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AT&T extends network to Mexico with $2.5 billion lusacell acquisition

Written By kom nampuldu on Sabtu, 08 November 2014 | 16.01

AT&T will pay US$2.5 billion to acquire Mexican wireless company lusacell, in a major push to expand its coverage and improve mobile Internet service for those living south of the U.S. border.

The acquisition, announced Friday, includes lusacell's network assets, licenses, retail stores, and its 8.6 million subscribers. AT&T expects the deal to close by the end of next March.

lusacell's network covers roughly 70 percent of Mexico's 120 million residents, and AT&T plans to expand it to cover millions more consumers and businesses.

"Mexico is still in the early stages of mobile Internet capabilities and adoption, but customer demand for it is growing rapidly," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in the company's announcement.

"This is an opportunity for us to provide lusacell the financial resources, scale and expertise to accelerate the roll-out of world-class mobile Internet speeds and quality in Mexico, like we have in the U.S."

The deal, he said, is an opportunity to create "the first-ever North American mobile service area covering over 400 million consumers and businesses in Mexico and the U.S."

It will all be one network, in other words, that could eliminate some headaches for customers traveling between the countries.

lusacell operates 3G as well as 4G services, according to its website, though likely at below typical LTE speeds.

lusacell will keep its headquarters in Mexico City after the deal closes, AT&T said. The transaction is subject to review by Mexico's telecom regulator and its National Foreign Investments Commission.

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Motorola may have won the 'First to Lollipop' prize with the new Moto X

Happy Friday, Android users! And if you're currently sporting the second-generation Moto X, you're in for a treat. Motorola said it would deploy Android Lollipop quickly, and boy, did it deliver.

Motorola has apparently not only has begun its soak test for Lollipop for the new Moto X, but it's already put up arelease notes page for the update with a complete change log of what's in the software package. We've yet to receive an indication of a Lollipop update on our Moto X unit, however.

Why this matters: It's not the biggest news to happen on a late Friday afternoon, but if the software update is pushed live over the weekend it means that Motorola technically beat Google to the Android 5.0 update punch. While the Nexus 9 tablet ships with Lollipop, no other devices with prior Android versions have been updated yet—not even the Nexus 5 and 7!

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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Microsoft looks to find its way in app market via free Office deal

By unlocking core edit functions in its free Office apps for iOS and, later, Android, Microsoft is trying to close out pesky rivals in the mobile market and lure new subscribers to Office 365.

Accomplishing those goals is vital if the company is to protect and grow its huge Office franchise. But success is far from assured, with the latest moves coming seven months after it released Word, PowerPoint and Excel for the iPad, and more than a year after an initial, weaker version of Office Mobile for iPhones.

The iPad apps were widely praised, but many questioned the wisdom of requiring a subscription for anything beyond the ability to view properly formatted files, since the App Store is brimming with free alternatives, including Apple's iWork and Google's Docs, Slides and Sheets.

"This is a rebalancing of what Microsoft makes available for free," said Phil Karcher, a Forrester Research analyst.

It's offering enough capabilities to expand the number of free users it can attract, while reserving a set of "premium" capabilities that could tempt them into subscribing to Office 365.

"Having to pay just to edit documents was a high hurdle. With the rebalancing, customers are more likely to get sucked into using the free version of the app," Karcher said.

Office Mobile for iPhones, which shipped in mid-2013, was panned for its lack of functionality, and until March this year it required an Office 365 subscription to use it. Reacting to the poor response, Microsoft is now replacing it with standalone apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are more powerful because they're built from the same code base as the iPad apps.

Similar apps will be offered for Android tablets and smartphones early next year. And a touch-optimized version of Office for Windows tablets and smartphones will be released with Windows 10, possibly by mid-2015.

"Microsoft realized that compared to the competition, it wasn't looking real great, so why not offer consumers apps they can truly use, " said Guy Creese, a Gartner analyst. "This is a response to market pressures to give users what they'd like to have."

But time is of the essence. The iPad has been out since 2010, and during the period when Office was non-existent for iOS and Android, and when it later required a subscription, people latched onto whatever productivity apps were available.

"We did a field research study about 18 months ago and asked people what they were using [for mobile productivity] and it was all over the map," Creese said. "In the absence of Office, they resorted to a wide variety of apps."

A portion of those people will stick with what they've gotten used to.

While the moves this week are aimed at the consumer market, there will be an effect on enterprises as well. "Its primarily a consumer market move, but people carry expectations into the workplace based on what they experience in their consumer lives," Karcher said.

