Category Archives: Technology

What I Can Teach You About Businesses

What Can You Benefit When You Hire IT Services and Computer Repair Professionals? Having your own computer might certainly be something you are pleased about, as today, having this device certainly makes life much easier and more convenient for you. However, computers do have their own problems, and can, from time to time, break down and be in need of repair. The good news is that there are professionals who are trained and experienced in dealing with any problem that a computer might have, professionals who can no doubt repair any kind of computer. One will certainly be happy to know that he or she will be able to enjoy so many rewards and benefits when he or she decides to hire a computer repair specialist. Hiring a professional for computer repair will certainly benefit you in so many different ways, one of which is the fact that when you do so, you will be able to save so much money in the long run. People who are not experts in dealing with computers, those who do not have any experience at all in this matter, might certainly make mistakes when it comes to repairing their devices, mistakes which might, in the long run, lead to even bigger problems. The good news is that when these people hire professionals, they can be sure that the work will be done well, and that it will not lead to bigger, costlier problems in the future. Hiring the services of professionals who are experts in computer repair is also wonderfully beneficial to you because when you do so, you can be sure that you will also be able to save so much time. People in the modern world of today, those who have busy jobs and tight schedules, might rely on their computers for so many things, and be at a serious disadvantage when these computers break down. The good news is that professional computer repair specialists work quickly and with great efficiency, meaning that in no time at all, people can go back to using their computers.
3 Computers Tips from Someone With Experience
When one decides to hire reputable professionals for the work of computer repair, he or she will also be able to gain a lot of convenience. One might know just how complicated it is to fix a computer, but when a professional is hired, these complications can be avoided.
Incredible Lessons I’ve Learned About Experts
One who finds a professional who has had a lot of training and experience in computer repair, then, will certainly be able to enjoy many benefits.

Promises to Do Better on Samsung Explains

Samsung Electronics on Monday announced that it has developed new quality assurance protocols to ensure that it won’t have a repeat of the catastrophic issues that plagued its Galaxy Note7 handsets. The company last fall issued a universal recall after several of the devices caught fire or exploded.

In one incident, a Southwest Airlines flight had to be evacuated in Louisville, Kentucky, after a Samsung Galaxy Note7 caught fire and produced thick smoke on an aircraft. Samsung initially blamed the problem on an “isolated” faulty battery cell issue, before opting to issue a general recall of the device.

Samsung has reaffirmed that the design and production of the batteries caused the problems — not the hardware or software — but the company has acknowledged that it should have done more to ensure that the batteries could not overheat and cause fires. It has enlisted a group of external advisors to provide clear and objective perspectives on battery safety and innovation.

 

All the Right Moves

Samsung unveiled its new “8-Point Battery Safety Check,” which is meant to address any potential problems. It encompasses a durability test, visual inspection, X-ray test, disassembling test and OCT test, as well as a charge and discharge test, TVOC test and accelerated usage test.

In addition, Samsung will conduct a multilayer safety measures protocol on all its devices. It will cover the overall design and materials, as well as device hardware strength. Further, it will ensure that software algorithms are in place for safer battery charging temperatures.

“Samsung is doing the right thing. It took its time, but eventually it got enough instances of failed batteries in the lab to figure out what the technical issue was,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“At the same time, Samsung has been relatively forthcoming about the results and taking responsibility,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The first thing Samsung had to do was make it clear that it understood the core of the Note7 fire, and it had to ensure that it won’t happen again,” noted Ian Fogg, senior director for mobile and telecoms at IHS Markit.

“It had to make creditable assurances to customers, vendors and retailers that this wouldn’t happen with future models,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The announcement today addressed both of those issues.”

Customizing a Computer

There are plenty of reasons to build a custom computer. While custom computers may initially be more expensive than prepackaged desktops or laptops, they can provide you with nearly endless possibilities, whether you’re looking for a top-notch gaming machine, a system for mixing music, or the ideal choice for developing Web applications.

