How many times a day do you check your smartphone?
How many times a day do you check your smartphone?
Microsoft showed off the latest version of its flagship operating system at an event in San Francisco Tuesday. It wasn’t a complete unveiling — Microsoft focused on a handful of features that will benefit business customers.
Here’s a quick rundown:
– Return of the Start menu. After being inexplicably removed from Windows 8, the Start menu is back, and includes a new personalizable space for favorite apps, programs and websites.
– Apps in windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft has standardized the format for apps from the Windows Store and regular desktop programs. Both now run in traditional windows that can be resized and minimized from the bar at the top.
– Multiple desktops. A feature Mac users have enjoyed for years: the ability to create and swap between different desktops.
– A soup-ed Snap. The “Snap” feature, which allows users to work on multiple apps at once from the same screen, has been redesigned with a new quadrant layout to allow for up to four programs at once.
– New Task view button. A new button on the task bar takes you straight to a single screen that displays all your open apps and files (the old Alt + Tab trick).
One noteworthy aspect of Tuesday’s announcement was the revelation that Microsoft will allow business customers to choose specific Windows features to upgrade one at a time, rather than being forced to transition all at once from an older version.
Windows 10 is a key part of new CEO Satya Nadella’s effort to position Microsoft as a “mobile-first, cloud-first” company with a particular emphasis on productivity software. The goal is to make products like Office, Outlook and Skype staples for individual customers regardless of the device they’re using, and to transform Windows from a desktop operating system to cloud computing platform that can be accessed from anywhere.
Microsoft says Windows 10 “will run across the broadest range of devices ever,” from consumer products like PCs, tablets, Xboxes and phones to enterprise data centers and “Internet of Things” connected devices. There will be just a single app store for all these formats, and Microsoft says it will be possible for developers to write an application once and then deploy it across device types.
The internet search company announced a new partnership with researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara to develop “quantum computing” technology.
The science behind quantum computing is highly technical and still very theoretical. In simple terms, quantum computers make use of quantum bits, or qubits, to process information, as opposed to the binary system of ones and zeros used by traditional computer processors.
Scientists say qubits can behave like ones or zeros, or both. In theory, this should make quantum computers exponentially faster than digital computers that use a binary system to process information.
China is currently home to the world’s fastest computer, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer, which is capable of nearly 55 quadrillion of calculations per second. A quantum computer could make that look like a snail.
Google (Tech30) and UCSB say they will form a “quantum artificial intelligence team,” which will continue to lay the groundwork for quantum computing.,
The search giant has already been working with scientists at D-Wave Systems on a quantum computer system. D-Wave is developing what some call the first commercially viable quantum computer, the “Vesuvius.” It is also working with NASA on a 1,000 qubit “Washington” processor.
Google has been branching out into emerging technologies, from self-driving cars andwearable devices to drones and satellites, as it looks for growth opportunities beyond its market-leading search business.
The cloud, simply, refers to software and services that run on the Internet instead of your computer. Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Netflix, Amazon Cloud Drive, Flickr, Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, Yahoo Mail — those are all cloud services.
There are many advantages to using the cloud. Since the videos, photos, documents, games and other software that lives in the cloud are available on any device with an Internet connection, you can access your stuff from anywhere.
The cloud lets you watch half an episode of Breaking Bad on your TV at home and finish it on your smartphone while riding the train. You can play Candy Crush on your iPad and continue to the next level on your PC at work (not that you’d ever play Candy Crush at work). You can buy a song on iTunes and have it automatically sent to all your iGizmos.
In fact, you might be surprised how much of your stuff is in the cloud.
That’s because mobile apps and PC software are becoming inseparable from the cloud. For example, many services, including iCloud and Google+ Photos, automatically back up photos you take with your smartphone. (That can get you in trouble if, say, you take naked photos and delete them from your phone — there’ still a copy in the cloud.)
There’s also a lot of personal information stored in the cloud that you didn’t create. Health care providers store your medical records in the cloud, insurance companies put your claims there, and friends post photos of you on Facebook. That’s a great convenience when you want to access the information — and a bit scary when you hand the keys to your personal data over to third parties.
