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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

By Joseph Menn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it will begin warning users of its consumer services including Outlook.com email when the company suspects that a government has been trying to hack into their accounts.

The policy change comes nine days after Reuters asked the company why it had decided not tell victims of a hacking campaign, discovered in 2011, that had targeted international leaders of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities in particular.

According to two former employees of Microsoft, the company's own experts had concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities had been behind the campaign but the company did not pass on that information to users of its Hotmail service, which is now called Outlook.com.

In its statement, Microsoft said neither it nor the U.S. government could pinpoint the sources of the hacking attacks and that they didn't come from a single country.

The policy shift at the world's largest software company follows similar moves since October by Internet giants Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and most recently Yahoo Inc.

Google Inc pioneered the practice in 2012 and said it now alerts tens of thousands of users every few months.

For two years, Microsoft has offered alerts about potential security breaches without specifying the likely suspect.

In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft said: "As the threat landscape has evolved our approach has too, and we'll now go beyond notification and guidance to specify if we reasonably believe the attacker is 'state-sponsored'."

In a blog post published late Wednesday, Microsoft said: "We're taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be 'state-sponsored' because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others. (http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2015/12/30/additional-steps-to-help-keep-your-personal-information-secure/)

The Hotmail attacks targeted diplomats, media workers, human rights lawyers, and others in sensitive positions inside China, according to the former employees.

Microsoft had told the targets to reset their passwords but did not tell them that they had been hacked. Five victims interviewed by Reuters said they had not taken the password reset as an indication of hacking.

Online free-speech activists and security experts have long called for more direct warnings, saying that they prompt behavioral changes from email users.

Source: foreigndesknews.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the world of animal linguistics, and for reference we illustrated how different languages represent (in writing) the sounds that animals make.

However, this is a horse of a different color. Or, um, cow…

The BBC, in whom I often trust in matters of international politics and world events, reports that cows “moo” differently depending on region. That is to say that cows have regional accents and dialects.

My thoughts then turned to the bovine linguist involved in this study, and I’ll be the first to say, he’s legit. We’ve really got a case of heifer phonetics here!

“Farmer Lloyd Green, from Glastonbury, said: “I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl. I’ve spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have noticed a similar development in their own herds.” – BBCNews

It does make me think. How little we truly know about ourselves, and even less about the world around us. I’m sure that the phonetics professor involved had never really considered aviary or livestock speech when making his career choice, but here he is reporting to the world about the “twang” of local cows.

Just another testament to how the study of languages (human or otherwise) can creep into any profession! Perhaps more agricultural majors should think about a minor in linguistics!

Source: leaflanguages.org
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

Working overtime is not a new concept. Employees in various industries do it often and in some cases it’s the norm. However, overworking employees is a risky proposition for organisations of all sizes.

For example, when IT departments are under-resourced and working long hours, they can understandably get burnt out, which affects their ability to address critical technology issues in a timely fashion. And according to latest research from Spiceworks, IT pros in EMEA work an average of 49 hours per week, much longer than the average work week. So why are IT pros working extra time and why should this be a warning sign for businesses?

What’s the problem?

Eighteen per cent of IT pros worldwide said they work more than 60 hours a week and 35 per cent said they work at least 50 hours. Add all those hours up and it works out to several weeks of full 24-hour days above and beyond a 40-hour work week over the course of a year. The fact that a significant proportion of IT pros work so many hours begs the question of why management lets this happen. And if businesses claimed ignorance before, now the harsh reality of everyday working life for an IT pro is out in the open.

And given the modern business’ reliance on technology, it’s even more important for management to recognise when IT pros are overworked and understaffed. Organisations are heavily dependent on their IT department to leap into action when things go wrong, but when they’re constantly fighting fires, IT pros have less time to be proactive about identifying and implementing new tech solutions to help companies become more efficient and save money in the long run.

Why are they working so late?

User issues. Anyone in IT can tell you that end user issues are time consuming and stressful, and now we have the data to prove it. The Spiceworks IT staffing survey shows that IT departments with more dedicated help desk technicians work fewer hours on average, and departments with fewer help desk staff tend to work more than 40 hours per week. It’s clear that the workload associated with fixing end user issues consumes a considerable amount of time for IT pros so adding support personnel can help free up time for all IT staff regardless of role.

