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Three can't-miss deals on Intel 'Haswell' PCs

Written By kom nampuldu on Jumat, 24 Oktober 2014 | 16.01

You know the drill. When the model year nears its end, new cars gets cheaper. The same is true of winter clothing when spring approaches, and it's equally true of computers when a new generation is on the horizon.

PCs with Intel's next-generation microprocessor, known as Broadwell, should be available early next year, so it's time for manufacturers to clear out some inventory. There are lots of PCs on sale today, but I'm focusing on machines with Intel's fourth-generation Haswell chips. They're powerful, energy efficient, and they're selling for well under list price—in some cases, hundreds of dollars less than list.

These three deals from Dell, and one from Lenovo, are all worth a look.

Dell is offering a great deal on its Latitude 15 3000 Series. You can get yours for just $669, or $268 off the list price. (That number does not include tax or shipping.) One thing I especially like about this deal is the fact that you can buy it with Windows 7. I don't know about you, but I want to avoid Windows 8 at all costs. The Latitude 15 3000 comes with an i5 Haswell processor, 4GB of memory and a 500GB solid-state drive. You can find it and a few other Dell deals on the company's website.

Lenovo is knocking $200 off the price of its Z50 with a 15.6 inch display, which means you'll pay $559. Like the Latitude, it comes with Intel's i5 Haswell, but it has more RAM (6GB). It has a 500GB hard drive, runs Windows 8.1 and comes with a useful complement of ports, including USB 3.0, HDMI-out, and a card reader. This deal likely won't last, so act fast if you're interested.

The Microsoft Store offers the Dell XPS 13 7144sLV Signature Edition Laptop for $1,199 with free shipping. It packs an Intel Haswell Core i7, 2GHz processor, a 256GB solid state drive, a 13.3-inch 1080p display, and it gets up to six hours of battery life, according to Dell.  

If you're looking for a convertible—not the kind you drive, but a laptop that doubles as a tablet—Dell's Venue 11 Pro 7000 is one option. It normally sells for $1,214, but it's on sale right now for $650. It comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, Windows 8.1 and a 128GB solid state drive. You can use it as a standard laptop, or disconnect the 10.8-inch HD screen and use it as a tablet.

If you don't need a PC right away, there are a few reasons to wait until next year. Broadwell systems will certainly be faster and more power-efficient. As we get closer to the holiday season there will be plenty more bargains. Another reason you might want to wait is the advent of Windows 10, which is expected in 2015. It will likely be a significant improvement over Windows 8.1, and it should look and feel a lot like the more familiar Windows 7—Start Screen and all.

However, if you need a PC now, all of these options are worth a good look.


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Adobe begins encrypting user data collected from Digital Editions app

Adobe Systems said Thursday it is now encrypting data it collects about certain ebooks after facing criticism earlier this month for not protecting the data.

The Digital Reader blog reported on Oct. 6 that Adobe's Digital Editions 4 software, used for downloading and reading ebooks, sent detailed logs to Adobe describing readers' activity.

Those logs were not sent using SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security), according to the blog. SSL/TLS encrypts data sent between a client and server, designated by "https" in a browser's URL bar.

In a note about Digital Editions posted Thursday, Adobe said it now periodically collects the data "using HTTPS." The change is made in Digital Editions versions 4.0.1 for Mac and Windows.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation contended that sending the data over plain text "undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers" even if Adobe's practice was a mistake.

Without encryption, the plain-text data could be intercepted and read using network analysis tools such as Wireshark if the data was sent to Adobe while a person was using, for example, a public Wi-Fi network.

Adobe maintains the data is necessary to abide by the DRM (digital rights management) restriction on content, which are imposed by publishers and distributors to protect works from piracy.

The data sent to Adobe includes the title and description of a book, the author, language it's written, the date of purchase or download, the distributor ID, the publisher's list price and ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

In some cases, Adobe may record how long a person reads a book, which is used for "metered" pricing models based on the actual time the content is read.

The company also collects other technical metrics, such as the IP address of the device downloading a book, a unique ID assigned to the specific applications being used at the time and a unique ID for the device.

Adobe said it doesn't collected any personally identifiable information, but may share "anonymous aggregated information with eBook providers to enable billing under the applicable pricing model." It said it doesn't collect information about content without DRM restrictions.


