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Microsoft calls “injuste” on French privacy “accuse”

Degradation_alfred_dreyfusSoftware giant Microsoft has claimed that the French are being rather nasty when it comes to the privacy levels on its Windows 10 operating system.

Yesterday France’s National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) slapped a formal order on Microsoft to comply with data protection laws after it found Windows 10 was collecting “excessive data” about users and ate roast beef. The company has been given three months to meet the demands, and improve its cooking, or it will face fines.

Vole has officially responded and said that it is  happy to work with the CNIL to work towards an acceptable solution. It has not actually denied the allegations set against it, the company does nothing to defend the amount of data collected by Windows 10, and also fails to address the privacy concerns it raises.

Microsoft does address concerns about the transfer of data between Europe and the US, saying that while the Safe Harbor agreement is no longer valid, the company still complied with it up until the adoption of Privacy Shield.

David Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft said:

“We built strong privacy protections into Windows 10, and we welcome feedback as we continually work to enhance those protections. We will work closely with the CNIL over the next few months to understand the agency’s concerns fully and to work toward solutions that it will find acceptable.”

He added that Vole had continued to live up to all of its commitments under the Safe Harbor Framework, even as the European and U.S. representatives worked toward the new Privacy Shield. As we state in our privacy statement, in addition to the Safe Harbor Framework we rely on a variety of legal mechanisms as the basis for transferring data from Europe, including standard contractual clauses, a data transfer mechanism established by the European Commission and approved by European data protection authorities, to cover data flows from the European Union to the United States.

“Microsoft will release an updated privacy statement next month, and that will say Microsoft intends to adopt the Privacy Shield. We are working now toward meeting the requirements of the Privacy Shield,” he said

Pokeman Go creates crime wave

Pokemon Go hands onThe latest fad, to have completely passed us by, is causing a US crime wave, although it is also helping coppers with their PR at the same time.

Pokemon Go , created by mobile game developer Niantic for Nintendo is rather clever it gets players out of the house and walking outside to play. Staring at their phone screens, they search for virtual Pokemon characters that appear to pop up at office spaces, restaurants, museums and other places. Players score points in various ways, including capturing the Pokemon characters with a flick of a finger on their phone screen.  Less than a week after launching in the United States, where it has drawn more than 7 million gamers to hunt virtual Pokemon, the game is also facing a backlash.

Already Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have asked to be removed from the game. But the downside is that players have been drawn down dark alleys and into dangerous neighborhoods in search of the imaginary creatures, only to be targeted by criminals.

In College Park, Maryland, university students holding their smartphones out to play Pokemon Go were robbed by an armed suspect, police said. In Antelope, California, two men playing the game in a park late on Sunday reported being robbed and carjacked by a gunman. In Wyoming, a 19-year-old woman who set out to catch a Pokemon by the Big Wind River  found a dead body.

The game was also to blame for a rash of car accidents in the United States. An illegally parked car whose driver had exited to catch a Pokemon was struck from behind, according to reports from Texas A&M University police, and another car struck a tree while its driver was playing the game while driving, Auburn New York police said.

It is not all bad though Pokemon characters have aided police. Noticing people playing the game on the street in Fall River, Massachusetts, an officer on patrol jumped in to join them. The fun was captured in a photo that police posted on Twitter and was liked more than 4,000 times.

The New York City Police Department’s 19th Precinct tweeted a photo of an officer riding in his cruiser with his “new partner” seated beside him, the popular Pokemon character known as Pikachu.

Two gamers playing in a Fullerton, California park on Tuesday wound up catching a man sought by police for crimes including attempted murder, authorities said. They were alerted by other players to a man following women and improperly touching children, and so the pair notified police and detained him until officers arrived. He was later found to have an outstanding warrant for multiple offenses.



Forget silicon and return to valves

Eniac-USarmyPhoto700Boffins looking for ways around Moore’s Law have decided that transistors are a bad idea and they need to go back to the vacuum tubes – read valves – of the early computers.

Of course, the vacuum tubes are a little smaller than those used in the codebreaking WW2 computers – those under development at Caltech’s Nanofabrication Group are a million times smaller.