However, smaller IT departments often lack the resources to employ dedicated help desk technicians and systems administrators, and as a result they tend to work longer hours. In fact, IT pros in small businesses worldwide with less than 100 employees work an average of 50 hours per week, and IT pros in medium-sized businesses with 100 to 499 employees work an average of 53 hours per week. This makes sense because some IT pros in small and midsized businesses may run a one-man shop managing more devices and user issues on their own, which can easily lead to a long work week.

So where possible, businesses can alleviate this burden by investing in more help desk technicians, which gives the rest of the IT department the chance to add value rather than just keep the lights on.

What sector is working the latest?

In terms of working patterns across different sectors, it’s clear that IT pros working in the public sector get a better deal. Those in education, government, and healthcare generally work fewer hours compared to other industries. Only 33 and 37 per cent of IT pros in government and education respectively work more than 40 hours per week. At the other end of the spectrum, construction and engineering has the highest percentage of IT staff doing overtime with 72 per cent of IT pross working more than 40 hours per week.

What now?

It’s no surprise that IT pros work incredibly hard and are often overworked. So how do businesses counteract this? There’s no magic formula to determine how many IT pros your company needs to ensure peak tech performance and adequate incident response times. However, the findings of the report provide a clear indication of when it might be time to employ more IT staff based on the numbers of hours worked per week, your industry and the types of IT pros employed.

Source: itproportal.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

Adidas and Parley for the Oceans, an organization dedicated to reducing plastic waste in oceans, have collaborated to create a 3D-printed shoe made out of recycled ocean plastic.

The shoe is just a prototype, but the goal is to demonstrate how the industry can "rethink design and help stop ocean plastic pollution," according to Adidas.

The prototype has an "upper" made of ocean plastic and a 3D-printed midsole of recycled polyester and gillnets, a type of fishing net.

Adidas has pledged to take other steps to reduce plastic pollution like phasing out the use of plastic bags in its retail stores. Adidas says this particular goal will be achieved by the end of the first quarter of 2016.

As The Verge pointed out, the shoe's design is based on the Adidas Futurecraft 3D, a 3D-printed shoe meant to show a potential future of on-demand shoe customization.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

The NHS has partnered with dating app Tinder to raise awareness about organ donations.

The app is used to find people a good personality match but for the next fortnight it will also encourage users to become a donor.
People who swipe on some pictures on the app will be encouraged to sign up to the NHS organ donor register.
The NHS said that it wants more younger people to join its campaign.

In July, NHS Blood and Transplant reported that the number of people in the UK donating organs after death had fallen for the first time in more than a decade.

There are just under 7,000 people currently on the UK transplant waiting list and, in the last decade, more than 6,000 people across the UK have died while waiting for an operation.

Tinder has created bespoke profiles for some of its more high-profile members, including Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones MBE, Emmerdale's Gemma Oaten and Jamie Laing, who takes part in reality show Made in Chelsea.

The celebrities' Tinder profiles will feature The Wait logo to draw attention to the importance of organ donations.
Users who swipe right will match with these profiles and receive a message that says: "If only it was that easy for those in need of a life-saving organ to find a match."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

YouTube just released its annual video mashup that pays tribute to all the biggest viral moments and people of 2015.

You'll see Left Shark, a handful of Shia Labeouf "Just do it" copycats, and cameos by people like Heaven King and Bethany Mota. And people well-versed in internet culture and YouTube stars will recognize dozens of in-jokes and references that will fly right by those who aren't.

YouTube culture exec Kevin Allocca tells Business Insider that shooting for the ~7 minute piece took 21 days across multiple cities around the US and the world.

"The sets have this fun party atmosphere," he said. "Some of these [YouTube creators] are pretty huge stars who are busy with crazy schedules, so to have them in the same place is really fun."

Watch the video

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 9th Dec 2015

Microsoft and Amazon are squaring up in Europe, competing to control the lucrative cloud storage market. Both companies have strong U.S. offerings and have made moves to build data centres in the U.K., Germany, Ireland, and other European countries.

The two giants both receive billions of dollars every year from cloud-based services that other companies — such as EasyJet, Slack, and Nokia — can then build on.

Research firm IDC predicts that the European market for online software services — made up of Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and Platforms-as-a-Service — is valued at around $11 billion (£7.3 billion) annually.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing at a rapid rate, offering a more open-ended set of services. The company originally started offering pure computer storage — i.e. just storage, no add-ons — but this has since grown into a host of offerings that Amazon charges a fee for.

Microsoft's storage offering come from the opposite end of the spectrum: Only recently has the company started offering pure storage, instead looking to sell storage and services (such as Office 365) as a bundle to big companies.

