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Oracle

Oracle Hires Global Specialists To Explore Feasibility of Buying Accenture 63

Paul Kunert writes in an exclusive report via The Register: Oracle has hired global specialists to explore the feasibility of buying multi-billion dollar consultancy Accenture, sources have told us. The database giant has engaged a team of consultants to conduct due diligence to "explore the synergies that could be created if they [Oracle] bought Accenture lock stock and barrel," one source claimed. On top of the financial considerations, the consultants are evaluating the pros and cons including the potential impact on Oracle's wider channel. "While these things have a habit of fizzling out there are some fairly serious players around the table," a contact added. Another claimed the process was at an early stage. "If buying Accenture was a 100 meter race, Oracle is at the 10 to 15 meter stage now." [T]his buy would be an immensely bold, complicated and pricey move: NYSE-listed Accenture has a market cap of $77.5 billion, and shareholders will expect a premium offer. A deal would dwarf Oracle's $10 billion buy of PeopleSoft, its $7.4 billion deal for Sun Microsystems, and more recently, the $9.3 billion splashed on Netsuite. In buying Accenture, Oracle would be taking a leaf out of the mid-noughties handbook - when HP fatefully bought EDS and IBM acquired PWC to carve out a brighter future.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Build 15048 Has a Windows Mixed Reality Demo You Can Try (betanews.com) 42

Microsoft's big push into mixed reality involves headsets from multiple manufacturers (including ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo), and developer kits with Acer's headset will begin a phased rollout this month. But Windows 10's latest "Insider Preview" build already includes a mixed reality simulator with a first-person 3D environment that can be navigated with the W, A, S and D keys. Slashdot reader Mark Wilson writes: From the look of the changelog for Windows 10 build 15048 that was released a few days ago to Insiders, it looked to be little more than a bug fixing release. But in fact Microsoft has already started to include references to -- and even a portal for -- Windows Mixed Reality. We have seen reference to Windows Holographic in Windows 10 before, but this is the first time there has been anything to play with. It coincides nicely with Microsoft revealing that Windows Mixed Reality is the new name for Windows Holographic, and it gives Insiders the chance to not only see if their computer meets the recommended specs, but also to try out a Windows Mixed reality simulation.
HP

HP Top Level Executive On Life After the Split (zdnet.com) 42

An anonymous reader shares a ZDNet report: George Brasher is a 26-year HP veteran who has worked in a variety of roles in the company's printer and PC divisions over the years and is now HP Inc's managing director for the UK and Ireland. We began by asking how the first fifteen 'post-split' months had gone. "If you go back to the genesis of the separation, what Meg [Whitman, CEO of HPE and chairwoman of HP Inc] said was that, by splitting into two businesses, we'd be able to have more focus -- and I think that's truly what's happened with HP Inc. What we wanted to get out of it was: could we be more focused on our markets; could we actually accelerate our pace of innovation and get closer to our customers? In general, I'd say the answer is a resounding 'yes'." [...] The second thing is -- and you can see examples around this room [the CWC] -- we're a technology company, and innovation is our lifeblood: if you look at PC and print, we've seen more significant high-quality introductions in the last 15 months than in any previous 15-month period." [...] "The proof is always in the pudding: I look at the Spectre x360, the Elite X3 and other devices -- and it's not just new devices, but also the quality of the new devices; being able to have a partnership with B&O and thinking about a new computing experience. On the print side, it's the same thing: in September we announced our single biggest rollout ever, with a set of 16 A3 multifunction devices starting in a couple of months and rolling out over the course of the year. I don't think that happens unless you have separation, because then you've got a management team and a board, and a group of employees, that are just laser-focused on driving against that."
HP

HP Is Advertising Its Real, Modern Printers on This Fake, Awkward '80s Computer Show (adweek.com) 86

T.L. Stanley, writing for AdWeek: It's a fine line between effective '80s homage and clumsy retro spoof, with the latter usually involving a lot of overplayed visual gags like brick-sized cell phones and VHS tapes. Cue pointing and laughing. This new HP video, dubbed "Computer Show," hits the sweet spot perfectly with its recreation of a Reagan-era public access show about technology, but with a fish-out-of-water spin. The host is stuck in time -- stilted stage manner, goofy haircut and all -- but his guests are current-day tech pioneers. Awkward hilarity ensues. The short film, made by Giant Spoon and Sandwich Video for HP, sets up a print-off between HP's PageWide super-fast model and a dot matrix supplied by an employee of the neighborhood "Kwikopy."
Sony