And use of mobile apps is growing more and more in business, for both accessing and creating content. In a survey earlier this year, Osterman Research found that information workers spend around one third of their typical workday on a mobile device, half on a desktop computer, and 15 percent not working on a computer at all. The firm also found that 42 percent of work-related electronic content is used on a mobile device, while 31 percent is created on a mobile device.

"The announcements are part of Microsoft's continued realization that it needs to focus increasingly on mobile users in order to maintain growth in its Office franchise, and that the Surface tablet is not going to provide the avenue of growth into the mobile space that Microsoft needs," said Michael Osterman, the company's president.

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Facebook will be mostly video in 5 years, Zuckerberg says

Written By kom nampuldu on Jumat, 07 November 2014 | 16.00

If you think your Facebook feed has a lot of video now, just wait.

"In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday during the company's first community town hall, in which he took questions from the public on a range of topics.

He was responding to a question about whether the growing number of photos uploaded to Facebook is putting a drag on its infrastructure. But Facebook's data centers have it covered, he said. The real challenge is improving the infrastructure to allow for more rich media like video in people's feeds.

Zuckerberg took questions from a group of users who were invited to its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and people also submitted questions online.

One of the most popular online question was why Facebook forced users to download its Messenger app for mobile.

The 30-year-old acknowledged not everyone was thrilled with the change.

"Asking everyone in our community to install another app is a big ask," he said. But Facebook thought it could provide a better, faster messaging product if it split it off from its own app.

"We really believe this is a better experience," Zuckerberg said.

One user in the audience asked him if Facebook is losing its charm or becoming boring.

The question of Facebook losing its "cool" gets raised from time to time, Zuckerberg said, but "my goal was never to make Facebook cool," he said. Instead, he wants it to be a helpful service that just works.

Another asked why he always seems wear the same t-shirts and hoodies. Zuckerberg said he wants to spend as much time as possible on things that matter, like how to build products, even if it means thinking less about what he wears.

"Steve Jobs had the same approach," he said.

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Sierra Leone pushes ITU members to back tech against Ebola

Spurred by Sierra Leone, the U.N.'s ITU has teamed up with the GSM Association, the World Health Organization, and the Internet Society, committing resources to a worldwide effort to develop technology tools to help stop the spread of Ebola.

"We have the technology," said ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure in prepared remarks at the International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Korea. "We have the information—but in a world in which everybody is talking about big data, we still haven't been able to set up the right mechanisms to accelerate the distribution and utilization of realtime information when it is mostly needed."

The ITU formalized its commitment to technology in a resolution proposed this week by Sierra Leone, one of the countries hit hardest by the Ebola virus in what has become in a matter of months the worst epidemic of the disease in history.

Sierra Leone proposed that the ITU identify communications infrastructure needed for the timely exchange of information on Ebola virus transmission and collaborate with organizations, particularly WHO, to combat its spread. The resulting ITU resolution, with the overwhelming endorsement of member countries including the U.S., Canada, Russia, the UAE, U.K. and Japan, offers assistance and support to consumers, humanitarian organizations and industry to develop technology to fight Ebola.

Japan immediately responded to the proposal, offering 180,000 Swiss francs (US$187,000) to develop a mobile application for smart phones that can provide crucial information for the prevention of the spread of Ebola diseases, as well as other effective measures.

More than 13,000 people have been infected with the Ebola virus and more than 4,800 have died, mostly in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to WHO.

The ITU has already tapped technology to help battle Ebola, according to Cosmas Zavazava, the chief of the Project Support and Knowledge Management group at the U.N. organization's Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).

"ITU has deployed satellite terminals to be used in remote areas where there is no fixed or mobile-cellular coverage," Zavazava said in email.

The ITU has also focused on developing various apps, Zavazava added. The apps have been designed to provide a means of communication for government agencies to disseminate information to the public, and can be used for early warning, Zavazava said. "Victims could also contact government agencies, their families, etc. The apps could also help in big data analysis for decision making," he said.

The use of apps and various forms of messaging are efficient uses of technology partly because of their ability to connect a large number of the growing mobile phone users in the affected areas.

Apps are increasing awareness of the disease worldwide as they provide updates on what is happening in Sierra Leone and other affected countries, said Al Turay, the developer of the Sierra Leone Ebola Trends app.

"On a local level, alerts from the app provide current statistics including expanded details on lost lives including health officials and survivors and how to take further precautions to prevent the disease," Turay said via Facebook. "It also helps to keep users engaged in sharing their stories, pictures and videos of popular news briefs around the world about the disease."