Is it safe? Only as much as you trust the company — and your own passwords. Most cloud companies have excellent security records. But a recent bug in Apple’s (Tech30)iCloud allowed hackers to guess celebrities’ passwords as many times as they wanted until they got it right, letting them access nude photos.,
You can run from the cloud — but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide. Your job might require you to log onto cloud-based software. Microsoft’s next version of Windows is expected to run some features of its operating system in the cloud.
So where does it all live? Instead of housing information on your hard drive or your phone’s memory, your stuff is stored in massive data centers around the world.
Amazon (Tech30), Google ( , Tech30), Apple, Microsoft ( , Tech30)and Facebook ( , Tech30) are among the biggest data center operators for consumer cloud services. There are 320 million iCloud users. Facebook users have uploaded more than 400 billion photos and add an average 350 million a day. Amazon’s cloud services operate in 190 countries around the world.,
That’s a lot of data.
These companies’ massive server farms are so vast and so power-hungry that they are responsible for more than 2% of the United States’ electricity usage, according to researchers at Villanova University. If the global cloud computing industry was a single country, it would be the fifth-largest in the world in terms of energy consumption, according to Ed Turkel of Hewlett-Packard’s Hyperscale Business Unit.
But it’s not just consumers who use the cloud. Businesses are increasingly ditching their internal servers and software in favor of cloud-based ones.
Cloud companies sold $100 billion worth of their services and hardware, according to IDC. But the cloud still has a lot of room to grow: Companies are expected to spend $2.1 trillion on computers, servers, software and services, according to Gartner.
“The cloud” may be a nebulous term (get it?), but it’s an everyday part of our lives.
Flame, a stealthy and complex cyberweapon, was found to be spying on Iran’s government officials and computer systems.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The “Flame” virus, the most complex computer bug ever discovered, has been lurking for years inside Iranian government computers, spying on the country’s officials.
Publicly unveiled this week, the bug is one of the most potent cyber weapons ever spotted in the wild. Security professionals say it marks a new milestone in the escalating digital espionage battle.
Flame’s complexity and power “exceed[s] those of all other cyber menaces known to date,” research firm Kaspersky Lab wrote in a dispatch about its investigation into Flame.
In a statement posted on its website on Monday, the Iranian National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) said it discovered Flame after “multiple investigations” over the past few months.
The stealthy malware has been in the wild for at least two years, the CERT team said, evading detection by security software.
It’s a spy bug that’s capable of, among other things, capturing what’s on a user’s screen, turning on a computer’s microphone to record conversations, detecting who and what is on a network, collecting lists of vulnerable passwords, and transferring a user’s computer files to another server.
The attack worked. Flame was likely responsible for recent incidents of “mass data loss” in the government, Iran’s CERT team said in its terse announcement.
Patrik Runald, director of research at Websense Security Labs, said Flame is “potentially the most advanced malware to date, at least in terms of functionality combined with ability to stay hidden over a long period of time.”
Flame is an unusually giant piece of malware: At 20 megabytes, it’s about 20 to 30 times larger than typical computer bugs.
Yet it remained undetected in Iran’s government computer systems dating back to at least 2010, and it was not discovered by any of the 43 antivirus programs the CERT team tested on it.
Now that Flame has been exposed, Iran is taking defensive measures. Iran’s CERT said it developed a Flame detector over the past few weeks and it is spreading around a removal tool to rid the government’s systems of the virus.
Computer viruses don’t stay where you put them, and Iran probably isn’t the only victim.
A Hungarian research lab that has been doing its own analysis said it has found traces of the bug in Europe and the United Arab Emirates. The lab, which began studying the virus this month, estimates that it may have been active “for as long as five to eight years.”
So if Flame was spying, who was it spying for?
The Iranian CERT team said it believes there is a “close relation” between Flame two previous cyber attacks on Iran, known as the Stuxnet and Duqu computer worms.