If You Owned a PC With a DVD Drive You Might Be Able To Claim $10 (theverge.com) 99

If you owned a PC with a DVD drive more than 10 years ago, you're probably owed $10. From a report on The Verge: A class-action lawsuit is now accepting claims after Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and Hitachi-LG were accused of inflating the prices of optical drives sold to PC makers like Dell and HP. If you bought a PC with a DVD drive between April 1st 2003 and December 31st 2008, you'll be able to claim $10 for each drive as part of the class-action lawsuit. It appears you don't need to provide any proof of purchase -- the settlement administrators are simply collecting names, email addresses, and the number of drives owned at the moment. You'll need to submit a claim before July 1st, and the money won't be released until other defendants in the litigation have settled.
Blackberry

The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com) 97

"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work." Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."
Printer

A Hacker Just Pwned Over 150,000 Printers Exposed Online (bleepingcomputer.com) 75

Last year an attacker forced thousands of unsecured printers to spew racist and anti-semitic messages. But this year's attack is even bigger. An anonymous reader writes: A grey-hat hacker going by the name of Stackoverflowin has pwned over 150,000 printers that have been left accessible online. For the past 24 hours, Stackoverflowin has been running an automated script that searches for open printer ports and sends a rogue print job to the target's device. The script targets IPP (Internet Printing Protocol) ports, LPD (Line Printer Daemon) ports, and port 9100 left open to external connections. From high-end multi-functional printers at corporate headquarters to lowly receipt printers in small town restaurants, all have been affected. The list includes brands such as Afico, Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Konica Minolta, Oki, and Samsung.

The printed out message included recommendations for printer owners to secure their device. The hacker said that people who reached out were very nice and thanked him.

The printers apparently spew out an ASCII drawing of a robot, along with the words "stackoverflowin the hacker god has returned. your printer is part of a flaming botnet... For the love of God, please close this port." The messages sometimes also include a link to a Twitter feed named LMAOstack.
Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Says PC Market Is Finally Stabilizing (fortune.com) 51

In a call with analysts on Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the consumer PC market is finally stabilizing after being in a long decline. His statement echoes a recent report by International Data Corporation in which the market research firm said it was optimistic that the PC market would rebound this year after five years of contraction as people switched to mobile devices. Fortune reports: Nadella, however, did not cite specific numbers showing that the consumer PC market was rallying. He merely said that video gamers seem to be buying high-end computers loaded with Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, raising hope of an overall recovery in the PC market. Additionally, Nadella said that businesses are increasingly upgrading to Windows 10, which is noteworthy because several other third-party research firms said in November that Windows 10 adoption numbers seemed low. "I think the overall adoption cycle of Windows 10 in the enterprise is perhaps the best we have seen for any new release of Windows," Nadella said. Still, Microsoft's personal computing business unit that includes Windows 10 dropped 5% year-over-year in the latest quarter to $11.8 billion. Still, the unit's revenue was better than what the company had originally projected because of an unexpected uptick in Windows 10 sales, said chief financial officer Amy Hood. Microsoft said that the money it collects from sales of Windows by other PC makers rose 5% in the latest quarter, which Nadella said highlights an "improving commercial PC market and enterprise demand." Nadella said that computer manufacturers that use Windows are seeing an uptick in sales of high-end PCs. He took credit for the rise by saying that the Surface blazed the trail for other manufacturers to create similar devices, which are selling well. "The enterprise adoption of these new devices is driving the all around excitement of Windows 10," Nadella said.
Desktops (Apple)

Mac Sales Declined Nearly 10 Percent Last Year (9to5mac.com) 328

It's not surprising that Mac sales dropped for Apple in 2016 as they experienced their first year over year sales decline since 2001. What is interesting, however, is that as Mac sales dropped roughly 10% and personal computers overall dropped 5.7% for the year, the top four leaders in the market all saw growth as Apple was pushed to number five. From a report: Although Mac sales were up in Q4 2016 compared to Q4 2015, an analyst note today from Bloomberg's Anand Srinivasan and Wei Mok has revealed Apple has dropped to the fifth largest PC vendor, with ASUS overtaking fourth place. The top four vendors are now Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS. The report adds, "Those four companies represent 65.2% of the overall market and each grew year -- over-year, while Apple ceded ground, declining 30 bps to 7.1%. The other 27.7% of the market is comprised of more than 200 vendors. In a market expected to consolidate, Samsung and Fujitsu are reported to be in discussions to sell their PC businesses to Lenovo."
HP

