Monthly Archives: July 2016

AirPods good to use

Apple’s new wireless AirPods are finally available.

The company on Tuesday began taking orders for AirPods at its online store, and said it would start delivering the US$159 earphones to customers, Apple Stores, resellers and carriers next week.

At the iPhone 7 launch in September, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said the AirPods would be available in October, but the company missed that target time frame due to unexplained delays.

Missing the deadline for release of any hot product is bad news for a company, but what made the AirPods miss worse was that the they were supposed to offset some of the sting consumers felt over Apple’s decision to omit the traditional headphone jack in the iPhone 7.

“Someone clearly dropped the ball, because without something like this with the iPhone 7 the attached sales for the earbuds were stalled, and it made it harder to sell iPhone 7s,” noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Both products should have shown up at the same time,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Missed Opportunity

However, the absence of AirPods doesn’t seem to have affected iPhone 7 sales that much.

“Sales of the iPhone 7 seem to be doing well,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“The absence of AirPods hasn’t been a deal breaker for consumers interested in the phone,” he told TechNewsWorld.

On the other hand, the late release certainly will impact sales of the AirPods.

“Apple missed an attractive cross-sell opportunity when the new iPhones were released,” Rubin noted, “and they missed the Black Friday opportunity, when there would have been increased traffic going through stores.”

AirPods still could be a popular item this Christmas, though.

“It’s a relatively small product, easy to pick up online, easy to ship,” Rubin pointed out. “It could still wind up in stockings or under trees.”

 

Chip Trouble

Apple is being mum about what caused the delay in bringing the AirPods to market, but several reports link it to the new W1 wireless chip in the headphones.

“There’s definitely been a problem with the supply chain, and the best I can figure it was related to the custom Apple W1,” said Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

If that’s the case, though, it wouldn’t explain why Apple could ship the Beats Solo 3 and Powerbeat 3 headphones, which also use the chip. Another Beats model, however, the X BT, also is experiencing delays and may not reach retail shelves until next year.

“It could be that Apple needed more time fine-tuning the chip for rated battery life,” Krewell told TechNewsWorld.

Battery life is one of several drawbacks that have dampened demand for products similar to the AirPods.

Clean tech effort to star power

One year after a powerhouse group of technology executives and venture capital icons met to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the group, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has launched a US$1 billion investment fund to support clean energy startups around the world.

The Breakthrough Energy Fund, chaired by Gates, is designed to jumpstart an entire new generation of entrepreneurs developing radical new approaches to providing reliable and low-cost energy, with zero carbon emissions as the end goal.

Institutional partners, including the University of California, will help generate research ideas. Strategic partners, including Southern Co. and others, will help the group with regulatory issues, and figure out which companies have the most promise.

In addition to Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s board members include John Arnold, co-chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; John Doerr, chair of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers; and Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures.

 

Star Power

Other leading members includ Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group; Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries; Hasso Plattner, cofounder of SAP; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently joined the investor group, bringing the membership to 21, Gates said.

“Breakthrough technologies … have the potential to be one of the best investment opportunities of the 21st century,” Doerr said earlier this week, in a conference call with reporters.

The fund will invest in a wide variety of companies — storage, transportation, agricultural, electrical generation and industrial, among others. The fund will offer a range of financing, from seed capital to early stage investment and capitalization.

The fund will take advantage of a lot of lessons learned about financing clean energy companies, and apply those lessons to the new venture, Doerr said.

The fund will emphasize taking a “long, patient view” toward investment, in order to give companies enough time to properly develop, Khosla said during the conference call.

The fund will be able to handle seven-, eight- and nine-figure investments, Arnold added, and it will focus on revolutionary versus evolutionary investments — that is, those designed to push aggressively toward significant emission reductions.

“While there might be long-term business gains, I personally believe that this is part of [Gates’] philanthropic work to improve overall human conditions, particularly for the next generation,” observed Farah Saeed, principal consultant at Frost & Sullivan.

“Also, there is the attraction of using technology to resolve existing issues around improving affordability and vast availability of clean energy,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Major Data Breach on Yahoo that Suffers

Yahoo on Wednesday revealed that Net bandits stole data associated with 1 billion of its user accounts — one of the largest data breaches in Internet history.

The theft, which occurred in August 2013, is distinct from the theft disclosed earlier this fall, in which 500 million accounts were compromised, Yahoo CISO Bob Lord explained.

Stolen information may include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords using MD5 encryption — and in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers, according to Lord.

An unauthorized third party accessed the code Yahoo uses to create cookies, he noted. Access to that code allowed attackers to compromise accounts with forged cookies.

In response to this latest discovery, Yahoo is taking steps to secure the accounts of affected users and invalidate forged cookies, said Lord, as well as to harden its systems against similar attacks.

