Hardkernel’s Odroid XU board has incorporated Samsung’s eight-core Exynos 5 Octa 5410 chip, which is based on ARM’s latest processor designs. Samsung recently announced a new eight-core chip, the Exynos 5 Octa 5420, which packs faster graphics and application processing than the 5410. The 5420 has not yet been shipped yet, however.
The Odroid board is priced at $149 through Aug. 31, after which it will be offered for $169. Samsung for many months has said that a board with an eight-core chip would be released, and has shown prototype developer boards at conferences.
Odroid-XU will provide developers an opportunity to write programs tuned for Samsung’s octa-core chip, which has been a source of controversy. Analysts have said the eight-core design is overkill for small devices like smartphones and tablets, which need long battery life.
The eight-core chip design also takes up a lot of space, which prevented Samsung from putting LTE radios inside some Galaxy S4 models. Qualcomm, which hesitantly moved from the dual core to the quad-core design on its Snapdragon chips, on Friday criticized eight-core chips, calling the idea “dumb.”
Despite the criticism, the board will give developers a first true glimpse of, and an opportunity to write and test applications for, ARM’s Big.Little design. The design combines high-power cores for demanding applications with low-power cores for mundane tasks like texting and calling.
Samsung’s iteration of Big.Little in the Exynos 5 Octa 5410 chip combines four processors based on ARM’s latest Cortex-A15 processor design, which incorporates four low-power Cortex-A7 CPUs. The Cortex-A15 is ARM’s latest processor design and succeeds the previous Cortex-A9 core, which was used in popular smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and the Galaxy S3. Samsung said the eight-core chip provides a balance of power and performance, with the high-power cores kicking in only when necessary.
The board has an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX544MP3 graphics processor, 2GB of low-power DDR3 DRAM, two USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. Other features include Wi-Fi, Ethernet and optional Bluetooth. Google’s Android 4.2 operating system is preloaded, and support for other Linux distributions like Ubuntu is expected soon. The board has already been benchmarked on Ubuntu 13.04.
The U.S. Defense Department is proposing to share some of its radio airwaves with private industry, a nod to growing pressure from the wireless industry and the Obama administration that federal agencies ease their control of valuable spectrum.
In a letter released by the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, the Department of Defense offers to share the airwaves it now dominates in the slice of frequencies from 1755 megahertz (MHz) to 1780 MHz with spectrum-hungry wireless and Internet companies.
The military would rearrange its systems within that slice of spectrum as well as the 2025-2110 MHz band and compress programs into the 1780-1850 MHz band that it would retain.
The Defense Department uses the airwaves for programs such as pilot training and drone systems and has faced criticism from some in the industry and in Congress for resisting efforts to open those airwaves for commercial use to satisfy growing demands posed by data-hungry gadgets and services.
The Pentagon had pointed to its own need for airwaves as its use of drones and other reliance on wireless technology grows. It also had estimated the process of moving its programs to new frequencies would cost more than $12 billion.
Under the new plan, the Defense Department drops the cost estimate to $3.5 billion by compromising on sharing slices of airwaves without completely clearing any of the spectrum bands.
In the letter, originally sent on July 17 to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees federal airwaves, DOD Chief Information Officer Teresa Takai called the proposal “a workable balance to provide access to the 1755-1780 MHz band most desired by the commercial wireless industry while ensuring no loss of critical DoD capabilities.”
The NTIA, in its own letter to the FCC, said it had not had enough time to review the proposal and could not yet endorse it.
The FCC, with NTIA’s help, is preparing for several auctions of airwaves to take place in coming years, including one that would sell off chunks of federally controlled spectrum. They will be the first reshuffling of airwave ownership since 2008.
Congress has required the FCC to auction off the 2155-2180 MHz band by February 2015 and the industry has sought to pair up that slice of spectrum with the valuable 1755-1780 MHz band, arguing it would collect more money. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill to ensure such pairing.
The FCC has been drafting a notice of proposed rulemaking that would seek public comments on how the FCC should auction those federally owned or already cleared airwaves to the wireless companies and an FCC official said the agency’s notice will address the Pentagon’s new proposal.