HP Recalls Another 100,000 Laptop Batteries After Reports of Overheating and Damage (techrepublic.com) 37

HP is continuing its recall of laptop batteries that could pose a risk to consumers. The company has recalled more than 100,000 lithium-ion batteries used in its notebook computers, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall expands one from HP in June, when an additional 41,000 batteries were recalled in the US. From a report on TechRepublic: The affected laptops were said to include a lithium-ion battery containing Panasonic cells that malfunctioned, leading to "overheating, melting and charring and causing about $1,000 in property damage," the US Consumer Product Safety (US CPSC) report said. The batteries in question could have been used in HP, Compaq, HP ProBook, HP ENVY, Compaq Presario, and HP Pavilion notebook computers. The recalled batteries were in laptops sold between March 2013 and October 2016, the CPSC report stated. Affected laptops could have been purchased at Best Buy, Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, or another authorized dealer nationwide or online. The average cost of the laptops was between $300-$1700, and the standalone batteries were sold from $50-$90.
HP

HP Made a Laptop Slightly Thicker To Add 3 Hours of Battery Life (theverge.com) 167

When a technology company like Apple releases a new product, chances are it's going to be thinner than its predecessor -- even if may be slightly worse off for it. HP is taking a different approach with its new 15.6-inch Spectre x360 laptop, which was recently announced at CES. The machine is slightly thicker than its predecessor, and HP claims it features three hours of additional battery life. The Verge reports: The difference between the new x360 and the old x360, in terms of thickness, is minimal, from 15.9mm to 17.8mm. (For reference, the 2015 MacBook Pro was 18mm thick.) It's an increase of 1.9mm for the Spectre, but HP says it's now including a battery that's 23 percent larger in exchange. At the same time, the laptop is also getting narrower, with its body shrinking from 14.8 inches wide to 14 inches wide. Unfortunately, the claimed three hours of additional battery life aren't meant to make this laptop into some long-lasting wonder -- they're really just meant to normalize its battery life. HP will only be selling the 15.6-inch x360 with a 4K display this year, and that requires a lot more power. By increasing the laptop's battery capacity, HP is able to push the machine's battery life from the 9.5 hours it estimated for the 4K version of its 2016 model to about 12 hours and 45 minutes for this model. So it is adding three hours of battery life, but in doing so, it's merely matching the battery life of last year's 1080p model. The x360 is also being updated to include Intel's Kaby Lake processors. It includes options that max out at an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics. It's supposed to be released February 26th, with pricing starting at $1,278 for an entry-level model.
Security

How Russia Recruited Elite Hackers For Its Cyberwar (nypost.com) 236

Lasrick quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): For more than three years, rather than rely on military officers working out of isolated bunkers, Russian government recruiters have scouted a wide range of programmers, placing prominent ads on social media sites, offering jobs to college students and professional coders, and even speaking openly about looking in Russia's criminal underworld for potential talent. From the New York Post: "Russia's Defense Ministry bought advertising on Vkontakta, the country's most popular social media site, to lure those who were more talented with a keyboard than an AK-47 rifle. 'If you graduated from college, if you are a technical specialist, if you are ready to use your knowledge, we give you an opportunity,' the ad promised, according to the Times. The ad went on to assure recruits that they would be part of units called science squadrons based at military installations where they would live in 'comfortable accommodation' and showed an apartment outfitted with a washing machine, the Times reported. The Defense Ministry even dangled the chance to dodge Russia's mandatory draft by allowing university students to join a science squadron instead and then questioned them about their proficiency with programming languages, the report said."
Privacy

