Author: Cher Price

Microsoft leans on US government over NSA

A year after Snowden, Microsoft has unleashed its nastiest lobbying hounds into Washington to demand reform.

According to PC World, Vole is demanding that government search warrants should end at the country’s borders.

Redmond is getting a canning overseas because foreign countries, particularly China, do not like the idea of the US government spying on it through American companies.

Writing in his bog, Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith said the government needs to address important unfinished business to reduce the technology trust deficit it has created.

Redmond is concerned about government attempts to use search warrants to force companies to turn over contents of communications of non-US customers that are stored exclusively outside the country.

Snowden revealed the government intercepted data in transit across the Internet and hacked links between company data centres which could kill off the US’s chance to make any impact in the lucrative Cloud trade.

Microsoft is not the only one which might threaten to cut off US politicians gravy train of political funding if it does not do what it is told. Cisco Systems’ CEO John Chambers is also jolly cross.

In May he penned a stiffly worded letter to President Barack Obama, asking for his intervention so that U.S technology sales were not hit by a loss of trust from customers abroad because of reports of NSA surveillance.

This followed reports of how the NSA physically intercepted network equipment to plant surveillance tools before repackaging the devices with a factory seal and sending the products to international customers.

So far eight technology companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo asked for a reform of government surveillance laws and practices worldwide. Together they are sitting on shedloads of lobby dollars which help to put congressmen’s kids through college.

US politicians do not really seem to get the risk they are facing. In May US politicians watered down the USA Freedom Act which basically still meant the spooks can do what they like.

Microsoft said it never received an order related to bulk collection of Internet data, it believes the USA Freedom Act should be strengthened to prohibit more clearly any such orders in the future, Smith wrote. 

Samsung shape shifts on node size

A senior semiconductor analyst has claimed that chip giant Samsung  is being economical with the truth about the size of its semiconductors.

Malcolm Penn, principal analyst at Future Horizons, claimed that the company was overegging the cake on claims that it had 14 nanometre technology.

Rather than 14nm, he said, the size of its latest chips were about  18nm.  Samsung was unavailable for comment.

New Zealand bans software patents

The Kiwi government, which has been famous for rolling over for the US government and big business, has surprisingly decided to outlaw software patents.

According to ITWireafter five years the Kiwis have finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents.

It was not easy and there was a lot of lobbying from multinational patent trolls who wanted to keep their business alive.

Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernisation of the patents law, saying it marked a “significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand”.

In a statement, Foss said that by clarifying what can be patented, New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations.

The Patents Bill was first drafted in 2008 and in 2010, the Commerce Select Committee recommended a total ban on software patents. However a government committee reversed that plan in August there was an outcry.

The theory was that the changes had been made to accommodate the US as New Zealand is involved in negotiations with Washington to sign a treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Although the US has been anti-troll, it is also pro-copyright and this has led some trade negotiators to defend software patents with the same vigour as they so Hollywood blockbusters.

Yet the feeling is that patents do not work for software. It is almost impossible for technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist, often for obvious work.

Still it does mean that there will be one class of troll which will not be able to audition for the next Peter Jackson flick. 

MEMS, MEMS everywhere and not a drop to drink

Before long now, it will become the norm to have detailed, indoor, 3D maps – accessible on your smartphone. Using intelligent software combined with sensing equipment, particularly with Microelectricomechanical Systems, the sort of tiny devices you find in smartphones, like accelerometers.

MEMS are often just milimetres in dimension which means they can be unintrusively placed pretty much anywhere. You name it – if there is a need for something to be sensored, they have an application. As components, they may not be as sexy as the latest Snapdragon chip, but they will also be crucial for building an intelligent world wherever precision is necessary.

Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch Sensortec GmbH, sat down with TechEye for a chat. Bosch Sensortec, currently top in terms of revenue, we’re told, is well placed in the market for a couple of reasons. It got into the market very early and its R&D is in-house, meaning it knows where it wants to go with its own designs. Because Bosch is not a microprocessor company, Finkbeiner said, all of them are potential partners for the company. Chances are, if you have one of the household name smartphones, it’s almost certain to have Bosch equipment in there.

Though the more obvious applications right now are things like your phone understanding which way it’s being held and miniature microphones, there are some pretty interesting possible use cases. For indoor mapping, Finkbeiner told us, “all the hardware is available and in the phones”, whch high end phones often shipping with a pressure sensor. This means it is a software question, but detailed indoor maps will be available to the public. If a company thought it was a good idea, they could put MEMS in a shoe to measure certain factors. Or, Finkbeiner said, you could put MEMS on clothes: you would need power and an interface but they could also be put into a wristband, glasses, or other items of clothing and you’d “have very smart navigation that can communicate with your smartphones”.

