Episode 348 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

posted in: Show Notes


Aussie IT jobs slashed at Symantec

Symantec announced a company-wide “organisational simplification initiative” in January, emphasising at the time it would be reducing executive and middle management positions, and reorganising its sales department.


We expect to eliminate between 30-40 percent of the management positions. We will have fewer, bigger jobs for our best and brightest.”


35 staff in Symantec’s Australian tech support teams were visited by the company’s global head of Consumer Support and told they no longer had a job.


The redundancies affected the Quality Assurance, Training and Consumer Support teams. The front-facing Consumer Support team was responsible for technical support, refunds and complaints, and was the point of contact for customers who wished to speak to an Australian about a product issue.

“As of June 14th, no support exists in Australia for Australian customers,” another source said.


Symantec’s Australian marketing and sales departments are understood to be next in line, with up to 36 employees asked to reapply for 12 positions.


1700 workers globally will be let go under the restructuring program – just under 8 percent of the 21,500 employees Symantec reported to have as of March 29 this year.

Of that figure, around 7400 are employed in sales and marketing, 7200 in research and development, 5400 in support and services, and 1500 in management, manufacturing, and administration globally.


In the last financial year, the Asia Pacific/Japan region made up 19 percent of Symantec’s overall net revenue, $1.3 billion,thats up 18%


screwing everyone harder



Bitcoin ATM launched

The machine, from start-up Lamassu Bitcoin Ventures, lets users buy bitcoins, but doesn’t allow the reverse transfer, from the digital currency to hard cash.


To use the ATM, you need to have an existing Bitcoin wallet number. First, it scans a QR code of your Bitcoin address. Then, the user has to feed bank notes into the machine, which are converted at the current exchange rate and deposited into their account. While the deposit takes moments, it can take several minutes for an account to be updated.

Bitcoin can be purchased via online exchange sites, but the ATM means you don’t need to use a credit or bank card, helping to keep the transactions anonymous, the company said.


The company hopes to ship the devices globally in the autumn, and they will cost between $4,000 and $5,000.

Bitcoin is currently priced at about $90



Surface Pro’s 4-Hour battery life is a deal breaker

Solution providers say the 4-hour battery life for Surface Pro, which is targeted squarely at the business market, is a deal breaker. They say Microsoft needs to move quickly to bring longer battery life to the Surface Pro for it to be a winner in corporate accounts.


Ars Technica, said Surface Pro’s -hour had a 3- to 3.5-hour battery life when viewing a video continuously.


Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD, said in his review of the Surface Pro that the product was “too hefty and costly and power-hungry – Mossberg’s tests had the Surface Pro lasting “just under four hours between charges — less than half that of the iPad on the same test.”



Copper trials hit 1Gbps speeds

The trial used a digital subscriber line (DSL) modem prototype made by Bell Labs and ran over a single, “good quality cable”. Speeds achieved were 1.1Gbps over 70 metres and 800Mbps over 100 metres, Alcatel-Lucent said.


The trial used G.fast [PDF] technology, which combines pair-bonding, vectoring and phantom mode technologies to improve speed and reach around VDSL2.


The technology is not yet standardised, but Alcatel Lucent said it was a natural evolution of today’s VDSL2 copper broadband service, and could be used to provide fibre to the premises (FTTP)-like performance from distribution nodes.\



Phishing sites targeting Apple users

Threat detection data collected by Kaspersky Lab shows a significant increase in phishing sites attempting to trick users into giving up their Apple account credentials,


Phishing attacks targeting Apple users increased from 1,000 detections per day on average in 2011 to about 200,000 detections per day today, according to the Kaspersky Lab data. Many of the sites attempt to mirror the official Apple store or an official-looking Apple credential reset page. A user who doesn’t pay attention to the location of the Web page can easily be tricked into giving up information.


Only 2.5 percent of threats encountered by Mac users were written specifically for Macs, according to statistics from Symantec. The latest Threat Report from McAfee supports Symantec’s findings and noted that malware growth was flat throughout much of 2012, with no growth in the first quarter of 2013.



Windows 8 overtakes Vista in market share

Windows 8 grabbed 5.1% market share in June, up from 4.3% in May, finally pipping Vista to the spot as the third most-used Windows OS.


Vista’s share slid to 4.6%, while Windows 7 holds 44.4% and XP still has 37.2%. The most recent version of Apple’s OS X (10.8) has 3.1%,according to data from Net Applications.

Telstra monthly access charges jump

Users on Telstra’s BusinessLine plans will see their monthly access charges rise by up to $2, as will those on HomeLine, Plus, Advanced and Together plans.


