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Intel works to end 'lost' data center devices.
Posted by Arun . on 30 May 2015 09:34 AM

Many data centers today inventory physical assets the same way grocery stores track food, with barcodes and scanners. It's not efficient and a certain percentage of assets will become "lost" because asset databases haven't been updated.

But Intel is considering adding active RFID tags to its chipsets, replacing barcode scanning with automated, wireless tracking of devices such as servers, networking computing modules, storage and other data center devices.

There are third-party vendors that already provide asset tracking with active RFID. But if Intel includes this functionality in its chipset, this could make RFID a near universal feature in data centers in the years to come.

Intel has made prototypes of RFID-enabled chipsets, and Jeff Klaus, general manager of data center solutions at Intel, says some have been advocating internally to include this capability. But there has been no formal decision at Intel about whether to move from prototype to production.

The opportunity comes about every two years with a chip upgrade, said he said.

With RFID, a data center worker, for instance, could walk down an aisle and see asset information and immediately populate a table, or use a Google glass-type device, for that matter, to recognize assets.

"There are some data center operators that have no idea how many assets they have, or how many servers they are operating," said Klaus.

One person who sees benefit to RFID in data centers is Scott Killian, who until last year was in charge of AOL's six primary data centers, managing tens of thousands of assets. Today, Killian is vice president of energy programs at the Uptime Institute.

At AOL, Killian said they were required to submit data on all the data centers each year to finance. It would take about two days and many workers to scan all the equipment in just one 90,000-square-foot raised floor space.

Killian said they saw RFID as the future, but said the cost of deployment was a big obstacle. One estimate put the deployment cost at anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million for AOL's operations, he said.

Exactly how this RFID data would become available to data center operators remains to be seen. But Intel has long been in the business of aggregating data, and already collects data such as CPU, memory and motherboard power, and makes APIs available to third-party system management providers as well as OEMs.

Data centers may know the IP addresses of all their equipment, and have very detailed asset logs. But in the period between inventories, equipment is moved around and asset tags may fall off, and the asset record is never 100%, said Killian.

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Long-time leaker pegs July RTM for Windows 10.
Posted by Arun . on 29 May 2015 09:51 AM

A long-time leaker of Microsoft secrets today said that the company would declare Windows 10 finished in July, and ship the new OS to device makers that same month.

"The release of Windows 10 RTM has been confirmed for July 2015," tweeted WZor, who regularly leaks information about Windows and non-public builds of the operating system.

WZor did not elaborate, but in a subsequent reply to another tweet said, "Microsoft is behind schedule with RTM but the late July sounds reasonable to me."

RTM, for "release to manufacturing," is a Microsoft label for the milestone when code is considered sufficiently stable to pass along to device makers, or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

WZor was not the first to call out July as a likely Windows 10 RTM timeline. Last month, the CEO of chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) said that Windows 10 would launch at the end of July. Her comment was related to AMD's chip inventory and orders from its customers.

Even under that schedule, analysts were skeptical that OEMs would be able to put products on shelves in time to make the back-to-school sales season, one of the two most important selling stretches in the U.S.

Microsoft has declined to confirm the July timetable, and has stuck with its wider "summer" window for the new OS.

Meeting the RTM mark does not necessarily mean that users will have access to Windows 10 at the same time. Historically, Microsoft has reached RTM several weeks before officially releasing an OS to either the general public or its volume license customers.

Three years ago, Microsoft declared RTM for Windows 8 on Aug. 1, 2012; the OS released to the public on Oct. 26, for an interval of just over 13 weeks. In 2009, Windows 7 RTM preceded public release by 14 weeks. (The Windows 8.1 minor upgrade featured a much shorter lag between RTM and launch, just seven weeks.)

If WZor is on the mark, Microsoft will have about the same length of time as Windows 8.1 for Windows 10, since it has committed to releasing the latter "this summer." On the calendar, summer in the northern hemisphere ends Sept. 22.

Windows 10's launch date is of great interest -- more so than for the run-of-the-mill new OS because Microsoft will offer consumers and many small businesses a free upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1 for a one-year post-launch period.