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Microsoft to continue using Nokia brand on entry-level phones

Microsoft will continue to sell low-end phones with the Nokia brand and has licensed the brand for these type of devices.

The company is meanwhile preparing to roll out its new Microsoft Lumia brand, Tuula Rytilä, senior vice president of marketing for phones at Microsoft, said in an interview posted late Thursday on the Conversations blog, which will also move to the Microsoft website.

"Our global and local websites are going through a transition as we speak and in the coming days our social channels will get a new name too—they will be called Microsoft Lumia," Rytilä said. "This work continues across our devices, packaging and retail, to name a few."

Microsoft completed in April this year the acquisition of Nokia's smartphone business for over US$7 billion.

Besides continuing to offer Nokia-branded entry-level phones like the Nokia 130, the company will continue to also sell and support Nokia Lumia smartphones that are in the market, such as the recently announced Lumia 830 and Lumia 730/735, Rytilä said. Nokia 130, a mobile phone that does not have an Internet connection or apps, was unveiled in August.

The executive said that Microsoft was looking forward to unveiling a Microsoft Lumia device soon, without giving a specific date. She described the change in brand as "a natural progression" as all devices that once came from Nokia now come from Microsoft.

The new Microsoft Lumia brand is likely to be aimed at clearing the confusion that arose from the continued use of the Nokia brand even as a company by the same name continues to operate, after the sale of the devices business to Microsoft. Nokia in Espoo, Finland, is now focused on networking gear, its Here navigation service and a technology development and licensing business.

Microsoft is likely to have decided to retain the Nokia brand for the low-end market as it "resonates with this segment of users," said Vishal Tripathi, a principal research analyst at Gartner.

The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

The transition to the new Microsoft Lumia brand was first announced on Nokia France's Facebook page.


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What Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said in Mandarin that so impressed the Chinese

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 23 Oktober 2014 | 16.01

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg stunned many Chinese on Thursday, not with a new Facebook feature, but because he spoke and answered questions in Mandarin for almost half an hour.

Zuckerberg gave a talk in Chinese at Tsinghua University on Wednesday, and later posted a recording of the event to his Facebook page. The video quickly spread online, generating much surprise and praise from local Internet users.

"Such an awesome person is learning Chinese, why is my own English so bad," wrote one user on Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo.

Zuckerberg spoke with a strong accent, but handled the language confidently enough to impress the Chinese. Increasingly, executives from the biggest tech companies in the world are visiting the country, but rarely do they speak in Mandarin, let alone for such a long period, or field questions from the audience.

However, Zuckerberg has been studying Chinese, something he mentioned as far back as 2010. During his talk at Tsinghua University, he discussed his interest in China, his future goals for Facebook, and even cracked a joke about his Mandarin language skills. Here are some takeaways:

Why he learned Chinese

"The first reason is my wife [Priscilla Chan] is Chinese. Her family speaks Chinese, and her grandmother only speaks Chinese," Zuckerberg said. "When Priscilla and I decided to get married, I told her grandmother using Chinese. She was really shocked."

His plans for his visit to China

"I think the students at Tsinghua University are very good. Facebook has over 140 alumni from Tsinghua," he said, adding. "Every year we come to China to hire from the best cities. Last month, we hired 20 Chinese students." Zuckerberg has visited China four times.

Advice for Chinese students wanting to create a startup

"The best companies are created not just because an innovator wanted to create a company. It's because the innovator wanted to change the world," Zuckerberg said.

Asked what the secret to his success was, Zuckerberg replied, "Most innovators will give up, but the best innovators do not. So believe in your mission. Don't give up. This is very important."

On China's tech scene

"I think China has many of the world's most innovative companies. Last night I ate with Xiaomi's Lei Jun," he said, referring to the CEO of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which has quickly become one of the country's biggest handset makers.

"Xiaomi is a very innovative company. They have developed many different products very fast," Zuckerberg said. He also pointed to social networking products from Chinese Internet giant Tencent as another example, and said he was impressed with the e-commerce site Taobao from Alibaba Group.

On Facebook coming to China

The social networking site has been blocked in China since 2009, as part of the country's online censorship. Zuckerberg said Facebook has a growing business in the country by selling advertisements to Chinese companies.

"We are already in China. We help Chinese companies grow their international customers. They use Facebook ads to find new customers," he said. "For example, Lenovo is in Indonesia using Facebook ads to sell phones."