Every day, the Emergency Operation Center in Sierra Leone churns out figures on new cases and the latest developments in the fight against Ebola, using several channels to communicate to the public. Apps such as Turay's could be helpful in the effort, though he noted that a major challenge has been the low number of Android and iOS devices in the hardest-hit areas.

On its website, WHO noted that the recent halt of new cases of Ebola in Senegal was achieved not only through the country's rapid infectious disease control work, but also by using a novel SMS-driven platform originally designed in partnership with major mobile phone operators in the country to help people manage diabetes.

The GSMA has also been working with many organizations and individuals to develop tech tools and services, including mobile apps, said spokeswoman Claire Cranton. The tools include WHO's Ebola messaging services delivered via SMS and applications using the USSD protocol; UNICEF's U-Report, a social media application for engaging communities in discussing Ebola issues, monitoring affected areas, polling, and counselling; and Mobilium's Smart Health Pro, which consolidates onto a single user interface a number of services involving supportive care, enhanced diagnostics, improved patient monitoring and health payments.

Cranton added that the GSMA Disaster Response team has also been involved in continuing anti-Ebola efforts by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and has helped update the wider humanitarian and technology community on progress. The GSMA has also been working with The Gates Foundation, Flowminder.org and USAID to identify problems in anti-Ebola efforts and prioritize activities.

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UK teen relieved after light sentence on hacking charges

A 19-year-old U.K. man said he was relieved after receiving probation for pleading guilty to four hacking-related charges in connection with a large distributed denial-of-service attack on the Metropolitan Police Service's website.

Jordan Lee Jones, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees, U.K, pleaded guilty to four counts of impairing the function of a computer, a violation of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990.

Jones was sentenced to 12 months probation after a judge in Teeside Magistrates Court on Wednesday concluded he acted as part of a group that encouraged malicious activity but that he has since stopped.

"The reason why the judge decided to set me free was partly because since my arrest last year I made efforts to redeem myself by working with different organizations and helping them identify security flaws in their security systems," he said via an interview over instant message on Friday.

He could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

"It has taken a lot of stress off me now," Jones said.

Jones wrote a Python script that when used in combination with a DDoS tool called the "Low Orbit Ion Cannon" can be used to send overwhelming amounts of traffic to a website. The tool, which had widely been used in attacks perpetrated by the loose-knit group Anonymous, was used by Jones to attack the Metropolitan Police's website in October 2013.

He was also expecting charges for taking advantage of SQL injection vulnerabilities in the website of a major bank and entertainment company, gaining internal access to their systems. But Jones said it appears those charges will be dropped since he informed the companies of the issues.

Earlier this year Jones reported several vulnerabilities to eBay that he found in its website and has continued to be an independent computer security penetration tester.

Jones was studying IT at Stockton Riverside College, but dropped his courses a few months ago to take some time off. He has since reapplied, but the college has declined his application, which he thinks might be connected to his legal situation. He said he would like to attend university.

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'Dridex' malware revives Microsoft Word macro attacks

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 06 November 2014 | 16.01

A recent piece of malware that aims to steal your online banking credentials revives a decade-old technique to install itself on your PC.

Called Dridex, the malware tries to steal your data when you log into an online bank account by creating HTML fields that ask you to enter additional information like your social security number. Thats not unusual in itself: Dridex is the successor to a similar piece of malware called Cridex which also targets your bank account.

Whats different is how Dridex tries to infect your computer in the first place. Its delivered in the form of a macro, buried in a Microsoft Word document in a spam email message.

Cybercriminals started using macros more than a decade ago but they fell out of favor after Microsoft strengthened its security defenses against them. But some hackers are apparently trying them again.

Most PCs disable macros from running by default. But if the malicious Word file is opened, it advises users to enable macros, and if they do, Dridex starts downloading to the PC, wrote Rhena Inocencio, a threat response engineer, on Trend's blog on Wednesday.

"The move to macros could be seen as one way of ensuring a higher chance of successful attacks," she wrote. "If the macro feature was already enabled prior to the attack, the attack commences without any additional requirements. Otherwise, the attack must use a strong social engineering lure in order to convince the user to enable the feature."

Once installed on a computer, the malware is programmed to jump into action when it sees a person visits one of a long list of banks, including Bank of Scotland, Lloyd's Bank, Danske Bank, Barclays, Kasikorn Bank, Santander and Triodos, she wrote.

