Samsung Galaxy S8 pre-orders eclipse S7

Despite outright threats from the Tame Apple Press which imply that the S8 will catch fire like the S7, Samsung says that pre-orders for the S8 have eclipsed the S7.

Apple’s favourite news agency Reuters whinged that the news meant that users did not seem to fear that S8 would catch fire. Given that none of the other Galaxy phones caught fire it does seem rather unlikely. Apple also has reasons for wanting its rival buried, the S8 looks to be far superior than anything that Jobs Mob has now, or has planned.

Mobile business chief Koh Dong-jin said the S8, which begin sales in South Korea, the United States and Canada on April 21. The new device has been well-received, and some investors and analysts said it could set a first-year sales record for the smartphone giant.

“It’s still a bit early, but initial response to the pre-orders that have begun at various places across the world have been better than expected,” Koh said at a media briefing.

The S8 will be the safest Galaxy smartphone to date due to safety measures implemented to avoid the battery failures that caused some Note 7s to spontaneously combust, he said.

Analysts expect Samsung to record its best-ever quarterly profit in April-June, buoyed by strong S8 sales and a memory chip market boom that is widely expected to deliver record revenue for the industry this year.

The new device, equipped with either 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch (14.73 cm or 15.75 cm) curved screens, sports the largest screens to date among all of Samsung’s flagship phones due to a redesign.

Koh also said the firm plans to use the S8 to try to recover in China, where Samsung has been out of the top five vendors in recent years due to heightened competition from local rivals such as Huawei.

Investors fear Samsung might be over stretching itself

While Samsung is set to deliver huge profits this year, some investors are already starting to fret the tech giant will soon become a victim of its own success.

The outfit has a market capitalisation of $293 billion and is Asia’s most valuable company. Its shares have jumped 60 percent since end-2015, hitting a record high in late March.

Wall Street analysts are predicting that high chip prices continuing at least through to the end of this year, and the launch of a new flagship smartphone this month reviving its mobile business after last year’s Galaxy Note 7 fires.

But shareholders are less excited than they should be. The Stock is only up three percent since April and some investors are questioning the company’s long-term growth potential and whether it can maintain the double-digit profit growth expected this year.

Samsung’s operating profit is expected to grow just 5.5 percent next year compared to 61 percent in 2017, according to the average forecast from a Thomson Reuters survey of 16 analysts.

This is because most of Samsung’s growth has been the booming memory chip market, with prices for both DRAM and NAND chips soaring. Researcher IHS expects 2017 memory industry revenues to leap 32 percent to a record $104 billion this year.

But this growth will not be repeated, analysts say, with more production capacity coming online to alleviate the bottleneck. IHS projects 2018 memory industry revenue to grow by just 3 percent to $107 billion.

Microsoft retires security bulletins

Microsoft retired the security bulletins making many security experts lives rather difficult.

Vole announced the demise of bulletins in November, saying then that the last would be posted with January’s Patch Tuesday, and that the new process would debut 14 February.

A searchable database of support documents would replace the bulletins. Accessed through the “Security Updates Guide” (SUG) portal, the database’s content can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch’s release date, its CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or “knowledge base” support document.

SUG’s forerunners were the web-based bulletins that have been part of Microsoft’s patch disclosure policies since at least 1998.

Vole did such a good job turning out those bulletins that they were considered the aspirational benchmark for all software vendors, so getting rid of them seemed so strange.

In February Microsoft cancelled that month’s Patch Tuesday just hours before the security updates were to reach customers, making the bulletins’ planned demise moot. Microsoft kept the bulletins the following month as well, saying it wanted to give users more time to prepare for the change to SUG.

Finally, when Microsoft yesterday shipped cumulative security updates for Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and other products, it omitted the usual bulletins.

SUG is not so popular, even if analysts say it has great potential.  Many are undecided whether it would be able to deliver the same quantity and quality of information as the bulletins, without burdening administrators with more work.

Most of the information packed into the earlier bulletins remained available through SUG by digging into the numerous online documents, it is not as accessible.

Russian hackers might have gamed Brexit

A website which allowed Britons to register to vote in last year’s European Union referendum might have been targeted by Russian hackers who crashed it before the deadline.

A committee of British MPs said that more than a million potential voters applied to register online in the run up to the deadline two weeks before last June’s vote and the government extended the cut-off point after the website crashed, blaming it on a late rush by mainly young citizens.

But parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said it did not rule out the possibility that the crash was caused by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber attack.

“PACAC is deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference,” said the report.

The committee said that the interference would not have changed the outcome, but it was rather disconcerting anyway.

Russia has been accused of trying to influence the 2016 U.S. election and the committee said the government needed to ensure future elections and referendums were monitored with plans in pace to respond to and contain any cyber-attacks.

The report said that Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals.

“The implications of this different understanding of cyber-attack, as purely technical or as reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion, for the interference in elections and referendums are clear.”

The committee was also critical of the government’s failure to prepare for a vote for Brexit and former Prime Minister David Cameron’s motives for calling the referendum in the first place, saying using plebiscites as a “bluff call” to close “unwelcome debate” was questionable.

“There was no proper planning for a Leave vote so the EU referendum opened up much new controversy and left the prime minister’s credibility destroyed,” the report said.

Songs are getting shorter

A new study finds that pop songs themselves are getting faster as listeners’ attention spans diminish  and young people have the attention span of goldfish

The study was penned by Hubert Leveille Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at the Ohio State University who looked at the year-end top 10 on the US Billboard chart between 1986 and 2015.

He found that instrumental openings to songs have shrunk dramatically over the past three decades and, to a lesser extent, the average tempo of hit singles has been speeding up.

In 1986, it took roughly 23 seconds before the voice began on the average hit song. In 2015, vocals came in after about five seconds, a drop of 78 percent, he found.

His study was published in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. He linked the trend to the rapid rise of Spotify and other streaming sites that give listeners instant access to millions of songs.

“It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible and the voice is one of the most attention-grabbing things that there is.”

Apparently if you like to concentrate, you like instrumental music.

As an example of the shift, Leveille Gauvin pointed to Starship’s 1987 hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which takes 22 seconds for the vocals to begin and more than a minute for the chorus.

On the 2015 hit “Sugar” by Maroon 5, Adam Levine gets to the point within seven seconds with the lines: “I’m hurting baby / I’m broken down.”

Leveille Gauvin doubts that many pop stars are clamouring in the studio for shorter intros, he just thinks it is a steady evolution in songwriting conventions.

He connected the trend to scholar Michael H. Goldhaber’s concept of the “attention economy”—the quest to hold attention in an internet overflowing with information.

“You can think of music as this double role. Music has always been a cultural product, but I think that more and more songs are also advertisements for the artists,” Leveille Gauvin said.

Berners-Lee fears AI monster

The bloke who created the world-wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee,  said he is worried that artificial intelligence (AI) could become the new ‘masters of the universe’ by creating and running their own companies.

Speaking at the Innovate Finance Global Summit today, Berners-Lee envisioned a world where AI systems start to develop decision-making capabilities and the impact this will have on the fairness of our economic systems.

He said that AI could decide which companies to acquire: “So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that’s a big one. Or which companies to acquire and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies.

“It becomes difficult to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe fairness to a computer anyway.”

The scenario does threaten to wipe out an entire industry and raises some fundamental questions about how fair a financial system without any human involvement can be.

Berners-Lee also slammed the Trump administration’s rollback of net neutrality protections.

He recently published a letter on the 28th anniversary of the world wide web, detailing what he views as the three main challenges for the web: loss of control over personal data, the spread of misinformation across the web and the need for transparency with online political advertising.

 

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.