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Microsoft kills linked accounts in Outlook.com

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 4:24pm

Microsoft said Monday that it is eliminating the ability to link accounts within Outlook.com, replacing them with aliases instead.

Currently, Outlook users can link their account with others from within Outlook.com. Outlook allows users to not only read email from within the Outlook.com context, but also send emails as if they were in those other domains.

Now, according to Microsoft, those Microsoft accounts will be unlinked, and made inaccessible to Outlook.com. In the near term, Microsoft will begin unlinking those previously linked accounts. Instead, Microsoft has proposed an alternative: using Outlook.com aliases instead.

What’s the difference between an alias and a dedicated email address? An alias can provide anonymity for users, without being tied to an actual account. Let’s say that one owned the email address foo@outlook.com. Using the alias feature that Microsoft pushed to the public in 2011, one could set up IamJoeSmithZ@outlook.com, hand that email out to the public, and receive email sent to that address. As an alias, IamJoeSmithZ@outlook.com wouldn’t require a dedicated password; if that address was set up as a second, linked account, it would.

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Rambus, STMicroelectronics settle lawsuits, sign patent agreement

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 4:20pm

Much of Rambus’ past is associated with lawsuits, but the company is moving forward with dispute settlements.

After years of litigation, Rambus and STMicroelectronics said Monday they had signed an agreement that settled all their legal disputes. The agreement came just a few days after Rambus settled a 13-year-old legal dispute with SK Hynix.

Monday’s comprehensive agreement will settle outstanding claims and expand existing licenses, STMicroelectronics and Rambus said in separate statements.

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Scientist out to break Amdahl's law

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 2:50pm

Many attempts have been made over the last 46 years to rewrite Amdahl’s law, a theory that focuses on performance relative to parallel and serial computing. One scientist hopes to prove that Amdahl’s law can be surpassed, and that it doesn’t apply in certain parallel computing models.

A presentation titled “Breaking the Law” at the International Supercomputing Conference this week in Leipzig, Germany, will show how “pitfalls of Amdahl’s law can be avoided in specific situations,” according to a blog entry that provides a teaser on the presentation.

The presentation will “challenge Amdahl’s generalized law by exposing it to a new class of experiments in parallel computing,” wrote Thomas Lippert, director of the Jülich Supercomputing Centre at Jülich, Germany, in the blog entry. Lippert will lead the presentation.

What is Amdahl's law?

Amdahl’s law, established in 1967 by noted computer scientist Gene Amdahl when he was with IBM, provides an understanding on scaling, limitations and economics of parallel computing based on certain models. The theory states that computational tasks can be decomposed into portions that are parallel, which helps execute tasks and solve problems quicker. However, the speed of task execution is limited by tasks—in the case of computers it could be serial tasks—that cannot be parallelized.

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Oracle's Q4 results: What to watch

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 2:40pm

Many eyes in the tech world will fall on Oracle later this week, when the vendor’s fourth-quarter results are set for release. This is typically the biggest reporting period for Oracle each year in terms of revenue, but a number of questions loom beyond its top-line performance.

Here’s a look at some of the topics Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and other executives may discuss or be asked to address during Thursday’s conference call on the results.

New software purchases versus maintenance

Oracle has consistently made sure to highlight its strong software maintenance revenue, which existing customers pay each year for support and updates. Maintenance fees carry extremely high profit margins for Oracle and other software vendors.

But another key metric to watch is new software license revenue. Growth in this area says customers are broadening their investments in Oracle software, whether by adding licenses for their existing implementation or trying out newer products.

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Snowden: NSA can access data without court approval

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 12:51pm

Analysts at the National Security Agency can gain access to the content of U.S. targets’ phone calls and email messages without court orders, NSA leaker Edward Snowden said, contradicting denials from U.S. government sources.

U.S. surveillance agencies have weak policy protections in place to protect U.S. residents, but “policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens,” Snowden, the former NSA contractor, said in a chat on the Guardian’s website Monday.

