Category: Software

Digital “Geneva Convention” is Smith’s dream

Software king of the world Microsoft has called for a digital Geneva Convention which would see tech companies remaining neutral if any country goes to war in cyberspace.

Microsoft president Brad Smith is alarmed at the rising tide of nationalism and said tech companies must declare themselves neutral when nations go up against nations in cyberspace.

Talking to the RSA computer security conference, Smith said cyberspace is the new battlefield and Tech must be committed to “100% defence and zero percent offense.”

Smith called for a “digital Geneva Convention,” like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts.

The speech was echoed in a blog post on Microsoft’s site that went up yesterday.

The world’s governments need to pledge that “they will not engage in cyberattacks that target civilian infrastructure, whether it’s the electric grid or the political system,” Smith said.

The  digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.

Smith listed a string of increasingly threatening cross-border cyber incidents, beginning with the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 to thefts of intellectual property by China in 2015, ending with last year’s Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election.

“We suddenly find ourselves living in a world where nothing seems off limits to nation-state attacks,” Smith said.

Technology companies, not armies, are the first responders when cyber-attacks occur, he noted. But they cannot and must not, respond in kind, or aid governments in going on the offensive, Smith said.

Smith wants an autonomous organisation, something like the International Atomic Energy Agency that polices nuclear non-proliferation.

“Even in a world of growing nationalism, when it comes to cybersecurity the global tech sector needs to operate as a neutral Digital Switzerland,” Smith said.

“We will not aid in attacking customers anywhere. We need to retain the world’s trust.”

This would mean that tech companies should refuse to aid governments, even the government of the country they are based in, in attacking other nations. That could mean not building backdoors into programs sold in other countries and not taking part in work to create cyberweapons.

Apple’s App store is the kiss of death for sales

For a long-time, developers have been forced to bend over backwards to satisfy the fruity cargo-cult Apple’s controls so that they can be granted entry to its App store.

While developers admit that Apple is a nightmare to work for, the belief is that they can be sure of getting money back by being involved in the store.

However, developers are starting to question the wisdom of their Apple involvement and are discovering that pulling apps from Apple’s store do them no harm at all.

Techcrunch spoke to Dash creator Bogdan Popescu who thought he was in trouble when Apple pulled his Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100 day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn’t care which platform they were using.

More than 84 per cent of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license and Popescu found that he did not have to deal with Apple anymore. He had full control over his business and did not have any App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues.

Paul Kafasis tried something similar. When he pulled his Appl a year ago he found that the 50 per cent of sales which went through the App Store turned into direct sales through his website.

“It appears that nearly everyone who would have purchased Piezo via the Mac App Store opted to purchase directly once that was the only option,” he said.

It appears that the Mac App Store was not driving sales to developers it was driving sales away from our own site, and into the Mac App Store.

Maintaining the app for the app store is costly and much of his revenue went to paying the App Store a commission. Moving to a direct model was much better than trying to obey Apple’s channel rules.

Basically, developers are discovering that having more than one sales channel is also massively important.

Many developers are considering setting up a system where they exist on the App store but charge more for the product. Smarter customer will go to the website where they can get it cheaper, but the lazier types will effectively end up paying Apple’s tax.

Republicans are destroying their emails

tumblr_m3cujpo5xc1qz4ar6o1_500US republicans are trying to avoid their embarrassing emails being found by hackers or foreign powers by using an app that destroys them after they have been read.

The messaging app is an encrypted, self-destructing messaging app called Confide and apparently it has been downloaded by “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration”.

One operative told Axios that the app “provides some cover” for people in the party. He ties it to last year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to huge and damaging information dumps of DNC emails leading up to the 2016 election.

Confide makes it difficult to screenshot messages, because only a few words are shown at a time. That suggests that it’s useful not just for reducing paper trails, but for stopping insiders from leaking individual messages.

But the difficulty here is that it is probably illegal. As the Hillary Clinton scandal showed, messages have to be stored and monitored by government officials.

Encrypted message apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp apparently spiked in popularity after Trump’s election, and the Clinton campaign reportedly adopted Signal after the DNC hack was discovered.

Ironically the republicans say they want to clamp down on encryption and other similar security options so that they can spy on “terrorists.”

