Friday, September 30, 2016

Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook bat for a green future


Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook bat for a green future
Representational image
By Muqbil Ahmar
Digitisation has left no area of human endeavor untouched. This has led to a veritable data tsunami. No wonder, data centers are springing up everywhere to meet the growing needs for data. With technology shifting from premise-based to cloud-based ones, there is a race to set up data centers all over the world, particularly in India and Asia. Internet services major Amazon launched its first set of data centers in India recently, Microsoft as three, IBM has two, and many others doing the same. As increasingly greater numbers of software companies shift to the cloud, the number of data centers is only set to explode.
Data centers are huge consumers of power
Modern data centers are big industrial facilities that consume huge amounts of power. A typical data center consumes as much electricity as a small town. According to a study by the US Department of Energy, data centers in the country consume around 2% of the total power produced. The facilities used around 70 billion kilowatt hours in 2014, according to the study conducted in collaboration with Stanford, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon universities, roughly translating into energy consumed by 6.4 million average American homes.
Consequently, IT giants are looking at several strategies to offset the environmental costs of running a data center, with the main thrust being on using alternative or renewable energy resources to power the massive facilities. As part of their commitment to a clean environment, technology biggies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon are moving their data centers towards all-green operations.
Microsoft leverages green power for its data centers
Microsoft recently announced that its data centers globally would be powered by 50 percent renewable energy by 2018. The IT giant also plans to increase the use of renewable power for data centers to 60 percent by 2020s.
“As we begin to tap the power of the cloud to address these challenges, we must also ensure that we are building a responsible cloud. Tremendous amounts of energy will be required to power this data-driven revolution. The leading cloud companies have a responsibility to address this energy usage. And Microsoft believes that, as large energy consumers, we have the opportunity to drive change that will benefit not only our company but the world,” said Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, on Microsoft’s Green Blog.
“That is why Microsoft announced a new, principled approach to helping advance a clean energy future. We committed to greater transparency, including reporting our energy consumption across regions and the mix of sources for the power we use, while continuing to report our total energy consumption and impact of our carbon program,” added Bernard.
Microsoft is already powered by 40-45% renewable energy sources, claims Microsoft. The IT giant has committed to using 50 percent renewable energy by 2018, 60% by early next decade and to keep enhancing its capacity from there.
Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook also join the bandwagon
Recently, Apple too announced the completion of a 50MW solar farm in Arizona, USA, to offset power consumption by the company’s new data center in the same region. The company also aims for 100% renewable energy use in the future and has claimed that in 2015, 93% of its energy came from renewable sources of energy. In fact, Apple has been investing in renewable energy resources for many years.
Amazon also has plans to build a 253MW wind farm in the USA to to power its massive cloud operations. The wind farm would be the company’s fifth and largest renewable energy project till date. The cloud giant has also announced other wind and solar projects. According to the company, the entire yearly production of the renewable energy projects will surpass 2.6 million MWh. It has also claimed that 40 percent of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) energy needs would be met by renewable sources by the end of 2016.
Google has aimed for 100% renewable energy sources, claiming to be the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Facebook too plans to use renewables sources to meet 50 percent of its data center power needs by 2018. Smaller companies like Salesforce too have made substantial commitments to explore renewable energy options.
Renewable energy facilities offset environmental costs of data centers
According to NASA figures, global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree since 1880, while 9 of the 10 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. In 2012, Arctic ice shrank to its lowest ever level. Global sea levels are rising at 3.4 mm per year. Against such a backdrop, cloud giants want to ensure that their operations don’t have an adverse effect on the environment.
As the hunger for data increases in modern society, giant cloud providers will scramble to keep their operations environmentally sustainable and ecologically viable, so that the environmental costs don’t overrun the cost of digitalisation.
With over 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, the author is a technology evangelist and avid blogger. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices purchased since 15 September will not be banned: DGCA


Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices purchased since 15 September will not be banned: DGCA
Image: Reuters
Samsung India has issued a statement saying that the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India has lifted the restrictions on in-flight use of new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices purchased after 15 September 2016.
Samsung states that the safe Galaxy Note 7 devices will feature a green battery status indicator and that these devices are safe for use on flights. Samsung is also quick to point out that the phone hasn’t actually launched in India and that when it will, the units sold will only be the safe units.
“We recognize the inconvenience this has caused to customers, flyers and airline authorities, and remain committed towards customer safety,” said Samsung, in its statement.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has been at the centre of a global controversy these past few weeks. Reports of at least 35 Note 7 devices blowing up at random forced Samsung to issue a worldwide recall of the devices.
Samsung is expecting to process at least 2.5 million affected devices. It’s important to note that Chinese Note 7 devices were unaffected by the recall since those devices used a battery from a different manufacturer. The replacement Note 7 devices will host batteries made by that same manufacturer.

