Archive for December, 2013

The NSA and the Corrosion of Silicon Valley

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

I believe that the people who work at the NSA are patriots. They devote their considerable intellects to preserve, protect, and defend the people of the United States. I wish their patriotism + brainpower would do the same for the U.S. Constitution. But those issues are getting plenty of ink elsewhere. My concern is more personal and local: The NSA’s version of patriotism is corroding Silicon Valley. Integrity of our products, creative freedom of talented people, and trust with our users are the casualties. The dolphin in the tuna net is us — our industry, our work, and the social fabric of our community. Product integrity is doomed when the NSA involves itself in the product development process. The scope of NSA’s activity here is unknowable

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Broadway Box Office: ‘Wicked’ Breaks the $3 Million Barrier in Record-Breaking Christmas Week

December 30, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

This year after Christmas, the floor wasn’t just strewn with torn wrapping paper — it was littered with the remains of broken Broadway records in a B.O.-busting holiday frame. “Wicked” ($3,201,333 for nine perfs) became the first show ever to top $3 million for a single week of shows, with the flood of Gotham’s holiday... Read more

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Veteran Microsoft Engineer Jon DeVaan Leaving After Almost 30 Years

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Jon DeVaan, a Microsoft engineer and executive who has spent the better part of three decades at the company, is set to leave the software giant on Tuesday. DeVaan is one of several longtime technical folks at Microsoft whose future has been unclear since a September reorganization of the Windows unit. That shuffling left DeVaan, testing lead Grant George and services head Antoine Leblond without clear roles at the company. Of course, there have been some other big exits this year, including Windows unit head Steven Sinofsky and the impending retirement of CEO Steve Ballmer once his replacement has been hired. DeVaan’s departure was reported earlier Monday by Seattle-area tech site GeekWire after DeVaan posted a goodbye letter on Facebook. “Jon DeVaan has chosen to leave Microsoft to spend more time with his family,” Microsoft said in a statement to GeekWire. “Since he joined Microsoft in 1984, Jon contributed to important products and services across the company. We thank him and wish him and his family all the best.” We’re checking into whether any other execs from the Windows unit or elsewhere at Microsoft have decided that Jan. 1 would be a good time to start spending more time with their families.

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You Won’t Believe All the Crazy Hardware the NSA Uses for Spying

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Over the weekend we learned a lot about the National Security Agency’s Access Network Technology, or ANT, division, that, in the words of Der Spiegel, the German news magazine that first disclosed it based on leaked documents from Edward Snowden, can break pretty much any lock on any computing or network hardware you can think of. Now we can see the catalog itself. Courtesy this post on Leaksource, you can flip through the numerous single-page descriptions of the NSA’s specialized hardware. For example, there’s FEEDTHROUGH, a method for gaining access to firewalls from Juniper Network’s Netscreen product line. There’s also JETPLOW, which burrows into firewalls from Cisco Systems. In a stroke of irony that will not be lost on anyone , there’s HEADWATER, which is used on routers from China’s Huawei. Here are a few more that caught my eye: NIGHTSTAND, a mobile Wi-Fi exploitation and insertion device “typically used where wired access to a target is not possible.” PICASSO is an otherwise typical, if outdated, GSM wireless phone (including two models from Samsung) that “collects user data, location information and room audio” and allows data to be collected via a laptop or via SMS “without alerting the target.” And this one blows my mind: COTTONMOUTH-I. To the untrained eye, it looks like a typical USB plug at the end of an otherwise unremarkable USB cord. Inside there is a motherboard that provides a “wireless bridge into a target network as well as the ability to load exploit software onto target PCs.” Here’s where to find it, if you want to look for yourself .

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OWN Acquires TV Rights to ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

December 30, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

OWN has landed the TV rights to the Idris Elba starrer “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” The Weinstein Co.’s Nelson Mandela biopic will bow on Oprah Winfrey’s cabler in 2017. Deal is a sign of OWN’s appetite for high-profile feature film acquisitions that are on-target for the cabler’s core female and African American demographics. “Long Walk... Read more

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BlackBerry’s John Chen on What He Is Doing to Shake Up the Phone Maker

