Windows 10: Fujitsu goes mobile with pocket-sized tablet plus ultralight laptop

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Fujitsu’s palm-sized Arrows Tab V567/P tablet runs a full 64-bit version of Windows 10 Pro.

Image: Fujitsu

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu has announced a phablet-sized six-inch Windows 10 tablet and a new 13.3-inch Windows 10 ultralight notebook.

The two new mobile-focused devices are part of Fujitsu’s 18-product Windows 10 launch, which includes nine laptops, four tablets, one desktop PC, and four workstations, some of which will be available this week in Japan.

Among the Fujitsu Arrows Tab family is the new Arrows Tab V567/P, whose six-inch screen could easily see it pass as a phone, except that it runs a full 64-bit version of Windows 10 Pro. The device is 85.4mm (3.4 inches) wide, and weighs 280 grams (0.62lb), according to Fujitsu’s announcement.

Fujitsu hasn’t released other specifications in the announcement, but the product page for Japan notes this model features a 1.44GHz Intel Atom chip, with 4GB RAM and 64GB flash storage. The display resolution is at 1,080 x 1,920 pixels.

The tablet will be available from ¥151,800 ($1,337) in Japan this week. Fujitsu warns some functions of Windows might not work on the device, given that this version of Windows isn’t designed for a screen that small.

The device appears to be aimed at local enterprise customers who want a tablet that can be managed with the same tools they use for corporate PCs.

The other notable product in the release is the 13.3-inch display Lifebook U937/P, which weighs at most 799 grams (1.76lb), depending on the configuration. This device is available in black and red and will go on sale from ¥284,900 ($2,510) in early February.

The lightweight notebook also comes with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed and is available in Japan with either a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor or a 2.2GHz Intel Celeron processor.

The standard configuration comes with 4GB RAM, HD LCD display and flash storage in either 128GB, 256GB or 512GB capacities. Fujitsu notes that all nine new LIFEBOOK models feature Intel’s seventh generation or Kaby Lake processors.

The launch also includes a new a 12.5-inch Lifebook convertible, also with Windows 10 Pro, featuring a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and an LCD display at either HD or Full HD resolutions. The two-in-one can be purchased with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB flash storage.

It’s unclear which if any of these products will be released in Europe or the US. ZDNet has asked Fujitsu for an answer and will update the story if we receive a response.

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Microsoft to continue to partner with Baidu, following former VP Lu’s move

In what seems to have been a surprise move to many in the industry, former Microsoft Applications and Services Group executive vice president Qi Lu is now group president and chief operating officer of internet search and services giant Baidu.

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Given how long it took Microsoft to provide a statement about his new role yesterday, January 17, I’d say Lu’s decision to join Baidu was not expected — other than possibly by CEO Satya Nadella, who may have known three weeks ago about Lu’s plans, according to Recode.

Microsoft’s official statement on Lu’s departure, from a spokesperson:

“We want to thank Dr. Qi Lu for his great contributions to Microsoft during his eight years of service to the company and wish him the best of luck in his next endeavor.”

Lu was not working for Baidu up until yesterday. Microsoft announced Lu was leaving the company on September 29 last year. Simultaneous with that announcement, Microsoft reorganized the team he had been heading, the Applications and Services Group, by splitting the Bing/Cortana group from the Office applications piece of the business, and moving that piece to a new combined AI and Research Group under Harry Shum, and promoting Rajesh Jha to run the applications part of the business.

Lu left Microsoft after eight years there to recover from “health conditions caused by a prior injury,” (reportedly a biking accident) according to an email message to employees from Nadella. Once he recovered, Lu had agreed to be a personal advisor to Nadella and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Nadella also said at the time.

As far as I can tell, Lu never did any personal advising and instead jumped directly to Baidu, where he will be responsible for products, technology, sales, marketing, and operations, effective January 17. Lu will be key to Baidu’s evolving AI strategy.

In spite of the seeming suddenness of Lu’s move, Microsoft plans to continue to seek to partner with Baidu, moving forward, a spokesperson confirmed.

