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How Internet devices are working to save the rainforest

Content from PCWorld - June 16, 2013 - 3:00pm

Gemalto, based in Amsterdam, develops digital security systems and network security. Gemalto's solutions sales manager for M2M, Lakhi Baug, talks about how machine-to-machine (M2M) communication systems are used to preserve rainforests and why they are better than traditional satellite surveillance and radio monitoring.

Tell us about machine to machine (M2M) communication systems and how authorities in Brazil are using it to preserve the Amazon rainforest?

To prevent illegal logging in the Amazon, Gemalto and Cargo Tracck have developed a discreet tracking device that uses Gemalto's tiny and powerful Cinterion BGS2 M2M module to enable cellular communications between trees and Brazil's law enforcement agencies.

Lakhi BaugLakhi Baug

Smaller than a deck of cards for inconspicuous deployment, the tracking device is camouflaged in a resin case that is made to blend in with tree trunks and installed in remote active harvesting areas deep in the jungle. With a sophisticated power management system that vastly improves power efficiency, the M2M modules in the tracking device can remain active in the field for about a year without being recharged. The devices are also rugged enough to operate reliably in rainforest heat and moisture, while being powerful enough to track trees through remote and dense forests.

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Prepare the Internet for battle, suggests UK official

Content from PCWorld - June 16, 2013 - 12:45pm

A recently published report on potential scenarios of cyber-conflict, The Global Cyber-Game, says it is inevitable that the Internet will be "militarized"—used to serve the needs of military conflict between nations—and that ICT will increasingly be both an important means and a target of such conflict.

Published as the result of a lengthy study by the UK's Defense Academy—the educational and academic liaison unit of the Ministry of Defense—the report calls for the Internet to be significantly "hardened" from a security perspective, in order to avoid adverse effects for all its users.

There is also a strong warning to governments that in their eagerness to use information technology as a weapon of war against other nations, they should avoid creating malware that will "proliferate" and cause wider harm.

Rising alarm

Transparency is a likely part of any scenario of digitally mediated conflict or competition, the academy says. During the current period of "rising alarm" over possible cyber-warfare, "information transparency is likely to be a persistent reality," it says. "All strategy and policy should be made as if it will become public."

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Facebook puts its data into cold storage (literally)

Content from PCWorld - June 16, 2013 - 10:28am

Facebook has opened its first data center outside the U.S., using 100 percent renewable energy and operating on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

Up to now many of Facebook's data centers in the U.S. have been slammed by environmental campaigners for not using renewable energy, but the one in Sweden—located where the River Lule meets the Gulf of Bothnia—may go some way in turning things around.

The data center at Lule is now handling live data traffic from around the world, with all the servers and other equipment powered by locally generated hydro-electric energy.

"Not only is it 100 percent renewable, but the supply is also so reliable that we have been able to reduce the number of backup generators required at the site by more than 70 percent," according to a Facebook statement.

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Hewlett-Packard can't afford to let competition keep winning

Content from PCWorld - June 16, 2013 - 8:54am

IBM's Edge event hit Hewlett-Packard in Las Vegas with a one-two punch before the executives at HP Discover even got started.

These were more than the traditional shots pitting IBM solutions against HP products, and HP likely won't know how hard Big Blue hit it until its reps talk to IT folks who attended both events.

EMC and Dell joined IBM in hosting events prior to HP. Each presented a similar story, one driven by marketing, showcasing financial customer benefits and largely playing down products, particularly hardware.

But IBM's timing and approach appeared particularly well-planned, much like a campaigning politician who anticipates a mistake an opponent had repeatedly made. This is pertinent-HP CEO Meg Whitman has a political background-but such skills were not evident in Las Vegas.

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Google Glass eyed by companies for enterprise use

Content from PCWorld - June 16, 2013 - 8:41am

While the curious are looking to get their hands on a pair of Google's Glass, companies also may be looking to weave the computerized eyeglasses into their businesses.

"We see wearables as the logical next step at work," said Kelly Merrell, director of Android development for Mercury Intermedia in Brentwood, Tenn. "It's important for someone working offsite to have information about the location they're going to and to be able to get information about the task they're going to perform."

Merrell talked to Computerworld about Glass and its potential enterprise uses at the Google I/O conference in May, where hundreds of people were trying out the wearable computers for the first time.

Glass is a major project for Google, which has put prototypes of the device in the hands of several thousand developers and early adopters.

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Can a sub-$400 Surface RT give new life to Microsoft's tablet?

