Episode 392 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

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GLENN’S SHOWNOTES 

Photos of an NSA “upgrade” factory show Cisco router getting implant

A document included in the trove of National Security Agency files released with Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide details how the agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit and other NSA employees intercept servers, routers, and other network gear being shipped to organizations targeted for surveillance and install covert implant firmware onto them before they’re delivered.

These Trojan horse systems were described by an NSA manager as being “some of the most productive operations in TAO because they pre-position access points into hard target networks around the world

 


China Bans Windows 8 on Governmental Computers

The Chinese government this week announced that it will ban the use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS on its computers. But it’s currently unclear why it has done so, with different sources providing different explanations.

According to a posting by the China government all newly purchased governmental PCs must have operating systems other than Windows 8. The ban does not impact personal computer sales to individuals or businesses in the country, but the government is the biggest buyer of PCs in China.

  • Cost

  • Computer Security

  • China said vaguely in the posting that the ban is due to a move to “energy saving” products. But a China-based news agency says the ban was “to ensure computer security” in the wake of the expiration of support for Windows XP.

  • Windows XP currently makes up 50 percent of the desktop PC market in China, according to the market researchers at Canalys. But much of that is due to pirated copies of the widely-distributed OS


eBay Inc. To Ask eBay Users To Change Passwords

Asking users to change their passwords because of a cyberattack that compromised a database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data. After conducting extensive tests on its networks, the company said it has no evidence of the compromise resulting in unauthorized activity for eBay users, and no evidence of any unauthorized access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats. However, changing passwords is a best practice and will help enhance security for eBay users.

The database, which was compromised between late February and early March, included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. However, the database did not contain financial information or other confidential personal information.


Surface Mini a no-show as doubts grow over Windows RT

This weeks Surface Pro 3 launch failed to produce a Surface Mini, as doubts grow over the future of Windows RT.

CEO Satya Nadella and devices chief Stephen Elop made the decision to pull the compact version of the Surface because it “wasn’t different enough from rivals and probably wouldn’t be a hit,” sources close to the company told Bloomberg.

this weeks launch marked the first time that Microsoft has launched a Surface device without a Windows RT equivalent.

Mary Jo Foley, (Znet) reports that Microsoft’s operating systems chief, Terry Myerson, is no fan of Windows RT and is working on an ARM-based version of Windows that bridges smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft unveils Surface 3

The most significant addition in Surface 3 is a 12-inch, high-contrast screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2,160 x 144 resolution. Not only is it larger than the Surface Pro 2’s 10.6-inch display, the 3:2 aspect ratio allows Surface 3 to display 6 percent more content than a typical 13-inch laptop screen.

Surface 3 also comes with a choice of Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor and delivers 10 percent faster performance than the Surface Pro 2, with 15 percent to 20 percent longer battery life.

“This is the tablet that can replace your laptop,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Surface Computing, said at the event.

At 9.1mm thick, Surface 3 is 1.5mm thinner than the Surface Pro 2 and, at 800 grams, it’s also lighter. Panay described Surface 3 as “the thinnest Intel Core product ever made.”

Surface 3 also has a new docking station that features more ports and connects the tablet to 4K monitors. Even the speakers are 40 percent more powerful than previous versions.

There’s a new kickstand that can recline into virtually any position, and an improved, thinner Type Cover to match the Surface 3 design. Microsoft also has improved the Surface 3 Track Pad, making it 68 percent larger and addressing the usability issues that hampered previous Surface models

Surface 3 will be available for pre-orders “starting May 21 through Microsoftstore.com, Microsoft retail stores and select third-party retailers” and “commercial customers should speak to their authorised local reseller”. The range will be “starting at an estimated retail price of just AU$979”, Microsoft said in a statement.

In comparison, pricing in the US starts at US$799 for a Surface 3 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM. The Core i7 Surface 3 starts at US$1,549, which includes 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM.


Telstra details new $100m wi-fi network

Telstra will spend more than $100 million to build a wi-fi network by next year involving around 8000 Telstra-built hot spots and a further 1.9 million wi-fi access points provided by its customers nationally.

Telstra today announced plans to establish an international network of wi-fi hot spots – which will involve 12 million hot spots outside of Australia thanks to a partnership with wi-fi provider Fon – which it expects to offer both Telstra and non-Telstra customers broadband access to two million wi-fi hot spots in Australia within five years.