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

BlackBerry CEO John Chen insists that he has put in place much-needed changes that will help turn around the struggling phone maker. “It was important to make swift and impactful changes to ensure that our customers’ investments in BlackBerry’s infrastructure and solutions are secure,” Chen wrote in an op-ed for CNBC that posted on Monday. Chen has made some key changes, most notably outsourcing a chunk of device manufacturing to Foxconn and reorganizing the company around a few key areas, including services for businesses, the BBM messaging product, the handset business and the world of non-phone devices that use the QNX operating system BlackBerry acquired a couple years back. He’s also committed the company to being profitable by fiscal 2016 , canceled some planned products and spiked plans for a major customer conference for 2014. However, the bigger challenges remain those that BlackBerry has faced for several years now. While some BlackBerry-dependent businesses have remained loyal, many other corporations have opened up to iPhones and Android. Meanwhile, demand for new BlackBerry 10 phones has been anemic, leading BlackBerry to take huge charges reflecting the large volumes of unsold inventory for those products. In his piece, Chen points out that BlackBerry remains the leader in the business of managing mobile devices, larger than upstarts Mobile Iron, Good and AirWatch combined. “When it comes to enterprise, we’re still the leader,” Chen said. “Don’t be fooled by the competition’s rhetoric claiming to be more secure or having more experience than BlackBerry.” Again, that’s true, but much of BlackBerry’s strength is tied to its past, with plenty of stock brokers and government workers carrying around devices running the older BlackBerry operating system (and many of those also carry an iPhone or Android for their personal stuff.) BlackBerry has made some moves to transition its server software to manage those rival devices, in addition to BlackBerry phones. It has also, for the first time, allowed BBM to run on non-BlackBerry devices. Chen also promised to continue to use QNX, which BlackBerry bought to form the basis of BB10, for non-phone devices. “Already the dominant machine-to-machine technology of the automotive industry, new capabilities and cloud services are being unveiled at CES in January, and we’re looking toward adjacent verticals for expansion,” Chen said. There QNX is ahead of rivals, but faces increasing competition as Apple lands automakers for its iOS in the Car initiative and Google is reportedly aiming to do something similar with Android .

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Late Start May Be Tempering China Mobile’s iPhone Preorders

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Apple’s iPhone won’t officially launch on China Mobile until January 17 , but the world’s largest mobile carrier began accepting preorders for them last week. And while early estimates say initial preorder numbers are high, they’re not quite as high as you’d think given the size of China Mobile’s subscriber base. Wedge Partners figures China Mobile accepted about 100,000 preorders for the iPhone 5s and 5c during the first two days of availability. Interestingly, that’s fewer than rival carriers managed when the devices first launched a few months back. In September, China Unicom racked up about 120,000 preorders and China Telecom about 150,000 for the 5s and 5c both. How is it that China Mobile, which currently provides cell service to over 763 million customers, is pulling in fewer iPhone preorders than its smaller rivals?

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HP Is Negotiating to Settle Bribery Charges

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Computing giant Hewlett-Packard said today that it is in “advanced discussions” to settle investigations brought by two U.S. regulators concerning allegations of bribery. The company said it is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and by the SEC for allegations that some former and current employees paid millions of dollars to win an IT contract with a Russian government agency. The investigations center on a 35-million-euro deal between a former HP subsidiary in Germany and the Russian General Prosecutors Office, and cover a time period beginning in 2001 and ending in 2006. The deal called for the HP subsidiary to install a new IT network at the Russian agency. The disclosure came in HP’s annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. German authorities have indicted four people involved in the deal, including two former and one current HP employee, on charges of bribery, breach of trust and tax evasion. In the U.S., the DOJ has been investigating the deal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the filing, HP also said that U.S. regulators, as well as those in Mexico and Poland, are investigating other bribery allegations relating to deals with certain public sector agencies in those countries. HP said in the filing that it is cooperating with all the agencies probing the Russian deal, and is in talks with U.S. authorities to resolve the matter. The investigations first surfaced in 2010 . It has been a tough couple of years for U.S.

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Acer Sees Senior Executive Departures

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Acer Inc. said Monday that three senior executives had recently left the company and some of them won’t be replaced as the embattled personal-computer maker tries to keep costs low. The management changes are the latest of Acer’s efforts to pull itself out of a major crisis as sales of tablets and smartphones eclipse those of personal computers. Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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That Giant Bitcoin Crash in the Wake of China Restrictions? It Never Happened.

December 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

When news surfaced two weeks ago of a fresh round of restrictions China was placing on businesses transacting in the bitcoin ecosystem, the value of bitcoin plummeted. The CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, for example, showed that bitcoin traded as low as $422 around Dec. 18, when the large Chinese exchange BTC China acknowledged that it wasn’t accepting new deposits in the local currency until it could find a new payment processor that would do business with it. But a funny thing has happened since then. Bitcoin hasn’t experienced an all-out crash. Instead, its value has recovered. A lot. As of this writing, CoinDesk’s index, which takes the average of bitcoin trading values from three global exchanges (not including BTC China), pegs the value of bitcoin at about $755. That’s a 79-percent increase in a little less than two weeks. The digital currency is trading a bit lower on BTC China, which still isn’t accepting new deposits, at about $723, but its value has recovered a bunch in the last two weeks. So is bitcoin suddenly so resilient that one government’s restrictions can’t topple the whole ecosystem? Or are there artificial safeguards propping the value up

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