The spam messages for Dridex came mostly from Vietnam, India, Taiwan, South Korea and China, while the top three countries infected with it are Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

A Switzerland-based computer security project that has for years tracked command-and-control servers for some of the more infamous banking malware program such as Zeus is now also tracking Dridex's command-and-control servers.

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AMD reveals Civilization: Beyond Earth game bundle, Radeon R9 290X with 8GB RAM

Mere days after Nvidia announced a holiday games bundle that pairs Ubisoft's most hotly anticipated titles with new high-end GeForce GTX graphics cards, AMD's striking back by offering a free copy of the absolutely stellar Civilization: Beyond Earth with its top-tier Radeon hardware.

But here's the truly interesting twist: This promotion is separate from and can be combined with AMD's existing Never Settle: Space bundle, meaning that buyers of a new Radeon R9 290, R9 290X, or dual-GPU R9 295X2 can walk away with Civilization: BE and three additional games of their choice. Whew!

AMD's also announcing a new, overclocked variant of its flagship R9 290X graphics card that doubles the previous amount of onboard memory to a full 8GB, making it better suited for Civilization: Beyond Earth's thirst for GPU framebuffering—and amplifying what was already a strong suit for Radeon graphics cards.

The story behind the story: The recent introduction of Nvidia's GTX 900-series graphics cards threw AMD's Radeon lineup for a loop. The Radeon R9-series graphics cards are more than a year old and lag behind the GTX 980 and GTX 970 in both power efficiency and pure performance at common resolutions. Since then, AMD's been fighting back with the tools it has at its disposal: steep price cuts, abundant free games, and gaming performance at ultra-high resolutions.

Putting AMD's best foot forward

Much as the recent GeForce game bundle focuses on titles built using Nvidia's GameWorks technology, Firaxis worked closely with AMD during the development of Civilization: Beyond Earth. The game utilizes AMD's performance-boosting Mantle API to do two things: increase frame rates in traditional PC setups by optimizing how the CPU talks to the GPU, and create a smoother gameplay experience in multi-card Crossfire setups by using a "split frame rendering" subsystem. This subsystem assigns each graphics card a portion of each frame to render, rather than having the cards alternate rendering of entire frames, as is the norm.

An AMD slide deck about the benefits of Mantle.

Civilization is one of the biggest names in PC gaming. Working so tightly with Firaxis and being able to offer this giveaway is a major win for AMD.

That goes double when you consider that new Radeon R9 290-series buyers will still be able to select three free games of their choice from more than 25 available options as part of the Never Settle: Space bundle. Considering how cheaply AMD's top Radeon cards are selling for these days, and that the Space bundle includes killer games like Alien: Isolation, Sniper Elite 3, Darksiders II, Saints Row IV, and Star Citizen, you could walk away with an awful lot of gaming goodness for an insanely compelling price. Civilization: BE and Alien: Isolation alone retail for $60 a pop, and you could grab two more games beyond that.

Double the memory, double the fun?

radeon r9 290x

The AMD Radeon R9 290X reference card.

Playing off Civilization: Beyond Earth's heavy use of GPU memory, AMD's also announcing a new, overclocked R9 290X variant with 8GB of onboard RAM.

While Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 900-series graphics tend to triumph over AMD's top single-GPU cards at 1080p or 2560x1600 resolution in our tests, the Radeon R9 290X actually holds the upper hand in many gaming tests conducted at 4K resolution, or across multiple monitors using AMD's Eyefinity technology. A graphics card with flat-out more memory essentially offers the ability to handle higher antialiasing settings at ultra-high resolutions.

In other words, doubling the R9 290X's memory from 4GB (formerly the maximum) to 8GB only strengthens AMD's advantage on pixelicious monitor setups—though if you're gaming at 4K you'll probably want a pair of the cards in a CrossFire setup to keep frame rates up to snuff.

The official details are fairly light. AMD would only say that Sapphire, PowerColor, and MSI will be the initial hardware partners, with a soft target MSRP of $429. That seems like a hefty markup for memory considering that 4GB R9 290X graphics cards are selling for as low as $300 these days, but hey, if you're rocking a pricey 4K display or a multi-monitor setup, twice the memory might just be worth the money.

The arrival of overclocked R9 290X graphics cards with double the onboard memory has one more bit of significance: If AMD's partners are rolling out new flagship variants in November, I'd be shocked if the next generation of Radeon GPUs surface before the end of the year.

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US net neutrality advocates plan Hungary-style protests

Protests are planned outside the White House in Washington, D.C., and at several locations across the U.S. on Thursday evening to object to leaks that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering a new "hybrid" proposal to break through the deadlock over net neutrality rules.