Telstra will build 8000 wi-fi hotspots in community areas and social precincts as well as shopping areas, business centres and transport hubs.

To make up the remaining 1.9 million hot spots expected throughout Australia, Telstra will attempt to convince its home broadband customers to share a “portion” of their bandwidth with other Telstra wi-fi customers, via a new “secure” gateway, in exchange for similar access to the bandwidth of other wi-fi sharers across the country.

Those who join the “wi-fi community” will be able to use their broadband allowance at no extra charge across the network of international and domestic hot spots.

Telstra said it would not activate the wi-fi hot spot service for any broadband user who could not receive speeds of more than 3 mbps. A spokesperson said the modem continually checked the line speed into the home to minimise the effect on the broadband customer.

The gateways and wi-fi range extenders are available from today for $210. Telstra said it currently has 500,000 of the modems in circulation and expects to sell an additional 100,000 ahead of the network’s launch.

The modems – which are already fitted with Fon technology – will offer a software update once the network is live which will allow broadband users to join the wi-fi network. The gateways will broadcast a SSID for the user’s home network and a second signal for the wi-fi hot spot.

Non-Telstra customers will be charged a small daily fee to access the network.

The network will not be initially available to Telstra mobile customers


Wolfenstein has first German release with the New Order

Developers have had to censor the game to comply with German laws banning the use of Nazi imagery.

The publishers said that, as in previous instalments, the PC version of the game would be geo-locked to exclude players in Germany.

Pete Hines, the head of PR for Wolfenstein said “In Germany, we’ve removed all Nazi symbols and references. Unlike films and other works of art, video games in Germany are forbidden to use such symbols and references as they are classified in Germany as toys and not media art.” The illegal display of Nazi imagery is punishable by three years in prison in Germany

 

ERIK’S SHOWNOTES

 

The $299 Chinese smartphone that could change everything     

 

IT HAS taken the smartphone world completely by surprise: a “flagship killer” packed with high-end specs, all for an asking price that dramatically undercuts the high-end Android competition.

 

At $USD299, the OnePlus One smartphone costs less than half the price of Android handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 ($929) and HTC One M8 ($899) — and from the processor to the display, it is a no compromise smartphone that blows the price-to-performance ratio wide open, in keeping with the company’s message of “the best and latest technology for everyone”.

 

OnePlus is backed by the second-most profitable mobile phone company in China, Oppo Electronics, and headed by Oppo’s former vice president Pete Lau, who now has the global market it his sights as he gears up to ship the phone to consumers in over 18 countries next month.

 

Lau is also the visionary behind the OnePlus One smartphone and says that as a self-confessed tech fan, he set out to build the phone that he always wanted.

 

“We believe that technology can be fast, beautiful and solidly built while still being accessible,” Lau said in a recent interview.

 

 

There is no denying that OnePlus have, at least on paper, delivered on the performance front, equipping the handset with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor (clocked at 2.5GHz), 3GB RAM, 16GB/64GB internal storage options, 5.5-inch 1080P IPS display (sourced from the same company that supplies the HTC One M8) along with a 13-megapixel, Sony-made Exmor camera sensor, global 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 3100mAh battery.

 

It’s a spec sheet that equals — and in some cases exceeds — current Android flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and HTC’s One M8.

 

Another feather in the One’s cap is that it uses CyanogenMod, which essentially provides the pure Android OS experience normally found on Google’s Nexus devices, but with a few useful extra tricks. CyanogenMod was originally developed by tinkerers in the online Android modding communities and has since matured into a fast, reliable, and attractive operating system.

 

Build quality comes in the form of Gorilla Glass 3 on the front with a Nokia-esque polycarbonate build round the back as opposed to the glossy and flexible Samsung plastic.

 

But with such a low price-tag and top-end specs, the profit margin on each OnePlus One handset is likely to be minimal. So how are they doing it? And can a fledgling mobile manufacturer really sustain itself in the cutthroat smartphone market, with such thin margins?

 

Eschewing tradition and embracing the online economy

 

Given the $USD299 sticker price, it’s hard to see the company making any money on handset sales alone, a fact that Lau confirmed.

 

“We are selling the phone at cost,” said Lau. “We are able to do that by redistributing our costs to better benefit the user. Rather than put money towards a large marketing budget, we are focusing on online marketing and community interaction. Rather than working with retail partners, we rely on selling the device online.”