In the past, Microsoft and Baidu struck a deal to build a strategic partnership which involved Baidu’s paid search listings appearing on search result pages of Microsoft’s Chinese versions of MSN and Live Search.

More recently, the two companies partnered around Windows 10, with the pair building a “custom experience” for Baidu customers in China who wanted to upgrade to Windows 10. In China, Baidu.com would become the default home page and search engine on Windows 10’s Edge browser, under the deal’s terms. Baidu said it would provide “Windows 10 Express app” for installing Windows 10, along with Baidu Universal Windows Applications for search, video, cloud, and maps for Windows 10.

How artificial intelligence is changing the data center:

US Army turns to IBM to build, manage private cloud data center

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US Army

IBM officially announced Wednesday that it’s signed a deal to build, manage and operate a private cloud data center for the US Army, within the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. The deal marks the first time the Army has turned to a private company to run a large-scale data center on its behalf within a military installation.

The on-premise private cloud initiative is part of a one-year task order. Under the Army Private Cloud 2 (APC2) contract, awarded to seven companies in 2011, the contract with IBM could be extended by as much as four additional years. Should it last the full five years, the contract will be worth approximately $62 million, IBM said.

In addition to building the infrastructure at the Army post, IBM will provide infrastructure-as- a-service (IaaS) services. The Army will also begin moving its applications to the private cloud, moving as many as 35 applications in the first year.

“With this project, we’re beginning to bring the IT infrastructure of the U.S. Army into the 21 st century,” Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, US Army CIO, said in a statement. “Cloud computing is a game-changing architecture that provides improved performance with high efficiency, all in a secure environment.”

Last year, IBM achieved Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Impact Level 5 (IL-5) Authorization, giving it the authority to manage controlled, unclassified information. The Army expects IBM to achieve the highest level of authorization (IL-6) within a year, which would certify IBM to work with information classified as “secret.”

The new contract expands IBM’s existing relationship with the Army. The military branch last year started using an IBM hybrid cloud for its Logistics Support Activity.

More on the US Army:

Oracle’s monster security update: 270 fixes and over 100 remotely exploitable flaws

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Overall, 16 of the 17 Java flaws Oracle has patched are remotely exploitable without needing user logins, while five of the 27 MySQL flaws are remotely exploitable.

Image: James Martin/CNET

Oracle has released its first quarterly critical patch update of the year, urging customers to immediately apply the bundle’s 270 fixes to a number of its products.

Product families fixed in this update include Oracle Database Server, Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Industry Applications, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Sun Products, Oracle Java SE, and Oracle MySQL.

Oracle’s updates are typically large but the 270 fixes in this advisory are just short of Oracle’s record critical update last July, which contained 276 fixes.

As with previous updates, Oracle is urging customers to apply the updates “without delay” as “it has been reported that attackers have been successful because targeted customers had failed to apply available Oracle patches”.

Security firm Qualys notes that over 100 of the flaws fixed in this update can be used by a remote attacker without requiring credentials.

Patches for Oracle’s FLEXCUBE financial applications make up 20 percent of this update, with a large share of fixes available for Oracle Applications, Fusion Middleware, MySQL, and Java, as well a significant number of fixes for Oracle retail applications, and PeopleSoft.

Overall, 16 of the 17 Java flaws are remotely exploitable without needing user logins, while five of the 27 MySQL flaws are remotely exploitable.

Qualys’ analysis of several popular databases shows that MySQL has seen the largest number of vulnerabilities by CVE tags over the past five years. The cloud security firm reports a 30 percent uptick in those vulnerabilities between 2015 and 2016.

Among the fixes are eight patches for Oracle’s retail applications, including one for MICROS, its POS systems. Oracle notes that a bug in the MICROS Lucas system is one of two that is remotely exploitable over the web and doesn’t require authentication. The other remote issue affects the Oracle Retail Order Broker.

POS systems have emerged as a prime target for malware designed to nab credit cards from retailer and hotel chains.

MICROS came into focus last year after Krebs on Security reported a serious breach of Oracle’s MICROS support portal, which is used by its retail customers. The portal was said to have been seen communicating with a server controlled by the Russian Carbanak, a notorious cybercrime gang.

