Category: Business

Good chip engineers are hard to find

FUTURE HORIZONS ARMENIA 2016 Mentor Graphics has offices all over the world but we talked to the head of its Armenian office and she had plenty to say about finding top engineers.

Irina Dumanyan said that that she looks after 150 people in Armenia and also runs an internship programme.

Mentor has a set of different projects which are worked on by people in its offices all around the world.

But its Armenia office was never in the business of hiring cheap labour.

“Engineers are hard to find, that’s why we established the internship programme,” she said. The company puts its internees on live projects.

She said universities needed to get more savvy about what graduates will actually need in the real world.

“The university mentality should be changed and lots more investment is required,” she said.  It’s hard for Mentor to cooperate with the Armenian state university.

Apple forms yet another business partnership

devil pactFruity tax-dodging cargo cult Apple has signed another partnership in what is looking like an increasingly doomed attempt to flog its expensive shiny toys to corporates.

It seems every other week Apple signs a deal with someone like IBM or similar and the Tame Apple Press claims that it is proof that corporates are going to sign their companies up to replace all their legacy Windows gear with something fruitier.

In this case the deal is signed with Deloitte in which the consultant will open a new practice to help corporate clients work with Apple products.  Apparently more than 5,000 Deloitte advisers will be included in the Apple initiative, the companies said.

The consulting firm also launched EnterpriseNext, a program aimed at helping clients make better use of Apple products and services.

So how have all those other deals worked. Apple’s first deal was signed with IBM in 2014 since then other deals with Cisco and SAP have followed.

However so far none of them have turned Apple into the corporate toy of choice.  This is mostly because they still involve paying over the odds for Apple security and Apple networking which is something most corporates would cheerfully avoid. The concept of upgrading their legacy software just so they can upgrade their tablets and smartphones every year is not a particularly sane business decision.

However Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed that the deal with Deloitte will ensure that Apple is top of mind as companies think strategically about their practices,.

“What’s needed now is more of a focus on transforming the enterprise and helping businesses identify which areas have the highest either return on investment or highest impact on customer satisfaction. Deloitte is well positioned for this.”

As part of the EnterpriseNext program, customers can meet with designers and engineers who specialize in Apple’s operating system. Perhaps they can ask them why are yet to design an alarm clock which works and can adjust to summer time and time zones.

Cook said in 2015 that Apple’s enterprise business had reached $25 billion in annual revenue. He declined to provide a new figure on Wednesday but stressed the company is gaining ground. Although we are expected to trust him on that.

IBM says banks rushing to adopt block chain

blockchainBiggish Blue claims that banks and financial institutions are falling over themselves to test and deploy blockchain set-ups.

IBM said that banks and other financial institutions are adopting blockchain technology “dramatically faster” than initially expected, with 15 percent of top global banks intending to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain products in 2017.

More than 65 percent of banks expected to have blockchain projects in production in three years’ time, with larger banks – those with more than 100,000 employees – leading the charge.

IBM asked  200 banks about their plans and were told that the areas most commonly identified by lenders as ripe for blockchain-based innovation were clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance and reference data.

Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction-processing and record-keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification. Ironically it was a solution touted by Ecorp in the television series Mr Robot as a way of solving its hacking problems.

Almost every major bank has said it is looking into the technology, widespread financial adoption has been thought to be at least five to ten years away.

“The industry is hurtling toward blockchain adoption far faster than many expected. 2017 looks to be the year banking on blockchains shifts from zero to sixty.”

HP backtracks on third party Ink

history-of-print-16th-century-printing-companyThe maker of expensive printer ink, HP has backtracked on a rather nasty plan which meant that users could not buy third party ink cartridges.

HP hit the headlines when it issued an update for its printers that made it impossible to place third party cartridges in its machines.  The move was made suddenly so that buyers who had been using such cartridges for a year or more would have to buy the expensive HP ink.

The move angered consumer rights groups and it looked like HP would be facing a rather expensive court case.

Now HP said it will restore the ability of certain OfficeJet printers to use third-party ink cartridges, after being criticized for issuing a firmware update that rejects non-HP ink.

But HP is still defending its practice of preventing the use of non-HP ink and is making no promises about refraining from future software updates that force customers to use only official ink cartridges.

Writing in its bog, HP said:

“We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP,” the company said.

The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers “included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned,” HP said.

For customers who don’t wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it “will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here.”

HP said it will continue to use security features that “protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working.”

Our guess is that the new policy will come in with new machines so that customers know that they have to buy the official cartridges.

HP did apologize for its poor communication about the firmware update and promised to be more “transparent” in the future. But that alone won’t satisfy the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called on HP for a public commitment to never again use its software update process “to distribute anti-features that work against [HP] customers’ interests.”

Democrat hacker certainly Russian backed

russian-villagersUS government officials are almost 100 per cent certain that the hacker responsible for the recent Democratic email leaks is connected to a network of groups and individuals who are being shielded by the Russian government.

The hacker, who goes by Guccifer 2.0, is thought to be working with the hacking groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. Though Guccifer 2.0 denies Russian involvement in the hack, both of those groups have known ties to the Russian government.

Guccifer 2.0 reached out to the Journal via direct messages on Twitter to explain his reasons for his actions. He hopes to expose political corruption and the ways that corporations influence policy. He also seeks to shed light on “global electronisation.”

But the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said it “shouldn’t come as a big shock to people” that Russia was behind the hacks.

Matthew Rojansky, who director the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the Journal agreed saying that this was a continuity of spy games and trolling and phishing for what the Russians call kompromat — compromising information — that has gone on for decades.