Edward Snowden

The technology filter designed to protect U.S. communications is “constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘widest allowable aperture,’ and can be stripped out at any time,” Snowden wrote in the chat. “Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border.”

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Bing voice search improves accuracy, speed

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

In 2012, Microsoft's Rick Rashid blew an Asian audience away with a live translation of his speech into Mandarin. On Monday, Bing added some of that technology to Bing Voice Search, to cut down the processing response time of voice input into Windows Phone by half, while improving accuracy at the same time.

Microsoft said that it is rolling out updates to Windows Phone customers to greatly improve the accuracy of SMS messages that are transcribed using the service, as well as searches performed using voice. The accuracy of those transcriptions has been improved by 15 percent, Microsoft said, while the response time has been halved—from about a second to just about half that. The service also does a a better job of cutting out ambient noise.

"Better results and better latency," Michael Tjalve, a member of the Bing Speech team, said in a video describing the improvements. "So you get better results from the speech recognizer, and you get it faster."

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UK spy agency reportedly intercepted email of delegates at G20 meetings in 2009

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 12:30pm

British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) reportedly intercepted the electronic communications of foreign politicians during G20 meetings that took place in London in 2009.

The agency used a series of techniques to intercept email, steal online login credentials and monitor the phone calls of foreign delegates who attended the meetings, U.K. newspaper The Guardia reported Monday. The G20 represents the top 20 economies of the world.

The newspaper claims that evidence of GCHQ’s surveillance activity at the meetings was present in documents and PowerPoint presentations classified as top secret that were uncovered by Edward Snowden, a former intelligence contractor who recently leaked information about the U.S. National Security Agency’s call metadata and electronic communication collection programs.

According to information from one document, GCHQ and U.K. intelligence service MI6 set up Internet cafes at the G20 meetings in order to extract key logging information and credentials from foreign delegates, giving the agencies “sustained intelligence options” against the targets even after the events ended.

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Understanding Windows 8 Gestures

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 12:13pm
HP-Envy-Touchsmart-4HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook™ 4

Interacting with your computer gets a massive upgrade in the Windows 8 world, and it doesn't involve your mouse and keyboard. Here's the complete guide to everything you need to know about using gestures with Windows 8.

Windows 8 features a wholly new way to navigate the operating system. While your keyboard and mouse aren't going away, now you can use intuitive gestures to complete common computing tasks with ease.

You can use gestures whether you have a touchscreen device (like a Windows 8 tablet or a convertible laptop such as the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook™ 4) or a traditional laptop without a touchscreen. In the case of the former, your gestures take the form of taps, slides, and swipes you make while touching the display directly. For non-touchscreen devices, you do the same thing, but on the touchpad instead.

For longtime Windows users, gestures might initially feel a bit strange. But once you start interacting directly with the screen instead of relying solely on your keyboard and mouse, you'll find that gestures quickly become completely natural. In fact, they make Windows so easy to use you'll soon wonder how you got along in Windows without them.

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Research and compare the latest smartphones at PhoneRocket

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 11:33am

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Hassle-Free PC post to bring you the Hassle-Free Phone edition.

Trying to decide between, say, an HTC One and a Samsung Galaxy S4. Sure, you can read PC World's awesome reviews, maybe talk to friends and hit some stores for hands-on demos. But ultimately your best bet is to compare them directly, to see their specs, strengths, and weaknesses side by side.

That's what you get at PhoneRocket, a nifty site that compares any two smartphones in exhaustive detail.

Let's use the two aforementioned models as an example. All you do is type the names of the two phones you want to compare. PhoneRocket then gives you a quick summary of each one followed by a "winner" based on various ratings and criteria.

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Evernote adds Reminders, extending task-management options

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 11:32am

If, like many, you use Evernote as a sophisticated to-do list, the latest update to the essential software and service is about to dramatically increase its usefulness. Reminders give Evernote a full suite of alarm and notification features, ideal for turning static notes into dynamic action items.

The company calls Reminders its "most requested feature of all time."

Evernote hasn't exactly reinvented the wheel when it comes to its implementation of Reminders. You simply add an optional Reminder to any note by tapping the alarm clock icon that now appears on screen when you're creating or viewing a note.

