Monday, August 31, 2015

Google vs. Flash

Google will stop some Flash content from automatically playing starting Sept. 1, a move it decided on earlier this year to improve browser performance.

Flash, made by Adobe Systems, is still widely used for multimedia content, but security and performance issues have prompted calls to move away from it.

In June, Google said it planned to pause Flash content that wasn’t central to a Web page but allow other content such as videos to autoplay. Flash, it said, can drain a user’s laptop battery faster.

There are also security implications that Google didn’t mention. Vulnerabilities in Flash are one of the most common ways that malware ends up on computers.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Slumping PC Sales

When was the last time you were excited about a tablet or PC?

That's an enduring question the consumer electronics industry has to grapple with, and the news isn't getting any better: Research firm IDC on Wednesday forecast that sales of both products will fall faster than previously expected. PC shipments are expected to tumble 8.7 percent this year, and won't stabilize until 2017. Tablets, meanwhile, will see an 8 percent decline in shipments.

The sobering forecast underscores a broader problem in the industry: an overall lack of excitement and enthusiasm in either the tablet or PC markets. Consumers are hanging onto their old PCs and tablets longer -- and why not? There have been few innovations in the tablet business to drive a new purchase, and the 3-year-old Window 8 software for laptops and desktops was never much of a lure. Microsoft's decision to offer free upgrades to its new Windows 10 software, which debuted in late July, meant most consumers didn't need a new device to take advantage of its latest bells and whistles.

The PC business has struggled for years as consumers and businesses spent their money elsewhere, including smartphones. But the market has also been beset by a glut of inventory, a lack of new models and a spike in the currency exchange rate that made the devices even pricier. As a result, IDC said it sees the market slowing further next year before showing a "modest recovery" in 2017

Friday, August 28, 2015

The New Apple iPhone

Apple Inc on Thursday invited journalists to a Sept. 9 event, where it is expected to unveil new iPhones and potentially a new version of its Apple TV set-top box.

The email invitation includes a colorful Apple logo with the sentence "Hey Siri, give us a hint," referring to Apple's popular digital voice assistant.

The company traditionally announces its new iPhones in September.

Apple is widely expected to unveil the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6 Plus S. Typically, the company launches upgraded versions to existing phones under the "S" range.

Media reports have indicated that Apple is preparing for the largest initial production run for its next iPhones by the end of the year.

The new iPhones are also said to feature Force Touch technology, which can distinguish between a light tap and deep press.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How is Win 10 Doing So Far?

After nearly a month since its release, just how well is Windows 10 really doing?

Earlier this week Microsoft revealed that more than 75 million devices are now running Windows 10. That includes more than 90,000 different PC or tablet models - even some devices manufactured as long ago as 2007.

Microsoft has previously said Windows 10 had 14 million downloads in the first 24 hours. Big, big numbers, but how do they stack up compared to previous versions of Windows?

Back in 2012, Microsoft said it sold 40 million Windows licences in the first month that Windows 8 was on sale, and that is had sold four million upgrade licences in the first three days (licences are slightly different to downloads but the best metric we have). In contrast, in 2009 Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 7 licences in the first two months it was on sale

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PC and Tablet Sales

When was the last time you were excited about a tablet or PC?

That's an enduring question the consumer electronics industry has to grapple with, and the news isn't getting any better: Research firm IDC on Wednesday forecast that sales of both products will fall faster than previously expected. PC shipments are expected to tumble 8.7 percent this year, and won't stabilize until 2017. Tablets, meanwhile, will see an 8 percent decline in shipments.

The sobering forecast underscores a broader problem in the industry: an overall lack of excitement and enthusiasm in either the tablet or PC markets. Consumers are hanging onto their old PCs and tablets longer -- and why not? There have been few innovations in the tablet business to drive a new purchase, and the 3-year-old Window 8 software for laptops and desktops was never much of a lure. Microsoft's decision to offer free upgrades to its new Windows 10 software, which debuted in late July, meant most consumers didn't need a new device to take advantage of its latest bells and whistles.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reassurance from Apple

Apple Inc's Chief Executive Tim Cook took an unusual step of reassuring shareholders on Monday in comments to CNBC about the iPhone maker's business in China ahead of a dramatic 13 percent drop and rebound in its stock that put it in positive territory.