Read more about Oracle

Google for Android: Now you can start searching even with no connection

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The Google app will now queue searches if there’s no connection and deliver results when a connection is re-established.

Image: Google

A new feature available on the Google app for Android removes the obstacle of beginning a search when there’s no mobile signal or only patchy coverage.

The updated app will now queue searches if there’s no connection and deliver the result when a connection is re-established, Google says in a blogpost.

The new offline capabilities for search join similar improvements to its other apps, such as Google Translate, Google Maps, and its lightweight search-result pages, which aim to patch up key features when a poor connection would otherwise break them.

“Mobile networks can sometimes be inconsistent or spotty, which means that even if you have a connection when you start your search, it might fail before you get your results back. With this change, search results are saved as soon as they are retrieved, even if you lose connection afterwards or go into airplane mode,” Google explains.

While the feature doesn’t enable offline search per se, it is a workaround to the problem of searching when there is no connection or if the signal is dropped, for example, while driving through a tunnel, in an underground train, or in a remote area.

The updated Google app for Android will now monitor in the background for a decent network connection and once one is found, it delivers a notification detailing the number of results that are ready to view.

Despite the additional background activity, Google says the feature “won’t drain your battery”, and since it features streamlined search-result pages, it shouldn’t impact data usage.

The feature is available in the latest version of the Google app for Android.

Read more about Google

Mastercard’s latest mobile effort: Helping farmers sell direct, no shady middlemen

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By advertising goods on 2KUZE, farmers can sell direct to customers, cutting risks and lengthy trips to physical markets.

Image: Mastercard

Payments giant Mastercard and charity Cafédirect Producers Foundation have teamed up to create 2KUZE, a mobile marketplace for produce designed to help East African smallholders sell and receive payments for goods.

2KUZE, which translates phonetically as “let’s grow together” in Swahili, has been developed at the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion and has been tested on 2,000 farms in Kenya. It is being launched in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

By advertising their goods on the platform, farmers can sell direct to customers, reducing their risks and the need to walk for hours to physical markets.

“For smallholders who take produce to a market, it has to be presented in a certain format in boxes or bags, and you pay for the handling and packaging costs,” says Professor Wim van Averbeke of the Tshwane University of Technology.

“Then, when it goes to market, it’ll be allocated to an agent who sells the produce and takes a cut, and sometimes not sold or sold at such a low price it’s not worth it.”

Mobile apps for farmers in rural Africa aren’t new. For the past decade the ability to check prices for crops via SMS or over the internet has been changing lives in rural areas.

Rural communities were often reliant on unscrupulous middlemen who’d purchase staples such as maize at below-market price, even when it was subject to regulation, knowing their suppliers were victims of information inequality with no access to “correct” prices or recourse if they were ripped off.

Another key benefit of mobile access has been services that provide information on farming techniques and improving yields for small-scale farmer.

However, with 2KUZE, Mastercard is aiming for a far greater scale. Other platforms for selling produce already exist. Kenya’s mfarm is particularly well known. But Mastercard says 2KUZE’s ability to process payments provides greater transparency and a way to verify income if smallholders want access to other financial services such as loans of banking facilities.

“We believe that by using mobile, a technology that is so ubiquitous among farmers in Africa, we can improve financial access, bring in operational efficiency and facilitate faster payments,” Mastercard’s Daniel Monehin, divisional president for Sub-Saharan Africa, said in a statement.

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The use of a mobile platform should cut farmers’ dependency on middlemen, who can turn out to be unscrupulous.

Image: Mastercard

Read more about technology in Africa

Windows 10 tip: Monitor system performance in real time

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This Gigabit Ethernet connection is working at peak efficiency.

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How fast is that file downloading, really?

Progress bars in dialog boxes are notoriously inaccurate and difficult to interpret. When you’re really concerned about whether your network connection or disk subsystem is working at the speed you expect, the best way to double-check is to look at raw performance numbers.

In Windows 10, you can get those numbers by opening Task Manager (just press Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and, if necessary, switching to the expanded More Details view. Click the Performance tab to see the full selection of real-time monitors shown here.