Zuckerberg's problems listening

Asked if his Chinese was better than that of his wife Priscilla, Zuckerberg said his listening skills were particularly poor. "My listening is very weak. One day, I asked her why is my listening in Chinese so bad. She told me, 'Your listening in English is also bad.'"

Facebook's upcoming goals

He pointed to three upcoming goals: connecting all of the world to the Internet, developing artificial intelligence, and creating more virtual reality products. Earlier this year, Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for US$2 billion.

"Once everyone is using a mobile phone, I believe the next platform will be virtual reality. Oculus is the first product, but we hope to have many products," he said.

Following his talk, Internet users in China naturally asked when the Facebook website would enter the country. But Zuckerberg made no comment on it during the event. A Chinese official said he welcomed the site last year, but only if it followed the country's Internet regulations.

Not all of China's Internet users were quite as impressed with Zuckerberg's speech, with some commenting that he was hard to understand. But an Internet user named Lung Lei said most of what Zuckerberg said during his talk was spoken without any grammatical or usage mistakes, and he only need practice more on pronouncing his tones.

"Chinese is one of the hardest languages, but Zuckerberg is daring enough to take the challenge. Moreover, it's obvious he successfully overcame the challenge," he said. "By using China's mother language to communicate, I felt Zuckerberg was being more personal, and it pulled me in."


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Vietnam police hunt hackers behind mass outage

Vietnamese cybersecurity authorities are hunting hackers believed to be responsible for the country's biggest-ever online attack last week, according to the founder of a security website in Hanoi.

"This is the biggest cyber-attack ever in Vietnam, affecting the Vietnam security community," Tran Quang Chien of SecurityDaily.Net wrote in an email. "This was a targeted malicious attack."

The incident that began Oct. 13 saw the outage of multiple websites under Vietnam Communications (VCCorp), an Internet company in Vietnam that owns more than 20 websites such as news portal Dan Tri.

The news sites affiliated with VCCorp came back online, but some others took a number of days to recover. The outage was first described by VCCorp as a data center glitch.

Hackers used malware to erase all data in about 800 servers under VCCorp, according to Tran, who estimated the total damage from the attack at 10 billion Vietnamese dong (US$464,000).

The attack was more destructive than previous hacks in Vietnam, which tended to only deface sites or publish user information, he said.

Most affected websites in the Oct. 13 attack displayed the message "Data center is experiencing problems. Please come back later," according to Tuoitrenews, an online news portal.

In one example of the lingering effects of the attack, online payments website Sohapay.vn was for some time redirecting traffic to a blog containing defamatory statements about VCCorp, Tran said.

The VCCorp main website was not accessible on Thursday. The company did not respond to a request for more information.

VCCorp has a large ecosystem of online and mobile services in Vietnam, with products related to online content, e-commerce, social media, ad networks and mobile services, according to IDG Ventures Vietnam, which invested in the company in 2007.


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Microsoft to discontinue free Xbox Music streaming

Microsoft is withdrawing free streaming on Xbox Music from Dec. 1, citing the need to focus on its music purchase and subscription service.

The company is offering a free 30-day trial for users wanting to move to the paid service.

"Effective December 1, 2014, the free Xbox Music streaming feature currently available on Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and over the Internet will be discontinued in all countries where it is offered," Microsoft wrote on a support page.

The move will not affect music purchases on Xbox Music or MP3 files added to Xbox Music collections, according to a Microsoft FAQ. Users can also continue to view playlists or collections set up using the free streaming feature, but they can't listen to the music in those playlists or collections unless they sign up for the Xbox Music Pass or buy the music.

Microsoft rolled out Xbox Music in October 2012, first to Xbox 360 users around the world, and a little later to Windows 8 users.

The cloud-based music service was then touted as combining the best aspects of free-streaming radio, music subscription services and music purchasing options. It would free users from having to hop services when they wanted, for example, to buy music that they had just listened to on Internet radio. The free streaming service was ad-supported.

In Microsoft's FAQ about the retirement of free streaming, the company did not provide more information on why it had changed its mind on the free service, except for mentioning the need to emphasize on its paid services. At US$9.99 per month, Xbox Music offers ad-free streaming, syncing among devices, and offline listening on PC, tablet and phone.


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Symantec sees rise in high-traffic DDoS attacks

Written By kom nampuldu on Rabu, 22 Oktober 2014 | 16.01

A type of distributed denial-of-service attack, DNS amplification, has risen sharply, according to new research from Symantec.