Chinese consumers are critical to fueling demand for iPhones, and a slump in the country's stock market and Beijing's recent devaluation of the yuan have shaken Apple investors already worried about slowing growth in the world's No. 2 economy.

With Chinese stocks plunging close to 9 percent earlier on Monday, Cook took the rare step of commenting on the health of Apple's business midway through a financial quarter. Before the opening bell on Wall Street, he wrote in an emailed response to questions that iPhone activations in China had accelerated over the past few weeks.

He also said the App Store in China had its best performance of the year over the past two weeks.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2-in-1 Sales

Apple CEO Tim Cook once compared a tablet-laptop combo to mashing up a refrigerator with a toaster. The resulting Frankenstein device would do an equally lousy job of chilling your food and warming it up. That was three years ago.
Today, these tablet-laptop hybrids -- which blend the mobility and touchscreen friendliness of a tablet with the capabilities of a PC -- are on track to becoming the fastest-growing computing category. Shipments of so-called 2-in-1 devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 and the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, for example, are expected to grow almost fivefold this year. That's thanks in part to attachable or foldable keyboards and more-powerful hardware, such as Intel's Core M microprocessors, that let slimmer, tabletlike devices hit speeds on par with midrange laptops.
And tablet sales? The market for large slabs of glass that are used mostly for playing games, reading email and watching videos has begun to slide. Sales of slate-style tablets are expected to fall 8 percent, according to a report from research firm Strategy Analytics. Sales in Apple's iPad business, meanwhile, fell 18 percent year over year in its most recent quarter, the sixth consecutive quarterly decline.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

OneDrive Groups to Die

If you use Microsoft’s OneDrive Groups group-collaboration feature, you’ll need to find something else soon: According to Engadget, Microsoft will shutter OneDrive Groups on October 16th.

Once OneDrive Groups shut down, you will no longer be able to get at files and documents shared with you, so between now and mid-October, you’ll want to move those files to your own OneDrive.

As Engadget notes, Microsoft had already instituted limits on OneDrive Groups—you can only work with existing Groups, and you can’t create new ones or add people to your Groups—but Microsoft’s shutdown announcement marks the official death knell for the service.

If you use Office 365 Groups, you won’t be affected—that feature will live on. But if you rely on OneDrive Groups, similar services from other companies might be worth trying, such as Dropbox’s shared folders feature and Google Drive’s shared documents feature. If you rely on OneDrive Groups, take a look around at your other options and give them a try now, before OneDrive Groups go away for good.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chromebooks Keep Gaining

As school districts across the country increasingly invest in technology for their students, the volume of personal computers in the classroom is surging.

And it is Chromebook – notebook computers that run on Google’s Chrome operating system – an upstart in a sector dominated by Apple and Microsoft, that is largely responsible for the growth trend in schools, according to a new report from IDC, a market research firm.

Last year, the market for desktop, laptop, tablets and two-in-one computers shipped to kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools and institutions of higher education in the United States amounted to $7 billion, according to estimates from IDC.

In all, the company said, about 13.2 million systems were shipped in 2014 – about 33 percent more than the year before.

With its line-up of iPads, MacBooks and other higher-priced products, Apple reaped the greatest revenue in the sector last year, accounting for nearly half of the total dollars spent on personal computers in education, the report said.

In terms of the sheer numbers of devices sold, however, Microsoft remained in the lead. In 2014, about 4.9 million Windows devices, including notebooks and desktops, shipped to schools, giving Microsoft a roughly 38 percent market share in unit sales, IDC said.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Razer 3D Camera

Razer is making an Intel-powered Kinect for PCs. A 3D-sensing depth camera that uses Intel’s RealSense technology. Why would you want that? Well — Intel says it will let anyone put their face into a Twitch game streaming video.

Right now, streaming games is kind of a big deal. Ridiculous numbers of people have decided that watching other people play video games online is fun. And some of the most popular Twitch stars not only show you the games they’re playing, but the reactions on their faces while they play them. Intel says that Razer’s new camera will let anyone do the same thing without setting up a pricy camera rig, because the depth sensing camera and software can isolate your face from the background and add it to the video. I saw a quick demo today on the Intel Developer Forum stage in San Francisco.