President Barack Obama last month directed federal agencies to look for ways eventually to give up or share more of their airwaves with the private sector. This followed his June 2010 call to open up 500 MHz of federal spectrum for commercial use.
The new drives include the Connect Wireless Flash Drive — a thumb drive — and the Connect Wireless Media Drive, a larger, but still pocket-sized storage device. The Connect Wireless Flash Drive comes in 16GB and 32GB capacities; the Connect Wireless Media Drive comes in 32GB and 64GB capacities.
The Connect Wireless Flash drive is 3.07-in. x 1.04-in. x 0.54-in. The Connect Wireless Media Drive is 2.6-in. x 2.6-in. x 0.52-in.
The Connect Wireless drive family allows users to not only store but share and stream files across multiple mobile devices. They offer up to eight simultaneous device connections and three media streams, and support separate streams of 720p video content at 2MB/sec to three or five devices concurrently (for the Flash Drive and Media Drive, respectively).
According to a SanDisk spokesman, video streaming performance isn’t affected by multiple streams because device limits are set at a point that supports the streams without degradation. Devices can connect to the drives up to 150 feet away.
The Connect Wireless drives work with all iOS and Android devices, and Kindle Fire tablets, as well as PC and Mac computers. The drives are compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Mac OS 10.6 or higher
Movies, music, photos and documents can be loaded onto the wireless drives by simply dragging and dropping the files, which can then be accessed via the SanDisk Connect apps. Those apps are available for download from the App Store, Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore for Android.
The drives contain an internal router, so no external router or Internet connection is needed to stream media. In order to use the drives, mobile device users simply download SanDisk’s Connect App.
The drives run on lithium-ion batteries. A single charge provides up to four hours of wireless streaming, with streaming data protected by Wi-Fi Password Protection (WPA2).
“With the new SanDisk Connect product line, we’re raising the bar on what consumers can expect from personal storage,” said Dinesh Bahal, vice president for product marketing for SanDisk.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive is available in 16GB or 32GB capacities for $49.99 and $59.99, respectively. In the U.S., it is available for preorder on Amazon.com, Newegg.com and Micro Center, with availability at Best Buy starting in August. It will also be available for preorder on Amazon.com in Germany and UK.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive has a retail price of $79.99 for 32GB or $99.99 for 64GB storage capacity. It is available for preorder in the U.S. on Amazon.com, with availability in Germany and UK in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Wi-Lan filed a lawsuit against Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, HTC and Sony in 2010 claiming the firms infringed patents that relate to data transmission over wireless networks. However a Texas court ruled that the four firms did not infringe Wi-Lan’s patents and found one patent Wi-Lan asserted against HTC and two it asserted against Alcatel Lucent invalid.
Wi-Lan had asserted that Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson infringed three patents, none of which claims were upheld by the court. The firm also asserted that HTC and Sony infringed another patent, and there the court not only judged against infringement but invalidated the patent.
Alcatel Lucent and HTC both said that Wi-Lan was trying to stretch its patents to cover technology in their devices.
Sally Julien, a spokeswoman for HTC said, “HTC believes that Wi-Lan has exaggerated the scope of its patent in order to extract unwarranted licensing royalties from entities who have been focused on bringing innovation forward in their own products.”
Kurt Steinert, an Alcatel Lucent spokesman said, “We think this validates our belief that Wi-Lan was stretching the boundaries of its patents, and the jury confirmed that belief.”
Wi-Lan has managed to get several companies to license its technology including Dell and Panasonic, and in May it initiated legal proceedings against Blackberry over a patent relating to Long Term Evolution network technology. However in this case the firm did not prevail against two large telecom equipment companies and two big smartphone makers.
Judging from the number of people engrossed in activities with their smartphones on the sidewalk, in their cars and in public places, mobile seems to have stolen our attention away from the wired Internet and traditional TV.
However, there is a ways to go before mobile platforms become the primary place where consumers turn for entertainment and getting things done, players at CTIA Wireless trade show said.