Choose a component from the list on the left to get more details. For a network connection, that display shows Send and Receive speeds, measured in Kbps or Mbps. For disk activity, you get read and write speeds. Keep that chart open alongside the download or file transfer window to watch the progress of your activity.

If you’re monitoring something like a Windows update that appears to be hung, this is a good way to get a reality check. If receive or write speeds are hovering at zero for too long, you might consider restarting the operation.

Previous tip: The fastest, smartest ways to open a Command Prompt window

Next week: Another Windows 10 tip from Ed Bott

BT launches the UK’s first mesh network for Whole Home Wi-Fi

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Image credit: BT

Wi-Fi systems based on a single router may provide patchy coverage in some homes and small offices, depending on the building’s size and construction. Until recently, users have had to find their own solutions using Wi-Fi extenders and/or HomePlugs. In the USA, companies such as Eero, Luma and Google have launched multi-part systems that create a mesh network to provide good coverage throughout a building.

BT claims its 3-in-1 Whole Home Wi-Fi is the first such product to be launched in the UK. Its three-device package is now available for £299.99.

The self-configuring system is installed and controlled using a smartphone app that helps users to find the best positions for the three small units. It also includes a traffic-monitoring dashboard that shows who is connected. The network automatically switches users to the disc with the best signal as they move from room to room.

The discs also include lights, though the brightness can be turned down or turned off altogether.

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Image: BT

MediaTek says BT’s system uses the MediaTek Adaptive Network, which was introduced at Computex 2016 and shown at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month. The devices use a MediaTek MT7621 and two MT7615 chips, one each to provide support for concurrent 2.4GHz (800Mbps) and 5GHz (1733Mbps) operations.

Each device also has four antennas: two for each waveband.

We don’t know who is manufacturing BT’s system. MediaTek, a Taiwanese integrated circuit design company, says: “we provide the hardware reference design with our IC and software to customers”.

At £299.99, the system may be too expensive for most consumers, unless they are struggling with Wi-Fi problems. However, it could appeal to small businesses, because it’s so easy to set up. Larger businesses and hotels can, or may already have, installed mesh networks using equipment from firms like Ubiquiti or Open Mesh.

BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi is being sold by BT and also by Currys and Maplins.

Qualcomm: FTC complaint on licensing practices ‘significantly flawed’

Qualcomm has said the complaint filed against it by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that its business practices violate competition law is “significantly flawed”.

The complaint was filed in the District Court in the Northern District of California by the FTC earlier on Monday.

“Qualcomm believes the complaint is based on a flawed legal theory, a lack of economic support, and significant misconceptions about the mobile technology industry,” Qualcomm said in response.

“The complaint seeks to advance the interests and bargaining power of companies that have generated billions in profit from sales of products made possible by the fundamental 3G and 4G cellular technology developed by innovators like Qualcomm.”

Qualcomm has denied ever withholding or threatening to withhold chip supply in an effort to obtain agreement with companies over unfair or unreasonable licensing terms, saying the FTC is simply “wrong” on this count.

“This is an extremely disappointing decision to rush to file a complaint on the eve of [FTC] Chairwoman Ramirez’s departure and the transition to a new [Trump] administration, which reflects a sharp break from FTC practice,” Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s executive vice president and general counsel, added.

“In our recent discussions with the FTC, it became apparent that it still lacked basic information about the industry and was instead relying on inaccurate information and presumptions.”

The company also pointed towards the dissenting statement by FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, who said the FTC’s majority decision to file a complaint is “based on a flawed legal theory” and “lacks economic and evidentiary support”.

“[The case] was brought on the eve of a new presidential administration, and that, by its mere issuance, will undermine US intellectual property rights in Asia and worldwide,” Ohlhausen said.

Just three of the five FTC commissioners are sitting presently, Qualcomm added, further detracting from the complaint’s merit.

Earlier in the day, the FTC alleged in its complaint [PDF] that Qualcomm used anti-competitive means to hold a monopoly over the semiconductor industry.

Qualcomm refused to allow access to its cellular technology if manufacturers did not agree to its conditions, the FTC alleged, as well as refusing to licence standard-essential patents to competitors and attained an exclusive contract with Apple, impeding competition as a result.