 

While OnePlus is an Oppo investment, they are still considered to be separate companies. But OnePlus benefits from Oppo’s manufacturing muscle, allowing the company to gain access to lower-cost systems, components, research and development and manufacturing plants. It also explains why the OnePlus One smartphone looks almost identical in appearance to Oppo’s very own flagship, the Find 7a.

 

Still, forgoing profits on the device, bypassing network carrier support and relying solely on word-of-mouth and media coverage is a risky proposition. But it’s also a strategy that isn’t entirely unique to OnePlus and in fact, it is becoming quite common among Chinese smartphone manufacturers.

 

The Xiaomi strategy

 

Xiaomi is the sixth largest smartphone vendor in the world and one of China’s biggest electronics companies.

 

According to Canalys research, Xiaomi sold more smartphones in the first quarter of this year in its home country than Apple did — the very same quarter that the iPhone was made available through the largest network carrier in the world, China Mobile, and its 700,000-strong subscriber base.

 

Microsoft announces Surface Pro 3 laptop killer

 

 

MICROSOFT has just unveiled its latest Windows-powered tablet: the Surface Pro 3.

 

The newest Surface is equipped with a 12-inch, 2,160 by 1,440 resolution display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, Windows 8.1 Pro, and a 4th-generation Intel Core processor—all within a 9.1mm-thick casing, making what the company claims is the “thinnest Intel Core product ever made.” And at just 800 grams, the Surface Pro 3 is both lighter and thinner than the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2 and the 11.8-inch Apple MacBook Air.

 

READ MORE: MICROSOFT’S TABLET FOCUS IS NO LONGER FIGHTING THE IPAD

 

Like the Surface tablets before it, the Surface Pro 3 includes a kickstand, which has been improved, and works with a digital Surface Pen. Microsoft also introduced new, thinner Type Covers with a bigger trackpad, as well as a new docking station that can be used to output video to a 4K monitor.

 

The all new keyboard and pen are the best yet for a tablet/laptop hybrid.

 

The company also highlighted some software that has been developed for the new tablet. Photoshop has been optimised for touch on the Surface Pro 3, the New York Times’ crossword puzzle works with the pen, and scripts written in Final Draft can be edited on the fly using the pen as well. For quick memos, clicking the button on the pen will wake the tablet and present you with the OneNote app. Once done jotting down your thoughts, simply click the button again and the notes are sent to the cloud via Microsoft’s OneDrive.

 

The Surface Pro 3 will hit shelves on August 31, but can be pre-ordered starting today through the Microsoft web store as well as third-party retailers. Pricing starts at $AU979, with multiple configurations available depending on if you want an Intel Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor. 4GB or 8GB of RAM will be offered, and storage will come in four options, ranging from 64GB to 512GB.

 

Optus losing customers and revenue

 

 

AUSTRALIA’S second largest telco Optus is losing mobile customers and expects mobile revenue to continue falling over the next 12 months.

 

The company has also not ruled out more job cuts, as it removes 350 staff in May as part of changes aimed at improving profits. Optus lost 160,000 mobile customers in its 2013/14 fiscal year, which ended on March 31, to 9.43 million.

 

Revenue from mobile phones and broadband dropped six per cent in that time, to $5.4 billion.

 

Optus expects mobile revenue to continue falling by a “low single digit” percentage in the 2014/15 fiscal year.

 

Interim chief executive Paul O’Sullivan said the drop in revenue was caused by a reduction in mobile termination rates and lower equipment sales.

 

“It also reflects our focus on customer experience where we took the decision in previous quarters to reduce excessive pricing for voice and data breakage and roaming,” he said.

 

Despite lower revenue, the company’s annual profit grew by 15 per cent to $835 million, due to lower costs.

 

“The full year results show we are making the necessary changes to restructure the Optus organisation so we can take advantage of future growth opportunities which will result in customers increasing demand for data,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

 

The restructure has involved job losses, with average staff numbers falling by 267 in the year to March — before the 350 cuts to be made in May.

 

Mr O’Sullivan said the company had to cut costs to remain competitive.

 

“It’s really important that we have an efficient company and that we are always optimising our cost structure,” he said.

 

“That will be an ongoing process in the company forever.” Optus’ parent company Singapore Telecommunications posted a four per cent rise in annual profit to $S3.65 billion.

 

Singtel’s locally listed shares were down one cent at $3.26 at 1530 AEST.

 

Samsung apologises to employees for exposure to chemicals which may have caused cancer     

 

SOUTH Korean technology giant Samsung has apologised to employees who say they suffered cancer as a result of chemical exposure in its chip factories.