Taking a cue from recent protests in Hungary against an Internet tax, the demonstrators plan to hold their mobile phones, laptops, tablets and flashlights above their heads as a symbol of protest to "shine light" on alleged corruption in the federal government.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was planning a partial reclassification of broadband as a regulated utility, while not explicitly prohibiting special access deals between broadband and content companies.

By the reclassification, back-end broadband services, through which broadband providers serve as a route for Web sites to distribute content, would be classified as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act and brought under the FCC's authority, according to the report. Retail services provided to consumers by Internet service providers would not come under the reclassification.

The FCC has said that Wheeler has not decided on a net neutrality plan and added that all broadband reclassification options are under consideration.

The protests are supported by groups such as Fight for the Future, PopularResistance.org and Free Press.

The net neutrality issue came to the forefront in January this year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit largely overruled the earlier Open Internet Order which prohibited broadband providers from blocking or unreasonably discriminating against content providers or applications for network access.

Supporters of net neutrality have been demanding that broadband in its entirety should be reclassified under Title II and regulated. The reclassification could, however, invite lawsuits from broadband companies like Verizon, which warned the FCC recently that reclassification had "significant legal vulnerabilities."

In September, net neutrality groups and companies observed Internet Slowdown Day with thousands of websites participating by showing spinning-wheel icons to mimic slow-loading sites. The aim of the protest was to convey to visitors the Internet slow lanes activists claim will appear if the FCC doesn't pass strong net neutrality regulations.

The protests on Thursday will include demonstrations at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza, Federal Plaza in Chicago and at the Philadelphia headquarters of cable company Comcast, according to PopularResistance.org. Supporters who can't make it to the event are asked to take a photo of themselves holding a sign that says #RealNetNeutrality or #ReclassifyTheInternet and upload the snap to the Tell the FCC - My Voice Matters! page, according to Free Press.

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Michael Dell gets his payback, slams 'turmoil' at HP and IBM

Written By kom nampuldu on Rabu, 05 November 2014 | 16.01

What a difference a year makes.

For much of 2013, while Michael Dell was fighting a costly battle to take his company private, his rivals played up the distraction and did their best to lure his customers away. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Michael Dell opened the Dell World conference in Texas on Tuesday and, looking decidedly relaxed and pleased with himself, wasted no time denouncing the "turmoil" his rivals in the industry are going through.

"They're splitting away businesses, spinning off pieces of their businesses, and one has to ask the question: who is this for? Does this actually help the customers? Does it help them create the next great innovative products?"

You can't begrudge him a bit of schadenfreude. Just six months ago Meg Whitman was calling Hewlett-Packard a "paragon of stability" compared to its rivals and now she's breaking the company in two. And IBM is selling its x86 server business to Lenovo and fighting to keep its profits above water.

Dell became a private company almost exactly a year ago, and Michael Dell doesn't have to worry about those quarterly targets any more. He said that allows Dell to invest in better products and growing its business.

Dell can focus on a future that's "beyond the next quarter, the next year or the next shareholder activist," he said, perhaps thinking of Carl Icahn, who made him pay millions more to take his company private.

It also means that Dell's financial results are no longer public, so it's hard to know how its business is really doing. Dell's PC shipments grew almost 20 percent in the U.S. last quarter, Michael Dell said, faster than those of HP and Apple.

That's correct, according to IDC, though Lenovo and Acer grew more on a global basis, and Dell still trails HP in the U.S. and worldwide.

Still, Dell is clearly investing in new technologies. On Wednesday it will announce a new "converged infrastructure" system called the PowerEdge FX, he said, which combines servers, network and storage in a new design that offers "the most density in the world."

It's also investing in services, and launched the beta of a "cloud exchange" last week that will give businesses a place to select and sign up for cloud infrastructure services. He also touted recent partnerships with VMware and Microsoft's Azure for private cloud deployments.

Michael Dell isn't the most relaxed or emotive speaker as a rule and this was a candid display for him, even taking questions from reporters in the audience. His enthusiasm was tempered when someone asked him why, if Dell is growing so much, it had to lay off some of its employees this year. He said his company needed less people in some parts of the business but more in others, and that Dell is actually hiring engineers and salespeople despite the job cuts.

With Apple's Mac shipments growing fast, PCs don't look like such a dire industry to be in any more, at least compared to recent years. That's lucky for Dell, which still gets a huge chunk of its revenue from desktops and laptops, even as it tries to expand its more profitable businesses.

"We still believe the PC is how real business gets done," Michael Dell said.

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