Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Google Accidentally 'Confirms' Expensive Pixel 3

Last week we learnt the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are going to be massive. But now Google has accidentally confirmed the biggest of its new Pixels… 

Following a leak from XDA Forums showing an alleged hands-on with the enlarged 6.2-inch Pixel 3 XL, none other than Google itself has been responsible for confirming the handset is the real deal.

Concept Creator

Pixel 3 XL Concept

Credit for this verification goes to the eagled-eyed 9to5Google. It spotted a January interview on Google’s own blog with Ivy Ross, the company’s VP of hardware design, showing the design process for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Ross revealed numerous prototypes and, prior to receiving the Google logo, they are marked with the logo seen on the XDA Forums’ model.

So yes, this is indeed an official Pixel 3 XL prototype and Google itself helped confirm that.

This will be either good or bad news, depending on your perspective, because it confirms the Pixel 3 XL will have a notch like just about every Android smartphone since Apple launched the iPhone X. Yes, Essential was technically the first smartphone to have a notch but Apple popularised the design and it is the iPhone X notch-shape which is being copied.

XDA Forums

Pixel 3 XL hands-on leak, rear prototype logo has been verified as Google’s

If you are ok with the notch, you won’t care. If you wish Google had chosen a more original path for its design then you’ll a) be hoping this is an early prototype and there’s still time to change it, or b) resigning yourself to now buying the smaller, notch-less Pixel 3.

Interestingly, the XDA Forums’ leak also shows the Pixel 3 XL has a single rear camera despite the front of the phone having dual cameras. Again, this could change being an early prototype but as Google proved it could comfortably beat all rivals with the single rear camera on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, sticking with one shouldn’t be the end of the world.

On the flipside, I have to admit its a shame Google’s own beautiful phone design hidden inside Android P was nothing more than a pipe dream. Especially given their increased asking prices… 


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The First of Elon Musk’s Boring Company Flamethrowers Are Coming (for Real)

The day is here. The first 1,000 Boring Company flamethrowers are being picked up today.

After what many thought was a joke, Boring Company CEO Elon Musk has delivered on his promises to deliver flamethrowers. The unusual offering began as a campaign to sell more Boring Company hats. Back in December 2017, Musk tweeted, “After 50k hats, we will start selling The Boring Company flamethrower.” It was thought to be a joke until a listing for flamethrowers actually appeared on the Boring Company’s website – $600 a pop.

The flamethrowers, all 20,000 of them, sold out during the pre-order phase when they were on sale for a discount at $500. It’s still a pretty price tag, but Musk said he’s throwing in fire extinguishers along with every flamethrower.

The arrival of the flamethrowers comes after some delay. Musk noted that USPS is not fond of shipping propane, which the flamethrowers are loaded with, in most cases. Just last month Musk said the flamethrowers would arrive soon, so the other 19,000 should be following shortly.

Apple Accused of Allegedly Stealing Design of New Shortcuts App Icon

A startup alleges that Apple infringed on its intellectual property in a new app the tech giant introduced this week called Shortcuts, according to a report.

The company, Shift, which uses blockchain technology to build websites, sent a cease and desist letter to Apple dated June 6 that demands that it drop the offending design or pay $200,000.

The issue stems from an app Apple introduced at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that will be become available in the fall with Apple’s iOS 12. The app helps create shortcuts for Apple’s AI assistant Siri that are tailored to the user.

At WWDC, Apple gave the example of users saying “Hey Siri, I lost my keys,” and Siri would connect them to a dongle on their keychain which would make sound to help find it.

Shift alleges that Apple’s Shortcuts app logo — two rounded corners rhomboids fading into each other to vaguely look like an “S” — was copied from the Shift logo — two squares layered on top of each other (like a pointed figure eight) that also resembles an “S.”

“It’s mind-blowing that Apple, the firm with the biggest cash pile in history, the firm that is so design oriented, had to copy our logo,” a spokesperson for Shift told The Sun.

In a statement to Fortune, Shift reiterated that Apple “infringed on our logo which we have relied on to identify us in the community,” but said it wanted to resolve the issue amicably and not distract from the company’s blockchain-oriented website goals.

According to The Sun, Shift sent Apple a cease and desist letter, accusing Apple of “unauthorized use” of its logo. The legal representative said the company spent “substantial time and effort in advertising, and promoting” the logo as the icon for its downloadable app.

“As a result, the Shift trademark has become an asset of susbtantial [sic] value and a symbol of our client’s goodwill,” the representative said, according to The Sun, which saw a copy of the letter.

Shift asked Apple to either change the Shortcuts the logo, or pay it $200,000 so it can “rebrand” and hire a designer to create a new one.

At the time of publication, Apple had not responded to a request for comment from Fortune.

China's TCL launches high-end BlackBerry smartphone in U.S.

(Reuters) – Chinese electronics maker TCL Corp on Thursday launched a high-end smartphone in the United States that it developed with Canada’s BlackBerry Ltd, touting security and privacy features to distinguish it from other devices.

