Category Archives: Technology

The new for smartwatch OS debuts

Can a new smartwatch operating system based on Linux breathe some new life into the smart wearables market? Florent Revest hopes so.

Revest, a French computer science student, on Wednesday announced the alpha release of AsteroidOS, an open source operating system that will run on several Android smartwatch models.

“Many users believe that the current proprietary platforms can not guarantee a satisfactory level of control over their privacy and hardware,” noted Revest, who has been working on his OS for two years. “Hence, I noticed a need for an open wearable platform and AsteroidOS is my attempt to address this issue.”

The alpha edition of AsteroidOS contains some basic apps: agenda, for scheduling events to remember; an alarm clock; a calcuator; music, for controlling the music player on a phone; a stopwatch; a timer and a weather app.

The OS will run, more or less, on the LG G Watch, LG G Urbane, Asus ZenWatch 2 and Sony Smartwatch 3, Revest noted. Bluetooth works only on the G Watch, though.

 

Uphill Battle

Launching an open source mobile operating system can be a daunting and seemingly futile task.

“This has been tried repeatedly in the past and has failed,” said Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates.

So far there’s only been one open source success story in the mobile market, and that’s been Android — which eventually was consumed by Google and closed off, noted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

“Firefox, Meego and Ubuntu have tried this and, unfortunately, haven’t met with success,” he told LinuxInsider.

 

Breaking From Past

However, Revest’s focus on smartwatches may give his OS a better chance of success than past open source efforts had, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“There’s certainly no guarantee that AsteroidOS can breathe life into so stagnant a market — but at the same time, the new OS won’t encounter the barriers it would in more mature markets, such as smartphones,” he told LinuxInsider.

“There’s a hole in the market for this,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“Unlike the phone and tablet market, where you can use the Android open source platform and build something based on that, there really hasn’t been much for smartwatches,” he told LinuxInsider.

Google offers a form of Android for wearables, but it can’t be modified the way the open source version of Android can.

 

Narrow Appeal

While Revest envisions growth of AsteroidOS as an open source community builds around it and it becomes compatible with more devices, broad adoption may be a long shot.

Manufacturers who produce custom phones for target markets, such as low cost phones for emerging markets, might be interested in AsteroidOS, suggested Gold.

However, “you can do this with Android-Linux already,” he told LinuxInsider, “and with a new OS, there will be no availability of apps, so the devices will be very unattractive.”

Chinese phone makers who use open source Android may use AsteroidOS to produce very inexpensive smartwatches, said Rubin, “but inexpensive smartwatches haven’t been driving the market. Pebble was an inexpensive smartwatch, and look what happened to it.”

The early adopters of the OS will be Linux enthusiasts and hobbyists, King said. Since the OS can work on older watches, early users likely will run the software on second-hand hardware.

Self Driving Fleet Takes On San Francisco

Uber on Wednesday rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars in San Francisco, the second U.S. city to participate in its pilot project. Pittsburgh was the first.

Riders who request an UberX — the lowest-priced Uber vehicle — will be matched with one of the self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs if one is available and if the customers are willing, according to Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group. They can accommodate three passengers.

San Francisco “comes with its own nuances, including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes,” Levandowski noted.

San Francisco “is one of the most challenging cities for an autonomous car … because there are lots of obstacles, including cable cars, which are unique to the city,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Further, “the hills are particularly steep,” he pointed out.

“The buildings are close and high, blocking GPS signals and challenging GPS accuracy, and pedestrians generally don’t follow traffic signals or use crosswalks,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “There’s an argument that if you can handle San Francisco, you likely can handle any city in the United States.”

The self-driving Uber vehicles have drivers on board who can take control if need be.

 

Sensors and Such

Volvo built the vehicles and sold them to Uber, which added its own self-driving hardware and software.

They are developed on Volvo’s fully modular Scalable Product Architecture, which is used on the XC90 SUV, and on Volvo’s S90 and V90 premium vehicles.

The control apparatus is mounted on the vehicles’ roofs.

Uber’s technology consists of the sensor pod and the compute stack in the trunk — CPUs and GPUs in a blade architecture that allows easy swapping of failing parts, TechCrunch reported.

The cars reportedly have optical cameras, radar, LiDAR and ultrasonic detectors. Their iPad-based display lets users take a selfie and share the image from their ride.

 

Self-Driving Debate

Self-driving service vehicles “dramatically reduce the cost and increase the revenue” of operators, Enderle said, “because analytics can put the cars where the most demand is, they can be utilized 24×7, and they don’t require drivers — so you have vastly lower wages, benefits and insurance premiums.”

That said, the pilot project may engender opposition from cabbies and Uber drivers in San Francisco, who might “go out of their way to cause accidents with [the self-driving vehicles] to force the failure of these tests and preserve their jobs,” Enderle cautioned. “That has happened before.”

 

Flouting the Law

Uber began running its vehicles on San Francisco roads some weeks ago, but it has yet to obtain a permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, or register with the Department as required by law.

It doesn’t believe it needs a testing permit, Levandowski argued, because “we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months.”

Also, the rules “apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them,” he said, and Uber’s vehicles aren’t ready to do so yet.

“We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as this [self-driving] technology is being tested, said California DMV spokesperson Cristina Aguilar.

“Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits,” she told TechNewsWorld, and “Uber shall do the same.”

The San Francisco city attorney “should immediately have police arrest Uber’s CEO for this flagrant violation of a law that’s intended to protect people’s safety,” said John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog.

A key reason for the DMV regulations is “to ensure that important data like crash and disengagement reports are filed and made public,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Machine Data Innovations That You Should Know About

CrateDB is an SQL database alternative to NOSQL machine data management solutions. It gives mainstream SQL developers access to machine data applications that previously were available only using NoSQL solutions.

“CrateDB is one of the few systems in the space that can enable JOIN to handle a large amount of machine data,” said Christian Lutz, CEO of Crate.io.

Founded in 2014, the company’s goal was to reinvent SQL for the machine data era, he told LinuxInsider. Today, 75 percent of its customers use CrateDB to manage machine and Internet of Things data because of its ease of use, performance and versatility.

CrateDB provides an alternative to existing analytic data stores, combining the familiarity of SQL with the versatility of search and the ease of scalability of containers.

“The growth of machine data and the opportunities that businesses have to capitalize on it are outstripping the ability of their data management infrastructure to act on it,” said Jason Stamper, an analyst for data platforms and analytics at 451 Research.

CrateDB’s power lies in its ability “to enable users to collect and analyze vast amounts of data in real time, using SQL commands they already know,” he said.

 

Driving Factors

Several factors recently have been driving interest in more effective management of machine data, and CrateDB is tapping into this growth, observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“First and foremost, as companies utilize cloud services and infrastructures, getting the most from those investments requires automating related processes and services,” he told LinuxInsider. “That demands the efficient gathering of machine data automatically generated by systems applications, transaction applications, customers and users which has resulted in success for machine data players like Splunk.”

In addition, the anticipated rise of IoT devices and deployments will increase the volume of machine data by orders of magnitude, he said, so the efforts that companies make today around managing machine data should pay significant dividends in the future.

CrateDB is the first open source SQL database that enables real-time analytics for machine data applications, according to Crate.io.

If that is indeed the case, that would make it superior to previous applications based on NoSQL technologies.

“That should make CrateDB easier to use for developers familiar and comfortable with SQL databases,” King said. “If the company can deliver on its promises, it should become a significant player in this space.”

 

CrateDB Primer

Crate.io focused on developing a database for the billion-dollar machine data market, Lutz said. “This market is very broad with very special characteristics. It involves more than just industrial machines.”

The machine data management market involves IoT sensors, wearables, industrial IoT, network monitoring, IT/cloud infrastructure monitoring, security audit monitoring and machine learning.

CrateDB manages the unique challenges of machine data management and analysis. It makes possible the handling of millions of data points per second, structured and unstructured data diversity with real-time query performance, and complex queries of big data volumes.

As part of a new machine data stack, CrateDB sits in the stack between input software and specialized apps, Lutz said.

Magic Leaps Response

It turns out the awe-inspiring video Magic Leap unveiled last year is not a demo of its still-secretive mixed reality technology, but a bit of sleight of hand from special effects firm Weta Workshop, which is credited at the beginning and end of the clip.

Magic Leap’s post — titled “Just another day in the office at Magic Leap” — claims the video shows a game being played around the office.

The true nature of the video was exposed last week in a report published by The Information.

“Most of us thought that video was a demo of the technology — not a film created by a special effects company,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“I expect some of the folks that invested in the company likely thought so as well, and that could be considered fraud,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The ray guns shown in the video apparently are Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators, which exist in designer Greg Broadmore’s satirical parallel universe.

Weta CEO Richard Taylor, a founding director of Magic Leap, reportedly is collaborating with the firm on a mixed reality game set in the world of “Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders.”

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.