Category: News

Fitbit’s first true smartwatch hits snags

Fitbit was planning to release its first “proper” smartwatch but the project has been blighted by a series of production mishaps.

The fitness tracker company’s smartwatch project was supposed to be released in the spring, but production problems have forced Fitbit to push the launch to the autumn.

In one of the more final prototypes, the GPS didn’t work because the antenna wasn’t in the right place. Designers had to go back to the drawing board to redesign the product so the GPS got a strong signal.

Then there was the problem of making the watch fully waterproof so that it could compete with Apple’s Watch Series 2. At the moment, it is unclear if Fitbit will make the watch fully waterproof in time for the launch.

The Tame Apple Press is dancing in the street over the delays. The smartwatch market is limited and Apple has sewn up the numbers of clients who want one. Fitbit was a possible contender to take the market away from Jobs mob. It already has a good reputation in the fitness tracker market.

Canadians refuse bail for “Yahoo hacker”

A Canadian judge denied bail to a 22-year-old man whom the United States wants to extradite to face charges of involvement in a massive hack of Yahoo email accounts.

Karim Baratov, a Canadian citizen who was born in Kazakhstan, was considered a flight risk by Justice Alan Whitten, who remanded Baratov in custody until May 26.

The United States claims that Baratov worked with Russian intelligence agents who paid him to break into at least 80 email accounts, including those of specific targets with non-Yahoo accounts.

The judge said that Baratov had no reason to stick around as he could continue his wealth-generating activities anywhere in the world.

Baratov faces US charges including conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identify theft, and could face decades in a US jail if found guilty on all charges.

His lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo says that it was not him, and he would consider appealing the bail decision if the court is unable to schedule a expeditious extradition hearing.

Federal prosecutor Heather Graham told the court that the attorney general of Canada will be ready to proceed with an extradition hearing by June 12, according to media reports.

The United States last month charged two Russian intelligence agents, Baratov and another alleged hacker over the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts, the first time the US government had criminally charged Russian spies for cyber offenses.

The other alleged hacker is Alexsey Belan, one of the FBI’s most-wanted cyber criminals, who was arrested in Europe in June 2013 but escaped to Russia before he could be extradited to the United States, according to the US Justice Department.

Brexit Blighty bets on batteries

The UK government has awarded millions of pounds to help boost manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, including a project to build the country’s second purpose-built electric battery plant and another to make the tech more powerful.

Williams Advanced Engineering has received funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and will make batteries for the likes of luxury car-maker Aston Martin.

APC’s Director of Technology and Projects Jon Beasley said the project will further develop and make available battery systems in order to overcome significant supply chain gaps in the UK.

Carmakers want to build greener cars and improve charge times in a bid to meet rising customer demand and fulfill air quality targets, but since the UK’s manufacturing was destroyed in the 1980s, Britain lacks sufficient manufacturing capacity.

Now the government wants to build that up again. Nissan builds batteries and its electric Leaf model at its north of England plant in Sunderland but others have opted to build their low-emissions models elsewhere, including Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover.

In a separate project, the motorsports division of Germany’s BMW will partner with the University of Warwick and another firm to design, develop and produce power dense batteries in Britain, the APC said.

BMW’s Mini brand is due to decide this year whether to build its first electric model at its southern English plant in Oxford.

Britain’s business ministry said it had allocated over £100 million ($124 million) in investment in multiple projects including with U.S. carmaker Ford and in the development of lightweight technologies at Jaguar Land Rover.

Russian “spammer” and Trump suspect finds pain in Spain

Inspector Knacker of the Barcelona yard has fingered the collar of a Russian programmer following US allegations of large-scale hacking.

Pyotr Levashov was held in Barcelona and has been remanded in custody.

Spanish coppers claim Levashov controlled a botnet called Kelihos, hacking information and installing malicious software in hundreds of thousands of computers.

The arrest was part of a “complex inquiry carried out in collaboration with the FBI”, police said.