Nokia Siemens Networks announced new capabilities in its network software to make video streams run more smoothly over mobile networks. Among other things, the enhancements can reduce video stalling by 90 percent, according to the company. But even Sandro Tavares, head of marketing for NSN’s Mobile Core business, sees “mobile-first” viewing habits as part of the future.
“Now that the networks are providing a better capacity, a better experience with mobile broadband, mobile-first will come,” Tavares said. “Because the experiences they have with the devices are so good, these devices … start to be their preferred screen, their first screen.
“This is a trend, and this is something that will not change,” Tavares said. But he thinks it’s too early to build networks assuming consumers will turn to tablets and phones as their primary sources of entertainment. “Do you have to be prepared for mobile-first now? Probably not. You have to be able to keep the pace.”
For AT&T, mobile-first is a top priority for its own internal apps, ensuring employees can do their jobs wherever they are, said Kris Rinne, the carrier’s senior vice president of network technologies. But to make it possible over the network, a range of new technologies and relationships may have to come together, she said.
For example, giving the best possible performance for streaming video and other uses of mobile may require steering traffic to the right network if both cellular and Wi-Fi are available. AT&T is developing an “intelligent network selection” capability to do this, Rinne said. When AT&T starts to deliver voice over LTE, it will stay on the cellular network — at least in the early days — because the carrier has more control over quality of service on that system, she said.
Other issues raised by mobile-first include security of packets going over the air and rights for content that subscribers are consuming primarily on mobile devices instead of through TV and other traditional channels, Rinne said.
While the BYOD (bring your own device) push has been at the forefront of press coverage, the majority of companies still provide at least a subset of devices to employees. One third of companies strictly mandate which devices can be used for work purposes and don’t allow any type of device provided by the employee, according to the survey conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a nonprofit trade group.
The online survey of 502 U.S. IT and business executives was conducted in February. It also found that the most popular option, at 58%, was to have a mix of corporate-owned and employee-owned devices.
For 53% of those surveyed, the top reason for allowing employees to use or select their own devices was to increase productivity while employees are away from the office. Another reason was that employees like to use familiar devices.
Twelve percent of the respondents stated it was simply too difficult to stop employees from using their own devices.
CompTIA’s report said that companies looking to maximize the benefits of a mobile device-enabled workforce must “look beyond simply which devices are used and re-examine business processes and workforce needs.”
Companies should assess the specific needs of workers, rather than just deploying one device over another on a corporate-wide basis, said Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, at CompTIA.
Researchers Nikita Tarakanov and Oleg Kupreev analyzed the security of 3G/4G USB modems obtained from Russian operators for the past several months. Their findings were presented Thursday at the Black Hat Europe 2013 security conference in Amsterdam.
Most 3G/4G modems used in Russia, Europe, and probably elsewhere in the world, are made by Chinese hardware manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, and are branded with the mobile operators’ logos and trademarks, Tarakanov said. Because of this, even if the research was done primarily on Huawei modems from Russian operators, the results should be relevant in other parts of the world as well, he said.
Tarakanov said that they weren’t able to test baseband attacks against the Qualcomm chips found inside the modems because it’s illegal in Russia to operate your own GSM base station if you’re not an intelligence agency or a telecom operator. “We’ll probably have to move to another country for a few months to do it,” he said.
There’s still a lot to investigate in terms of the hardware’s security. For example, the SoC (system on a chip) used in many modems has Bluetooth capability that is disabled from the firmware, but it might be possible to enable it, the researcher said.
For now, the researchers tested the software preloaded on the modems and found multiple ways to attack it or to use it in attacks.
For one, it’s easy to make an image of the USB modem’s file system, modify it and write it on the modem again. There’s a tool available from Huawei to do modem backup and restore, but there are also free tools that support modems from other manufacturers, Tarakanov said.
Malware running on the computer could detect the model and version of the active 3G modem and could write an image with malicious customizations to it using such tools. That modem would then compromise any computer it’s used on.
The researchers also found a possible mass attack vector. Once installed on a computer, the modem application — at least the one from Huawei — checks periodically for updates from a single server, Tarakanov said. Software branded for a specific operator searchers for updates in a server directory specific to that operator.