Reminders do not necessarily have to come with a time and date attached (otherwise they simply appear in the new Reminders area, which I'll discuss in more detail below), but you'll probably want to assign specific deadlines to most of your Reminders. Tap or click the calendar icon to give your Reminder a deadline or other specific timing. This will also give it a pop-up alert when the Reminder comes due.

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'Titan' falls: Today's top supercomputer is owned by China, powered by Intel

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 11:30am

China has regained the crown for the fastest supercomputer on the planet, according to the semiannual Top500 list, which claims that the Milky Way-2 supercomputer has doubled the performance of the previous leader, the American "Titan" supercomputer, in just six months.

Milky Way-2, also known as "Tianhe-2," clusters together more than 32,000 Intel Xeon microprocessors as well as more than 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi chips, the server equivalent of a graphics coprocessor. All told, the two groups of chips can crunch the equivalent of 33.86 petaflops of performance, about double that of Titan, housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A "flop" is a floating point operation, one of the basic metrics of a computer performance; a petaflop is a thousand trillion floating point operations.

High powered computing hot rods

Taken as an abstract measurement, Milky Way-2's high-water-mark isn't that significant. But high performance computers are used for a variety of simulations, including long-term predictive models of earthquakes, how a prototype automobile will perform, predicting the impact of climate change, to trying to assess the destructive power of a nuclear weapon. Generally speaking, the additional performance of a supercomputer means more finely detailed calculations, such as modeling individual particles of air as they pass over a windshield.

In this sense, HPCs are the Formula One versions of the more prosaic and power-efficient servers driving cloud services at Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others. While they're generally owned by governments and research organizations, corporations are also beginning to invest, such as French oil conglomerate Total's investment in a 2.3 petaflop supercomputer to deduce the best locations to drill for oil.

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Review: Inky is a half-baked yet delicious email client for your PC desktop

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 11:27am

For many of us, there's nothing more important to do online than check, read, and write emails. Inky is an email desktop client that brings all your email accounts together under one roof. It offers most of the features you're used to, and something different as well.

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Review: Dragon Notes lets you try out Nuance's speech recognition engine at low cost

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 10:57am

As a writer, I find Dragon NaturallySpeaking wonderful. Its time-tested and mature speech recognition engine understands me well, and it can transcribe audio files I record on my phone. But at $100-$200, it's also an expensive piece of software, and no, you can't download a demo. What you can do if you're curious about Dragon's speech recognition is plop down $20 for Dragon Notes, marketed as a smart sticky-note replacement.

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Prism doesn't have CIOs in a panic -- yet

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 10:15am

Revelations over the U.S. National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program have much of the general public in uproar, but in terms of the controversy’s impact to enterprise IT, some CIOs have measured, albeit watchful reactions.

“I don’t see it as a problem for us,” said Mike Zill, CIO of medical-products manufacturer CareFusion. “I don’t see the government doing something to systematically damage our company or any company.”

That said, CareFusion already has multiple “highly secure” systems in the company for protecting highly sensitive information, but those systems don’t cover all of CareFusion’s data and employees, Zill said. “The question is, do we push that to everybody? It’s a question of the economics and the risk-to-reward [quotient].”

Only certain industries may need to worry, according to another IT professional.

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Get New IT Pros Up to Speed Fast With This Onboarding Checklist

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 9:42am

In a recent TekSystems survey, 1,500 IT leaders and 2,400 IT pros were polled on the importance of onboarding. When IT leaders were asked about onboarding's importance, the majority agreed that it's necessary but that many aren't doing it well.

62 percent of IT leaders say an onboarding program is extremely valuable in terms of a new employee.

53 percent agreed that it created better cohesion among their teams.

47 percent agreed that contributed to the long term success within the company.

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US cyberspying damages trust, European Union leaders say

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 9:25am

Europe's top privacy watchdog and the digital agenda commissioner both said Monday that more transparency and trust is needed between the European Union and the U.S. following reports of widespread data collection by the U.S. National Security Agency.