Watchdog Group Claims Smart Toys Are Spying On Kids (mashable.com) 70

The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission warning of security and privacy holes associated with a pair of smart toys designed for children. Mashable reports: "This complaint concerns toys that spy," reads the complaint, which claims the Genesis Toys' My Friend Cayla and i-QUE Intelligent Robot can record and collect private conversations and offer no limitations on the collection and use of personal information. Both toys use voice recognition, internet connectivity and Bluetooth to engage with children in conversational manner and answer questions. The CDD claims they do all of this in wildly insecure and invasive ways. Both My Friend Cayla and i-QUE use Nuance Communications' voice-recognition platform to listen and respond to queries. On the Genesis Toy site, the manufacturer notes that while "most of Cayla's conversational features can be accessed offline," searching for information may require an internet connection. The promotional video for Cayla encourages children to "ask Cayla almost anything." The dolls work in concert with mobile apps. Some questions can be asked directly, but the toys maintain a constant Bluetooth connection to the dolls so they can also react to actions in the app and even appear to identify objects the child taps on on screen. While some of the questions children ask the dolls are apparently recorded and sent to Nuance's servers for parsing, it's unclear how much of the information is personal in nature. The Genesis Privacy Policy promises to anonymize information. The CDD also claims, however, that My Friend Cayla and i-Que employ Bluetooth in the least secure way possible. Instead of requiring a PIN code to complete pairing between the toy and a smartphone or iPad, "Cayla and i-Que do not employ... authentication mechanisms to establish a Bluetooth connection between the doll and a smartphone or tablet. The dolls do not implement any other security measure to prevent unauthorized Bluetooth pairing." Without a pairing notification on the toy or any authentication strategy, anyone with a Bluetooth device could connect to the toys' open Bluetooth networks, according to the complaint.
HP

HP Shutting Down Default FTP, Telnet Access To Network Printers (pcworld.com) 83

Security experts consider the aging FTP and Telnet protocols unsafe, and HP has decided to clamp down on access to networked printers through the remote-access tools. From a report on PCWorld: Some of HP's new business printers will, by default, be closed to remote access via protocols like FTP and Telnet. However, customers can activate remote printing access through those protocols if needed. "HP has started the process of closing older, less-maintained interfaces including ports, protocols and cipher suites" identified by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as less than secure, the company said in a statement. In addition, HP also announced firmware updates to existing business printers with improved password and encryption settings, so hackers can't easily break into the devices.
Crime

Foxconn Employee Faces 10-Year Prison Sentence For Stealing 5,700 iPhones Worth $1.5 Million (thenextweb.com) 45

A Taiwanese Foxconn manager faces a stiff prison sentence after he stole 5,700 iPhones from his employer, and went to sell them for $1.56 million. The Next Web reports: Foxconn is a tech manufacturing giant. It makes a lot of things, including laptops for HP, phones for Apple, games consoles for Sony, and its workers so depressed it has to install suicide nets. The Taiwanese manager at the center of this crime -- known only by his family name, Tsai -- worked in the testing department at Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, mainland China. According to Taiwanese prosecutors, Tsai ordered eight of his subordinates to smuggle out thousands of iPhones which were used by the company for testing and quality assurance purposes. These were destined to be scrapped after use. The stolen iPhones (mostly iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s models) made their way to stores in Shenzhen, and went on to make Tsai and his accomplices nearly $1.56 million USD (Tw$50 million). Tsai has since been charged with breach of trust and, if found guilty, he faces a maximum 10-year jail term.
Portables (Apple)