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 12:38pm

Microsoft will probably price its own 8-inch Surface tablet running Windows RT at $349, just 6 percent higher than Apple's iPad Mini but nowhere near the basement $199 of Android rivals, an analyst said last week.

Sameer Singh, an analyst who covers tablets and smartphones at his Tech-Thoughts website, pegged the price of an expected Windows RT-powered Surface RT "Mini" using a bill of materials (BOM) estimate largely based on industry-wide commodity component costs.

Using the same techniques last year—akin to the "virtual" tear-downs that other research firms have conducted before a rumored product is actually released—Singh accurately predicted the eventual retail prices of Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets.

Windows RT OS

His sight-unseen BOM for an 8-inch, 16GB Surface RT tablet totaled $203.40, which included a $13 charge for manufacturing.

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Facebook, Microsoft disclose FISA requests, sort of

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 9:43am

Both Facebook and Microsoft said late Friday that they had been given permission from the U.S. government to disclose how many times the two companies had been asked to turn over user information to the Feds as part of a national security order.

However, the data comes with so many caveats that little information can be gleaned from it. For their part, Google and Twitter opted out of similar disclosures, precisely for those reasons.

For the six months ended December 31, 2012, Microsoft received between 6000 and 7000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities, the company said in a blog post. For its part, Facebook said that it had received 9,000 requests of the same nature during the same period.

Both Facebook and Microsoft have been named in reports by the Guardian and The Washington Post alleging that many of the Web's top companies have actively participated in a program, dubbed Prism, that supplied information on Web searches, emails, and other user communications whenever the government requested. AOL, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and the other companies named in the report denied the allegations, with both Facebook and Google doing so vociferously. Edward Snowden, a former employee of the National Security Agency, later outed himself as the source of the information.

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How to fix Web pages that print too small

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 9:29am

Reader Tammy wrote in with this hassle:

"Whenever I try to print a page from the Internet, the size of the print and the photos is extremely small and difficult to read. I do not have this problem with Word documents."

Tammy says she uses Windows 8, but neglected to specify which browser--so I'm going to assume Internet Explorer.

Let me be the first to note that Internet Explorer can be terrible when it comes to printing. On my Windows 8 system, for example, I went to any number of pages on Microsoft's MSN (the default site for IE), then loaded Print Preview. The result every single time: several pages of little more than links, with none of the actual text of the story I was viewing.

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'Tweet' added to Oxford English Dictionary lexicon

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 8:55am

Tweeting has become so popular that the Oxford English Dictionary broke one of its own rules to add "tweet" to its lexicon this month.

"Tweet" is listed as both a noun and a verb that's used in social networking.

The addition stands out because it breaks an Oxford English Dictionary rule that a word needs to be in use for ten years to be considered for inclusion. Since the Twitter social network just turned seven in March, the word aficionados broke their own rule by three years.

The word was given special consideration because it so quickly became widely-used in the English language.

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Symbian demise a lesson about competition

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 8:46am

Shipments of new Symbian smartphones from Nokia are rapidly dying, less than three years after the last time it topped the list of the world's most-used mobile platforms.

The rapid and stark decline of Symbian serves as a warning about what can happen to top smartphone operating systems, even iOS and Android, in a volatile market, analysts said.

In another decade, pray tell, where will the iPhone stand?

Despite Symbian's recent place among the ranks of the tech greats, there won't be many tears shed for its demise, or many fond remembrances. There won't be a short epitaph on a tombstone somewhere in Espoo, Finland, Nokia's hometown.

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7 essentials for curbing DDoS attacks

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 8:33am

Go ahead and ask CSOs from the nation's largest banks about the myriad distributed denial-of-service attacks they've experienced in recent months. They're not going to tell you anything.

Security execs have never been comfortable talking about these attacks because they don't want to draw more attention to their companies. They worry that offering even the basic details of their defensive strategy will inspire attackers to find the holes.

But many companies are finding themselves under attack for the first time, and their security chiefs need answers if they're going to fight back. So despite knowing CSOs are reluctant to talk, we tried to get answers anyway. We offered several CSOs anonymity to tell their stories, a tactic that always worked before.

Not this time.

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Laptops with super high-def displays worth price

Content from PCWorld - June 15, 2013 - 8:11am

The consumer electronics market is being flooded with devices that have incredible high-resolution screens.

All the new iPhones and high-end Android phones have them.

