Tag Archives: IT News

Grand Theft Auto V

Fans queued throughout the night just to be in line to buy the computer game Grand Theft Auto V this morning. Some of them took time of work just so they could get their hands on the most expensive game ever made. It was developed by Rockstar North in Edinburgh, Scotland cost £170 million to produce and is expected to have retail sales of £1bn in the first year. The last release was five years ago and the GTA franchise has sold 135 million copies since it was first released in 1997. The figures stack up well when compared to the release of big budget films and the distinction between games and films is increasingly blurred.

Successful big budget console games are still made in the UK by Rockstar and Rocksteady. The UK games industry has had a difficult few years due to competition from Canada and the increase in the use of smart phones by games consumers. There was a modest growth of 4% in 2012 as studios moved away from developing for traditional platforms and embraced web-based digital gaming. It is estimated that over 35 million Britons are regular gamers and that with 30,000 people employed in the industry nationally. Gaming contributes £1bn to the UK GDP

British mobile and social gaming development is rapidly expanding. This opens up the possibility of developing games on smaller budgets and more developers are making games and self publishing and small studios are developing their own projects as well as doing the usual work for the bigger studios on a work for hire basis. Investors are interested once again. There are opportunities in gaming for artists, animators and audio designers, script writers, project managers, distributors, games media, PR, studio management and of course programmers. A variety of programming languages are used with Windows commonly written in C#, Android in Java, and iOS developers using Objective-C.

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You may also be interested in our article on Why investors favour London’s Silicon Roundabout.

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IBM Smarter Cities

” On a smarter planet, we want to change the paradigm from react to anticipate” is the slogan of the IBM Smarter Planet global initiative which was started five years ago. IBM Smarter Cities is part of the smarter planet programme. The video Smarter Planet – a UK Introduction gives an idea of how it may impact on our lives.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A127XSYwzqY
With the arrival of Big Data, through the use of analytics, mobile technology, social business and the cloud it is now becoming possible to transform how enterprises and institutions operate. The embedding of sensors in cars, roads, cameras, roads, pipelines, appliances is happening and systems are beginning to ‘speak’ to each other which results in the capture of masses of data in backend systems. This data can be mined and analysed and if the queries are structured intelligently should produce information on better ways of doing or organising things.

The IBM Research – Ireland lab is IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre and conducts research in water, energy, transportation, city fabric, risk, exascale computing, and marine environments in collaboration with top universities, cities, and industry partners. The leading academic institutions involved are Cambridge University, the Australian National University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Trinity College Dublin.

Researchers at NUI Maynooth have received €2.3m of funding for a major five-year project which will analyse how software and technology can influence life in a city. The focus will be on two cities: Dublin and Boston in the US. Boston is ranked number one on a global index of ‘smart’ cities while Dublin is a key technology hub in Europe. The research is  funded by a five-year ERC (European Reaserch Council) grant.

Some Findings on Dublin as a Smart City

  • A 2007 study of traffic congestion revealed that even though small if taken as a percentage of gross domestic product then Dublin was the world leader in this sphere over cities such as Manila, Dakar and Mexico City. The challenge was and still is to maintain the historic fabric of the city and  improve the transport network without any major re-development. Dublin City Council has been collecting and analysing data, in partnership with IBM and journey time information is now released and updated every minute.Residents can go online and find the quickest route to their destination. This is just the beginning and eventually people will be updated on problems via their mobiles while on route to their destinations and advice on alternative means of completing their journeys will be given which may be bicycle, tram, taxi or even on foot.
  • IBM’s vision for water is stated as

    Our vision is an intelligent, integrated, and instrumented water system for our cities of the future, where both the quantity and quality of our water resources is constantly being monitored, predicted, and optimized, from rain to drain and back again.

