Category: Uncategorized

ZTE appeals import ban after lobbying failure

zte-corporationZTE is to appeal a US import ban on its products after an attempt at lobbying US politicians failed.

The US Commerce Department imposed restrictions on US suppliers providing crucial components to ZTE for alleged Iran sanctions violations, a move likely to disrupt its global supply chain.

A US Commerce Department official said he and ZTE Corp are in ongoing discussions,. These discussions have been constructive, and they will continue to seek a resolution.

In statements following the imposition of the restrictions, ZTE said it was “actively facilitating communications with the U.S. governmental department to search for a solution.”

Since coming under fire in 2012 for alleged deals with sanctions-hit Iran and possible links to the Chinese government and military, ZTE has ramped up its spending on Washington lobbyists.

It spent $5.1 million in the last four years, up from $212,000 in 2011, as it sought to assuage national security concerns, according to publicly available lobbying records maintained by Congress.

ZTE lobbyists contacted lawmakers in both houses of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the State Department and the National Security Agency to discuss matters such as cyber security, supply chains and trade relations, according to the lobby documents.

ZTE used at least five lobbying firms, and former US officials such as ex-Nebraska congressman Jon Lynn Christensen.

Christensen met with US Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce and lawmakers to provide “education regarding supply-chain security” and “cyber security issues,” the lobby disclosure documents show.

It seems that the efforts failed to convince lawmakers mostly because they are a “Communist Chinese company” who does what every their government says.  Rather than being a capitalist company which tells the government how to behave.

 

Google played monopoly against Putin

Vladimir Putin - Wikimedia CommonsA Russian court has decided that the US search outfit Google has been playing monopoly in Russia and if it does not totally scrap its business model it will have to take its Andriod phones off the market.

The court said that the ad giant had violated the country’s anti-trust rules by having its services bundled on Android-based devices.

Russian search outfit Yandex brought a successful complaint against Google pre-installing its products on Android phones and tablets. At the time, the Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) ruled that users of Google’s operating system shouldn’t be lumped with the ad and search giant’s other services.

Since this tiggers Google’s whole Android business model it could result in those phones being removed from sale in Russia.  Apple

Moscow’s Arbitration Court chucked out Google’s appeal against that ruling, and said that it “fully supports” the earlier FAS decision. “Google’s actions led to prohibition of pre-installation of apps of other producers,” it added.

Google will now be required to change its business practices with smartphone makers in Russia, or else face a fine if it fails to adhere to the ruling.

But things could get worse for Google. The EU is also looking into complaints from from competition officials in Brussels over the company’s Android OS.

Brazilian coders create platform friendly malware

brazilBrazilians are a friendly bunch and now its hackers are starting to design malware on Java JAR files which can play nicely on all three major platforms, Mac, Linux, and Windows.

Virus vendor Kaspersky has spotted a few families of Java executables in the wild which don’t really care what operating system you use.

By packing malware as a JAR file, crooks are practically making sure their content will be executed on all targets, regardless of operating system.

True the Java engine needs to be installed on each victim’s computer for the malware to run, but given it is installed on 70-80 percent of computers that is pretty much a no-brainer.

According to Kaspersky, Brazil’s criminal underground seems to be the first one that has taken this step. At the moment they are running spam campaigns and banking trojans.

Right now, infections with these three malware families that use JAR files are popping up mainly in Brazil, but a large number of victims was also recorded in China and Germany, where Kaspersky says that local cyber-crime gangs are also experimenting with the same JAR-packing techniques.

Prodial Kidd is the UK’s biggest phone pest

Prodial-Ltd-director-Louis-KiddLouis Kidd, a 27-year-old, who lives with his mum, is the UK’s biggest phone pest.

Prodial, the outfit he founded received the heaviest fine ever handed down to a company making nuisance calls.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) ordered Prodial to pay £350,000 for making 40 million nuisance phone calls in four months.

The automated calls, dialled from a computer server in the south east of England, hit homes across Britain at the rate of over 330,000 a day.

Kidd and his business partner, Phil Carrington, 55, will not pay a penny because they put their company into liquidation when the ICO closed  in.

The directors, who have no liabilities, are free to start up a new firm doing exactly the same thing.

Prodial bought numbers for British mobile phones and landlines from a company in South Africa. The numbers were called constantly, using software developed by Mr Kidd.

Between April and August last year, Prodial made more than 40 million calls, in which recorded messages were played relating to claims for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

Prodial had a turn-over of about £100,000 a month.  But the money has disappeared after the firm “went bust”.

Carrington told investigators he was an “inveterate gambler” and the money earned from the firm had been spent.

The ICO had received more than 1,100 complaints about nuisance calls traced to Prodial. Complainants said they were called repeatedly and often there was no opt-out option.

IBM is sending suits to the cleaners

suitsThe ever shrinking Big Blue appears to have ordered huge lay-offs in its US offices – nearly a third of its employees.

To make matters worse Biggish Blue recently changed its severance policy, reducing a potential maximum of six months of benefits to a month. The new policy only applies to those who lose their jobs due to the elimination of a position which appears to be what is happening.

The WatchingIBM Facebook group released details of suits who have been in the company for nearly 40 years and have been told to clean out their desks with just a month’s pay.

Apparently IBM is moving the work to Hungary and Brazil although some H1B visa workers are staying.

Managers are reading redundancies off scripts claiming that one third of the U.S. workforce is being ‘rebalanced.’ with it.

They are giving us 90 days paid working notice, one-month severance, and $2500 in money for retraining.

IBM is telling staff that it is just a skill set change but it is more to do with shifting jobs off-shore many of the staff are telling the press.