A custom computer is the way to go if you want both performance and flexibility. Upgrading individual parts often is less expensive than buying a new computer, which could save you money in the long run.

Following are the essential parts you’ll need.

 

Processor and Motherboard

The component to start with is the processor, which will dictate your selection of other necessary parts, like the motherboard. UserBenchmark’s exhaustive list of user-rated processors is a good resource to help you decide. AMD and Intel are the top manufacturers, but I prefer Intel.

Intel is the industry standard when it comes to processors, so you can’t go wrong if that’s your choice. Its Core series comes in three families: i3, i5 and i7. The i3 series is good for average computing needs, while the i5 offers a little more horsepower. The i7 series offers you the best performance. For the price, a Core i7-6700k really can’t be beat.

After you choose your processor, select a motherboard to go with it. Make sure it is USB 3.1/3.0-capable for optimal speed. One factor to consider is whether you plan on overclocking, which involves running your PC at a speed higher than manufacturer recommendations.

While you can benefit from short-term performance boosts, overclocking may lead to a shorter lifespan for your computer, so you’ll need to consider a compatible motherboard if you plan to do it.

 

Storage and Memory

Next, choose the storage you want to use. HDD drives are the traditional hard drives that most computers have, and they are extremely affordable.

Personal Phone Despite Security Risks

President Donald J. Trump has continued to use his personal Android smartphone despite security concerns, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Trump was concerned about losing access to his personal phone even prior to taking his oath of office, the Times reported last fall, citing unnamed aides who told reporters he worried about how isolated he could become in the White House without his phone to keep in touch with friends.

The president told a friend he had given up his phone as security officials urged him to do, the AP reported last week. It was unclear whether he would be using a heavily modified BlackBerry like the phone President Barack Obama carried, however.

Trump nevertheless has continued to use his personal Android to tweet, according to multiple reports.

 

Mic Hijacking

If the president were to limit his personal phone use to tweeting — and it’s not clear whether he has — it still could pose a threat to national security.

“Even if he isn’t using the device for storing or sending classified information, having the device in the president’s presence still raises security concerns,” maintained Andrew Blaich, a security researcher atLookout.

“We have discovered sophisticated spyware that when successfully deployed can remotely access the phone’s microphone and camera,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Think about the impact an attacker could have if they could access the POTUS phone’s microphone during key briefings throughout the day.”

Telemetry features, such as GPS tracking, also pose a risk.

“Tracking the physical movement and geographical location of a target is classified information for high-value targets,” said Israel Barak, CISO of Cybereason.

“It’s also valuable information for an adversary. Using a commercial off-the-shelf smartphone by a high-value target like the U.S. president is an unacceptable risk,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“When it comes to a corporate executive, balancing risk with functionality might lean towards using a commercial device,” Barak said, “but when it comes to a high-value national target, where the threat actors are sophisticated military-grade adversaries, that’s a risk that can’t be balanced in favor of a commercial phone.”

 

Safety vs. Convenience

Obama’s BlackBerry mobile phone was specially modified to be extra secure, even though BlackBerry devices, in general, are considered more secure than other phones.

That’s because BlackBerry isn’t just a phone. It’s also a network. Traffic from the phone is encrypted and sent to BlackBerry servers operated by the enterprises or government agencies. The traffic also is encrypted when it goes from the server to the Internet.

The tradeoff for all that security, though, is performance.

“The reason that BlackBerry isn’t as popular as it used to be is all that encryption slows things down,” explained Slawek Ligier, vice president of engineering for security at Barracuda Networks.

“Using a browser on a BlackBerry device has always been painfully slow,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The good news for the president, though, is that text-only tasks, such as tweeting, don’t take much of a performance hit.

 

Resistant to Change

When it comes to their phones, many consumers resist change, and it appears presidents aren’t any different.