The new BlackBerry Key2 smartphone is displayed at a product launch event for the device in Manhattan in New York, U.S., June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

TCL unveiled the BlackBerry KEY2, which runs on Alphabet Inc’s widely used Android operating system, amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over the sale of Chinese telecommunications equipment in the United States.

The U.S. government and lawmakers have sought to limit sales of phones by larger Chinese phonemakers ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, citing national security concerns. ZTE ceased major operations in April after Washington banned U.S. companies from selling it parts, though U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday the government had reached a deal to reverse that ban.

The new BlackBerry Key2 smartphone is displayed at a product launch event for the device in Manhattan in New York, U.S., June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The KEY2 is the third smartphone that TCL has launched through a partnership with BlackBerry, which decided in 2016 to stop making smartphones and license its software to other manufacturers.

Slideshow (6 Images)

BlackBerry digitally audits phones built through the partnership to make sure no unapproved software is installed on them, and also signs off on all software updates to the phones, which are remotely installed by wireless carriers, the company said.

The KEY2, which retails for $649, features a BlackBerry app called DTEK that helps users see and manage how data is used by other apps. A second application, Locker, creates private folders for documents that enable users to prevent them from being uploaded to the cloud.

Such features help make KEY2 “the most secure Android product in the market today,” Alain Lejeune, president of TCL’s BlackBerry Mobile unit, told Reuters ahead of Thursday’s product launch in New York.

Such assurances may not protect TCL from scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers, given growing concerns about the activities of Chinese firms operating in the United States, said Samm Sacks, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

“They’re going to meet more scrutiny than they would have even a year ago,” Sacks said.

TCL also sells low-end phones in the United States under the brand of France’s Alcatel, which are mainly used with pre-paid carriers. Unlike the BlackBerry deal, TCL controls the software on Alcatel devices, TCL said.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Jim Finkle and Frances Kerry

IT failures at British bank TSB cost $94 million so far, owner Sabadell says

MADRID (Reuters) – Information technology failures at British bank TSB have cost around 70 million pounds ($93.95 million) so far, its Spanish parent Sabadell said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Signs are seen outside of a branch of TSB bank in London May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

A botched migration of TSB computer systems last month saw thousands of users locked out of their accounts and a surge in attacks by fraudsters, prompting a regulatory investigation and criticism of its chief executive.

Sabadell, which bought TSB in 2015, said in a filing to Spain’s market regulator that the declared cost did not take into account the ongoing investigation.

The amount includes costs related to a temporary waiver of overdraft fees and compensation for cases of alleged fraud linked to the migration, Sabadell said in the filing.

It also takes into account the cost of paying employees overtime and bringing in additional staff and expert consultants to tackle the situation.

There have been 2,200 fraud attempts linked to the snarl and around 1,300 customers have lost money, TSB Chief Executive Paul Pester told British lawmakers on Wednesday.

TSB called in International Business Machines Corp to help resolve the crisis, which left some customers waiting for hours in vain on helplines.

Reporting by Isla Binnie and Gdynia Newsroom; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

North Korea Uses Microsoft and Apple Technology for Cyberattacks, Researchers Say

North Korea has been cited by several governments and organizations for its hacking activities. Now, a new study of network data shows much of the technology North Korea employs for hacking comes from the U.S.

Despite trade sanctions, North Korea’s government has found a way to obtain products from Apple, Microsoft, and Korea-based Samsung to carry out cyberattacks around the world, researchers at cybersecurity intelligence company Recorded Future revealed on Wednesday. The company found that North Korea is using Windows 10, Apple’s iPhone X, and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus, among other technologies, to conduct operations. However, most of the technology North Korea is using is older. For instance, Recorded Future found an iPhone 4S and Windows 7, among other products, still in use.

North Korea has been isolated from the rest of the world for decades. During that time, the country’s economy has suffered and the U.S., among others, has imposed sanctions that limit a company’s ability to export to and sell in North Korea.

To circumvent those sanctions, according to Recorded Future, North Korea has engaged in a variety of activities to obtain access to U.S. and Korean technologies.

In its report, Recorded Future said that North Korea has created fake addresses and names to sidestep sanctions — and also used shell companies and aliases outside of its borders to obtain equipment and bring it back. North Koreans living in countries where equipment from Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung can be obtained legally also play a role in the effort, according to the report.

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“Technology resellers, North Koreans abroad, and the Kim regime’s extensive criminal networks all facilitate the transfer of American technology for daily use by one of the world’s most repressive governments,” Recorded Future wrote in its report.

In other cases, however, North Korea has obtained equipment legally. Since 2002, in fact, the U.S. has exported nearly $484,000 in computers and electronics to North Korea.

But, since that’s hardly enough for all of the ruling party, hacking efforts, and “elites” in the country who need the technology, North Korea has employed the other schemes, Recorded Future said.

The data sheds some light on the secretive country and could explain to some degree how it’s been able to pull off some major cyberattacks. North Korea’s hackers have previously been linked to the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack that affected computers around the world. North Korea was also accused of hacking Sony in 2014.