An attacker who manages to compromise this update server, can launch mass attacks against users from many operators, Tarakanov said. Huawei 3G modems from several different Russian operators used the same server, but there might be other update servers for other countries, he said.
Research in this area is just at the beginning and there’s more to investigate, Tarakanov said. Someone has to do it because many new laptops come with 3G/4G modems directly built in and people should know if they’re a security threat.
Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” is a 16 company ranking that sets out to discover what leading electronics firms are doing to reduce their impacts on the environment.
This year’s study found that Indian firm Wipro, which has a consumer electronics division, was making important progress toward becoming greener.
“There is not a single reason why companies like HP, Nokia and Apple can’t do what Wipro is doing,” Greenpeace’s IT analyst Casey Harrell said.
Wipro was ranked number one in Greenpeace’s survey because of its efforts to increase its use of renewable energy, bring energy efficient products to market, nail down an effective product take back strategy and advocate for better governmental energy standards.
Harrell said that advocacy is an important step companies should take to becoming more environmentally aware. However, he believes that many companies are not doing enough to get the government involved in green initiatives.
“These companies invest a lot of money in advocacy, just not for energy,” continued Harrell.
“They invest in advocacy for things like IP reform and tax reform, just not for energy policy reform.”
Greenpeace’s study criticized Apple for its lack of advocacy efforts. The environmental agency gave the Iphone maker a ranking of zero when it came to environmental protection advocacy.
Apple has previously been slammed by Greenpeace for its decision to use glued-in batteries in its latest Macbook devices.
While many US companies rated poorly on environmental advocacy, Harrell still held out hope that some firms will try to do more going forward. As an example for his optimism, Greenpeace’s IT analyst said that in 2010 HP came out against the controversial California Proposition 23.
Another key area that Greenpeace thinks electronic firms need to improve upon is the lack of proper warranties on devices. Harrell said that companies can make the most energy efficient products in the world but if consumers have to buy a new product each year it won’t matter.
“It is a huge problem,” said Harrell.
Could 4G Networks give way for more high-risk mobile security implications; Symantec is warning of such a wave of threats.
“We could see a move to the sort of threats that we already see on the wireless and fixed connected network,” John said. “Malware that you usually have on fixed networks, like botnets.
“There aren’t many botnets on mobile devices because the bandwidth’s not there to support it, once you go on to 4G [hackers] could start infecting systems.”
To ensure that enterprises avoid these these security threats, John advised that businesses need to be on their toes more than ever, look closely at everything that’s coming into the network, and not trust anything.
“Companies need to make sure that where traditionally it’s been a firewall with a perimeter with everything in a timeline environment,” John said. “What they need to look at is ‘what are my employees doing’, ‘what information is being shared’ and ‘how do we ensure our information is being protected no matter where it may be’, whether its mobile device, across networks or sitting in a cloud service.”
“This is a change we are going through, but 4G is going to push the need for that change even more so,” she added.
According to John, 4G will also be detrimental to businesses in the way it will add a greater burden for them to ensure that cloud services and mobility – what she calls “two of the biggest security challenges for enterprises and their employees” – are up to scratch.
Intel on Monday spent US$375 million to purchase nearly 1,700 wireless networking patents from subsidiaries of digital communications company Interdigital.
Intel will get patents that cover a range of 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi technologies from Interdigital. The patents should boost Intel’s product mobile product portfolio as the company establishes a presence in the smartphone and tablet markets, which is currently ruled by ARM.
Intel has said it will integrate 3G and 4G LTE capabilities along with its Atom microprocessor in devices like smartphones and tablets. Intel made its first entry into the smartphone market earlier this year with its Atom chip code-named Medfield, which is being used in handsets from Lenovo, Orange and Lava International.
Intel later this year will release a dual-core Atom Z2580 processor with 3G, 4G and LTE capabilities. Intel’s upcoming Atom chip for tablets, code-named Clover Trail, will also come with mobile broadband options.
Intel started building its wireless business following the acquisition of Infineon Wireless for $1.4 billion, which was completed last year.
Wireless is a fast-changing market, and the company is making this investment to support the business, according to Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman.
“This was an opportunity to add some value to our patent portfolio. That’s over and above what we have,” Mulloy said.