Bundled plans and contracts will remain the same, the telco said in a statement. HomeLine Budget and Telstra’s Pensioner Discount scheme will similarly remain untouched.


We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year operating and maintaining our phone services so our pricing needs to reflect this ongoing investment, as well as the rising cost of our own business inputs such as labour, petrol and materials.”



Fujitsu Australia turns 40

releasing an eBook to mark the occasion.


Called The First 40 Years, the eBook chronicles the experiences of the compnay in Australia


just 100 staff in the early 1970s the company has grown to be seen as a true industry powerhouse and one of the most successful IT service providers in Australia employing around 5,000 people.


Other key milestones for Fujitsu Australia include:

  • Fujitsu’s 2009 acquisition of KAZ was one of the largest deals of its kind in Australian ICT history, and instantly made Fujitsu a major services player.

  • Fujitsu was the first vendor to provide a contract with a guaranteed uptime.

  • In 1991 the DRIVES system at the NSW RTA was the largest commercial Unix site in the world, running on Fujitsu mainframes.

  • In 1986 Fujitsu sold a game-changing research supercomputer to ANU, the first supplied outside Japan;

  • in 2012 Fujitsu sold another supercomputer to ANU which will take Australia’s research to new levels in areas such as weather and climate modelling, computational chemistry, particle physics, astronomy, material science, microbiology, nanotechnology and photonics.

  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics still refers to Fujitsu as a partner even though the ABS retired its mainframe in 2006. Fujitsu’s historic 1977 ABS tender win marked a new era in enterprise systems in Australia with a large deal on a global scale.

  • Fujitsu took its competition by surprise with a provocative exhibition at Brisbane’s Expo 88, winning the Golden Platypus award for best stand at the show.

  • Fujitsu Australia Software Technology (FAST) was the first major vendor software development centre in Australia.

Aussies to rally for privacy on Saturday

The so-called National Day of Action has the backing of Pirate Party Australia, The Greens, WikiLeaks Party, Electronic Frontiers Australia and other political alliances.will hold a series of “pro-privacy rallies” in four Australian capital cities on Saturday July 6.


Rallies have so far been called in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and the organisers are seeking others to spread the action to further areas of Australia.

Issues to be protested on Saturday include the US National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program, and the use of Section 313 notices to block websites.


NBN Co passes 207,500 premises with fibre

NBN Co has achieved its revised June fibre rollout target, passing 207,500 premises.


The company said today it had passed 163,500 premises in built-up areas (“brownfields”) and 44,000 premises in new housing estates (“greenfields”).


It had been targeting between 190,000 and 220,000 premises passed by fibre by June 30.

ABC catches on to Android growth

The ABC has released a new version of its Android app in response to a consumer shift towards Android devices, and hopes to launch an Android version of its popular iview media player before the year is out.


Active usage of the ABC’s flagship Android app has increased 360 percent in the 12 months to May, and Android users now represent 35 percent of all mobile browsers on ABC Online, according to the organisation’s data.


The ABC last year forced the take down of a third-party application that enabled people to download and watch programs offered on its iview service on Android devices.

The Python-iview application, which had been available for more than two years, allowed people to download and playback later, programs offered via iview.


The ABC disagreed, arguing Python-iview breached section 101(1) of the Copyright Act by providing the means to allow users to permanently download and store ABC iview content without permission.


Computer mouse inventor Doug Engelbart dies at 88


developed the tool in the 1960s as a wooden shell covering two metal wheels, patenting it long before the mouse’s widespread use.

He also worked on early incarnations of email, word processing and video teleconferences at a California research institute.

He did not make much money from the mouse because its patent ran out in 1987, before the device became widely used.

SRI licensed the technology in 1983 for $40,000 (£26,000) to Apple.

At least one billion computer mouses have been sold.

Samsung buys set top box maker Boxee

The South Korean electronics giant said it had “acquired key talent and assets” from the company.

“This will help us continue to improve the overall user experience across our connected devices,” it added.

Boxee’s latest product lets subscribers record TV shows onto its servers and then stream them to TVs, computers and smart devices “from the cloud”.

It had previously raised $26.5m (£17.3m) in funds from a range of US and Israeli investors.




Facebook bug exposes users’ details




FACEBOOK says a bug in its system caused six million users’ contact information to be inadvertently exposed.


The social media company said on Friday that a bug led to users’ contact information, such as email addresses or phone numbers, to be accessed by other users who either had some contact information about that person or some connection to them.


Facebook said in a blog post that the cause of the bug is ”pretty technical” but that the problem is tied to its ”Download Your Information” tool.


The company uses the information that users upload to better tailor the friend suggestions it issues.