Brazil and India will not get self-driving cars till drivers are disciplined, says Renault Nissan head


Brazil and India will not get self-driving cars till drivers are disciplined, says Renault Nissan head
Representational image
Autonomous cars will first hit the streets of nations where drivers are “disciplined” and “respect the rules”, the Renault-Nissan group boss said Thursday.
In an unequivocal stab at the “flexible” approaches to mapping and driving rules in countries like Brazil and India, Carlos Ghosn said the futuristic vehicles would remain off the cards there for now.
“You need to have a mapping which is precise and reliable… You need to have also driving rules which are being respected, because autonomous cars respect the rules,” Carlos Ghosn told reporters at the Paris motor show.
“You know very well that in some cities in Brazil, this is a joke, you live in Brazil, I live in Brazil, at night cars don’t stop at the red light. Nobody stops.”
The Renault-Nissan alliance plans to launch at least 10 driverless cars by 2020.
Ghosn also said that in India’s sprawling metropolis Mumbai, “people don’t always respect the rules.”
He said he believed self-driving cars would come first “to very disciplined driving countries” like Japan, the United States, France or Germany.
“And then little by little we’re going to apply the technology for countries where things are a little bit more flexible.”

OnePlus 3 Soft Gold variant to be exclusively available on Amazon starting 1 October


OnePlus 3 Soft Gold variant to be exclusively available on Amazon starting 1 October
Image Credit: OnePlus
After a long wait, OnePlus has finally announced the launch of the ‘Soft Gold’ variant of of the OnePlus 3. ‘Soft Gold’ joins the already available ‘Graphite’ variant as an option for potential OnePlus buyers. The company hinted at the arrival of the variant in July and finally announced the availability of the variant earlier this month. The variant was eagerly awaited by the consumers after OnePlus announced it during the launch event back in June. The device will be available starting 12:01 AM, 1 October 2016 on Amazon.
Image Credit: OnePlus
Image Credit: OnePlus
Nothing changes with the new Soft Gold variant other than the device colour. It will pack in a Snapdragon 820 processor running on 6GB RAM with 64GB internal storage to store your data. It will feature DASH charging, an in-house implementation of Quick Charge offered by Qualcomm in addition to 16MP rear and 8MP front camera, optic AMOLED 5.5-inch screen and an ultra-fast fingerprint reader. The device will be powered by OxygenOS, an in-house fork of Android without any excessive changes or teaming. It will support NFC, Dual-SIM 4G VoLTE support and Bluetooth regarding connectivity options.
Image Credit: OnePlus
Image Credit: OnePlus
“The OnePlus 3 Soft Gold version has caught the imagination of our Indian fans, and we are pleased to bring the popular variant just in time for the festival season. The Soft Gold variant perfectly blends in with the celebratory fervour and is the perfect gift you can give yourself or to your loved ones this Diwali,” added Vikas Agarwal, General Manager for OnePlus India.

Customer smashes iPhones and Macs in Apple Store in France


Customer smashes iPhones and Macs in Apple Store in France
Image Credit: REUTER
An angry Apple customer smashed at least 14 iPhones, 4 Macs and 1 MacBook Air inside an Apple Store in France. The agitated customer went on a clear rampage inside the Apple store in Dijon, France. According to the reports by The Verge and the video posted on YouTube, the customer was calmly going around the store and smashing the Apple devices using an iron ball.
The video showing the destruction of Apple devices is uploaded by user “kekess _______” on YouTube, presumably only to upload videos related to this incident.  This video is one of the three where the angry customer is talking about his rights to return the device and refund. Other videos show him casually exiting the store on encountering security guards and attempting to avoid them outside the store.
Two mall security guards seem to be trying to pacifying and bring him under control while he was trying to escape the guards in the final video.  According to reports by French media website “Le Bien Republic,” the customer is in police custody at the time of writing the story. The reason, identity or the number of devices destroyed could not be confirmed at the time of writing but it sure is troubling. This comes right after the report where it is predicted thatiPhone sales can go further down in India.