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A lawsuit that alleges Yahoo's email scanning practices are illegal can proceed as a class action complaint, a development that will shine the spotlight on the Yahoo Mail use of messages' content for advertising purposes.

Plaintiffs allege that emails sent to Yahoo Mail users by people who do not have Yahoo Mail accounts are scanned by Yahoo in violation of federal and California wiretapping laws.

In a decision Tuesday evening, Judge Lucy Koh said all U.S. residents who are not Yahoo Mail subscribers but who have sent emails to or received emails from a Yahoo Mail subscriber between Oct. 2, 2011, and now may sue the company.

California residents who are not Yahoo Mail subscribers but who have sent emails to or received emails from a Yahoo Mail subscriber between Oct. 2, 2012 and now may sue the company, according to the judge's filing in the U.S. district court in the northern district of California.

The plaintiffs, who filed for class certification on Feb. 5, allege Yahoo copies the entirety of emails, extracts keywords, and reviews and extracts links and attachments, in violation of the federal Stored Communications Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act.

Yahoo, in its FAQ on Mail, says that its automated systems scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing messages to detect, among other things, certain keywords, partly to provide interest-based ads but also to detect viruses and malware.

The lawsuit alleges Yahoo provides no mechanism for non-Yahoo Mail users to opt out of Yahoo's scanning practices.

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment.

In her decision, Koh sought to distinguish the case from a similar one over which she presided in 2014 involving Gmail. In that case, Koh refused to grant class-action status on behalf of Gmail and non-Gmail users because it was too difficult to determine which users agreed to Google's scanning practices.

In Yahoo's case, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief requiring Yahoo to stop scanning the emails of non-Yahoo Mail users without their consent, and to identify everyone with whom Yahoo has shared or sold information or data collected from non-subscribers' emails, according to the court document.

Daniel Girard and Larry D. King, attorneys for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

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Radio signals can be used to boost cell-phone battery life
Posted by Arun . on 27 May 2015 09:56 AM

Cell phones are constantly transmitting radio signals, whose energy can also be used to boost the battery life of mobile devices.

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed circuitry that converts radio signals from a handset into energy, which is then fed back to the device's battery. The researchers say the technology can increase the battery life of mobile devices by up to 30 percent.

The OSU researchers are working with startup Nikola Labs to commercialize the technology, which they say can be easily implemented in cell-phone cases, and in June will launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund its continued development.

Nikola Labs pitched the concept of an energy-harvesting iPhone 6 case based on the technology at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this month. Nikola Labs estimates the case will be priced at $99.

Limitations in batteries have sparked an interest in energy-harvesting technologies to power battery-free wearables, sensors, implants and other devices. Researchers at universities and technology companies are looking for ways to convert body heat, motion, RF signals and ambient light to energy.

The technology developed by OSU has an antenna to capture the radio signals and a rectifier to convert them from AC into DC power, which is used to recharge a battery. OSU claims the circuitry can squeeze microwatts of power out of radio signals.

The technology kicks into action when signals are transmitted from a mobile device's radio, which itself can be a battery hog because a certain amount of energy is needed to maintain a high-quality signal with a cell-phone tower. However, OSU says its technology siphons off enough power to boost battery life without hurting the quality of phone conversations or data connections.

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Charter Communications is said to be near a US$55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, a deal that would create a broadband powerhouse in the U.S.

The deal could be announced as early as Tuesday, according to articles in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the first to report the story.

Charter also plans to acquire Bright House Networks, a smaller cable company. If successful, the deals would make Charter, currently the fourth biggest cable company in the U.S., second to only Comcast.

This is Charter's second attempt to buy Time Warner Cable. After its first offer was rejected, Comcast in 2014 made its own bid. That deal, however, fell apart in April after the Federal Communications Commission referred the proposed acquisition to a hearing in front of a judge. The move effectively killed that plan because of the time and effort it would have taken.

The U.S. Department of Justice also had been reportedly leaning toward blocking the merger on antitrust grounds, should it have received FCC clearance.

Charter's new bid is higher than Comcast's proposed $45 billion deal. Charter is offering approximately $195 per share 14 percent above Time Warner Cable's closing price Friday, according to the reports, citing people familiar with the matter.
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