    The citizens of Dublin could vouch for the fact that even when there is a strong bond between rain and drain, over a prolonged period of time, that they still have water shortages. A Dublin City report states that 29 percent of the water produced never reaches the consumer due to water leaking from the city’s distribution system. This is due to the age of the network and many of the pipes are in such poor condition that they are prone to bursts, leaks and low water pressure. Replacing the infrastructure is a costly, time-consuming and disruptive especially when streets need to be dug up.

    To reduce the amount of water lost Dublin City Council in collaboration with IBM is combining analytics, sensor data, and optimization models to find the best places in the network to install pressure reducing valves. Once installed, the models recommend the best settings to minimize leakage while meeting the requirements of the city. Dublin’s Chapelizod area showed potential to reduce leakage up to 44 percent, allowing water providers to serve 15 percent more households without investment in more production capacity or adversely affecting consumers.

‘Garbage in garbage out’ still holds true so human intelligence is a requirement for digital smartness. There are and will be no shortage of jobs for big data scientists, big data analysts and others but there will be a shortage of suitably qualified people to fill the posts.

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Android’s share of tablet market jumps

Android accounted for 39% of the market in the final three months of last year, up from 29% a year earlier, Strategy Analytics said. Apple’s share fell to 58% from 68%. Microsoft’s share stood at 1.5%. Shipments of tablets reached 26.8 million in the quarter, up from 10.7 million a year ago.

“Demand for tablets among consumer, business and education users remains strong,” said Strategy Analytics’ Peter King. Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads between October and December. That compares with shipments of 10.5 million tablets using Android. For 2011 as a whole, shipments hit 66.9 million, up from 18.6 million in 2010.

Android is used by a number of tablet manufacturers, including Amazon and Samsung. It is also one of the most-used operating systems in the global smartphone market, although the latest figures suggest Apple has overtaken Android in the US.

According to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Apple took 44.9% of market share in the US in the 12 weeks to 25 December, compared with 44.8% for Android. Last month, the 10 billionth app was downloaded from the Android Market, and some analysts expect the operating system to overtake Apple in terms of app downloads in the coming months.

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United Nations Agency ‘hacking attack’ investigated

A spokeswoman for the UNDP said the agency believed “an old server which contains old data” had been targeted. “The UNDP found [the] compromised server and took it offline,” said Sausan Ghosheh.”The server goes back to 2007. There are no active passwords listed for those accounts.”Please note that UNDP.org was not compromised.”

Details were posted on the website Pastebin under the Teampoison logo. The message preceding the login details accused the UN of acting to “facilitate the introduction of a New World Order” and asked “United Nations, why didn’t you expect us?” Many of the email addresses given end in undp.org, but others appear to belong to members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The poster noted that several of the accounts had “no passwords”. The message ended with the taunt: “The question now is how? We will let the so called ‘security experts’ over at the UN figure that out… Have a Nice Day.”

The security company Sophos noted that Teampoison hackers had previously attacked the maker of the Blackberry smartphone’s website and had published private information about former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Teampoison recently announced they were joining forces with Anonymous on a new initiative dubbed ‘Operation Robin Hood’, targeting banks and financial institutions,” the firm’s senior technology consultant, Graham Cluley wrote on Sophos’s blog.

The groups said at the time that their operation aimed to take money from credit cards and donate it to individuals and charities. They said people would not be harmed as the banks had to refund fraudulent charges.Teampoison added a “shoutout” to Anonymous in its UN attack posting, adding a link to a Youtube video with more information about its banking attack plan.

These latest moves serve as a reminder that so-called hacktivists are skilled and willing to collaborate to take down their targets, according to Professor Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey’s department of computing.”One of the big problems is that there is so much data around that people forget about their older systems that still have valuable data on them,” he said.”The lesson here is that anything that holds any data of any value must be protected.”

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Chemicals and defence firms targeted by hacking attack

It is believed that the campaign focused on intellectual property, including formulas and design processes. While the report did not reveal the names of any of the companies involved, it did say they included Fortune 100 firms. It disclosed that at least 12 of the infected companies were based in the US, five in the UK, and two in Denmark. Several of the firms were also said to have developed materials for military vehicles.