Plus, Razer sees the depth sensing camera as a possible boon for virtual reality applications, where the company’s currently trying to make inroads with its OSVR initative. There, it could perhaps help track your head as you move around a virtual reality environment, or perhaps be mounted on the outside of a headset to help map out and visualise elements of real world even when you have a VR headset blocking your view.

Intel and Razer aren’t saying when the camera might be available or how much it might cost, but they swear this is a real, consumer product coming to market — not a developer kit, for once.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MSFT Security Flaw

It's all Internet Explorer's fault -- again.
Microsoft has released an emergency out-of-band patch for a "critical"-rated security vulnerability, affecting all supported versions of Windows.

The software giant said in an advisory Tuesday that users visiting a specially-crafted website can lead to remote code execution on an affected machine.

The zero-day flaw (classified as CVE-2015-2502) works by exploiting a flaw in how Internet Explorer handles objects in memory. If successfully exploited, an attacker could "gain the same user rights as the current user," the advisory said. Those running administrator accounts are particularly at risk, it said.

Simply put: this flaw could allow an affected Windows machine to be taken over by an attacker.

It does not appear that the vulnerability is currently being exploited by hackers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Google Marshmellow

Google has released the final developer tools for Android's next version and announced that it will be named Marshmallow.

The company first unveiled Marshmallow as Android M at its I/O developer conference in May, but kept its full name under wraps until now.

Google outlined most of Marshmallow's capabilities back then, but it provided more information on Monday, including that the OS has a new model for requesting user permissions.

Instead of asking users for permission to do everything when they install an app, Marshmallow apps can ask for access to features like location information and the microphone when they're needed.

Monday, August 17, 2015

50 Million Win 10 Users?

How well is Windows 10 doing? Microsoft hasn’t said anything yet about how many people are running the new OS, but if figures reported by WinBeta are correct, it’s off to a strong start. According to WinBeta’s sources, Windows 10 is now running on at least 50 million devices (PCs and tablets).

These numbers are very unofficial, but to put things into perspective, Microsoft announced that it sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses roughly six months after that OS’s introduction, though an analysis of Windows 8’s percentage of Web traffic put the actual installed base at around 59 million as of May 2013.

By comparison, WinBeta’s figures come about two and a half weeks after Windows 10’s launch. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 was on 14 million machines within a day of its introduction, so WinBeta’s numbers seem to be in the realm of possibility.

Why this matters: There’s no doubt that the “free upgrade” approach Microsoft is taking has helped bolster Windows 10’s installed base—especially considering the Windows 8 debacle. An installed base of 50 million is also striking given Microsoft’s more gradual rollout of the operating system, as it works to get Windows 10 out to everyone who’s still in the reservation queue.

With that in mind, and assuming WinBeta’s sources are correct, we can probably expect to see Windows 10’s installed base to continue to grow rapidly in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Dell Chromebook

Google's high-end, high-priced Chromebook Pixel laptop became a market success in its creators' eyes on Thursday -- by influencing the design of a more affordable competitor from Dell.

The $1,299 Chromebook Pixel from 2013 and $999 Chromebook Pixel 2 introduced this year both run Chrome OS, Google's browser-based operating system designed to challenge Microsoft's Windows and Apple's OS X. Chromebooks have had limited appeal, in part because they run Web-based apps like Google Docs and Facebook but not traditional PC software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, and the Pixel models' high prices cut that appeal even further.

But the Pixels succeeded in their mission to influence more mainstream Chromebooks, said Rajen Sheth, leader of Google's work to push Chrome OS in businesses and schools, in an interview here at Google headquarters.

"In the early days of Chromebooks, most were low-priced plasticky devices. There's charm to that, but there are also premium users who want to have a better device," Sheth said. "The Pixel is the best Chromebook out there. This Dell is going to be easily the second best and at a much more affordable price."

The Dell Chromebook 13 starts at $399 for a laptop with a metal exterior, carbon fiber cover, 13-inch 1,920x1,080 screen, Intel Celeron processor, 2 gigabytes of memory and 16GB of storage. Prices range up to $899 for models with touch screens and more powerful brains.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chrome OS to Run Legacy Apps

Google figured out something important: You can sell businesses the future, but they’ll show up with lots of the past.