The security vendor said it saw a 183 percent increase in DNS (Domain Name System) amplification attacks from January through August, which abuse recursive DNS resolvers.

Recursive DNS resolvers look up a domain name and return an IP address, which can be called into a browser.

But these types of servers return a large amount of data. Attackers abuse them by making requests but substituting the IP address of their victims.

That directs a large amount of data to the victims, consuming up to 50 times more bandwidth, making it an "amplification" attack.

The problem is that there are 28 million open DNS resolvers, which should be locked down and secured, wrote Symantec's Candid Wueest, a threat researcher, in a report.

"Until this problem is addressed, DNS reflection attacks will continue to be used for large DDoS attacks," he wrote. "In the past, we have also noticed that some attackers set up their own deliberately vulnerable DNS servers and then misused them for reflection attacks."

DDoS attack continue to be a problem, as a variety of groups—from hackers to extortionists—use the method to punish or embarrass companies and organizations.

Most of the DDoS attack traffic for the first half of this year came from India at 26 percent, with the next highest source being the U.S. at 17 percent, Symantec wrote. The reason may be a high number of poorly configured servers that can be abused for amplification attacks.

The most common type of organizations targeted by DDoS flood attacks are those in the gaming industry, then software companies and media organizations.

DDoS have become shorter in duration but tend to focus a larger amount of traffic toward a victim. Larger but shorter attacks follow initial probes that are intended to figure out what defenses are in place.

"In other attacks, small bursts were enough to temporarily disrupt the victim's operations," Wueest wrote. "For example, in online games, a short offline window of a few minutes can be enough to settle the odds on who will win the game."

DDoS attackers were quick to exploit the "Shellshock" flaw, a vulnerability discovered in September in Bash, a command-line shell processor present in most Unix and Linux systems.

"Within 24 hours after news about the ShellShock Bash vulnerability was published, we saw the first use of an exploit against the issue, where attackers aimed to install DDoS malware scripts on Unix servers," Wueest wrote.

DDoS scripts such as PHP.Brobot and Backdoor.Piltabe were installed on vulnerable Unix servers, abusing their high bandwidth for attacks.

The going rate for DDoS hire services—often referred to as "booter" or "stresser" services—range from as little as US$5 to $1,000, charged according to the attack's duration and size.

"These services are commonly offered in the gaming community to temporarily get rid of competing teams," Wueest wrote.


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China attacks lead Apple to alert users on iCloud threats

Apple has warned users about attacks on its iCloud website, after monitoring groups alleged that China had tried to intercept customer information from the service.

Although China was not named, Apple said Tuesday it was "aware of intermittent organized network attacks" on its iCloud service that were designed to obtain user information, according to a company support page.

Apple said the iCloud servers are still secure but advised customers accessing the service to always verify that they've connected to an authentic iCloud website via a trusted browser.

Starting over the weekend, visits to Apple's iCloud site in China began returning an invalid digital certificate, a sign that the connections had been tampered with using a technique known as "man-in-the-middle attack", according to anti-censorship group GreatFire.org.

Such attacks involve the hacker trying to eavesdrop on the communication by tricking victims into believing they've visited a secure website. Once duped, the victim's activities can be monitored.

GreatFire.org alleged that the Chinese government was behind the attack, as a way to steal username and password information from Apple's iCloud users. But on Tuesday a spokeswoman with the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country opposed any form of hacking.

The man-in-the-middle attack on the iCloud service was just one of several in China that have targeted U.S. websites. Starting late last month, visits to Yahoo's site from the country were also mysteriously returning invalid digital certificates.

Both Apple and Yahoo have declined comment.

Security vendor Netresec analyzed the attack on the iCloud service, and said it appeared to be conducted over networks belonging to China Telecom, and China Unicom, two state-controlled broadband providers. Both companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The attack on the iCloud service came just after Apple began officially selling its iPhone 6 in mainland China. Before it launched, Apple had increased the security on its iOS software, following a request from a Chinese regulator.

The sophistication of the attack probably means the hackers had access to an Internet service provider, allowing them to create the insecure connections to the Apple site, said Su Gim Goh, a security adviser with F-Secure. "It's not something that a script kiddie could have done," he said, adding that an organized group or government could have been behind it.

"iCloud is a big service abroad. This is one good way to look at user content," he said.

Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan represents Apple's second biggest market behind the U.S. On Tuesday, GreatFire.org said Apple had changed its domain name system in China to avoid the attack.


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Microsoft sued as lawsuits over employee no-poach deal mount

A court filing in May last year has attracted more class action lawsuits, alleging secret no-poaching deals among tech companies to keep salaries low.

Oracle, Microsoft and Ask.com are facing suits alleging that they conspired to restrict hiring of staff. The suits appear to refer to a memo which names a large number of companies that allegedly had special arrangements with Google to prevent poaching of staff.

The document was filed as an exhibit on May 17, 2013 in another class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division over hiring practices. The tech workers who filed that suit alleged that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe Systems, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar put each other's employees off-limits to other companies by introducing measures such as "do-not-cold-call" lists.

The seven tech companies had earlier settled similar charges in 2010 with the U.S. Department of Justice while admitting no wrongdoing, but agreed not to ban cold calling and enter into any agreements that prevent competition for employees.

Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel appealed in September District Judge Lucy Koh's rejection of a proposed settlement of US$324.5 million with the tech workers, which she found was too low. Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar had previously settled for about $20 million.

The former employees filing lawsuits against Microsoft, Ask.com and Oracle have asked that the case be assigned to Judge Koh as there were similarities with the case against Google, Apple and others.

A key defense the companies may adopt is that the DOJ did not see it fit to prosecute them before 2010. "Oracle was deliberately excluded from all prior litigation filed in this matter because all the parties investigating the issue concluded there was absolutely no evidence that Oracle was involved," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger wrote in an email after the suit against the company was filed.

Ask.com and Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit against Microsoft filed by former employees Deserae Ryan and Trent Rau charges, among other things, that Microsoft and other companies entered into anti-solicitation and restricted hiring agreements without the consent or knowledge of its workers. The plaintiffs said that the agreements that involved Microsoft were not disclosed publicly until the filing of May 17 last year.

In the class-action suit filed against IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent of Ask.com, former employee Robert Arriaga alleges a conspiracy by Ask.com, Google and other companies to fix and suppress the compensation of their employees by way of "Sensitive Company Agreements," which first came to light on May 17 last year.


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First products from Apple-IBM deal to come next month

Written By kom nampuldu on Selasa, 21 Oktober 2014 | 16.01

The first products from Apple's mobile enterprise partnership with IBM will roll out next month, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said the partnership "could change the way people work."

In July, Apple announced an "exclusive" deal with IBM in which iPhones and iPads would be sold to enterprises backed by IBM's cloud and analytics services. The first products will be for the banking, government, insurance, retail, telecommunications and travel and transport sectors, Cook said on a Monday earnings call.

Apple did not share specific products details, but the one-time PC rivals are working closely together. IBM is creating iOS-specific security, analytics and management tools and will resell iPhones and iPads. Apple will roll out new support services for businesses.

First out of the gate will be a set of iOS apps, according to Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"From what I understand, those products will be IBM apps developed with some help from Apple," Kay said.

The deal was viewed as an odd marriage between the hip Apple and old-school IBM, but it could help both. Apple hasn't had great luck with enterprises, while IBM is trying to expand its mobile footprint, Kay said.

The deal could help business users blend their iPads and iPhones easily into enterprises that use IBM software and systems, Kay said.

"The [deal] reassures IT managers that their employees using Apple products weren't getting off the ranch and exposing data," Kay said.

Apple is attracted to the enterprise market because device sales there could generate higher profit margins. In this case, IBM may be buying specially configured iPhones and iPads in bulk to resell to specific customers.

IBM is a bit more refined at hand-holding and customizing products for enterprise customers than is Apple, which makes products for the mass market, Kay said.

Apple during the earnings call tried to highlight its successes in enterprises. Chinese company Baidu has 20,000 employees using iPhones and has 30 internally developed iOS apps. Escalator company Schindler has deployed more than 20,000 iPhones and 20 apps. About 25,000 iPads were deployed in the Minnesota public school system.

And since the Apple-IBM partnership was announced, there has been a growing enterprise excitement about iPads and iPhones, Cook said.

But while iPhone shipments grew during the fourth quarter, iPad shipments declined.

Apple sold 39.27 million iPhones during the fourth quarter, increasing from 33.8 million units from the year-ago quarter. IPad shipments were 12.3 million, falling from 14.08 million units.


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