US giant Dow Chemicals confirmed to the BBC that it had been the target of “unusual emails” received during the summer. Symantec said workers at the organisations were sent emails asking them to open an attachment. It said in some cases they claimed to be invitations from established business partners, in others a security update. The firm said if the attachments were opened they installed a piece of code known as a Trojan horse, which allowed the hackers to obtain details of the targets’ computer networks. The attackers were then able to use this information to locate and copy files to another part of their targets’ systems, from where they were extracted.

Symantec identified the Trojan involved as PoisonIvy, which it said was developed by a Chinese speaker. The firm also said it had traced the attacks back to a “20-something male located in the Hebei region of China” who funnelled the process through a US computer server.

Symantec chief technology officer, Greg Day commented, “This is unfortunately becoming a new normal behaviour. We had at least a decade of cybercrime which generally targeted anybody. Then we had the emergence of very skilled techniques involving a lot of time and effort to target global organisations. What we have now is almost the commercialisation of those techniques, using elements such as advanced persistent threats to pursue espionage and intellectual property theft, whether that is for their own gain or resale.”

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At Commonwealth Contractors we partner with OISC Registered Private Immigration Firms and Tier 2 Licensed Healthcare and IT Consultancies who may be prepared, where required, to sponsor an individual on a Tier 2 Visa (formerly UK Work Permit). If you are a highly skilled International professional and you would like to work in the UK Commonwealth Contractors can help. Our OISC Registered Partners specialise in Tier 1 General (formerly Highly Skilled Migrant Programme) visa applications and can assist those highly skilled individuals that either wish to apply or extend a Tier 1 General Visa.

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Steve jobs vowed to ‘destroy’ android

Mr Jobs told author Walter Isaacson that he viewed Android’s similarity to iOS as “grand theft”. Apple is suing several smartphone makers which use the Android software. Apple enjoyed a close relationship with Google prior to the launch of the Android system. Google products, including maps and search formed a key part of the iPhone’s ecosystem. At that time, Google’s chief executive, now chairman, Eric Schmidt also sat on the board of Apple.

However, relations began to sour when Google unveiled Android in November 2007, 10 months after the iPhone first appeared. In subsequent years, Apple rejected a number of Google programs from its App store, forcing the company to create less-integrated web app versions. Android has subsequently enjoyed rapid adoption and now accounts for around 48% of global smartphone shipments, compared to 19% for Apple.

Apple has waged an aggressive proxy-war against Android, suing a number of the hardware manufacturers which have adopted it for their tablets and smartphones. Motorola was one of the first to be targeted, although it is Samsung that has borne the brunt of Mr Jobs’ ire.  The South Korean firm is currently banned from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and Germany because of a combination of patent infringements and “look and feel” similarities. A smartphone ban is also pending in the Netherlands.

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Olympic Games computer systems prepare for cyber attacks

Scenarios to be run include a massive denial of service attack on the official website, and a virus getting onto organisers’ computers. Despite the extensive planning, Olympic bosses say they are unaware of any specific threat. Nevertheless, one of the biggest fears around the Olympics is not a crashed server or power outage, but a deliberate attack by cyber criminals. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China was subject to about 12 million online attacks per day.

Gerry Pennell, Chief Information officer for London 2012 believes the UK has learned lessons from its predecessor. “The approach of the website is a distributed one. That minimises the DDoS attack route. Another key principle is to keep mission-critical games systems quite isolated from anything web-facing. So very much partitioned and separated, thus making it hard for an external attack to succeed.”

Security testing on the system will be carried out in a specially isolated version of the Olympic network, using an in-house team of pretend hackers. Atos, the company managing the games’ IT systems is constantly looking for information on potential threats to the Olympic Games. Since the last Olympic Games, the nature and scope of cyber threats has changed substantially. A series of hacks and website takedowns – orchestrated by Anonymous and LulzSec – has hit organisations including Sony, HB Gary, and the UK and US governments. More complex attacks, such as the Stuxnet worm, which targeted Iran’s nuclear industry, highlighted the sophistication of politically motivated hackers.