“A lot of them will go into smartphones but not just smartphones,” Finkbeiner said. They could have applications in gaming, for example with an item to wear on your head, so the console would understand precisely which direction you’re looking. On a bigger scale, this could extend to limbs. It would be possible to build MEMS into wearable items when driving a car, for example, a head display that keeps track of your line of sight.

“I’m sure a lot of cases will come up we don’t even think about now,” Finkbeiner said. There could be “security applications where you could tell when someone is opening a door and if it should be open – or on a window, even just with an accelerometer”.

Due to their precision, the tiny devices can be applied to check for vital life signs. At the MEMS Industry Group’s MEMS Congress last year, we heard from one professor who said MEMS could have an application in detecting early-onset Parkinson’s disease, as they were able to pick up tremors that would otherwise go unnoticed.

As new products come out, there will be new applications, for example, the idea of a smart watch with no display could force new sensors or applications for existing sensors. Business wise, MEMS is worth a punt at the moment: with the upcoming hype that the Internet of Things – connectivity everywhere – will build, the mini machines could be found in almost every nook and cranny.

Some MEMS barely visible, magnified, next to a 2 euro coin.

The TechEye Guide to Eurochaos

Anonymous: Bankers without names who are not subject to Double Dip Recessions (qv).

Brussels: Home to unelected vegetables who once a month move the whole caboodle to Strasbourg, home of stuffed geese.

Balls, Ed: Labour comedian with a nice patter about quantitative easing.

Bank of England: The home of quantitative easing (qv).

BBC Radio 4: Chatterbox, a new way of Antisocial Notworking (qv).

Cameroon: The currency of the Prime Minister of the UK. There are 10 Osbournes to a Cameroon franc.

DeFacebook: A way to lose fiends (qv) fast.

Double Dip Recession: Misery multiplied by two.

Drachma: A device to cause quantitative easing (qv) located in Greece and based on local currency, the Ouzo (see Euro).

Euro: Currency that lets you buy a packet of cigarettes at half the price a packet costs at Heathrow Airport (qv).

Eurozone: Located in your bladder, can only be successfully disposed of by quantitative easing (qv).

Fiends: Former friends turned into enemas.

Fright:  1. Your shock at paying the prices charged at Heathrow Airport (qv).  2. Your shock at paying Fuel Tax (qv) when you take a fright from Heathrow Airport abroad (qv).

Fuel Tax: Tax payed by the plebs, which proportionally is more than that paid by very rich people who can even afford Frights (qv) from Heathrow Airport (qv).

Goldmine Sex: Love in a tunnel.

Heathrow Airport: The ultimate home of unit of currency, the Scoundrel (§).  A Scoundrel is made up of 100 Rascals (®).  So, for example, if a pint of bitter costs £3.30 in an ordinary English pub, and if a packet of 20 cigarettes costs £7.50 in an ordinary English tobacconist, the equivalent amounts in Heathrow are §5 and §10, respectively.  Scoundrels and Rascals are not in the Eurozone (qv).

Granny Tax: Tax proposed by UK politicians on women aged 60 years or over.

Hippo: A big mammal.

IPO: A big float. Independent Public Offering (see Heathrow).

Quantitative Easing:  After quaffing several pints, there is a quantity of liquid that needs to be disposed of in the Eurozone.

Pasty Tax (SP): Tax imposed on strong French drink at Heathrow Airport (qv).  

Poor House: A house unaffected by Quantitative Easing.

SOAP: Independent Public Hippo (qv)

TeaCozy:  The ex-President of France.

Intel does well, and AMD may follow

Surprising fourth quarter results from Intel have confounded the Cassandras of this world and the indications are that where the chip giant has gone, its shadow, AMD may follow.

Intel said in a statement last night that sales of its microprocessors were fuelled in part by growth in developing markets.

And a report on Taiwanese wire Digitimes suggests that AMD has shipped more than 50 percent of its Fusion Llano microprocessors to the Chinese market. That report says that it shipped 50 percent of its product to China in September, and a third of Llanos in August.

However, problems with yields of Llanos, which are made by AMD spin off GlobalFoundries (GloFo) may cause it to give some outsourcing work to Taiwanese pure-play foundry TSMC.

Quoting sources close to motherboard makers, Digitimes suggests that AMD is ready to release a number of additional microprocessors, dubbed the A4-3420, the A6-3620 and the A8-3820 very shortly.

AMD’s quarterly results are expected on the 27th October.

HP shares slump after CEO gives frosty outlook

As we reported earlier today, HP released its second quarterly financial results a day earlier and warned 2011 won’t be as buoyant as it hoped. That follows the leak of a memo from CEO Leo Apotheker yesterday, telling his top henchman to stop hiring and cut costs. The memo was only sent to 10 individuals, suggesting someone’s out to get Apotheker.

The company made a profit of $2.3 billion on revenues of $31.63 billion, up a few percentage points compared to the same quarter last year.