US Securities and Exchange Commission may make Yahoo the test case of data breach disclosure rules


US Securities and Exchange Commission may make Yahoo the test case of data breach disclosure rules
Yahoo’s disclosure that hackers stole user data from at least 500 million accounts in 2014 has highlighted shortcomings in U.S. rules on when cyber attacks must be revealed and their enforcement. Democratic Senator Mark Warner this week asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives properly disclosed the attack, which Yahoo blamed on Sept. 22 on a “state-sponsored actor.”
The Yahoo hack could become a test case of the SEC’s guidelines, said Jacob Olcott, former Senate Commerce Committee counsel who helped develop them, due to the size of the breach, intense public scrutiny and uncertainty over the timing of Yahoo’s discovery. Yahoo has not specifically addressed when it learned of the 2014 attack. And the vagueness of SEC’s 2011 rules on disclosure and its failure to enforce them are drawing equal attention, privacy lawyers and cyber security experts said.
The agency has “been looking for the right case to bring forward,” said Olcott. The agency in 2011 told publicly traded companies to report hacking incidents that could have a “material adverse effect on the business” but did not define that. SEC has never acted against a company for failing to disclose a cyber security incident or threat, and it has brought just two enforcement actions against companies for insufficient data protection, an agency spokesman said. Lawyers said this reflected difficulty in determining if breaches were material and many companies’ belief that reporting on cyber threats generally satisfies the disclosure requirement.
Yahoo has not offered a precise timeline about when it was made aware of the breach. On Sept. 9, it said in an SEC filing it did not know of “any incidents of, or third party claims alleging … unauthorized access” of customers’ personal data that could have a material adverse effect on Verizon Communication Inc’s planned $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo’s core business. Since then, Yahoo has not clarified if it knew of the attack before that SEC filing. “Our investigation into this matter is ongoing and the issues are complex,” a Yahoo spokesman said last week.
In his letter, Warner asked the SEC to evaluate whether the current disclosure regime was adequate. He cited reports that fewer than 100 of 9,000 public companies disclosed a material data breach since 2010. “I don’t know that we need new rules. But in certain situations, you may need more aggressive enforcement,” said Roberta Karmel, a Brooklyn Law School professor. The SEC in 2014 examined whether cyber disclosure rules needed to be strengthened and imposed new requirements for broker-dealers and investment advisers but not public companies.
‘Punish the victim’
Some policymakers worry rules compelling prompt disclosure of cyber attacks could deter companies from cooperating with authorities.“We cannot blame executives for worrying that what starts today as an honest conversation about a cyber attack could end tomorrow in a ‘punish the victim’ regulatory enforcement action,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said this week. Congress last year expanded liability protections for companies that share cyber information with the government, and Pritzker urged granting companies temporary immunity during the response to a hack.
Amid SEC inaction, the Federal Trade Commission has brought 60 successful data security cases since 2001 in part, lawyers said, because its authority is clearer than the SEC’s. Those cases have dealt with deceptive statements by companies and security lapses. The FTC is hampered by the lack of a national requirement for companies to notify the public about data breaches. That idea got widespread support after the 2013 hacking of shoppers’ credit card information from Target Corp. But legislation proposed by President Barack Obama in 2015 fizzled.

Avast may further look to expand business after AVG integration says CEO


Avast may further look to expand business after AVG integration says CEO
Avast Software, maker of the world’s most popular computer antivirus program, will need a year to absorb its $1.3 billion buy of rival AVG but may seek further acquisitions before an expected flotation, its chief executive said in an interview. Prague-based Avast closed its purchase on Friday of AVG Technologies, another software firm with Czech roots specializing in consumer security.
The combined company will have over 400 million users and 40 percent of the consumer computer market outside of China. While Avast will delist AVG shares, it has its own plans to eventually offer shares, maybe as soon as 2019. Before that, it must fully integrate AVG and will then look at mid-tier acquisitions for its push into mobile and, possibly, to expand its small- and medium-sized business offering.
“We have to digest AVG first and that is going to take us pretty much all of 2017 to really integrate. Then we will look at expanding the business after that,” Avast CEO Vincent Steckler said. “If we do something else to bulk up the company it would be substantive and I expect it would be in the hundreds (of millions of dollars).” Avast had long sought to tie up with AVG, which also started around 25 years ago as then-Czechoslovakia shifted to free markets after decades of communism.
The new Avast, which will still offer both brands, will have combined revenue of more than $700 million in 2016. The bulk of that will come from its consumer products, but it wants to grow its income from the mobile and business sectors. The tie-up, the biggest deal in company history, will give Avast heft to compete with the likes of Microsoft or McAfee, part of Intel Security.
Steckler said the company would avoid recognizable names when it seeks acquisitions in future but said potential targets would be bigger than start-ups. He said future deals would look at growing the company’s mobile business outside the United States, where it already has a good presence. On the business side, it could concentrate on adding network security solutions.

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