“Unless there’s a globally unified effort to impose comprehensive sanctions on the DPRK, and multilateral cooperation to ensure that these sanctions cannot be thwarted by a web of shell companies,” Recorded Future wrote, “North Korea will be able to continue its cyberwarfare operations unabated with the aid of Western technology.”

You Can Pilot Larry Page’s New Flying Car With Just An Hour Of Training

Kitty Hawk, the flying car company founded by Google’s Larry Page has a new personal car model coming to a sky near you. The Flyer, a single-seat vehicle operated by joystick is fully electric and has been described as a mix of a pontoon plane and a drone, though it’s not remotely operated, CNBC reported.

The flying car will start at a speed of 20 miles per hour, and will be able to fly up to 10 feet above ground, with pilots ready to take the skies after just an hour of training, according to Bloomberg. The quick training time makes the flying car more accessible, according to Sebastian Thrun, a self-driving car innovator and CEO of Kitty Hawk. “If it’s less than an hour, it opens up flight to pretty much everyone,” Thrun told CNN. He hopes the cars will one day be able to reach a speed of 100 miles per hour.

Another Kitty Hawk venture includes the Cora aircraft, a two-seat electric pilotless taxi aircraft. So far, the vehicle has been tested in New Zealand. The company’s plan is for its flying vehicles to become “part of a service similar to an airline or a rideshare.”

CNN reporter Rachel Crane, who tested out the Flyer said, “The joystick is so intuitive, but it’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. You definitely feel the vibrations.”

It’s still unclear when the vehicle will be released—and at what price—but according to Thrun, these cars could take to the skies in the next five years.

France's BlaBlaCar bets on Russia's ride-sharing culture

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) – Russia has overtaken France as the biggest market for French ride-sharing startup BlaBlaCar, a growth driven by long distances between Russian cities and a culture of giving lifts to strangers, the company’s co-founder and CEO told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A sticker of French ride-sharing start-up BlaBlaCar is seen on a car May 27, 2017 at Le Coudray-Montceaux, near Paris, France. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Nicolas Brusson said the unlisted company, which entered the Russian market four years ago, plans to invest 10 million euros in Russia next year, more than BlaBlaCar’s total investments over the past three to four years.

“We are talking about 15 million members in Russian which means that more than one Russian of ten is already signed in BlaBlaCar. We are speaking about over 3 million Russians that are transported by BlaBlaCar every month,” he said.

BlaBlaCar’s app works by matching passengers with drivers who have spare space in their vehicle and are heading to the same destination.

The company, founded in Paris in 2006, describes itself as the world’s largest carpooling community. It has two models of making money in Europe, taking a service fee from passengers for every journey or allowing the use of its app under subscription.

Brusson said the first reason for the firm’s success in Russia was cultural.

He said it had to work hard in Europe to persuade customers BlaBlaCar was a safe service. “In Russia people are more used to sharing and got the features of the service faster,” he said.

Before ride-sharing services like Uber came to Russia, it was normal for citizens to flag down a private car in the street, and share the ride, for a modest fee. The practice grew out of the fact that car ownership was not widespread, while taxis were heavily regulated and expensive.

Brusson said the second reason BlaBlaCar did well in Russia “is the size of the country, the shape of the country. It’s a kind of perfect for long distance cooperation because of big population, lots of big cities we can help connect.”

Russian economic growth is slowly recovering after two years of recession, but is also under pressure from U.S. sanctions imposed in April on Russian businessmen and big companies.

Brusson said those factors might play to BlaBlaCar’s strengths. “People are going to be more cost-conscious so people will choose services like ours because people can save money and drive cheaper,” he said.

BlaBlaCar is ramping up investment in the Russian market even though its operations in Russia, unlike in European Union markets, are not yet monetized, passengers in Russia pay for their journeys in cash directly to drivers not to the service.

Brusson saw Russia as a very strong financial contributor for BlaBlaCar in terms of four to five years.

“Next year we will invest as much as we’ve done in the last 3-4 years. Because the activity is just doubling year on year, and there is a real need we can help address, so it leads us to invest,” he said.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by David Evans

Qualcomm asks EU court to scrap $1.2 billion antitrust fine

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM.O) has asked Europe’s second-highest court to throw out a 997 million euro ($1.2 billion) fine levied by European Union antitrust regulators, citing numerous errors in the EU decision.

Visitors are seen by a booth of Qualcomm Inc at the China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang, Guizhou province, China May 27, 2018. Picture taken May 27, 2018.  REUTERS/Stringer

The European Commission penalized the company in January for paying Apple (AAPL.O) to use only its chips in its iPhones and iPads, giving rival Intel (INTC.O) no chance of getting a share of the market.

The EU competition enforcer’s ruling was marked by errors in procedures and law, Qualcomm said in its appeal to the Luxembourg-based General Court, according to a filing in the Commission’s Official Journal on Monday.

Judges typically take several years to rule on such cases.

Qualcomm is also involved in another EU antitrust case where it has been accused of selling chipsets below cost to drive out British phone software maker Icera, which is now a unit of Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O).

The appeal is Qualcomm/Commission T-235/18.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman