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Yahoo Continues to Fight Asset Sell-Off [Report]

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Continues to Fight Asset Sell-Off [Report]

Over the past few months, the future of Yahoo has been a big question. The board of directors has been entertaining the idea of spinning off several aspects of the company. At one point they considered divesting their ownership in Alibaba.com, the Chinese Amazon. More recently, however, the board has decided that Alibaba should stay and Yahoo's core businesses should go.

Included in the current spin-off consideration are the display advertising business, which mostly serves Yahoo's other core businesses, such as news, sports and mail, as well as the Internet business itself. Spinning off the core business could be financially positive to the corporation, as it would be done tax free. On the other hand, the move could take upwards of a year, just ask HP.

Some of the investors, including notoriously loud investor Starboard Value LP, has advocated for an outright sale instead of spinoff. They believe that the faster turnaround and cash injection could help get the company going down whatever path it is they have planned. For now, however, the board is not entertaining this idea. That is, they are not entertaining it this week.

On February 2nd, the company will release its quarterly earnings report. Depending on the reaction to the numbers and, more importantly, the announced plans for the future, the board may take the investors' idea into consideration. It could be a good time to consider it, too, as people close to the situation have said the company has been approached several times about such a sale. Yahoo has not commented on these rumors.

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Valve Adds Additional 3rd Party Hardware Support to SteamOS

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Valve Adds Additional 3rd Party Hardware Support to SteamOS

Valve's "gaming console" Linux-based operating system SteamOS, has not been successful, either commercially or with hardware partners producing Steam Machines. In fact, many manufacturers are skeptical of the platform for a number of reasons. The primary reason for the skepticism might be the lack of games available on the platform, but a leading concern is the lack of hardware that can be used with it.

Many gamers are not big fans of the uncomfortable, awkward controller that is part of the standard setup, meaning that an alternative was needed. In a recent update, Valve has agreed and added support for Microsoft's new Xbox One Elite controller. This new controller is becoming incredibly popular among hardcore console gamers, meaning that supporting the controller could actually gain some traction for Steam Machines. The downside, of course, is that the controller can only be used wired, causing a lot of inconvenience in the livingroom.

Another area that SteamOS has lacked is in the ability to communicate with people on the platform. The addition of Bluetooth pairing in the latest update means that you can now pair any headset to the console, from a cheap cellphone headset to a high-end Monster headset. In addition, Bluetooth means that you could pair a PlayStation 3 or 4 controller with the system, though there is no telling whether or not the buttons will be mapped to anything that matters.

While these new features, available currently in the beta release, might make a lot of Steam Machine owners happy, it is unlikely that it will draw new users to the platform. Before they will be able to get any real traction, Valve still needs to address the biggest issue: catalog.

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Microsoft Adds Intel x86 Support to Windows Phone 10

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Adds Intel x86 Support to Windows Phone 10

With the intense partnership that Microsoft and Intel have had over the past few decades, combined with Intel's entrance into mobile processors, it has always been a bit baffling that the legacy of Wintel has not been available on Windows Phone. When Windows 10 was announced with its common core, it was widely expected that support for Intel's processors would be a natural inclusion in Windows 10 Mobile from day 1. As it turned out, initial support was available.

This week, however, according to a hardware page on Microsoft's website, Windows 10 Mobile now officially supports x86 processors. This is big news for several reasons. First, the ability to include an Intel chip into a traditional Windows Phone will give greater processing possibilities to the mobile phones. It could also increase the capabilities of Continuum, potentially extending the types of apps the phone could run in full mode to complete desktop apps.

Second, this means that lower-end tablets and phablets can include Intel Atom processors and implement Windows 10 Mobile instead of the full-fledged operating system. In tablet mode, Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile are nearly visually identical, but Windows 10 Mobile is a lot less resource hungry, including power, meaning that these tablets could run on a more powerful x86 processor compared to a lower-quality ARM processor, and gain resources and power at the same time.

When you combine these benefits with the power of Continuum, the reality of a phone that can replace your laptop or desktop, not just a tablet, could be near at hand. It could also bring a collection of powerful Windows 10 phone and tablets at incredibly low prices; as low as $75 for a phone, according to Intel. This could be a major boost to Microsoft's mobile ambitions, bringing more marketshare to Windows Phone.

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Android Malware Targets Call-Based Passcodes

posted Sunday Jan 17, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Android Malware Targets Call-Based Passcodes

It seems like every month there is a new malware outbreak in the Android space. Fake apps run rampant in the store, and with the marketplace eclipsing one million malicious threats last year, the problems keep getting worse. This time, a malware has appeared on the platform that goes after one-time passcodes.

One-time codes are typically used as a secondary level of authentication, to ensure that the device you're trying to log into a service with is indeed yours. They are most commonly used for bank apps, and that's exactly where this malware targets. Symantec says that a malware called Android.Bankosy can be deployed on a device and actually intercept the passcode between the user and the website that sends the code. The Trojan is specifically looking for apps that use the voice codes, and then triggers the app to send the code, wiping any trace of its actions.

From Symantec's blog post, here's how it works in more detail.

So how does Android.Bankosy take advantage of voice-based 2FA? Once the malware is installed on the victim's device, it opens a back door, collects a list of system-specific information, and sends it to the command and control (C&C) server to register the device and then get a unique identifier for the infected device. If the registration is successful, it uses the received unique identifier to further communicate with the C&C server and receive commands.

So essentially the malware is working behind the scenes, and can then initiate call forwarding procedures, sending the call containing the code to whatever number it chooses. This is very serious and again illustrates a big flaw that exists when a space such as this is left wide open.

To protect yourself, Symantec recommend basic common sense practices, but they are worth reiterating. Of course, make sure your software is always up to date. Don't download anything you don't recognize, and make sure apps you download are actually coming from the publisher or developer's official channels; some apps may look very similar but are malicious. Finally, make note of the permissions an app will require. For instance, a flashlight app shouldn't need access to your contacts.

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California Currently Reviewing New Potential Drone Laws

posted Sunday Jan 17, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

With drones becoming one of the most popular gifts this past holiday season, millions of new aircraft will take to the skies this year. The FAA was able to predict the sensation and implemented a bunch of new rules on flying them, along with requiring almost all drones to undergo a registration process on the agency's website. One would imagine that the regulations in place would be enough to protect property and restricted air spaces, however the State of California disagrees and is looking to implement more rules on drone use.

There are currently two different bills being passed around California, each by a different lawmaker, that would add more regulations to drone use in the state. One of the new laws, if passed, would make it a requirement that all drones have a "tiny physical or electronic license plate" attached to the aircraft. The other bill would see to it that pilots who cause damage with their drones would have to leave contact information with the other party, much like one has to do with car accidents.

What's the cause for all of the increased regulation on these new flying devices? Well, considering California's ability to blow things up out of proportion, drones have caused power outages, prevented fires from being put out and one drone even struck a baby, all in 2015. That was enough for Glendale, CA Assemblyman Mike Gatto to introduce a "$1 or so" insurance policy program that he is hoping will be passed. Gatto also wants to require all drones come with a kill switch that will immediately disable the drone when it approaches an airport. I think we overlooked how dangerous that can be in practice, but again, this is California.

I think 2015 showed us that in the era of democratized aviation, certain types of incidents will be fairly common. More and more people are buying these and that's great. This is just like the 1920s when more and more people were buying cars, but I just think that we need some basic rules going forward.

Gatto hopes that he can introduce the bill next week and that it will be passed relatively quickly. Similarly, Monterey Park, CA Assemblyman Ed Chau says that drone accidents are increasing and owners should be responsible for the damages. I'm completely on board with the idea of making pilots accountable for their actions, and Chau hopes that this good practice will simply become a law.

Unfortunately, as the number of drones in the air will only increase in the coming years, we are going to see more and more accidents. And even with world-class safety features and training, accidents are still going to happen, just like on our roadways. If a drone breaks down, runs out of power or crashes into something, the operator needs to do the responsible thing and come forward and identify himself to the victim and to the police. This bill will make that responsibility the law.

That bill is currently in review within California's legislation system. Interestingly, drone bills in the past have been vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who shot down a bill in September that asked to ban drone use over private residences at altitudes of 350 feet or less. Some of the newly-proposed bills are far less restrictive than that, and it would seem likely that the bill to require owners to report and admit damage will end up becoming a law. After all, drones are known to the State of California to cause birth defects, or something like that.

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Hulu Strikes Deal with Sony Pictures for Older Movies and Shows

posted Sunday Jan 17, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Hulu Strikes Deal with Sony Pictures for Older Movies and Shows

Back in September, Hulu finally gave users what they wanted - advertising-free streaming. For only $4 more per month than their initial paid package, streamers could enjoy no commercials on almost all content. Since then, Hulu has been riding high on its successes as it hopes to take on Netflix for the top video-streaming spot on the 'net. In order to help that motive along, the company continues to sign content deals with partners from all over the place, and this week was no exception. Hulu has reached out to Sony to ink a deal that will bring over older shows and movies to the platform.

Since Hulu is known for mostly current shows, it has been fighting to add a formidable backlog to its offerings in order to keep users engaged on the service. This deal with Sony Pictures will bring over some very popular shows of the 90s and 2000s. The full catalogs of The Shield, Party of Five, Damages, Happy Endings and Dawson's Creek will all make their way over to Hulu. For movies, titles like Jerry Maguire and My Best Friend's Wedding will also be found in Hulu's ever-expanding film selection.

This deal is after an initial deal with Sony Pictures that saw Seinfeld show up on the service for a cool $700,000. Early last year, Hulu began going on a contract frenzy with Disney, Comcast and Fox, all of which are co-owners of Hulu itself. The company also sought after AMC Networks and Discovery for exclusive deals for a bunch of content.

That's not all for Hulu, however. The green team is also focused on original content, much like Netflix and Amazon, in order to give customers a reason to pick one service over the other. A deal has been struck with award-winning producer J.J. Abrams and New York Times Bestseller Stephen King on an eight-part mini-series called 11.22.63. The show will premiere on February 15th and is based on King's book about a teacher who tries to go back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. Abrams spoke highly of Hulu in a statement that indicated he was shopping around the idea.

We feel incredibly lucky to be working with Hulu. They've been remarkable and incredibly collaborative and excited about this as we were. That really is why we ended up there. We did go out to a number of different places, had some offers, but the enthusiasm was clear and it matched ours.

Further proving its success, Hulu's newest comedy, Casual, was recently nominated for a Golden Globe Award, which was a first for Hulu.

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