“Where Trump is concerned, usually the most banal explanation is the correct one — he’s used to it, it seems convenient, and he’s stubbornly digging in his heels against the advisors explaining it’s a bad idea,” said Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“He’s also clearly not terribly technically sophisticated, and so probably doesn’t grasp how risky it is,” he told TechNewsWorld.

China Aims to Wash VPNs

8China this week announced new measures to further restrict its citizens’ access to the Internet.

The 14-month campaign appears designed to crack down on the use of Web platforms and services unapproved by the government, and on virtual private networks, which can used to access those platforms and services covertly.

While China’s Internet network access services market is facing many development opportunities, there are signs of “disorderly development” that show the urgent need for regulation, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology explained in a notice posted to a government website.

The coming “clean-up” of China’s network access services will standardize the market, strengthen network information security management, and promote the healthy and orderly development of the country’s Internet industry, the ministry noted.

In order to operate legally, Internet service providers, VPN providers, data centers and content delivery networks will have to obtain a license from the government and adhere to strict limitations.

 

Great Firewall

The clean-up also places severe new restrictions on cross-border business activities. It requires that government approval be obtained to create or lease lines, including VPN channels, to perform cross-border business activities.

Those restrictions essentially will block any Chinese citizen from using a VPN — basically, hiding their IP address and rerouting their connections to servers outside their country — in order to access websites the government doesn’t want them to see.

China is famous for controlling the information its citizens can see on the Internet with its “Great Firewall,” which screens Internet traffic between China and the outside world. Any requests to see information Beijing deems inappropriate are sent to an Internet graveyard.

Among the 171 of the world’s top 1,000 websites the Great Firewall blocks are Google, Facebook and Twitter, according to Greatfire.org, a censorship monitoring service. VPNs offer a way to get through the firewall, which is why the government wants to block them.

China also has taken a more proactive approach to dealing with websites that it doesn’t like. It crafted a Great Cannon, which it uses to launch DDoS attacks on domains critical of Beijing.

 

Shaping the Narrative

China’s government has attempted to restrict VPN access in the past, particularly at sensitive times, such as when the national Communist party convenes. Such a meeting is scheduled for the end of this year.

The great clean-up may be a departure from the past, however.

“This new directive may be a sign that the restrictions might become more systematic,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch.

In the past, enforcement of VPN restrictions seemed spotty. Sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn’t.

“Part of the problem with censorship in China is it’s often opaque,” Wong told TechNewsWorld.

“Users are often left wondering why their VPN isn’t working. Is it because of technical problems or is it because of the government?” she wondered. “This needs to be viewed as part of a broader crackdown on any kind of independent media by the Chinese government. In recent years, the government has doubled down on efforts to restrict any information that diverges from its official narrative.”

VPNs are used for many purposes in China, though — among them to keep companies’ discussions about their intellectual property and market strategies secure.

“I would hope industry pushes back on this, because it will be much more difficult to run innovative businesses in China without full access to information,” Wong said. “It’s in their interest for this to be a concern for them, and they should be concerned about corporate espionage as well.”

Smarter Connected Car

In a couple of interesting briefings last week, BlackBerry announced that its turnaround was finished, and Microsoft finally provided some information on its new connected car deliverables.

One strange thing was that after CEO John Chen excitedly pointed out that BlackBerry had displaced Microsoft in Ford, he then announced a strategic initiative to work more closely with Microsoft’s Azure platform on BlackBerry’s own market-leading QNX car operating system. That showcased not only the massive changes in both companies, but also the really strange way this market is evolving.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a very low-cost wearable smartphone display that could get you through your next dentist appointment or boring sermon.

 

BlackBerry’s QNX

With all the focus on the coming autonomous car and on BlackBerry’s old phone business, most don’t know that QNX, the operating system that BlackBerry acquired, is dominant in the car market, largely for car operations. To give you an idea, it currently is in 60M — yes, that’s million — cars. It is ranked No. 1 in telematics and automotive software entertainment, and its main advantage is that it just works and continues to meet all of the car companies’ start of product deadlines.

Chances are that if you like the software running the different parts of your car, it is QNX. The car companies like it because it is very secure, their own software developers know it (it’s been dominant for a number of years), and it works on both 32- and 64-bit hardware platforms from folks like Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia.

As you’d expect from any modern system, it is set up for over-the-air updates, similar to Tesla. In effect, QNX has become the equivalent of Android or Windows, but for the car — and it dominates the segment.

BlackBerry introduced the Karma folks at the briefing to talk about their most advanced offerings. Karma is what became of Fisker — the firm that tried, with somesignificant drama, to compete with Tesla. (Karma also showcased why Tesla’s decision to use Panasonic batteries turned out to be brilliant.)

Karma’s current car is physically identical to the Fisker Karma, with the exception that all of the electronics have been revamped completely, so it now is reliable. (I was an old Jaguar mechanic, and given the issues the Fisker had with its electronics, I’ve always wondered if they were done by Lucas electrics, which were almost always at the heart of Jaguar reliability issues in the 1960s and 70s.)

However, I spoke to the Karma executives at the event, and their point was that it took them only 15 days to bring up the software on their redeveloped car. (By the way, the new Karma is about US$140K, and it is still a looker.)

BlackBerry currently is pivoting to support the next generation of technology, which includes autonomous vehicles.

Now you’d think that Microsoft and BlackBerry would be at each other’s throats. While BlackBerry has pivoted away from focusing exclusively on secure phones and email, Microsoft has pivoted away from its focus on tools and operating systems.

 

Microsoft: It’s About Azure

Microsoft has changed a lot over the last several years, since Satya Nadella has been running the firm. I really didn’t get that initially, so the company had to set up a special retraining meeting. I had covered Microsoft for so long that my brain apparently was hard coded to think of it in just one way — and it isn’t that company any more.

Microsoft’s big push with automotive is with Azure now, which is a good thing, because its in-car efforts over the last two decades weren’t that great.

I actually had an AutoPC for a number of years. It was very advanced for its time, but truly flawed — so much so that my wife still threatens to throw something at me — and in those early years it was the AutoPC — if I ever suggest something like that again.

To be fair, that product was crippled by an underperforming processor — but I have to say, there is no misery like having a GPS system that can’t navigate at anything exceeding 25 miles per hour. Of course, I put the AutoPC in her new car, not my own, which in hindsight likely wasn’t that wise. (Yes, I’m also often surprised I’m still married.)

Tube Test in Hyperloop Pod Competition

Elon Musk’s hyperloop dream began to take shape in reality last weekend as 27 teams, including six from outside the United States, participated in a competition to create the mass transit vehicle of the future.

The competition in Hawthorne, California, sponsored by SpaceX, which Musk founded, attracted teams made up mostly of students who created pods designed to run on hyperloop transportation systems.

In a hyperloop system, the vehicles, or pods, travel in a vacuum in tubes at speeds close to the speed of sound. To do that, the pods have to be suspended slightly off the ground, typically by riding on a magnetic field.

For its competition, SpaceX built a test chamber that was three-quarters of a mile long and six feet wide. The company capped the speed at which a pod could go at around 50 miles per hour.

In order to get to test its pod in the vacuum chamber, a team had to pass a rigorous 101-point review. Only three teams could do that: Delft University of Technology of The Netherlands; Technical University of Munich, Germany; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Kind of a Drag

Operating in a vacuum is important to hyperloop systems because it reduces friction. “Hyperloop is all about friction,” said Adonios Karpetis, a faculty advisor to the Texas A&M aerospace team, which competed at the event.

“You have to minimize the air friction in the tube,” he told TechNewsWorld.

By creating a vacuum or near-vacuum in the tube, the drag of the vehicle is nearly eliminated, which allows it to reach tremendous speeds, as high as 700 miles per hour. By contrast, a Boeing 747 has a cruising speed of 570 miles per hour.

“It’s like operating a ground-based vehicle at an altitude of 100,000 feet where the air is very thin,” said Rick Williams, an advisor to Auburn University’s hyperloop team.

A hyperloop vehicle has an advantage over an aircraft, though.

“Once the vehicle reaches its cruising speed, it will coast for a long ways because of the minimal drag,” Williams told TechNewsWorld.

“From an energy standpoint, it’s going to be significantly lower,” he said.

Police Cams Days Before Inauguration

A ransomware attack darkened the video surveillance system of the District of Columbia’s police department eight days before the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

Video storage devices for 70 percent of the CCTV system were unable to record anything between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, as police techies scrambled to combat malicious software found on 123 of 187 networked video recorders, The Washington Post reported Friday.

However, the safety of the public was never in jeopardy during the camera blackout, Brian Ebert, a Secret Service official, told the Post.

Although the city has characterized the malicious software it found as ransomware, no ransom demand appears to have been made. The city resolved the problem by taking the storage devices offline, removing all their software and then restarting them.

The city is investigating who might be behind the hack, which affected only CCTV cameras monitoring public areas and did not reach deeper into the city’s networks, the Post reported.

 

Blind Deterrent

Closed circuit cameras can be important for collecting evidence about a crime. Fortunately for the D.C. police, that wasn’t an issue while some of its network was disabled.

“If a crime had been committed in an area and its compromised camera held important evidence, then they might have found themselves in trouble,” said Bob Hansmann, director of security analysis and strategyForcepoint.

“In this case, they were lucky and nothing crucial happened,” he told TechNewsWorld.

In addition, cameras have a deterrent effect whether they’re working or not.

“In this instance, it was beneficial that the general public did not know about the attack when it happened,” noted James Scott, a senior fellow with the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

“So long as the attack was not common knowledge, the camera itself acted as a deterrent to crime, because potential offenders were not aware that it was infected with ransomware,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Attractive Target

Other municipal infrastructures have been targeted in similar ways in the past. A ransomware attack last fall took down the ticket machines for San Francisco’s light rail system for about a day.

“We’re going to see more and more of these kinds of attacks this year,” said Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst with Nsfocus.

“This is a perfect example of hackers taking advantage of these municipal systems. They can cause all sorts of havoc,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“We’re seeing more and more ransomware attacks against the IoT, which is a disturbing trend,” said Jean-Philippe Taggart, a senior security researcher with Malwarebytes.

“CCTVs, hotel locks, libraries, hospitals — the criminals have a wealth of potential targets to choose from,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Feasting on IoT

Ransomware extortionists are feasting on the Internet of Things, maintained Simon Crosby, CTO of Bromium.

To prevent these attacks, devices need to be shielded so they’re not exposed on the Internet where hackers can find them, he said.

“Right now, attackers are having a field day finding exploitable systems that infrastructure operators either do not recognize are Internet-facing or think their exposure is too obscure for criminals to find, which is a very dangerous assumption,” Crosby told TechNewsWorld.

In addition to being discovered easily by hackers, networks of IoT devices have another problem: diversity.

“Fleets of PCs can be protected with uniform defenses, but what do you install on rail kiosks, video cameras, cars or televisions?” Crosby asked.

High Powered AI Partnership

The group plans to announce additional details sometime after the board’s Feb. 3 meeting in San Francisco, including how other organizations and individuals can join. It also will address initial research programs and activities.

The board will oversee general activities of the Partnership on AI, and an executive steering committee will commission and evaluate activities within the overall objectives and scope set up by the board of trustees. The board will appoint an executive director, who will oversee day-to-day operations.

The Partnership on AI, announced last fall, aims to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence and formulate best practices. It plans to conduct publish research under an open license on areas such as ethics, privacy, fairness, inclusivity, transparency and privacy.

 

Closely Held

The announcement of Apple’s participation is particularly significant in light of the company’s well-earned reputation for organizational secrecy. There recently have been signs of blowback against that corporate culture, both inside and outside of the organization.

Apple last fall hired Carnegie Mellon’s Russ Salakhutdinov as its first director of AI research, and he soon announced a policy change that would allow the company’s AI researchers to begin publishing the results of their work, a practice that previously had been out of bounds for Apple employees.

As for why Apple decided to join the partnership now, “Apple does things if and when it wants to, on its own timeline,” observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“The company may also have wanted to see how the group’s members were organizing themselves, whether they were serious, and how sustainable the effort appeared” before it took that step, he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Common Interests

Tom Gruber and others at Apple have been working behind the scenes, “communicating and collaborating” with members of the board since before it launched last fall, said company rep Jenny Murphy.

“Apple provided input into the organization’s [memorandum of understanding] and the organization’s tenets,” she told TechNewsWorld. “Apple wasn’t able to formalize its membership in time for the September announcement, but is thrilled now to be officially joining PAI as a founding member.”

It makes sense that Apple would join, as the partnership is about communicating AI to consumers and policymakers, noted Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Efforts to Silence Trolls

Twitter on Tuesday announced yet another crackdown on abusers.

With the goal of making Twitter a safer place, it has come up with new ways to

  • Prevent the creation of new abusive accounts;
  • Make search safer; and
  • Collapse potentially abusive or low-quality tweets.

Twitter also pledged to persist in its anti-abuse endeavors, saying it would keep rolling out product changes, some more visible than others, and updating users on its progress every step of the way.

Twitter “is more vulnerable than other social media because people expect it to be their link to the world, and not just their friends,” noted Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“People use it for news and for access to quick gossip,” he told TechNewsWorld, adding that its open-ended structure makes it an easier target for abuse.

 

Latest Offensive

Twitter will identify account owners it has suspended permanently and block them from creating new accounts.

That might be a reaction to the creation of multiple fake accounts last fall, after Twitter had suspended several accounts linked to the alt-right movement, which is known for advocating white supremacy and other extreme views.

Those suspensions came amid mounting criticism of the company’s failure to expunge harassing, racist, sexist and anti-Semitic tweets from its network.

Safe search involves filtering tweets that contain potentially sensitive content, as well as tweets from blocked and muted accounts, from search results. However, users would have other ways to search for and access those tweets.

Under the new system, potentially abusive and low-quality replies will be collapsed, although they will be available if users want to seek them out. This change will roll out in the coming weeks, Twitter said.

 

Protection or Cybergagging?

“Ultimately, determining what constitutes cyberharassent or any kind of inappropriate behavior on Twitter is a subjective undertaking,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“As soon as you introduce subjectivity into regulating Twitter, it loses its appeal,” he told TechNewsWorld. “One person’s freedom of speech is another person’s microaggression. Twitter’s best bet is to say, ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.'”

Getting around the problem of subjective judgment will be difficult, McGregor suggested. “How do you decide what’s appropriate or abusive, and what’s not? You need to have a context for the conversation and the relationship.”

Friends would couch statements in terms that might be considered inappropriate when relayed to a stranger, he pointed out. “For example, I could tweet the word ‘s**t’ to a friend in response to something he’d said or a news item we were discussing, and it would be all right.”

Using artificial intelligence to filter out potentially offending tweets isn’t going to resolve the issue, because “AI systems have to learn like humans do, and no AI solution will really work unless you have a finite number of inputs,” McGregor pointed out.

 

Twitter’s Battle Against the Trolls

Twitter in 2014 suspended several accounts for violating its rules after actor Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda publicly quit the site due to hateful tweets about her father’s tragic suicide. She later reactivated her account

Another victim, Imani Gandy, had been harassed since 2012 by someone with the handle “Assholster,” who created up to 10 different Twitter accounts a day to hurl racist invectives at her.