HP blamed the poor outlook on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and on lower profitability in its services unit. Apotheker was brought in to replace ex-CEO Mark Hurd to boost this part of the business.

Sales of its PCs to normal people, not enterprises, were also disappointing, while Apotheker told US TV service CNBC that the company had failed to exploit opportunities in services.

The results show that revenues from sales of products into the enterprise were strong, up 6.7 percent compared to Q2 of its last financial year, but services only grew by 1.5 percent. Sales of PCs into the enterprise were up by 13 percent.

At the time we wrote this, HP’s share price (tick: HPQ) had fallen by 6.66 percent to stand at $37.19.

Apotheker is pinning HP’s hopes on cloud computing, but it’s going to face some pretty stiff competition there. He said in a conference call following the results that HP had underinvested in its services business and relied too heavily on outsourcing deals.

Stock markets in near meltdown on Japanese catastrophe fears

Bourses worldwide were in the red today after fears that a combination of Acts of God and acts of dictators caused selloffs across the world.

Nikkei dropped by 14 percent at close early today, while the US markets, NASDAQ and NYSE, showed drops at opening time today. The FTSE fell too.

Price of commodities, including gold, fell – although pundits in Wall Street are describing the early trades as “sell offs” rather than meltdown.

The Nikkei fell by a massive 10 percent, while other indicators such as the LSE and NASDAQ fell by between 1.5 and two percent.

The crisis in Japan has wiped out the worries about the price of oil – that is dropping steadily during today.  Libya isn’t quite the hot topic it was this time last week, it appears.

Shares in insurance companies don’t yet seem to be adversely affected.  Tech stocks joined in the general tumble in what some described as a “domino effect”.

Re: crappiest news sites on the web

We’ve noticed some backlash from our Ten crappiest news sites piece. If anyone read it they’d have realised it was an attack on chasing Google for stories. We guess TechRadar and What Mobile just had a skim and feathers were ruffled.

Anyway, at long last, we have confirmation that TechEye has at least one reader. To mark this milestone we’re publishing the letter in full. A reader writes:

“Thanks for the recommendation for www.thinq.co.uk They are now on my daily hotlist.

On a more serious note, people like me need people like you to take the high ground and point us in the right directions.

You have touched on a point of great personal concern. The internet news sites are marketing tools with bits of journalism thrown in. The changes at CNN over the last 15 years were the start.

Now that Glenn Beck is considered a credible journalist by many in the US, the worst is yet to come.

Those of us who want decent journalism have to hunt around. It goes a lot faster if we can get pointers from you and others who have experience in the business. I’ve been an Economist reader for many years. They are great for after the fact reporting and analysis. Given their weekly schedule, they don’t cover very recent events. I try to keep current with Jellygraph and Grauniad because they’re better than the US sites. Knowing who to read for fact based reporting from a sensible perspective is a great help.

If you posted links to solid journalism sites for technical and non-technical reporting, it could help reduce readership (and ad revenue) at the crappiest news sites.

Best Regards,

ScottJ “

We reveal the crappiest news sites on the web

Any day, in every way, there is a multitude of web sites, controlled by crap publishers, who follow Google News like there is no tomorrow. This is a definition of crap journalism – listening to crap publishers.

This, of course, is not news as you and me know it, it is hunting page views, following the Google Carousel and making money for the Googleplexers.

Here, we name and shame the top 10 news sites – right now – that chase Google’s tail – with chapter and verse on the subject. Can’t they write stories of their own? Is journalism really this dead? Can’t journos be inventive any more? We’re prepared to talk to the publishers of the following top Google News tech sites at length about this. Is journalism dead? There are lots of other publishers chasing Google’s tail – these sites are not guilty of anything, just typical of the daily Google carousel. Google should be ashamed of itself.

Number One – Betanews – shameless Google followers.
Number Two – Inquirer – really not very good analysis
Number Three – Irish Tiimes – quite shameless for Irishmen.
Number Four – T3 – Hardly journalism
Number Five – The Daily Jellygraph – total crap
Number Six – IT Pro Portal – Late to the game as always
Number Seven – Broadband Genie – Hardly genius
Number Eight – The Grauniad – Oh come on
Number Nine – The Grauniad – Oh come, on make a profit
Number Ten – Techwatch – who they?

It changes from time to time, and Google benefits. But it’s certainly not journalism, Google News. It’s crap and the algorithm sucks and the model is very cynical indeed.  Google is subverting journalism by wooing publishers and this has to stop.

The previous 10 stories up there are not necessarily the best nor the worst and personally TechEye  – an independent publication – doesn’t care, but Google has to be brought to account for this. Hopefully by the European Commission and the FTC.

Journalism does live.  Publishers who seek the tail of Google should get off of their cloud. The only way they’ll make money is by putting money into good journalism.