The bug caused some of this information to be inadvertently stored in association with a person’s contact information as part of their Facebook account.



Apps take over in the race to paperless schools




THE days of pawing through school bags looking for notes are numbered, as more and more schools turning to social media to keep in touch with parents.


While most schools have started sending newsletters by email and texting parents if kids aren’t there for morning rollcall, there has been an explosive growth in smartphone apps for schools.


Educators and parents praise the efficiency of the apps, which let you send sick notes, track your child’s location, order lunch and even get directions to sports carnivals.


ansform learning and teaching,” the spokesperson said in a statement to News Ltd.


The Sydney Morning Herald – Warning over gamers’ headset




A headset with four electrodes to zap the brain with a surge of electricity offers to improve computer gamers’ response time so they can eliminate more zombies and raid more tombs.


The $US249 ($273) device, which is available on the internet, passes a current to the prefrontal cortex using a stimulation technique that is also used to treat depression.


But a Sydney world leader in the use of the procedure has warned of the unknown side effects of using the headset and its long-term impact on brain function.


The company website says: ”Overclock your brain using transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to increase the plasticity of your brain. Make your synapses fire faster.”




The company says the headset is not a medical device and is not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. It also says the device meets all regulated safety standards but warns against its use by epilepsy sufferers or anyone with implants.


Professor Colleen Loo, from the University of NSW school of psychiatry and clinical and research psychiatrist with the Black Dog Institute said the effect on the brain was dependent on where and how the electrodes were positioned. ”It’s a bit like having an accelerator and brake in a car,” she said. ”Neither is bad and both are very useful but applying them judiciously at the right time and in the right context is absolutely essential. I think stimulation of yourself with do-it-yourself kits is potentially quite dangerous.


”Even with a single session, I am concerned about people doing some mischief to themselves … if you did this while playing a game and then you went out and drove a car and had an accident, did it affect your reaction time, your co-ordination?”

$25 million for an app that doesn’t exist yet




A TWENTY-one-year-old university graduate has become the recipient of the world’s largest early investment funding for a mobile payment app that isn’t yet publicly available.


The Stanford graduate, Lucas Duplan raised $25 million in funding for his app, Clinkle. What the app actually does, nobody really knows. It hasn’t launched yet.


The Clinkle website says it is “rebuilding your analog wallet from the ground up to bring you the future of payment.”


Duplan is keeping mum about what it actually does.


“Our goal is to completely modernise how payments work,” Duplan told Business Insider. “What we’re trying to do is basically take your phone and have it for the first time be able to rival cash and credit cards. We’ve developed a way for consumers to download an app, no hardware needed, and achieve scale from a software point of view.”


Duplan grew up in California and it seems he has always had a knack for business. He first started making money as a teenager by selling iPod cases on eBay. He also rented out his parents’ wireless internet connection in Croatia – where they are originally from.


In 2010 at the tender age of 19, Duplan enrolled in a study abroad program between his freshman and sophomore year at Stanford University.


He said he was inspired to create his app “Clinkle”, after having to carry around piles of coins instead of the notes he was used to using in the US. In fact the app is named after the “clinking” sound the coins made, he told the Wall Street Journal.







Facebook fix a bounty boon for researcher


SMS hijack bug worth $US20k


A Facebook bug that would allow attackers to take over user accounts with minimal effort has netted $US20,000 for a UK-based security researcher.


As detailed on his blog, Jack Whitten, writing as fin1te, found that accounts could be traversed by exploiting a bug in how Facebook linked user accounts to mobile phones. The registration code sent to users linking phones to accounts arrives with an editable profile_id field, which Whitten demonstrated could be changed to another user.


“The flaw lies in the /ajax/settings/mobile/confirm_phone.php end-point. This takes various parameters, but the two main are code, which is the verification code received via your mobile, and profile_id, which is the account to link the number to,” he writes.


Facebook allows the registration code sent to the attacker to be used to access the victim’s account – meaning that the victim’s account is then linked to the attacker’s phone. Whitten then requested a password reset on the target account, received the changed password form, and took over the account.

Tony Abbott: Malcolm Turnbull Invented The Internet In Australia


Maybe someone should stop Opposition Leader Tony Abbott from talking about internet from now until forever.


The Opposition Leader is holding a lofty policy discussion in Canberra right now in the lead-up to the 2013 Election, and in it he spoke briefly about his Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull:


“[Malcolm] virtually invented the internet in this country.”


Let’s fact-check that for a moment, shall we?


Abbott is clearly referring to Malcolm Turnbull’s time at one of Australia’s first ISPs, OzEmail back in the 1990′s. OzEmail came to be in 1992 when the editor of Australian Personal Computer sold his stake of the magazine to ACP to focus on his email service provider, originally dubbed MicroTex.