Slashdot Asks: Which Windows Laptop Could Replace a MacBook Pro? 315

Last month, Apple unveiled new MacBook Pros, featuring an OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID, and all-new form factor that shaves off roughly 3mm in thickness. There are three base versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i5 processors and 8GB of memory (upgradable to 16GB RAM and dual-core Intel Core i7 processors) for $1,499, $1,799 and $1,999. The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with Core i7 processors and 16GB of memory for $2,399 and $2,799. Of course, adapters and AppleCare support are sold separately. The new laptops are great for Apple users -- but what about Windows users? Is there a Windows laptop that matches the new MacBook Pro in terms of build quality, reliability, and performance? Jack Schofield via The Guardian attempts to help Patrick, who is looking for a PC that matches Apple's new offerings as closely as possible. "I use my Mac for all the usual surfing, watching videos, listening to music and so on," Patrick writes. "I also use Adobe Photoshop pretty heavily and video-editing software more lightly." Schofield writes: The Dell XPS 13 and 15 are the most obvious alternatives to MacBooks. Unfortunately, they are at the top of this price range. You can still get an old-model XPS 13 (9350) for $950, but that has a Core i5-6200U with only 4GB of memory. The latest 9360 version has a 2.5GHz Core i5-7200U, 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD for $1,050. If you go for a 512GB SSD at $1,150, you're only saving $420 on a new 2.0GHz MacBook Pro. HP's Spectre x360 range offers similar features to Dell's XPS range, except that all the x360 laptops have touch screens that you can rotate to enable "tent" (eg for movie viewing) or tablet operation. The cheapest model is the HP Spectre x360 13-4126na. This has a 13in screen, a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for $1,050. You can upgrade to an HP Spectre x360 13-4129na with better screen resolution -- 2560 x 1440 instead of 1920 x 1080 -- plus a 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U and 512GB SSD for $1,270. Again, this is not much cheaper than a 2.0GHz MacBook Pro 13. You could also look at the Lenovo ThinkPad T560, which is a robust, professional 15.6in laptop that starts at $800. Do any Slashdotters have any comparable Windows laptops in mind that could replace a new MacBook Pro?
Power

More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted (mercurynews.com) 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.
Google

OpenCAPI: Google and IBM Lead Tech Consortium To Speed Data Centre Performance (thestack.com) 11

An anonymous reader writes: IBM is leading a prestigious consortium of tech players in the open development of a new framework that, the company says, can speed data centre performance by a factor of 10. Participants in the OpenCAPI group include IBM, Google, Nvidia, Mellanox, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Micron and Xilinx. Chris Johnson, a Principal Engineer at Google commented 'Google is committed to open standards and we are excited to contribute to the cross-industry use and development of OpenCAPI'. Google's collaboration with RackSpace on the Zaius server will include IBM's forthcoming POWER9 processor technology, which is built around OpenCAPI. Tom Eby, vice president of Micron's compute and networking business said:"While memory has always been an essential building block for computing, it is quickly becoming the critical technology to unlocking next-generation performance."
Cellphones

Samsung Will Credit You $100 If You Exchange Your Note 7 For Another Samsung Phone (mashable.com) 123

In an effort to presumably stop customers from jumping ship to the iPhone 7 or other non-Samsung device, Samsung is offering up to $100 in credit to every customer who exchanges their Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone. Mashable reports: The company said so in its updated Note 7 recall page which plainly states that the recall has now been expanded to "all Galaxy Note 7 devices," and asks consumers with a Note 7 to power it down and return it to the place of purchase. Bear in mind that the new offer, which goes live on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. ET, is only for U.S. customers, as users in other parts of the world have different recall programs in place. Furthermore, if you've already exchanged your Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, you "will receive up to a $75 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets in addition to the $25 you previously received." Even if you exchange your Note 7 for another brand or ask for a refund, you will still receive a $25 bill credit from select carriers and retailers -- again, less any incentive credits you've already received. "As a sign of our appreciation for your patience and loyalty, we are offering up to a $100 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets if you exchange your Galaxy Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, less any incentive credits already received," Samsung wrote.
Businesses

HP Plans To Cut Up To 4,000 Jobs Over Next 3 Years Amid PC Slump (bloomberg.com) 116

Yesterday, it was reported that the PC industry is on a two-year downslide as PC shipments have declined for eight consecution quarters. Today, HP announced it will cut between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs over the next three years due to the PC slump. Bloomberg reports: The company will eliminate positions across the board, Chief Executive Officer Dion Weisler said on Thursday. The comments came as HP held its analyst meeting in New York. The reductions could include 1,000 jobs being outsourced if the number of positions edges close to 4,000, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak said. Weisler is searching for additional ways to drive profitability after his PC company gained independence last year from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which sells corporate tech gear. Earlier this year, Weisler said HP would need to accelerate a plan announced in 2015 to eliminate about 3,000 positions over three years. Instead, those reductions are to be completed this fiscal year. HP has about 50,000 employees now. HP said the newest job cuts will generate cost savings of about $200 million to $300 million annually starting in fiscal 2020. The Palo Alto, California-based computer maker expects to take $350 million to $500 million in charges in connection with the plan, and of that tool about $200 million will be labor costs, according to a regulatory filing.

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