In April, former Home Secretary David Blunkett warned that the Olympics could be hit by “devastating” cyber attacks if more was not done to boost the country’s IT defences. Since becoming prime minister, David Cameron has repeatedly stressed his commitment to protecting the country from cyber attacks. The UK is due to host a global summit to discuss the problem, beginning 1 November.

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Bangladesh unveils £83 laptop

The state-owned telecoms company Telephone Shilpa Sangstha (TSS) is producing four models of the laptop. The most basic one is priced at 10,000 taka (£83). The primary model runs the android operating system. Initially, the laptop will be distributed to various government departments. But later on they will be made available to the public and to tens of millions of students.

Managing Director, Mohammad Ismail of TSS commented: “This is a big step towards building a digital Bangladesh. When villages get laptops at a cheaper price they will be connected to the internet and that will bring lots of benefits.” Currently Bangladesh is producing 10% of the components for the laptop and the rest are imported. However, Ms Ismail expects “within six months we will be able to produce 60% of the components.”

However, the country’s internet connectivity remains poor and critics have raised doubts whether the distribution of laptops alone will help the country to connect digitally. The government has launched an ambitious plan, known as Digital Bangladesh, with the aim of digitally connecting the country by 2021. “Every part of the country will be brought under e-governance, while the telecommunication system is being modernised to cut the digital divide,” Sheikh Hasina said during the inauguration.

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Samsung seek injunction on iPhone 4s in France and Italy

Apple has obtained temporary embargoes on its rivals’ products in Australia and Germany and is seeking similar rulings in several other countries. In a statement, Samsung said: “Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology, and we will steadfastly protect our intellectual property.”

Samsung’s claim centres around two patents covering Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA), part of the iPhone’s 3G wireless connectivity. As the technology is essential to the functioning of modern phones, Samsung is obliged to license it to other manufacturers under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Conversely, the patents being enforced by Apple against Samsung in Germany, the Netherlands and Australia relate to specific innovations which it is not obliged to license – primarily around its touchscreen user interface. It has also successfully argued before the courts that the look and feel of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab gave a “clear impression of similarity”.

Observeres believe Samsung are walking a fine line between standing-up to Apple and avoiding jeopardising valuable contracts with its occasional foe. Samsung supplies parts for many of Apple’s devices, including screens for some of its smartphones and tablets. The two companies are said to have agreed a components deal in February worth $7.8bn (£5bn).

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India launches tablet computer priced at £23

The Aakash has been developed by UK-based company DataWind and Indian Institute of Technology (Rajasthan). It is due to be assembled in India, at DataWind’s new production centre in the southern city of Hyderabad.

DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli, stated: “Our goal was to break the price barrier for computing and internet access. We’ve created a product that will finally bring affordable computing and internet access to the masses.” The company says it will also offer a commercial version of the tablet, called UbiSlate. It is expected to hit the shelves later this year, retailing for about $60.

Officials hope the computer will give digital access to students in small towns and villages.  Experts say it does have the potential to make a huge difference to the country’s education, particularly in rural areas where schools and students do not have access to libraries and up-to-date information.

However, questions have been raised over the performance of the tablets. Critics believe it is too early to say how the Aakash will be received as most cheap tablets in the past have turned out to be painfully slow. Rajat Agrawal of technology reviewers BGR India, commented: “The thing with cheap tablets is most of them turn out to be unusable, they don’t have a very good touch screen, and they are usually very slow.”

Critics also point out that an earlier cheap laptop plan by the same ministry came to nothing. In 2009, it announced plans for a laptop priced as low as $10, raising eyebrows and triggering worldwide media interest. But there was disappointment after the ‘Sakshat’ turned out to be a prototype of a hand-held device, with an unspecified price tag, that never materialised.

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either wish to apply or extend a Tier 1 General Visa.

For more
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