The 10-in. iPad has one, as do the Archos 97 Titanium HD, Onda V972, Freelander PD80, Ainol NOVO9 Spark, Cube U9GT5 and others.

So does a new class of laptops, including the Google Chromebook Pixel, Acer Aspire S7, Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display, Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A, Asus Zenbook UX32VD, Dell XPS 12, Dell XPS 13, Samsung Series 9, Sony Vaio Duo 11 and others.

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Review: HP's OfficeJet Pro 276dw is a worthy inkjet alternative to small-office lasers

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 7:01pm

Inkjets, which are losing some of their cachet among consumers, are finding new jobs in small offices and workgroups. We’ve tested enough business models over the past couple of years to prove that a high-quality inkjet multifunction is faster and cheaper to operate than a comparably prices laser product in the sub-$500 space. A good place to start is with HP's $400 OfficeJet Pro 276dw. It is expensive to buy, but it's also an excellent inkjet multifunction whose enhanced manageability features lets it play nice even in the corporate environment. The 276dw also installs easily, produces nice output quickly, and ink costs are low.

Control panel includes 4.3-inch touchscreen

The 276dw is a dark-chocolatey shade of brown, which, while a bit old-school, works well with the printer's soft edges and corners. It sports a large, 4.3-inch touchscreen control panel with a well thought-out menu structure that makes it easy to operate. Software includes HP scan, remote email printing, and a complete onboard management console accessible via your Web browser. Management features include email alerts, a firewall, proxy support, etc. You can reach the management interface via the control panel or your browser.

The 276dw sports Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB, so you may attach it to your network in any fashion and location that you want. Installation was a breeze: There were no firewall hassles, or other such configuration issues that we commonly see, though there are quite a few dialogs to wade through. Push-scanning to our test PC from the 276dw's control panel was available almost immediately. Quite often it takes printers an inordinate amount of time to get their networking act together.

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It isn't just the NSA: Digital surveillance programs trigger controversy abroad

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 5:10pm

Last week’s disclosure of massive data collection efforts at the U.S. National Security Agency has generated heated debate in the U.S. and across the world about privacy. The NSA is collecting metadata on U.S. residents’ phone calls made on Verizon’s network and Internet records from nine Web companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, according to reports in the Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers.

But intelligence agencies in other countries have similar goals, according to reports, and in some cases there are few details about what data these governments are collecting.

U.K.

Leaks about the NSA program by former contractor Edward Snowden have led to questions in the U.K. about the data that intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is collecting. Facing questions about GCHQ’s access to Internet data collected through the NSA’s PRISM program, Prime Minister David Cameron defended U.K. intelligence services and said they comply with the law.

“Let us be clear,” Cameron said in a Guardian article. “We cannot give a running commentary on the intelligence services. I am satisfied that the intelligence services, who do a fantastically important job to keep us safe, operate within the law and within a legal framework and they also operate within a proper framework of scrutiny by the intelligence and security committee.”

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Samsung's next big thing - born in the USA?

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 4:55pm

Could Samsung's "next big thing" come from the heart of the Big Apple or Silicon Valley?

The smartphone and consumer electronics maker is close to launching an incubator space for startups that are developing software and services for phones, tablet computers and televisions.

Samsung Accelerator (1)Martyn WilliamsSamsung's Accelerator poster. (Click to enlarge.)

Based in Palo Alto's University Avenue and in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, the Samsung Accelerator is on the verge of opening its doors, and the company is already looking for its first round of early stage companies.

"We're looking for bright ideas to build the next next big thing," says a sign that went up this week outside the accelerator's space at the Varsity Theater in Palo Alto (the building pictured up top).

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CloudOn CEO: Office Mobile for iPhone is 'half-baked'

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 4:46pm

Microsoft’s Office Mobile for iPhone is a “half-baked” effort that breaks basic features like file compatibility, according to the chief executive of rival CloudOn, which provides Office compatibility across the Apple iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms.

However, Milind Gadekar, CloudOn’s chief executive, acknowledged that Microsoft’s offering was superior in its offline capabilities, a lead that it hopes to erase throughout the rest of the year.

Microsoft released Office Mobile for iPad early on Friday, via a “free” utility that requires an annual $100 Office 365 subscription to use. CloudOn, however, provides users with the ability to access a stored copy of Office in the cloud, for free, with the ability to save documents to a number of online storage providers. On the other hand, it requires a persistent online connection, and can suffer a performance hit if the connection is poor or drops.