Fast-forward two years and Malcolm Turnbull enters the picture, investing in the company to the tune of $500,000. He later sold his stake for $57 million in 1999.


I don’t see any internet inventing going on there. Just a smart businessman, doing his thang.

Google developing game console, smartwatch, new Q?


The Wall Street Journal, citing those ever-loquacious “people familiar with the matter,” reports that Google is developing a game console and a smartwatch to be powered by, no surprise, Android.


“With the watch and game console, Google is hoping to combat similar devices that Apple Inc. may release in the future, the WSJ writes (paid subscription required).


In addition to these two new hardware forays – possible swag for Google’s rumored retail stores? – those familiar people also told the WSJ that Google was preparing to take another shot at a web-connected (and Google Play tie-in) media player, a second try at the globular Nexus Q – which didn’t exactly set the world on fire last summer. In fact, before it disappeared entirely its price dropped from three-hundred smackers to free when it was shipped to the few folks who had preordered it.


Interestingly, Reg readers may remember that a Nexus Q follow-on was hinted at late last month when Google filed paperwork with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a “H840 Device” that “functions as a media player” – a filing, oddly enough, that was replete with references to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


A few bubbles have risen to the surface of the rumor stew about Google looking into a smartwatch, but the WSJ’s report of Google working on a game console is the first that we here at Vulture Annex have heard of such an effort – and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the “people familiar with the matter” were spot on about both devices.


Microsoft to shut down TechNet subscription service


The online Technet blogs and customer support forums will live on, but Microsoft announced today in a letter to subscribers that it plans to retire its venerable TechNet subscriptions service. New subscriptions will no longer be available after August 31, 2013, and the subscription service will shut down as current subscribers’ contracts end.


Microsoft has offered TechNet subscriptions for most of the modern Windows era, debuting in 1998 as a massive packet of CDs, and evolving into a download option as broadband connections became common.


The services have historically been one of the best deals around for frugal IT professionals and PC enthusiasts. For an annual subscription fee of a few hundred dollars, subscribers get the right to download virtually all of the desktop and server software Microsoft sells, with multiple product keys. The software is licensed for evaluation purposes only, but that restriction is part of the license agreement and not enforced in the software itself.


As a result, a lot of enthusiasts used TechNet as a way to get cut-rate Windows client and server upgrades and licenses. Those product keys would up activating Windows on PCs deployed for everyday use instead of hewing to the “evaluation only” restriction.



New rules help travelling Australians avoid shock roaming charges that rack up mobile phone bills

In one of the first announcements of the reborn Rudd Government, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will be forced to provide details about the real cost of making calls, sending a text or surfing the net when overseas.


The overhaul comes after a 70 per cent surge in complaints about roaming charges that can be 150 times more than at home.


In the worst cases, people have had shock bills of up to $9000 after using their mobile overseas for just one day.


New Communications Minister Anthony Albanese said the crackdown would begin from September 27, forcing the telcos to:


SMS all customers when they arrive overseas to warn them that significantly higher charges for roaming services may apply.


REVEAL they may be charged for services that would normally be free at home, such as receiving a call or text.


TELL people how to turn off roaming services.


PROVIDE the exact price for making a call, sending a text or using the internet.


LINK customers to a free alert that can notify the user when their bill reaches $100 increments for data use and says when they have spent 50, 85 and 100 per cent of pre-paid limits.


“Aussies treated like second-class citizens”: Choice blasts US TV giants


Consumer watchdog Choice has issued a fiery statement accusing US content giants of giving Australians “a raw deal” when it comes to making television shows and films available in Australia, pointing out that Australians pay substantially more to access the same content and encouraging locals to use technical mechanisms to get around so-called “geo-blocking”.


According to Choice, Australians are being treated like second-class digital citizens when it comes to the availability of content, in stark contrast to the pricing and flexibility of content services in the United States.


“Netflix in the US costs only US$7.99 per month and features a hit-parade of shows including Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, House of Cards and Arrested Development. Back catalogues of most series are available for instantaneous viewing, along with other popular TV shows,” said Levy. “In Australia, Quickflix subscription costs range from AU$15 to AU$35 per month and you pay extra to watch some movies and TV shows. Also, it uses DVDs for new release movies, while Foxtel charges AU$72 per month.”


The consumer watchdog said Australians who use technical mechanisms such as supplied by sites like unblock-us.com or blockless-tv to bypass the virtual walls which make content more expensive and harder to access were helping create pressure for change, but also believes they should do so with their eyes wide open. The organisation has set up a site to help Australians work around US content blocks.


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