The company on Thursday showed off changes it had made to Chrome, its operating system for business computing, aimed at enabling companies to run most of their legacy software applications. Dell announced new Chromebooks, as the system laptops are called, and management software to work with the product.

Not incidentally, the changes will make it easier to move a company that is currently using applications written for Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Amazon Web Services, which also offers a type of business computing, Amazon WorkSpaces, has yet to develop such efforts.

Previously, Google has stressed the efficiency gained from making things like documents and spreadsheets in cloud computing-based systems. Benefits include better security, because there’s less data on the local laptop, and easier management, because a single location can keep an eye on people in the office and working from a coffeeshop.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lenovo to Lay Off 3,200

China's Lenovo Group Ltd will lay off 10 percent of white-collar staff after sales of Motorola handsets fell by a third, raising doubts over the personal computer giant's bet that a money-losing brand it bought for nearly $3 billion will help it become a global smartphone leader.

Shares in the world's biggest maker of PCs slid nearly 9 percent on Thursday after it said its quarterly net profit was halved as its mobile division lost nearly $300 million. Lenovo, which uses the U.S. dollar in operations rather than the recently devalued Chinese yuan, said it plans to cut about 3,200 non-manufacturing jobs with a one-time cost of $600 million.

Beijing-based Lenovo said the restructuring would yield savings of about $1.35 billion on an annual basis. But the difficulty in selling handsets, combined with a continuously shrinking global market for PCs, meant the firm was facing its "toughest market environment in recent years", Chief Executive Yang Yuanqing warned.

"I still believe mobile is a new business we must win," Yang told Reuters in an interview, saying Lenovo's ambition to rival Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co in smartphones remains undimmed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Not A Guitar Company Any More

Gibson Brands has changed its primary focus to consumer electronics.

The Tennessean reports Gibson, known for its guitars, has clearly redirected its focus. A May credit report by Moody's Investors Service showed consumer electronics account for 75 percent of the company's consolidated revenue.

Gibson has been buying electronics companies, including the recent purchase of WOOX, an audio and home entertainment provider, which boosted Gibson's annual revenue to $2.1 billion in 2014.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MSFT Data Collection

Microsoft has expanded its diagnostic data collection with Windows 10, making mandatory what had been a voluntary telemetry program.

Windows 10 includes a telemetry and diagnostics service that cannot be fully disabled. In earlier editions of the OS -- including Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 -- Microsoft's data gathering was optional. Users had to agree to join the "Customer Experience Improvement Program," or CEIP, for telemetry to be collected and sent to the Redmond, Wash. company from those operating systems. And if users changed their mind, they could stop it.

Microsoft kicked off CEIP with Windows Vista in late 2006.

According to the CEIP documentation, the data collected is used "to improve the products and features customers use most often and to help solve problems." CEIP harvests data from both Microsoft's own software, including the operating system, and from "third-party applications that interact with Microsoft products."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lenovo Passes Apple in Sales

Lenovo is the new No. 1 in the global PC market that also includes tablets, according to just released data from research firm Canalys, toppling Apple. Unlike other research firms such as IDC and Gartner, Canalys chooses to include tablets in its statistics.

The report is some good news for Lenovo which ranks No. 1 in PC-laptop sales but has seen tablet shipments fall along with smartphone sales.

However, Canalys also notes that Lenovo passed Apple in the second quarter of this year as sales of iPads are "fading."

Apple shipped some 240,00 fewer units, including 10.9 million iPads.

Tim Coulling, Canalys' Senior Analyst, sees the trend going forward favoring Lenovo but notes the company, which operates its global executive headquarters in Morrisville, faces problems, too.

"With a more diverse product portfolio, Lenovo is in a stronger position than Apple to cement its lead in the market," he said. "But it is not without its own challenges, and has recently had to take steps to clear a significant build-up of PC inventory in EMEA.’

HP came in third, Dell fourth, Samsung fifth.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Intel Design Flaw

A design flaw in the x86 processor architecture dating back almost two decades could allow attackers to install a rootkit in the low-level firmware of computers, a security researcher said Thursday. Such malware could be undetectable by security products.

The vulnerability stems from a feature first added to the x86 architecture in 1997. It was disclosed Thursday at the Black Hat security conference by Christopher Domas, a security researcher with the Battelle Memorial Institute.     
By leveraging the flaw, attackers could install a rootkit in the processors System Management Mode (SMM), a protected region of code that underpins all the firmware security features in modern computers.