A Big Blue spokesman said that rumours of layoffs affecting a third of the U.S. workforce today are untrue, and  IBM “currently has more than 25,000 open positions” as part of “transforming its business to lead in a new era of cognitive and cloud computing”.

Although that does not really explain what staff are telling the media.

HTTPS kills Cameron’s smut plans

cameron_pigGatePig fancying British Prime Minister David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron’s attempts to ban smut from the Interwebs are coming unstuck because of basic technology that most people have.

For those who came in late, Cameron’s cronies spent a lot of time and effort forcing ISPs to block access to torrent sites. This would logically bring an end to torrented porn and mean that children would be safe in their beds.

But the likes of The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents offering secure, encrypted connection and all users need to do is stick an extra ‘s’ in the URL. This is not a new trick but word is getting out and HTTPS torrenting is increasing.

Rather than offering HTTPS as an option, a number of torrent sites default to the secure connection, automatically sidestepping ISP-level blocks. ISPs can block it, and Sky does.  But since HTTPS connections strip HTTP headers it may be harder to detect that a blocked site is being accessed.

ISPs could also block the site’s IP-addresses, but since many use shared IPs from CloudFlare this would also take down other unrelated websites.  Not that Cameron cares he is just thinking about the children after all if the great unwashed watch too much porn they will start forgetting they have children and leave them in pubs.

Computer pioneer dies

1962LINCandWesleyThe bloke whose computer work in the 1950s and 1960s underpinned the modern computing industry has died.

Wesley Allison Clark, was 88.  He trained in physics at the University of California / Berkeley and joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in 1952.

On his first job he had to test the memory technology for MIT’s Whirlwind, which was a vacuum tube computer for the US Navy. In 1955 he co-invented the lab’s TX-0 project was one of the first transistor computers.

Clark idea for the TX-0 was that he wanted to create a computer which could be operated by one person. Using technical partner Ken Olsen’s physically small engineering design he created a new class of systems called minicomputers. Olsen two years later formed Digital Equipment commercialise the hardware. Mini’s took off and allowed midsize businesses to have computers rather than just major corporations.

Clark’s approach inspired MIT doctoral student Ivan Sutherland to develop a graphical design application called Sketchpad. Sketchpad influenced Doug Engelbart who invented the mouse and important graphical interface concepts.

In the 1960s, Clark moved to St. Louis and worked at Washington University, where developed the macromodule project. The goal was to assemble parts into full computers. They created the LINC which advanced the ideas of truly personal computing even more. LINC and macromodules created the modular computer networking. LINC is considered the first real workstation. Clark in the early 1970s suggested that it would be a neat idea to use these technology packages as the basis for Interface Message Processors. Engineering firm Bolt Beranak and Newman ran Clark’s idea on Honeywell minicomputers as the backbone of the ARPAnet, which became the internet.

Clark is survived by wife Maxine and son.

Glass could remember everything forever

SalvadorDali-The-Persistence-of-Memory-1931Researchers at the University of Southampton have emerged from a smoke filled lab with a step towards data storage that is capable of surviving for billions of years.

Scientists from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing onto nanostructured glass.

Apparently the glass allows 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190°C ).

As a very stable and safe form of portable memory, the technology could be highly useful for organisations with big archives, such as national archives, museums and libraries, to preserve their information and records.

Documents are recorded using ultrafast laser, producing extremely short and intense pulses of light. The file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres (one millionth of a metre).

The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polariser, similar to that found in Polaroid sunglasses.

Dubbed the ‘Superman memory crystal’, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

Professor Peter Kazansky, from the ORC, says: “It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

The researchers will present their research at the photonics industry’s renowned SPIE—The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, USA this week.

 

Hackers ransom a hospital for $3.6 million

bankHackers are holding the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre for a $3.6 million ransom.

The hackers are demanding a 9,000 Bitcoin ransom to release the “electronic keys” to unlock computers.

So far details are nearly impossible to get.

NBC Los Angeles is reporting that the hospital’s IT network has been crippled and that staff is redirecting emergencies to other hospitals.

Meanwhile staff are using pen and paper to record patient information and a fax to communicate with other departments. Patients need to come in person to the hospital to pick up test results since the email servers are inaccessible.

Computers are not allowed to be turned on, as the managers fear that more workstations will be affected by the incident. The hospital’s Radiation and Oncology departments have been completely shut down.

So far there is no evidence that patient or employee information has been taken but that is just a small blessing.  Still it is America and the hospital could free itself by paying up and selling a few more asperin to make up the cost.

Amazon opens 400 bookstores

AmazonOnline book seller Amazon.com has gone back to the future and plans to open up to 400 physical bookstores.

The online bookseller had a crack at brick-and-mortar stores when it opened a bookstore in Seattle in November. An expansion of bookstores, which the company has not confirmed, would be a surprise reversal from the online retailer credited with driving physical booksellers out of business.

Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties said that  Amazon was opening 3-400 brick-and-mortar bookstores in shopping centres.

He said it was similar to eyeware company Warby Parker or men’s clothing retailer Bonobos, both of which opened physical stores after finding success online.

Amazon is saying nothing of course. But it has been branching out faster than the cooch grass in the garden of my old house. It is flogging everything from fresh groceries to Top Gear.

Amazon’s bookstore in Seattle carries books selected based on customer ratings and popularity on Amazon.com. The storefront also provides a space for visitors to test-drive Amazon’s Kindle, Fire TV and other devices.

If it does move into online stores it will really harm long-time rivals like Barnes & Noble, the largest US bookstore chain, which operated 640 bookstores across the United States as of January.