Cybersecurity is not an excuse for the unlimited monitoring and analysis of the personal information of individuals, said Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor.

"If the E.U. wants to cooperate with other countries, including the U.S.A., on cyber security, it must necessarily be on the basis of mutual trust and respect for fundamental rights, a foundation which currently appears compromised," said Hustinx in a statement, released along with his formal Opinion on the Cyber Security Strategy. His formal opinion must be considered by the European Commission in drawing up legislation.

He went on to criticize the E.U.'s Cyber Security Strategy, which was put forward by the European Commission in February. Hustinx said the strategy is not clear on how data protection principles will be applied in practice and that it fails to take due account of the proposed Data Protection Regulation and the eTrust Regulation.

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Manage passwords, and not just on the Web

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 8:49am

Mgentry2 asked the Windows forum to recommend password managers that can " keep track of both online passwords and desktop application passwords (Outlook, Quicken, etc.)."

The safest passwords are long, seemingly random strings of letters, numbers, and punctuation--and you need a different one for each Web site and application. Unless you have a photographic memory, you need a program where you can securely store your passwords. That way, you only need to remember the one password that will give you access to all the others.

You need a password manager, which is essentially an encrypted password database. There's no reason why a good password manager it can't work for Web sites and applications.

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com or post them on the PCW Answer Line forum.]

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Businesses urged to take control of public cloud security

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 8:04am

Security monitoring—the type involving traditional security information and event management (SIEM)—can be done in some public cloud environments, according to Gartner. And businesses using public cloud services, it's time to think about doing it.

Security monitoring of assets that the enterprise has placed in cloud is still not a common practice, but it really should be, said Gartner analyst Anton Chuvakin during his presentation last week at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit in National Harbor, Maryland. There is always a "loss of control" when turning corporate data assets over to the cloud, Chuvakin says, but "you can compensate by increasing the visibility that comes with collection of logs and network traffic."

Most security monitoring today is done on-premises within the enterprise network using SIEM, intrusion-prevention systems (IPS) and data-loss prevention tools. In Amazon Web Services, he said, it's possible to collect logs and copy them back to the on-premises SIEM.The benefits are that familiar tools are in use and you can obtain a unified view of both the cloud and the traditional environment, he said. On the other hand, there might be bandwidth restraints that make this hard or that the SIEM tools present "conflicts and incompatibilities" in the cloud environment. Chuvakin said enterprise security managers have to ask the question whether their SIEM tool is "cloud-ready" to collect data, which may be presented in unfamiliar form as instances and dynamic provisioning.

Some SIEM tools are able to make use of specific software-as-a-service APIs as well to collect logs from public cloud services. Tools from IBM and HP ArcSight, for example, can now monitor Salesforce, Chuvakin noted.  

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Apple received thousands of data requests from US law enforcers

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 2:55am

Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests for customer data from U.S. law enforcement between Dec. 1 and May 31, the company said on Monday.

"Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters," Apple said in a news release.

Most common are requests from police investigating robberies and other crimes as well as searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer's disease or hoping to prevent a suicide, Apple said.

"Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it," Apple said.

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China trounces US in TOP500 supercomputer race

Content from PCWorld - June 17, 2013 - 1:15am

The supercomputing arms race is heating up again between the United States and China, as China retakes the top spot in the 41st Top500 listing of the world's most powerful supercomputers with Tianhe-2, an updated system that was able to execute 33.86 petaflops, or 33.86 thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

Tianhe-2 churned out almost twice as many petaflops as the second computer on the list, Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The top system in the previous Top500 competition, compiled in November, Titan clocked 17.59 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark for this round of the Top500.

The appearance of Tianhe-2 came as something of a surprise, even as word about its immense capabilities leaked out on the Internet earlier this month. The system was not expected to be operational for another two years.

China's National University of Defense Technology built Tianhe-2, or Milky Way-2, with 16,000 nodes. Each node runs two Intel Xeon IvyBridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors, for a combined total of 3.12 million computing cores. The system, located at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China, will be fully operational by the end of the year.

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