Once installed, the rootkit could be used for destructive attacks like wiping the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) the modern BIOS or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Radio Shack/Sprint Stores

Despite the somewhat antiquated name, RadioShack has been an icon in the world of electronics retailers, having operated for nearly a century. Sadly, earlier this year the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced it would sell roughly half its stores and close the rest.

The deal saw 1,743 stores sold to Standard General, who entered into a partnership with Sprint, allowing the carrier to move into 1,435 of the locations. As of today, Sprint has officially moved in to all 1,435 of the targeted stores, Twice reports.

RadioShack may live on in name, but it is all but a shell of its former self. So far, only about a quarter of the stores have been officially branded as Sprint stores on the outside, but the full transition is expected to be complete by the end of the year. On the rebranded stores, it’s clear that Sprint is the lead brand, with the RadioShack branding present but less prominent. Sprint occupies 600 square feet of the co-branded stores, and operates as the sole wireless carrier.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Win 10 Malware

Just days after Microsoft released its latest operating system, hackers have begun targeting soon-to-be Windows 10 users with an emerging kind of malware.

Cisco security researchers are warning users against opening email attachments purporting to be from the software giant. The "ransomware" malware, which encrypts files until a ransom is paid, is being sent as part of an email spam campaign.

In a blog post, Cisco researcher Nick Biasini said the attackers are "impersonating Microsoft in an attempt to exploit their user base for monetary gain."

The emails claims its attachment includes an installer that allows users to get the new operating system sooner.

"The fact that users have to virtually wait in line to receive this update, makes them even more likely to fall victim to this campaign," said Biasini.

Once a user downloads and opens the attached executable file, the malware payload opens, encrypting data on the affected computer, and locking the owner out.

Monday, August 3, 2015

iPad Sales Continue to Plummet

There's something strange going on with Apple's iPad lineup. During Apple's most recent earnings report, the company revealed that year over year sales of its iconic tablet dropped by a whopping 18%. Indeed, sales of Apple's iPad have been on the decline for quite some time now, prompting some to wonder if the tablet market as a whole is on a full fledged decline with no recovery in sight.

Though some believe that the tablet market is poised to bounce back at any moment, recently released data from IDC underscores that consumers simply aren't buying tablets the way they used to. And while Apple still remains the market leader, the overall tablet market is, in fact, trending downwards.

During the second quarter of 2015, there were over 44.7 million tablets shipped. In contrast, there were 48 million tablets shipped during the same quarter a year-ago. And seeing as how the tablet market is contracting at a slower rate than the iPad, Apple's share of the tablet market has naturally gone down as well.

Whereas Apple's iPad last year commanded 27.7% of the tablet market, it's marketshare this past quarter dipped down to 24.5%. While one or two bad quarters can be explained away by a variety of factors, the fact of the matter is that iPad sales have been declining for six straight quarters. That should clearly be cause for concern for the powers that be up at 1 Infinite Loop.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Zorin OS 10 is Here

We read this today:

We are excited to finally announce the release of Zorin OS 10 with the availability of the Zorin OS 10 Core and Ultimate editions.

Zorin OS 10 is our best, most beautiful release yet. We have made major strides with the visual styling in Zorin OS. In addition to the refined & perfected desktop theme and the new default FreeSans desktop font, we have introduced a stunning new icon theme, based on the elementary and elementary-add icon themes. This is its first major overhaul since Zorin OS 2.0.

With Zorin OS 10, we have refreshed the selection of default applications with the addition of a streamlined new Media Player, the gorgeous Geary Mail client, Calendar app and the new Activity Journal, which lets you see the files and documents you have worked with based on duration and the time throughout the day. Our existing app selection has also been treated with updates, bug fixes and design enhancements throughout.

Zorin OS 10 is based on Ubuntu 15.04 and comes pre-installed with the updated Linux Kernel 3.19 & systemd for performance boosts, stronger security and improved hardware support.

As always, Zorin OS 10 uses the Zorin Desktop environment with Zorin Menu for unparalleled customization and the Zorin Look Changer for ultimate ease of use. We also include our Zorin Web Browser Manager to ease the installation of web browsers.

You can download Zorin OS 10 Core or Ultimate from here.