The FTC has applied to the District Court for an injunction preventing Qualcomm from continuing such conduct, as well as equitable relief.

The American trade commission’s complaint follows the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) decision to fine Qualcomm 1.03 trillion won ($865 million) in December over antitrust violations, with the regulator finding the chip giant’s business practices to be in violation of competition law.

Qualcomm’s business model includes collecting royalty payments from clients, which are calculated on the price of the handset using the chip, rather than the price of the chipset itself, and royalties from its patents.

“Qualcomm strongly believes that the KFTC findings are inconsistent with the facts, disregard the economic realities of the marketplace, and misapply fundamental tenets of competition law,” Rosenberg said in response to the fine.

“Importantly, this decision does not take issue with the value of Qualcomm’s patent portfolio. Qualcomm’s enormous R&D investments in fundamental mobile technologies and its broad-based licensing of those technologies to mobile phone suppliers and others have facilitated the explosive growth of the mobile communications industry in Korea and worldwide, brought immense benefits to consumers, and fostered competition at all levels of the mobile ecosystem.”

Qualcomm will appeal the decision and the fine to the Seoul High Court, saying the fine is “inconsistent with the facts and the law”, and a violation of rights specified under the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

Rosenberg added that Qualcomm’s requests for access to case files and the right to cross-examine witnesses were denied repeatedly throughout the KFTC’s investigation into the matter, and said its appeal to the Seoul High Court will ensure antitrust principles are applied.

The investigation was launched by the KFTC in April 2014, which sent a request for information to the company in August 2015 and followed this up by sending requests for information to competitors — which include Intel and AMD — and clients such as Samsung and LG in March 2016.

The KFTC in 2009 similarly fined Qualcomm for collecting “discriminating” royalties for its Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) patents, as they were deemed to be SEP. Qualcomm also appealed this decision and it remains in the Supreme Court.

In February 2016, Qualcomm also agreed to pay $975 million to the Chinese antitrust regulator and lower its royalty rates on patents in the Chinese mobile phone market in order to end a 14-month investigation into its patent-licensing practices.

FSF wants free version of Siri as Flash replacement dumped from priority list

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has declared that Flash is no longer a priority, as the foundation will instead emphasise the need for a free mobile operating system, cloud replacement, Siri-like personal assistant, and Skype replacement.

In its updated High Priority Free Software Projects list, the FSF said users need a free software intelligent assistant replacement to maintain control of their data.

“Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Amazon Echo’s Alexa, and other intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) are becoming more pervasive. Whatever convenience they provide comes with unacceptable tradeoffs: The breadth of access to users’ data they take in order to operate is enormous, and both the client and server accessing such data are not distributed,” the FSF said.

Despite the existence of Android and its open-source project, the foundation still maintains the need for a free software operating system, such as Replicant, and said it was the most requested item.

“Smartphones are the most widely used form of personal computer today. Thus, the need for a fully free phone operating system is crucial to the proliferation of software freedom,” it said.

The FSF also added to its high-priority list the need for decentralised cloud services, to increase the usage of free software in government, and to encourage increased accessibility and internationalisation of free software.

According to the foundation’s analysis, the projects selected are of strategic importance to the FSF because they either help the uptake of free software, remove an existing roadblock in the non-proprietary ecosystem, or are of universal need.

Remaining on the list was the need for a video communication platform that could replace Skype or FaceTime.

“These programs seduce free software users into using proprietary software, often two users at a time,” the FSF said. “Using proprietary voice and video chat software means that we can’t be sure who is listening in, because we can’t see the code. Unfortunately, Google Hangouts is also not a solution here, because it still requires users to run proprietary software.”

Dumped from the priority list was the need for a free replacement for Adobe Flash, Google Earth, Oracle Forms, BitTorrent, transcription software, and Matlab — as these projects failed to meet the strategic criteria.

“As the technological landscape has shifted over the last decade since the first version of the list was published, threats to users’ freedom to use their computers on their own terms have changed enormously,” said FSF’s board director Benjamin Mako Hill.

“The updated High Priority Projects list is a description of the most important threats, and most critical opportunities, that free software faces in the modern computing landscape.”