Levashov is subject to a US international arrest warrant and a Spanish court will hear whether he can be extradited.

Much of his activity involved ransomware – blocking a computer’s access to certain information and demanding a ransom for its release.

Levashov’s wife Maria told Russian broadcaster RT that the arrest had been made in connection with allegations that Russians had hacked the US presidential election.

She claimed that Spanish coppers had told her that it was all about a “a virus which appears to have been created by my husband and is linked to [Donald] Trump’s victory”.

Agence France-Presse  quoted a source close to the matter in Washington as saying that Levashov’s detention was “not tied to anything involving allegations of Russian interference with the US election”.

Several cybersecurity experts, including Brian Krebs, have also linked Levashov to a Russian spam kingpin, who uses the alias Peter Severa.

LeEco calls off Vizio sale

China’s conglomerate LeEco has abandoned its plans to buy US telly maker Vizio for $2 billion.

The move was announced last year and would have given LeEco a foothold in the Land of the Fee. The company wants to expand its business beyond Chinese market.

Now it seems that the deal has folded due to “regulatory headwinds.”
In a statement, the companies said:”We continue to believe that there is great synergy between the two companies, and are pleased to announce that LeEco and Vizio have reached an agreement that is a win for both companies … LeEco and Vizio will continue to explore opportunities to incorporate the Le app and content within the Vizio connected CE platform, and engage in a collaborative partnership to leverage LeEco’s ecosystem user interface platform, along with the brand’s exclusive content and distribution channels, to bring Vizio products to the China market.”

However there could be other reasons both companies have been getting bad news lately. LeEco is struggling financially and earlier this month it was reported that the company had delayed payroll for its US employees. Vizio was fined the company $2.2 million by the FTC to settle a case involving the TVs’ data collection techniques.

Qualcomm swings handbag at Apple

Chipmaker Qualcomm has replied to the fruity, tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple’s allegation that it has been playing monopoly by swinging a handbag of its own.

It claimed that the iPhone maker breached agreements with the firm and encouraged regulatory attacks on its business in various jurisdictions around the world by making false statements.

Apple had filed the lawsuit accusing Qualcomm of overcharging for chips and refusing to pay some $1 billion in promised rebates. The lawsuit came days after the US government accused the chipmaker of resorting to anticompetitive tactics to maintain a monopoly over key semiconductors in mobile phones.

In a statement, Qualcomm said that Apple has launched a global attack on Qualcomm and is attempting to use its enormous market power to coerce unfair and unreasonable licence terms from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm filed counterclaims to Apple’s lawsuit with the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

The chipmaker said in the statement that Apple interfered in its agreements with licensees that manufacture iPhones and iPads.

Qualcomm also said Apple threatened it in an attempt to prevent it from making any public comparisons about the superior performance of the Qualcomm-powered iPhones, and misrepresented performance differences between iPhones using Qualcomm modems and those using competitor-supplied modems.

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in Beijing, alleging the chip supplier abused its clout in the chip industry and seeking $145.32 million in damages.

Microsoft boosts Windows 10 upgrade savings claims

Microsoft has boosted its claim of how much enterprises can save by deploying Windows 10 by 28 percent.

The revised estimate came from a Microsoft-commissioned analysis first done in mid-2016 by Forrester Research.

Forrester said the per-worker savings over a three-year stretch would be $404. To reach that number, the research firm interviewed four Microsoft customers that had begun moving to Windows 10, then modelled a hypothetical organization with 24,000 Windows devices, and a large number of mobile workers among the 20,000 employees.  It then divided that number by its shoe size and multiplied it by the cheque that Microsoft had given it.

Using that pretend company, Forrester forecast the difference between running Windows 10 and retaining Windows 7.

Late last year, Forrester interviewed another quartet of Windows early 10 adopters, then added that data to what it had originally.

The new per-employee savings: $515 over three years, a jump of almost a third. Forrester’s increase in the number of mobile workers — the total climbed by 460 employees — was the biggest factor in the changed estimate.