Alan Huang, a former electrical engineer for Bell Laboratories, told the New York Times. “Some of the same algorithms that were developed for the last generation can sometimes be used for the next generation.”

Dr. Axel Scherer, head of the Nanofabrication Group said silicon transistors employed in most computing gadgets only take us so far. Some of the best minds in the world are working on smaller-than-ever transistors.

However, at this size silicon becomes more elastic, and starts to give out light. Silicon transistors also leak electrons, which can be embarrassing in a public place.

Vacuum tubes could prove a better solution at these sizes. The tubes can be made out of a variety of metals, and allow for innovative solutions that could consume less power than silicon chips.

The tech has attracted big investments. Boeing has been putting its money into researching vacuum tube chip research, possibly appearing in the aviation industry before 2020, but it may be a very long time before we see the fruits of Caltech research.

Save the planet and make stuff in outer-space

pigs in spaceNever mind outsourcing manufacturing to foreign parts, it is a better idea to outsource into outer space, according to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Talking to the Code Conference Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said that we have to start bringing parts of the industrial economy to space in order “to save Earth”.

He said that Earth was the best planet and we need to protect it and the only way to do that is by going out into space.

“You don’t want to live in a retrograde world where we have to freeze population growth.”

Tasks that require lots of energy shouldn’t be handled on Earth. Instead, we should perform them in space, and he thinks that will happen within the next few hundred years.

“Energy is limited here. In at least a few hundred years … all of our heavy industry will be moved off-planet. Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial. You shouldn’t be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space.”

Solar energy, for instance, is more practical for factories in space, he said.

“We don’t have to actually build them here. The Earth shades itself, [whereas] in space you can get solar power 24/7. … The problem with other planets … people will visit Mars, and we will settle Mars, and people should because it’s cool, but for heavy industry, I would actually put it in space.”

Of course there is the small matter of getting product’s cheaply back to the earth’s surface and the construction materials to the factories, but we are sure Bezos’ team at Amazon will have worked that out in a few hundred years.

Apple Pay is floundering

flounder-6001While it was released with all the hype you would expect from an Apple product,  Apple Pay is failing to interest people in the world.

After 18 months, Apple Pay has made a tiny dent in the global payments market, thanks to being stuffed up by technical challenges, low consumer take-up and resistance from banks who don’t see why they should support something that makes them sod all while making Apple rich.

The service is available in six countries and among a limited range of banks but it has failed to gain much traction outside the US. Apple Pay usage totalled $10.9 billion last year and that was mostly in the US. Although the figure looks high it is really sod all when you consider how much cash is moved around in mobile payments.

In China Alibaba and Tencent made an estimated $1 trillion worth of mobile transactions last year.

Basically Apple Pay is only popular with the hard-core Apple fanboys which we estimate total six million worldwide. These are the people who do what ever Apple tells them and would buy a dog poo if it had an Apple logo on it.

Other iPhone users are not bothering with the service.  Apple Pay transactions were a fraction of the $84.5 billion in iPhone sales for the six months to March, which accounted for two-thirds of Apple’s total revenue.

It has not been helped by the fact that the hardware that Apple Pay uses has been as reliable as Jobs’ Mob’s Apple IIc’s. While the do not appear to be catching fire.

In Australia, where Apple Pay launched a month ago, payment machines supported by one mid-sized bank reported frequent failures.

Apple Vice President Jennifer Bailey said such experiences were premature and not representative. “Like any set of major technology changes, it takes time. We want to move as quickly as possible, we push it as quickly as possible.”

Apple is also finding that the banks are harder to roll over than the movie, music and book trade. Apple is used to telling its partners what to do, but the banks have long experience of telling politicians and businesses what they can do.  Some country’s banks have even managed to negotiate lower transaction fees or have been holding out for Apple to offer something more reasonable.

Then there is the small matter that banks are starting to build their own products and don’t need Apple Pay at all. This situation is mirrored in the US where stores are starting to test their own services which will make Apple Pay redundant.

Internet of things to overtake mobiles in 2018

rough boardsEricsson’s new mobility report predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) will surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018

The report claims that between 2015 and 2021, IoT use will increase at a compounded annual growth rate  of 23 percent, making up close to 16 billion of the total forecast 28 billion connected devices by 2021.