“Stuxnet” is a word that sends a shiver of fear through cybersecurity pros.
In an extensive feature on the virus, Vanity Fair calls it “one of the great technical blockbusters in malware history.” The bug targets “industrial control systems” — that’s jargon for critical national infrastructure — and it had the unprecedented ability to sabotage its target and then cover its tracks.
Stuxnet was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program in 2010. The virus caused centrifuges in a targeted facility to spin out of control, ultimately destroying it.
A related bug, Duqu, also targeted Iran’s nuclear program. It was discovered last year and shows evidence of having been developed by engineers with access to Stuxnet’s source code.
Who are those engineers? The widespread industry belief is that Stuxnet was created by the United States, Israel, or through the collaboration of both.
“Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology,” Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, said Tuesday in an interview with Israeli Army radio. “In that respect our achievements open up all sorts of opportunities for us.”
But cyber war isn’t a one-sided affair. If Flame was a targeted cyber attack carried out by United States or Israel, the same code could be reverse-engineered by Iran and sent back our way.
“It’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country,” Kaspersky said about Flame. “Unlike with conventional warfare, the more developed countries are actually the most vulnerable in this case.”
This isn’t traditional war. The Internet has leveled the playing field, allowing governments that would never launch military attacks on one another to target one another in cyberspace.
“In warfare, when a bomb goes off it detonates; in cyberwarfare, malware keeps going and gets proliferated,” said Roger Cressey, senior vice president at security consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, at a Bloomberg cybersecurity conference held in New York last month.
“Once a piece of malware is launched in wild, what happens to that code and its capability?” he added. “Things like Stuxnet are being reverse-engineered.”
Once it’s out there, the code get also get into the hands of citizens or terrorists with a sophisticated knowledge of software coding. That’s why some cybersecurity advocates are calling on the U.S. government tobetter protect itself against an all-out “code war” that some see as inevitable.
“The terrifying thing is that governments no longer have a monopoly on this capability,” said Tom Kellerman, former commissioner of President Obama’s cyber security council, at the Bloomberg conference. “There is code out there that puts it in anyone’s hands.”
In the wake of a multi-million-dollar online scam, more than 300,000 computer users worldwide could find themselves without Web access this summer.
Luckily for them, it will only take a few clicks to clean things up.
The FBI announced that it’s created a website where users can check whether they’re infected with malware and remove it if they are. Check your computer here — http://www.dcwg.org. The site was at times difficult to access on Monday, presumably due to heavy traffic.
Let us explain: In November, six Estonian nationals were arrested on charges of fraud after a two-year FBI probe called Operation Ghost Click.
They’re accused of infecting computers worldwide with malware called DNS Changer, which opened up the computers to viruses. The alleged crooks used the access to direct users to their own servers and manipulate online advertising, racking up more than $14 million in illegal income, according to the FBI.
“They were organized and operating as a traditional business but profiting illegally as the result of the malware,” an unnamed FBI agent said in a news release about the arrests. “There was a level of complexity here that we haven’t seen before.”
The FBI originally estimated the scam had hit millions of computers worldwide, but has since scaled back those estimates to hundreds of thousands. They think about 350,000 computers are still infected, including 85,000 in the United States.
The U.S. computers included some at government agencies, including NASA.
Last month, the FBI announced that it had set up temporary “clean” servers to make sure the users impacted by the attack didn’t lose Web access. Those servers will be shut down on July 9, and anyone still infected will be unable to access the Internet afterward.
If it had merely shut down the rogue servers, many of those infected wouldn’t have been able to access the Web at all, the FBI said.
Most infected users on the FBI servers may not have noticed anything different, although the malware itself may have made their Web access slower and disabled their anti-virus software.
Domain Name System, or DNS, servers are what online computers visit to reach the website they are seeking. By routing them to rogue servers, criminals can control which websites a computer visits.
By visiting the website set up by the FBI, users can click to see if their computer is infected. An image with a green background appears if they’re OK, while a red one shows up if they’re not. If infected, they’re then directed to information on how to remove the malware.