PicsArt spells out its plans

Hovhaness AvoyanBritish people may not have heard a great deal about PicsArt, but we certainly found out a good deal about the firm at its office in Yeravan, Armenia earlier today.

The CEO, Hovhaness Avoyan – pictured – is a serial startup guy – this is his fifth startup and started up five years ago. The company has 200 people working in Armenia and 25 in San Francisco, its headquarters.

The firm got venture funding two years ago from the already famous Sequoia.

Its engineers are based in its Yeravan, Armenia engineering hub.

The company is doing pretty well, said Avoyan, and isn’t looking to be taken over.

“We’re on a growth part. We’re not looking at acquisition,” he said today. “We’re one of the largest in the social editing platform. Our biggest competitor is Instagram.”

It’s just about to shunt out a new version of PicsArt that uses artificial intelligence. Avoyan knows all about AI, he graduated in it way back when, but the new AI is a different kettle of fish.

“AI has become very practical,” he said.

He has some strong views about the lack of backing of Armenia’s IT sector by the government. “We’d like to see more investment in universities,” he told us today. The company is considering opening an office in the UK.

Hackers outsourcing their services to terrorists

Mr RobotCybercriminals are contracting themselves out to militant groups the means to attack Europe EU police agency Europol said on Wednesday.

So far such groups have yet to employ such techniques in major attacks, but there is nothing to stop them.  In fact, Europol said that there was little evidence to suggest that their cyber-attack capability extends beyond common website defacement.

In Europol’s annual cybercrime threat assessment coppers said that the Darknet had potential to be exploited by militants taking advantage of computer experts offering “crime as a service.”

“The availability of cybercrime tools and services, and illicit commodities (including firearms) on the Darknet, provide ample opportunities for this situation to change.”

Overall, the report found, existing trends in cybercrime continued to grow, with some of the European Union’s member states reporting more cyber crimes than the traditional variety.

“Europol is concerned about how an expanding cybercriminal community has been able to further exploit our increasing dependence on technology and the internet,” its director, Rob Wainwright, said in a statement. “We have also seen a marked shift in cyber-facilitated activities relating to trafficking in human beings, terrorism and other threats.”

“Ransomware” – programs which break into databases and demand payment for unlocking codes via virtual currencies such as Bitcoin – continued to expand as a problem, as did highly targeted “phishing” attacks to extract security data from senior figures – “CEO fraud” – and video streaming of child abuse.

Attacks on bank cash-machine networks were also increasing, the report found, as were frauds exploiting new contactless payment card transactions, while traditional scams involving the physical presence of a card had been successfully reduced.

Cisco kid crosses the Rio Grande

Poster - Rio Grande (1950)_02While a big chunk of Mexico is trying to cross into the US, it appears that the  networking equipment maker Cisco wants to go the other way.

Cisco plans more than $4 billion worth of expansion in Mexico between 2016 and 2018..

Cisco’s Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins made the announcement during a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the government said in a statement.

The expansion would boost output in Mexico of products ranging from routers, servers, switches and wireless access points, as well as spur the creation of 270 jobs and 77 indirect jobs, the government said.

It was unclear how much of the sum announced had already been set out in the company’s plans for the country.  Or what would happen if the US builds a dirty great big wall between the two countries.

Yahoo’s hack spinning is not working

ElderlyspinneraTroubled search engine outfit Yahoo is getting itself deeper and deeper into hot water over the hacking scandal.

For those who came in late, Yahoo suffered a major hack which effected 500 million users, however for some reason it forgot to tell people about it for years.

The outfit’s latest trick is to claim that its massive data breach on a “state-sponsored actor” however it has not explained how it arrived at that conclusion. Nor has it provided any evidence.

Security analysts think that Yahoo is not telling the full truth about the hack.. The company has protocols in place that can detect state-sponsored hacking into user accounts. In a December 2015 blog post, the company outlined its policy, saying it will warn users when this is suspected.

Yahoo blaming foreigners is pure spin. There is a perception that while companies can handle ordinary hackers it is unfair to expect them to be able to take on “state hackers.”

In fact, it is pretty likely it was your run-of-the-mill common-garden hacker who took down Yahoo.

National spooks are more interested in state secrets they don’t really care about emails and passwords from a Yahoo account.”

What is also likely is that Yahoo is not talking about the hack because Verizon has agreed to pay $4.8 billion to buy Yahoo.  Verizon might be less keen on buying the company if it knows it has to fork out to buy a mess to clean it up.

Yahoo said it only recently learned of the data breach. But the hack actually occurred back in late 2014 — meaning the perpetrators had two years to secretly exploit the data.  This has got them in trouble with the US government who feels they should have declared it sooner.

Rolling Stone sells out to Singapore cloud company

RS285

RS285

Iconic rock music magazine Rolling Stone has agreed to sell 49 per cent of itself to Singapore’s BandLab Technologies.

Publisher Wenner Media has agreed to the sell off as part of a cunning plan to expand the business into new markets and boost its profile in Asia.

The acquisition could lift the music magazine’s brand in Asia. At the moment Rolling Stone is suffering from falling advertising revenues as Internet magazines fail to find a model which works.

BandLab, led and co-founded by Kuok Meng Ru, the 28-year-old son of Singaporean palm oil tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong, is a group of companies making products for music creators and fans. It runs a cloud platform where musicians and fans create music, collaborate and engage with each other across the globe.

Gus Wenner, head of digital of Wenner Media said Rolling Stone sees an enormous opportunity to diversify the brand into new markets and new areas of business.