There also appears to be a mobile data consumption explosion with mobile traffic growing 60 per cent between the first quarter of 2015 and 2016.

Due to the rising number of smartphone subscriptions – especially for LTE-capable smartphones – and the increasing data consumption per subscriber, the trend will continue, with a predicted tenfold increase — to 22GB per subscriber in North America — in mobile traffic by the end of 2021.

Western Europeans will use a little less traffic by then, 18GB per month per subscriber, while folks in the Asia Pacific region will use up 7GB per month. However, due to a rapid growth of subscribers, the Asia Pacific region will have the largest share of mobile data traffic in 2021.

The trend is driven by the continuing rise of the smartphone. Ericsson claims smartphone subscriptions will overtake non-smartphone ones in the third quarter of 2016. Long-term, dumbphones are essentially dead; by 2021, 95 per cent of all phones in North America will be smartphones.

The report adds that LTE subscriptions grew at a high rate during Q1 2016. There were 150 million new subscriptions during the quarter, reaching a total of 1.2 billion worldwide. Subscriptions associated with smartphones also continue to increase, and are expected to exceed those for basic phones in Q3 this year.

It also had a look at the “kids of today” who are apparently giving up on traditional television to watching streaming video on postage stamp sized smartphone screens.  The son of Eric did not give any reasons for this.

The report discussed the need for global spectrum harmonization to secure early 5G deployments.


Chinese rebel against Windows 10 upgrade

boxer-rebellion-hero-ABThe Chinese have put on their ceremonial boxers and revolted against Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade methods.

Chinese users of Volish products are criticizsng the software company’s push to get them to mandatorily upgrade their Windows operating systems.

According to the official Xinhua news agency posts critical of Microsoft on microblog site Weibo relating to the Windows 10 upgrade, which Microsoft users must switch to, have grown to over 1.2 million in number, it said.

Zhao Zhanling, a legal adviser with the Internet Society of China was quoted as saying Vole had abused its dominant market position and broken the market order for fair play.

He said users or consumer protection organizations had the right to file lawsuits against the company as Microsoft had not respected users’ right to know and choose, and may eventually profit from the unwanted upgrades.

Last year, Microsoft said it would offer free upgrades of Windows 10 to all Windows users, regardless of whether they are running genuine copies or not.

The move was seen at the time as an aggressive strategy by Microsoft to tackle rampant piracy in the Chinese computing market. Microsoft has been attempting to boost its business in China, where an anti-trust investigation into the company over its Windows operating system was launched in 2014.

But when the Windows’ pop-up upgrade window does not offer a “decline” option, only an option to upgrade later, Vole broke the rules.

Yang Shuo, a worker at a Beijing-based public relations company, told Xinhua that the sudden update interrupted his drafting of a business plan and led to a meeting cancellation for a deal worth $457,735.

“Just because I didn’t see the pop-up reminder does not mean I agreed,” he pointed out.



Hyperloop test is a success

A futuristic transit system called hyperloop was successfully tested in the Nevada desert.

A sled powered by electromagnets rocketed to more than 100 miles an hour. It was made by Hyperloop One and has raised $80 million from backers including clean technology venture capitalist Khosla Ventures, high-speed railway SNCF, and GE Ventures.

The big idea is that passengers and cargo will ride a system at velocities approaching 750 miles per hour instead of taking the much slower train.

Brogan BamBrogan, a former SpaceX engineer who co-founded Hyperloop One, called the test a major milestone.

“Technology development testing can be a tricky beast,” he said to a crowd of 300. “You never know on a given day if things are going to work exactly like you want.”

The sled began on a train track and then was rocketed to 105 miles per hour by electromagnets as electricity was shot into copper coils. After a short ride, the sled ran into a sand trap, sending out silicon sprays. If all goes according to plan, sleds will levitate and carry pods in a test later this year. Gigantic tubes already are scattered around the Las Vegas area test site.

The plan is that hyperloop would transport cargo by 2019 and passengers by 2021. However the project could face all sorts of nightmares ranging from construction permits to making the new technology work.


IBM creates cloud based quantum computer

schrodingers_catIBM unveiled the world’s first cloud based quantum computer which means that anyone can run quantum computing experiments from anywhere in the world.