Now that Google Drive is finally a reality, how does it stack up against the cloud competition?
Google’s new cloud-based document and storage solution is priced aggressively and boasts best-in-class integration with other Google services — including Google Docs. As you can see from our hands-on, Google Drive is an impressive product.
Still, the cloud storage and collaboration space is more competitive than ever before. Google faces competition not just from cloud companies such as Box and Dropbox, but from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon as well.
Storage and Pricing
Google is pricing Google Drive at a VERY aggressive level. For $30 a year ($2.50 a month), users get 25GB to use for Google Drive and Picasa, plus 25GB of Gmail storage.
This is more than what Amazon and Microsoft charge for an additional 20GB, but less than the price of Dropbox, Apple and Box.net.
For $60 a year ($5 a month), Google offers 100GB of Drive and Picasa storage (plus 25GB for Gmail), which clocks in below Amazon, Apple, Dropbox and Box.net. For penny pinchers, Microsoft’s offer of 100GB of additional storage — on top of the 7 or 25GB that users already get with the service — is just $50 a year.
Dropbox and Box are among the more expensive services. In the case of Box, the company’s real focus is on business users. In fact, the company has told us on multiple occasions that its focus isn’t so much on Dropbox, but on Microsoft SharePoint.
A 100GB Dropbox account costs more than three times what a Google Drive account costs. In this area, Google is clearly trying to undermine its competition on a per-GB pricing basis.
Box’s pricing is also significantly higher than Google Drive; however, that differentiation is also part of the company’s focus. As Box has told us on multiple occasions, it wants to replace Microsoft SharePoint in the SMB and Enterprise space.
While Google is also looking in this direction, Box has a bevy of services and integrations that are focused on replacing a company’s central file server.
The most limiting factor of the majority of cloud storage and collaboration services isn’t the total amount of storage — it’s the limitations on upload size.
Google has an impressive 10GB limit on files or folders. This is significantly more than the 2GB limit imposed by most cloud services. Only Dropbox’s desktop apps for Mac, Windows and Linux do better. With Dropbox, the only limitation is the size of a storage plan.
Collaboration and Sharing
Like Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Box, Google Drive offers in-browser access to files and folders, including document editing via Google Docs.
And like SkyDrive, Box and iCloud, third-party applications can plug into Google Drive to retrieve or store files. This makes keeping apps synchronized across devices and platforms much more seamless.
Although Google Drive’s Android app is already around, Google is making iOS users wait for access to the app. This is in contrast to Dropbox, Box and SkyDrive, which all offer official or unofficial solutions for multiple mobile platforms.
Amazon and Apple are behind in the mobile access game. Apple makes iCloud exclusively available to iOS 5 users, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive only integrates with Android (and the integration is limited at that).
Part of the reason that Dropbox has such a loyal following is because of its fantastic Desktop integration. Mac, Windows and Linux users can automatically sync and share files from their native file systems without having to bother with desktop uploads.
This is a similar approach to the one Box has taken with its Box Sync service for Windows, and to what Microsoft employs for SkyDrive for Windows and Mac.
Google Drive’s desktop app works essentially the same as SkyDrive — in other words, it isn’t as tightly coupled with the file system as Dropbox, but it does the job.
Which cloud storage service an individual or business decides to use is a decision that should encompass more than just comparing specs and pricing. Take time to use a service and see how it integrates into your workflow before plunking down cash on an upgrade.
For users and businesses heavily tied to Google Docs, Google Drive will likely make sense. For those that love Dropbox or need some of Box’s more robust features, Google Drive might not fit the bill. For Microsoft Office users, consider giving Microsoft SkyDrive a try — it works well and also offers online access to basic web and editing apps.
We’d also like to give Canonical’s Ubuntu One a shout-out. We didn’t include it in our direct comparison because of its more limited options, but for Windows and Ubuntu users, its free service is worth a look as well.
Tell us your thoughts on the cloud storage and collaboration space. Does Google Drive have the goods to compete? Let us know in the comments.