media is rotting away while the cartridges still go on.

The world is fast learning that even if you care for CDs they are useless after 30 years’ service because the chemicals used in the disc’s protective layers fail.

The CD’s  reflective layer, usually made of aluminium also starts to oxidise and the discs “bronze” over.

However, cartridges are traditionally quite robust – hence the fact that people are still happily playing Atari VCS and NES games on original hardware – so N64 games should continue to be playable for quite some time yet.