Nevertheless, CloudOn’s true Office compatibility and ability to export documents to a number of providers makes its solution the right one if an iOS user wants Office compatibility, Gadekar said. It already boasts 4 million users, he said.

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Don't hurt the Web with rushed intellectual property laws, urges Internet Society

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 4:37pm

Greater transparency, as well as respect for the Internet’s open architecture and multi-stakeholder participation, are needed to help guide discussions around intellectual property policy on the Internet, according to the Internet Society.

Those principles and others comprise a new set of standards designed partly to address the explosion of content that has hit the Internet in recent years and to help ensure that the channels for distributing it are legally sound, the nonprofit group said.

The principles were outlined in a new paper by the Internet Society focusing on intellectual property on the Internet.

“With the emergence of the Internet, intellectual property law and policy making have been challenged on many fronts, including the one concerning the procedures that traditionally have been employed by policy makers and legislators to create, draft and implement intellectual property regulation,” reads the document, released Friday.

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Do Microsoft's vulnerability tip-offs give the U.S. a cyber sword or a cyber shield?

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 4:24pm

Windows users know it’s a good idea to apply security fixes to their PCs as soon as patches are publicly released to prevent malicious actors from infiltrating their machines. But what if, before a patch was issued, the U.S. government was able to exploit those vulnerabilities using information fed to it by Microsoft?

That’s what Bloomberg suggests is happening in a recent report exposing a deep working relationship between a number of technology companies and American intelligence agencies. Microsoft provides the government with information about flaws in its software before publicly releasing a bug fix, the news agency reported today.

Microsoft reportedly has no knowledge of what the government does with the security information it provides, but two anonymous U.S. officials told Bloomberg that Microsoft is aware that the vulnerability information provided allows the U.S. to exploit the computers of terrorists and foreign governments.

Recent reports have highlighted the U.S. government’s special interest in technology vulnerabilities. In May, Reuters reported that the U.S. government was one of the largest online buyers of security exploits and infiltration software from hackers and computer security firms. That news came shortly after the Washington Post reported the Pentagon's plan to expand its cyber command more than five-fold.

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Office for iPhone is a belated, ambivalent move, analysts say

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 2:59pm

Microsoft's release of an Office suite for the iPhone is too little, too late and yet another timid move aimed at protecting Windows 8 sales at the expense of customer demand for a product like this one for iPads, according to analysts.

Microsoft should have released full, native Office versions for both iPhones and iPads last year or in 2011, but the company has been reticent to do so, likely to use Office as a differentiator for Windows devices, in particular those running Windows 8, analysts said.

Also missing at this stage of the game are Office versions for Android smartphones and tablets, but the biggest gap is the iPad, the world's most popular tablet, which is being used for work by tens of millions of people worldwide.

Thus, Friday's announcement by Microsoft of what it calls Office Mobile for iPhone is underwhelming.

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Review: iTunes Library Toolkit tidies up iTunes

Content from PCWorld - June 14, 2013 - 1:10pm

When you rely on iTunes to manage your music collection and all of the apps and files you store on your iOS device, its library can quickly become unmanageable…and Apple doesn't like to give you a whole lot of control over how you organize it. Enter iTunes Library Toolkit, a handy application that offers you control over at least part of your iTunes library.

iTunes Library Toolkit's interface is a bit plain, but perfectly easy to understand.

ITunes Library Toolkit is free to try for one month. After that you'll have to pay 3.5 Great Britain Pounds ($5 as of 6/12/13) for a one-year license. And it is the kind of application that you'll want to use more than once, as its goal is to offer "ongoing maintenance of your iTunes Library." To that end, it allows you automatically add new media files to iTunes, remove dead links from iTunes, and update the metadata on iTunes files.

ITunes Library Toolkit is a newer application from Klarita, which also offers a similar program called iTunes Folder Watch. iTunes Folder Watch serves one dedicated function: Adding new media to iTunes from watched folders. iTunes Library Toolkit offers this feature, too, but without some of the finer-tuned controls that iTunes Folder Watch offers, such as the ability to manually override any additions.

Setting up watched folders is easy, and iTunes Library Toolkit will scan for and locate tracks to add to iTunes.

Removing dead links—those references to files that no longer exist—is easy, and I was surprised to see how many iTunes Library Toolkit was able to clean up for me. I do wish the application let you preview the links before you removed them, instead of after the task has been handled. ITunes Library Toolkit does check to make sure it is not misidentifying live links as dead ones, though, and it made no errors in my tests.

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