Dubai and IBM working on Blockchain

blockchainThe government of Dubai and Biggish Blue are launching a scheme using blockchain computing technology to process financial transactions and keep track of goods being shipped.

The initiative will provide real-time information about the state of goods and the status of their shipment to Dubai’s customs and trade agencies and companies involved in the trade process, IBM said.

Dubai registered $176 billion of non-oil trade in the first half of 2016, has cemented itself as one of the largest re-export centres for goods flowing between Asia and the Middle East and Africa.

IBM said it was also working with companies including du, a United Arab Emirates-based telecommunications firm, Dubai’s largest bank Emirates NBD, Spanish lender Banco Santander, Dubai-based logistics firm Aramex and an unidentified airline on the scheme.

Blockchain 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.

Proponents think it could make transactions faster and safer, and have a wide range of applications.

The Dubai deal follows a plan announced in February 2016 by the government there to become a f blockchain centre.

IBM said the two banks taking part in the project would use blockchain for trade finance transactions involved in the scheme.

Firefox abandons old Netscape APIs

Red-Panda-pik-2-10alwllAfter years of active service, the big cheeses at the Mozzarella Foundation have pulled the plug on some old bit of code which was first used in the Netscape browser.

When Firefox first appeared, it ran on the Netscape Plugins API infrastructure which has now got so old it makes the Spinning Jenny look cutting edge. From March,

Mozilla will kill off all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash.

This means good-bye to Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs.

Once these plugins once were the backbone of the world wide wibble but now they have been replaced by standalone Web APIs and alternative. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be killed off in ESR 53.

A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

Office 365 subscriptions stall

 

Microsoft campusSoftware King of the world Microsoft said subscriptions to the productivity software had reached nearly 25 million but additions were down 62 percent compared to the year before.

This seems to indicate that Microsoft is finding it difficult to get new sign ups for the subscription based office service.

Satya Nadella touted revenue increases for the Office products aimed at consumers — which include Office 365 — and of the latter said that the company had, “continued to see an increase in … subscriber base.”

But in a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft pegged the number of consumer Office 365 subscriptions in the December quarter at 24.9 million, an increase of 900,000 from the September quarter and 4.3 million more than a year earlier.

Microsoft’s Office 365 started with “Home Premium” — was a five-user deal that cost $100 annually or $10 monthly. Fifteen months later, Microsoft unveiled a one-user subscription called “Personal” for $70 a year or $7 a month. Since then, Microsoft shortened the original subscription’s name to just “Home;” prices have not changed.

Vole has always wanted to shift much of its software business model toward recurring payments rather than one-time purchases of “perpetual” licences.

During the last nine months Office 365 grew by about 900,000 subscribers, the smallest quarterly increase since early 2014. Before that subscribers were signing up at rates two to three times larger per quarter.

Subscriber additions peaked in the first quarter of 2015, at 3.2 million, followed by 3 million in the third quarter, providing a foundation for a record 11.4 million new subscribers during the year.

After Q4 2015, however, the trailing 12-month numbers fell, a decline fuelled by the plateau of 0.9 million each quarter from the second onward. That resulted in a gain of just 4.3 million subscribers throughout 2016, a reduction of 62 percent from the year before.

It does not really mean much to Vole’s bottom line. In fact, revenue from the consumer side of Office with the perpetual licenses sold at retail — was up 22 percent in the December quarter. But it does indicate that there is a pain threshold in the subscriber model. It seems that most people who want Office 365 using this model have it already.

 

Vivaldi lashes out at Vole for making Edge on all four seasons

vivaldiA Vivaldi boss has lashed out at Microsoft over its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge.

Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the “actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives”.

He is particularly miffed at Windows 10’s continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge.

Von Tetzchner said that that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.

Each time Windows 10 upgrades, it changes the default browser to Edge. When a new browser is installed it also leads to restoring Edge as the default option.

Microsoft has also made it complicated for a non-technical user to bring their old default browser back.

“Our goal as technology companies should be to provide great software to our users. At the same time, we should accept that some users prefer software created by other companies. It is our responsibility to be fair to the users, and this is what should drive the technology industry forward. Stripping users of their ability to choose or forcefully limiting their options stalls progress. Focusing on building great products is what should drive us to excel,” he wrote.