Forrester and Microsoft said that the migration to Windows 10 would pay for itself in 14 months.

The report says IT administrators “estimate a 20per cent improvement in management time, as Windows 10 requires less IT time to install, manage, and support with in-place deployment and more self-service functions”, while because of the OSs security software, security events requiring IT remediation are reduced or avoided by 33 percent.

1980s BBSes return from the dead

Vintage computing hobbyists are resurrecting lost digital communities and running some on their original 8-bit hardware.

The technology is based around Raspberry Pi and TCPser (which emulates a Hayes modem for Telnet connections).

One runs the original software on a decades-old Commodore 128DCR. Another routes telnet connections across a real telephone circuit that connects to a Hayes modem.

According to Ars Technica, Dura-Europos BBS is back in business after nearly 23 years using an Apple IIe running its original GBBS Pro software, a modern CFFA3000 compact flash drive, and a Raspberry Pi running TCPser.

It can be found at dura-bbs.net, using port 6359.  The rise of the World Wide Web and the demise of protocols that came before it killed off a lot of the BBSes.

Owners of older 8-bit machines had little reason to maintain their hardware as their userbase migrated to the open pastures of the Web, and the number of bulletin board systems plummeted.

But some sysops never quite gave up on the BBS and like to dial in to the BBS using a domain name and port number instead of a phone number in their preferred terminal software.

Besides the old games, there are conversation threads dating back decades were available verbatim like a buried digital time capsule.

It is rather popular because it is fairly private, and is considered pretty much a techies wet dream.

Two violent game studies have been retracted

Two highly public scientific studies which claim that there is a link between violent computer games and real violence have been mysteriously pulled.

The first, entitled “Boom, Headshot!” published in the Journal of Communication Research in 2012 was retracted last January. That study looked at the “effect of video game play and controller type on firing aim and accuracy”, and found that playing first-person shooter games can train a player to become a better marksman in real life.

However Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, found some inconsistencies in the data published in the study. The lead author of the study, psychology professor Brad Bushman claimed the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him and his co-author

By the end of 2015, OSU launched a misconduct investigation into Whitaker, but hasn’t released any details about its findings.

“A Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State University recommended retracting this article after being alerted to irregularities in some variables of the data set by Drs. Markey and Elson in January 2015. Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable.”

Another paper published in Gifted Child Quarterly in 2016, authored by Bushman and three others, caught the attention of Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper had studied the “effects of violent media on verbal task performance in gifted and general cohort children”, and found that when children watched a violent cartoon for 12 minutes, their verbal skills dropped substantially for a temporary period.

Hilgard was surprised because there was such a huge effect which was unusual, considering the effect size that’s typical in this type of psychology research.

Hilgard said that OSU, Bushman, and others he spoke with about the study were helpful and forthcoming, but could not provide information on the study’s data collection process.

The author who collected the data, it turned out, lived in Turkey and fell out of contact following the recent coup attempt. Last week, Gifted Child Quarterly retracted the paper.

“As the integrity of the data could not be confirmed, the journal has determined, and the co-authors have agreed, to retract the study,” the retraction notice said.

 

LG does better than expected


LG
has estimated that its first-quarter operating profit rose 82 percent to its highest in nearly eight years.

The news surprised the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street who had expected things to be better for the troubled manufacturer but not that good.

LG said its January-March operating profit was $812.62 million and the highest since the second quarter of 2009.

Revenue for the quarter likely rose 9.7 percent, the firm said.

Earlier in the day, Samsung estimated the January-March period will produce its best quarterly profit in more than three years, beating expectations and putting it on track for record annual earnings on the back of a memory chip super-cycle.

Though LG did not elaborate on its forecasts, analysts say LG’s mobile business likely turned an operating loss for the eighth straight quarter. Sales of its new G6 flagship smartphone began in March and will not provide meaningful contributions until the second quarter.

Still, some analysts said losses likely were smaller in January-March as LG’s new lower-tier products fared better and the company reduced marketing spending.