Jerry Chow, IBM’s Manager of Experimental Quantum Computing Group said that IBM’s effort gives access to a much broader and larger space of computations.

“It’s a web-based platform for public to access to run quantum algorithm and quantum circuits on a real quantum processor in our labs. We want people to programme their own algorithms and learn what it means to do quantum computing.”

IBM’s cloud-based quantum computer will have just 5 Qbits and one quantum processor rather than an array. IBM plans to add qubits and even change processor configurations over time, but it will not be superfast.

According to Chow, IBM’s custom-built quantum processor is a silicon wafer etched with super-conducting metal which has to be super-cooled to 0.015 degrees above absolute zero.

Chow’s team has set up a queuing system and even a sort of virtual currency, called Q-Coins. Everyone who registers gets coins and can earn more by completing tutorials. The coins are used to run the tests against the Quantum silicon and get replenished when the experiment is done.

The IBM Quantum Computing Cloud interface includes tabs for a underguide and a place to keep track of your results.

Access to the real quantum computer will also reveal errors or “noise in the system,” which can help programmers refine their quantum algorithms. The environment will also include a simulator that will let you compare your results to those from the hardware or simply practice running error-free quantum algorithms.

Aspiring quantum computer scientists can access IBM’s Quantum computer here.

The decline of the Apple Cult comes to pass

apple-cultTwo years ago, we warned that Apple was like a decapitated brain unaware that its body had died, but now the signs of rigor mortis are setting in and it is getting harder to deny.

The outfit reported its first ever decline in revenue in 13 years yesterday. Ok, the figures are still what many companies would dream of – revenues of $50.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $10.5 billion, but much worse than the $58 billion and net profit of $13.6 billion last year.

The Tame Apple Press is trying to do its best to claim that the reason is a global downturn in smartphone sales. However this mystical downturn has not affected Apple’s rival Samsung which has done rather well.  They are also choosing to ignore the fact that Apple’s problems are going to get much worse.

Apple made several mistakes.  It did not spend enough investing in R&D and as a result it relied on the iPhone far too much. For the iPhone to keep making money it had to be super cool and upgraded every year. However Apple has decided not really to upgrade its phone significantly for two years. Sure it might have strapped better chips under the bonnet of the iPhone, but it is still more or less the same phone.

Apple also relied too much on China without really understanding the market. In China, ownership of an iPhone was a status symbol. It proved you had more money than sense. However as the Chinese economy retracted, overt shows of wealth gave way to functionality. HTC and Samsung phones had more bells and whistles, and looked much better.

But Apple’s refusal to have a good old redesign go at  its iPhone, even returning to the iPhone 5 design this year, was just silly.

Is it any wonder that Apple sold only 51.2 million iPhones this year?

So what is Apple’s response? Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings call that  services, which includes the App Store, Apple Music and Apple Pay, were one of the bright spots of the quarter, with revenues at $6 billion, up 20 percent from last year.

So it looks like Apple will try to lean on those services and hold on until the world economy picks up and can afford its pointless trinkets once more. Not a brilliant, super-cool way out of trouble but given Apple’s huge cash pile it might just work.

Cook claims that everything is down to weakening currencies and he seems to have convinced many of Wall Street’s leading analysts.  Most of them are predicting iPhone sales will once again increase by the end of this year, following the likely release of a new product in September.

However that approach might have worked in the past, but rumours suggest that Apple is not going to add much to the iPhone 7 coming out this year. In fact word on the street is that the only significant inovation will be that that Apple is going to introduce the same fast recharging features that other phones already have, and bring in an annoying cordless headphone feature which will hack off any users who have invested in expensive corded headphones.

Cook warned a reduction in channel inventory would also impact Apple’s revenue for the next quarter, but projected an optimistic outlook on the call.

“The future of Apple is very bright,” he said. “Our product pipeline has amazing innovation in store.”

Yeah well so far there is nothing rumoured to be that good.  Sadly Apple is not going anywhere fast.  It has piles of money and can effectively sit on its hands for a few years waiting for the next big thing.  But Apple is paying the price for its arrogance. It has become the IBM it mocked when it first started out. It is slow, indifferent to users and user demands and worst of all it is not putting out new products any more.