"Microsoft comes from the top down," said Giorgio Nebuloni, a researcher for IDC who focuses on systems and infrastructure in Europe. "Amazon comes from the bottom up."

This difference — that Microsoft offers services on top of everything else while Amazon offers more control — is the key difference between the two companies, which have a combined market value of $761 billion (£508 billion).

The convergence point of the two platforms is here: Platforms-as-a-Service. It's where applications live online, including everything needed to develop them.

Essentially, PaaS is what Microsoft already does with Office 365 and Azure, its cloud-based storage option. Amazon has started moving closer to offering a PaaS service, predominantly because big businesses are already used to it and, once happy, can be locked-in for a long time.

"It’s the glue," said Nebuloni. "For us, it's a layer that includes all of the cloud services from development to deployment."

This convergence is nothing new for the U.S. but the battle has just arrived in the U.K. and other European countries.

To tackle the problems, the companies are taking two very different approaches:

Microsoft is looking for local partners — such as Deutsche Telekom in Germany — that it can create an agreement with to license certain technology back-and-forth. This, Nebuloni says, enables the company the freedom of remaining above certain things — like small-scale legal intricacies — and makes it more trustworthy for clients.

Amazon is taking the opposite approach, building out everything itself.

"Amazon's advantage is that you don't always have to pander to the local markets," said Nebuloni. "However, that's one of the reasons why, in France in particular, there is an advantage for Microsoft because they have a local partner."

Put simply: Microsoft is using local knowledge to aid its efforts while Amazon is working by itself.

"I think Amazon can control more of what they do," said Nebuloni. "In Europe, it's still an open question about whether doing everything on your own will win out in the end but the closer you go to enterprise the more regulated the data is and that's when it gets more complex."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 9th Dec 2015

Apple has released a battery case, called the Smart Battery Case, that improves the iPhone's battery life to as long as 25 hours.

Third-party vendors, such as Mophie, already produce various battery cases that plug into the iPhone's Lightning port and provide extra power beyond the built-in battery.

The case comes in black and white versions and is designed for the iPhone 6 and 6S.

Apple says simultaneously charging the Smart Battery Case and iPhone yields over 25 hours of talk time, 18 hours of internet use, and over 20 hours of video playback.

The case costs $99 in the US and £79 in the UK.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 8th Dec 2015

Three of the largest PC manufacturers in Japan may be looking to join forces and merge operations. Japan's Nikkei news reported that Fujitsu, Toshiba and Vaio may combine their operations in a move that would create a single, dominant manufacturer that controls 30% of Japan's domestic PC market.

According to the report, each of the entities would have roughly equal control of the new company, and likely the Vaio name would survive the merger. Toshiba, Fujitsu and Vaio's leading shareholder, Japan Industrial Partners, would each have 30% ownership of the company.

Source: techradar.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 8th Dec 2015

The number of plastic bags taken home by shoppers at Tesco stores in England has dropped by almost 80% since a 5p levy was introduced, data suggests.

The government brought in the charge on 5 October to help reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Tesco declined to say how many 5p bags had been bought but said it was down 78% on the month before the charge, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The chain is to give the proceeds from plastic bag sales to charity.

The number of carriers bags given out by seven major supermarkets in England rose by 200 million in 2014 to exceed 7.6 billion - the equivalent of 140 per person and amounting to 61,000 tonnes in total.

Tesco's market share suggests it is likely to have handed out in excess of two billion single-use bags in 2014.

'Vital step'
The supermarket said it had also seen a 50% increase in the amount of shoppers opting for "bagless" online deliveries.
Rebecca Shelley, Tesco's communications director, said the charge had "clearly had a huge impact" and the company was on target to donate £30m to charity over the year.

Image caption
M&S said half the number of clothing bags had been used since the charge was introduced
Marks and Spencer introduced a 5p charge on food carrier bags in 2008, which saw a reduction of 75% in usage and raised more than £10m for good causes.

A spokeswoman said since the legislation in October, the firm has seen a further reduction of 18% in usage.

"In clothing, since the legislation was introduced, we have seen a reduction of around 50% on clothing bags usage," she added.

England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy following successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The British Retail Consortium said the number of carrier bags now used by UK shoppers indicated there had been a significant reduction.

"Nevertheless, we must not let an obsessions with carrier bags get in the way of the wider and more important green goals on which retailers are working incredibly hard and making significant progress including reducing packaging, carbon emissions, food waste and waste to landfill," a spokesman said.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart told the Telegraph that reducing the number of carrier bags used "is a small but vital step in reducing plastic waste".

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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