 

Oracle’s Trumpeter CEO lays off more employees

CatzOne of Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s staunchest allies Oracle CEO Safra Catz, has decided that the best way to Make America Great again is to lay off lots of American workers.

Catz, who is on Trump’s transition team, does not appear to have got the memo about providing more US jobs. Mercury News said that Oracle is laying off approximately 450 employees in its Santa Clara hardware systems division.

This is a conservative number as a discussion board for technology business firings, claim about 1,800 employees company-wide are being told to clear out their desks.

Oracle claims the company isn’t closing the Santa Clara facility. Instead, “Oracle is refocusing its Hardware Systems business, and for that reason, has decided to lay off certain of its employees in the Hardware Systems Division”.

Those going are members of Oracle’s failing SPARC hardware department. In mid-2016, Oracle claimed its new SPARC S7 processor would be offered on Oracle Cloud. The cloud is Oracle’s new revenue hope since its new software licensing revenue plummeted by 20 percent in its last quarter ended December 15. At the same time, Oracle’s hardware revenue had fallen 13 percent. In Oracle’s most recent SPARC/Solaris roadmap, the next generation Solaris 12 has vanished to be replaced by moderate refreshes called Solaris 11.next and SPARC next.

While some of the staff cleaning out their desks are management and staff, the majority are hardware and software developers.

Things are not going well at Oracle.  The US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Oracle in January claiming that Oracle had engaged in pay discrimination practices against female, African-American, and Asian employees.

Oracle spokesperson Deborah Hellinger claimed that the court case was politically motivated, based on false allegations, “and wholly without merit”.

Windows 7 is a chocolate teapot, Microsoft warns

Nestle-chocolate-teapot-1Software giant Microsoft has warned the world that its Windows 7 software is the chocolate teapot of software and is advising people to upgrade to Windows 10.

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 back in January 2015 and stopped OEMs from selling PCs with Windows 7 and 8.1 near the end of 2016.

A spokesVole said that Windows 7 will approach its end of extended support in less than three years, and warned enterprise customers and other users to upgrade to Windows 10.

While January 14, 2020 might seem a long way away it does take organisations rather a long time to do a roll out. But Vole warned that Windows 7 really was not an option anymore and not fit for the purpose for most corporates.

In a new blog post, the company says that continued usage of Windows 7 increases maintenance and operating costs for businesses. Similarly, time is needlessly wasted on combating malware attacks that could have been avoided by upgrading to Windows 10. Microsoft also says that many hardware manufacturers do not provide drivers for Windows 7 any longer, and many developers and companies refrain from releasing programs on the outdated operating system.

Markus Nitschke, Head of Windows at Microsoft Germany said that the Operating system did not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments.

Companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs, he said.

Microsoft further pointed out that its obsolete operating system is based on “long-outdated security architectures”. It also cautioned that companies and businesses who still use it are more susceptible to cyber-attacks.

Windows 10 to lock when you move away

8746-dSoftware king of the world Microsoft has a wizard wheeze to hack off users.

Vole has thought that it would be much more secure if every time a user steps away from their machine, Windows 10 senses this and goes into lock down automatically.

The feature is labelled as Dynamic Lock and has started appearing in recent test builds of Windows 10. Vole has dubbed the software “Windows Goodbye” internally which might be a prediction more than a label.

Vole uses special Windows Hello cameras to let Windows 10 users log into a PC with just their face and big corporates want employees to use the winkey+L combination to lock machines when they’re idle.

The new feature will make it an automatic process and it is not clear how Microsoft detect inactivity, but it’s possible the company could use Windows Hello-compatible machines or detect idle activity and lock the machine accordingly.

Windows can already be configured to do this after a set time period, but Vole is streamlining this feature into a simple setting for anyone to enable. Microsoft is planning to deliver Dynamic Lock as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, expected to arrive in April.

It might work in a corporate world although logging on and off each time you go to the loo is going get annoying quick. Supervisors often must get up for a moment to help their employees, logging on and off each time they do that is going to force them to lob their PC through the window.  But home users are up and about all the time.

To be fair all this will be redundant when the computer starts to recognise who you are and switches back on automatically. That tech is already there with Windows Hello.