 

More Data Nicked

This latest breach at Yahoo appears worse than the previous one not only because is it bigger, but also because more-sensitive information was stolen.

“More information was released than just usernames and passwords,” explained Rami Essaid CEO of Distil Networks.

“The bad guys are getting a more holistic look at these users,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The weakly encrypted or plaintext security questions in particular could be problematic, because the answers to those questions don’t change from site to site.

“You can change your passwords, but you only have one mother’s maiden name and one birth date,” Essaid noted.

 

Verizon Deal

How this latest data breach could affect the US$4.8 billion sale of Yahoo to Verizon is unknown. However, after news of the first breach made headlines, Verizon sought to lop $1 billion from the original purchase price, according to reports.

As with the previous Yahoo data breach, Verizon’s official reaction to the latest theft was brusque.

“As we’ve said all along, we will evaluate the situation as Yahoo continues its investigation,” the company said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Rich Young. “We will review the impact of this new development before reaching any final conclusions. We have no additional comment at this time.”

Companies buy other companies for any number of reasons — their customer lists, their technology or their talent, among other things — observed RedSeal CEO Ray Rothrock.

“If Verizon was buying Yahoo for its customers, this is a bad deal,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Stalking customers than claims suits

The controversy over Uber staff using the company’s tech to track people’s movements was reignited this week when information in a pending lawsuit began circulating in the tech press.

Uber employees can pull customer data at will, alleged Ward Spangenberg, the company’s former forensic investigator, in a court declaration filed earlier this fall as part of his bid to prevent the firm from forcing his case into arbitration.

Uber staffers have been able to track high-profile politicians, celebrities and ex-significant others, Spangenberg said.

His original complaint, filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, centers on his dismissal from the company.

Uber continues to allow broad access to users’ trip information, five security professionals formerly employed at the company told Reveal.

That has been going on, they said, in spite of Uber’s assertions two years ago that it had policies prohibiting such actions, following news that executives were taking advantage of its “God View” feature to track customers in real time without their permission.

 

Uber’s Side of the Story

“It’s absolutely untrue that ‘all’ or ‘nearly all’ employees have access to customer data, with or without approval,” maintained Uber spokesperson Sophie Schmidt.

“We have built entire systems to implement technical and administrative controls to limit access to customer data to employees who require it to perform their jobs,” she told TechNewsWorld. “This could include multiple steps of approval — by managers and the legal team — to ensure there is a legitimate business case for providing access.”

Access is granted “to specific types of data based on an employee’s role,” Schmidt asserted. All data access is logged and routinely audited, and all potential violators are “quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

Uber employees must acknowledge and agree to the company’s data access policy, CIO John Flynn emphasized in a memo sent earlier this week.

Violators have been terminated, he reminded them.

“We want our security and privacy practices and technology to be world-class, and we’re moving quickly toward that goal,” Flynn said. It’s “the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect” customer and driver data.

However, Uber’s defense in the Spangenberg case relies mainly on procedural issues.

“It’s not logical for any company to proclaim that they are secure because they sent an email telling employees what to do,” remarked John Gunn, VP of communications at Vasco Data Security.

“In the real IT world you don’t need these types of emails, because you’ve implemented limitations on access to sensitive data [that] you monitor and enforce,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

The Need for Privacy

The latest revelation follows news that Uber has tracked customers even after they left its vehicles.

Uber “needs to come clean on whether [the privacy violations] occurred … and needs to have full disclosure of how it uses customer data,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Frost’s research “indicates that people take personal security very seriously,” he told TechNewsWorld.

On the other hand, “consumers are becoming less concerned about exposing details about their personal information,” noted Michael Patterson, CEO ofPlixer.

“They don’t like the invasion, but they like the services and appear to be willing to compromise,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, high-profile Uber customers, including celebrities, could be at risk, suggested Csaba Krasznay, product manager at Balabit, pointing to Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris in October as an example.

“We can protect ourselves by not letting Uber and other apps use our smartphone’s GPS data,” Krasznay told TechNewsWorld. “It only takes one click.”

Air Force One That Trump do That

I’m starting to get the idea that for the next eight or so years, a lot of what many of us are going to write will have something to do with what Donald Trump tweeted. Granted, since that has been the case for much of the last year, we have gotten comfortable with it.

However, when Trump said he would kill the deal for an updated Air Force One — which would cost billions and still be based on the now-obsolete 747 — it hit me that we’ve completely lost track of what Air Force One should be. It should be a physical representation of the United States’ capability as it exists today — not a homage to the Ronald Reagan White House, which first introduced the 747 as the plane of presidents.

I’ll share my thoughts on why the next Air Force One should showcase innovation, agility and technology, rather than how the U.S. can’t spend taxpayer money wisely, and how incredibly long it takes the U.S. bureaucracy to get anything done. I’ll close with my product of the week, the Lenovo Book, which is likely the most innovative laptop in the world. It’s an innovation showcase itself and breaks the mold on notebook design.