 

The world’s largest producer of memory chips and mobile phones promised to pay compensation to survivors and relatives, marking an abrupt shift in Samsung’s stance on the years-long movement to hold the company to account.

 

However, a Samsung spokesman said the apology was not an admission of a link between the chemicals used in its chip factories and cancer and other diseases that in many cases led to employee deaths.

 

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun apologised and promised compensation to chSamsung Electronics vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun apologised and promised compensation to chip factory workers who suffered cancers linked to chemical exposure. Source: AP

 

“We could have been more diligent in addressing the hardship and sorrow of former employees and the families of the deceased,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

 

According to the workers support group, Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS), there have been 193 cases of illness among Samsung employees and those of its subsidiaries, of which 73 died.

 

Of this number, 146 worked at Samsung Electronics, 57 of whom died as a result.

 

The news comes several weeks after opposition politician Sim San Jeung, SHARPS and the families of victims urged Samsung to come up with measures to help its workers and prevent such cases in future. Samsung announced that “in accordance to the proposal, all parties will discuss the set up of an impartial independent mediating group”, which, among other things, will determine the amount of compensation.

 

iOS 8 Launch Date Confirmed, Retina MacBook Air Release Rumored

 

TheiOS 8 launch date was confirmed today by Apple and it would appear that iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 might be joined on stage at WWDC by brand new Apple hardware, rumored to be the new Retina MacBook Air.

 

Weeks ago, Apple announced that it would be hostingWWDC 2014 Moscone Center starting June 2nd. WWDC, or World Wide Developers Conference, is the company’s annual event aimed at the developers that create software for Apple’s OS X and iOS products. And it is there that the company typically announces new produc

 

In the past, Apple announced the iPhone at WWDC. These days, the company has made the event all about its iOS and OS X software. Last year, the company used the platform to announce its revamped iOS 7 software and its OS X Mavericks update. This year, the company is expected to announce iOS 8 and OS X 10.1.0 and now, we know when we’ll likely see the two updates arrive.

 

Earlier today, Apple revealed the timing of its WWDC 2014 keynote. The keynote, per usual, will take place on the first day of WWDC and it will kick off at 10AM PST. This is standard for Apple and doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

 

While the company did not confirm the contents of the keynote, the company historically has used it as a launch pad for its biggest announcements. In its press release for the event, Appleconfirmed that it would be talking about new updates for OS X and iOS which means that an iOS 8 announcement and an OS X 10.10 announced at the keynote are both essentially confirmed at this point.

 

Apple isn’t expected to debut its iPhone 6 at WWDC 2014 and arecent report fromRecode stated that the company would not be showing off a new Apple TV at the event. The publication also asserted that Apple would not show off the rumored iWatch, a device that is expected to debut sometime this year.

 

A newreport from 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman suggests that Apple could still show off new hardware. Gurman isn’t sure what the new hardware will be only that something will make an appearance at the event. He suggests that the most likely scenario is one involving the rumored Retina MacBook Air models that have been rumored for months.

 

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and well respected NPD DisplaySearchboth believe that Apple will introduce a MacBook Air with Retina Display sometime this year. The device is expected to feature a display with 2304 x 1440 resolution and low power. It’s still not clear how much a Retina MacBook Air would cost though Apple does charge a premium for the Retina MacBook Pro models.

 

iOS 8 and OS X 10.10will likely be the stars of Apple’s WWDC 2014 keynote and for good reason. Both are expected to pack a considerable punch with rumors pointing to considerable changes to both pieces of software.

 

While OS X 10.10 is expected to get an iOS 7-like redesign, iOS 8 is expected to look similar to the iOS 7 update that Apple released last year. The software is, however, thought to be coming with a host of new features for iPhone and iPad owners including split-screen multitasking for iPad, HealthBook, upgrades for Siri and Apple Maps, and more.

 

The iOS 8 launch date is just days away but there is a very good chance that its release date is still months away. iOS software is usually released with new iPhone hardware and the iPhone 6 release date is rumored for the fall in September.

 

Apple typically puts its major iOS updates inside of the beta program so that developers can poke and prod it ahead of public release. Last year’s iOS 7 beta was released immediately after the WWDC keynote.

 

Applerecently opened up the OS X 10.9.3 beta to the general public though it’s still not clear if the iOS 8 beta, if there is one, will be opened up to all iPhone and iPad users.

 

 

 

 

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