 

Air Force One

Air Force One today is a bit of a disappointment. Donald Trump’s own plane is more distinctive, more advanced, more efficient, and likely far more comfortable to fly in. It’s newer, so it likely is also a better representation of what the U.S. can do than the official presidential plane.

The plane is hardened against nuclear attack — something very likely in Reagan’s time but not at all very likely now — but it is not hardened well against cyberattack. Given that it uses really old tech, that currently may not be a huge problem.

When it was created, it needed to defend against a variety of state-based attacks, because small groups couldn’t afford jet fighters or good ground-to-air missiles. Now it needs to defend against weaponized drones and lots of relatively current generation U.S. ordnance that has found its way into the hands of relatively small and independent anti-U.S. Organizations, thanks to the mess the Middle East has become.

Back in Reagan’s time, there was a relatively low likelihood that an airport rapidly could fall to a hostile mob, blocking and holding a plane and its occupants hostage. Now, with social media, huge numbers of people can be mobilized very quickly, both domestically and abroad. The president-elect has a tendency to offend large numbers of people, suddenly making such an event almost certain. This means the plane needs capabilities like vertical take-off and landing, so it can get out of Dodge even if the runway is compromised.

Add this up, and the result is that a big, slow-moving, largely obsolete plane would seem to be the last kind of plane you’d want to give a current-generation president. The 747 was advanced in the 1960s, and the new plane is expected to remain in service till the 2050s. Can you imagine even flying yourself in a plane with technology 90 years old, let alone putting the most powerful leader in the world in one?

 

What Air Force One Should Be

Air Force One should be a symbol of U.S. capability. Rather than lagging the U.S. aerospace industry by more than 50 years, it should lead it — or at least be up to date. In effect, it is the flying brand for the company, and it currently can’t even drop off the president without help, which China showcased by embarrassing President Obama a few weeks back.

It should be designed to protect the president from today’s threats, not the threats of the cold war. It needs to be fast, agile, and better able to elude attacks than anything conceived 50 years ago. It needs to be a showcase for U.S. technology that helps sell the idea of buying from the U.S. In other words, rather than using a largely obsolete airframe, it should use one that a U.S. plane builder would be proud to sell — more a flagship product and less an obsolete one.

Open Source Community

Containerd will provide an open, stable and extensible base for building non-Docker products and container solutions, the company said.

Some of the top cloud providers, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM and Microsoft, have committed to making contributions to the project, according to Docker, giving it instant credibility within the community.

Containerd enables low-level local storage, container execution and supervision, and the transferring of container images and network interfaces across Linux and Windows. It fully leverages the Open Container Initiative’s runtime, image format specifications and OCI reference implementation, said the company, and it will pursue OCI certification.

Docker will donate containerd to an independent foundation, which will oversee its governance, trademark and trademark enforcement, by first quarter 2017.

 

Innovation Unleashed

Containerd will unlock a new phase of innovation and growth across the entire ecosystem, said Docker CTO Solomon Hykes.

The company has a history of making key components available to the open source community, starting in 2014 with libcontainer.

“If you look at Docker’s history of open sourcing key components over the last two years, containerd is a natural progression of that effort,” noted Patrick Chanezon, chief developer advocate at Docker.

“We have been working on containerd since Docker 1.11, and finally felt the project was at the point where more community involvement was needed, he told LinuxInsider.

The decision was made to expand the project after speaking with several leaders in the open source community over the last several months, Chanezon added,so the community then could reap the benefits and provide input.

 

Critics Acknowledged

Docker’s decision is responsive to a couple of specific criticisms, said Jay Lyman, principal analyst for cloud management and containers at 451 Research.

First, the company has come under fire for broadening its commercial and technical scope far beyond container runtime, which was the company’s original function, he told LinuxInsider.

“Docker is also serving two audiences — enterprise developers, and organizations that do want a more complete package of not only container runtime, but supporting software as well,” Lyman noted.

The other audience includes more advanced operators and platform builders who want to assemble their own platform, either to use internally or to sell, he said.

Docker is already a complete operating environment, observed Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research, so the challenge is that it’s very tough to carve out just the parts of Docker needed to run its containers in an established public cloud, like AWS, Baidu or Azure.

Docker essentially is donating the core bits of its container code to an open foundation, he told LinuxInsider.

“The foundation’s role is to build a public cloud neutral Docker container subsystem called ‘containerd,'” Teich said. “The public clouds will slide their own compute, storage and network plumbing below containerd, and they will use their own orchestration schemes above containerd.”

Application developers won’t see any of that, he pointed out, and will write to the same Docker APIs used in Docker’s product and across all containerd deployments used in contributing public clouds.