May 2011 Archives

HP and Compaq laptop batteries recalled after overheating, rupturing and "36 instances of property damage"

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The US consumer product safety commission has announced a voluntary recall of laptop lithium-ion batteries in some HP and Compaq notebooks.

The commission advised:

  • Consumers should immediately remove the batteries from their notebook computer and contact HP to determine if their battery is included in this recall
  • Consumers who had previously checked their batteries and were informed they were not included in previous announcements are urged to check again
  • After removing the recalled battery from their notebook computer, consumers may use the AC adapter to power the computer until a replacement battery arrives.
Laptops affected (click here for larger table):

HP recalls table2.jpgThe commission said since a recall in May 2010, HP received 40 reports of batteries overheating and rupturing, which caused a handful of burn and smoke inhalation injuries. A total of 36 instances of property damage were also reported.

HP said the laptops containing the recalled batteries were sold across the US in 2007 and 2008. Consumers with recalled batteries will receive a free replacement battery.

A total of 162,600 batteries were recalled in 2010 and 2009.

Visit HP's battery replacement programme website for more information.

In 2006, Sony recalled battery packs manufactured for some Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba and Apple notebooks. As a result, Dell recalled over four million of its notebook laptop batteries in response to concerns that batteries were overheating and catching on fire.

Computer Weekly are still awaiting comment from HP on how many laptops (if any) are likely to be affected in the UK.






How does Tesco's 'sat-nav' Android app work - and what can other retailers learn?

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Tesco aims to expand its mobile services to become a multi-channel retailer and is currently trialling an Android-only 'sat-nav' app in a store in Essex, which helps customers locate products.
 
A blog post from Tesco provides some clues to how the company is making it all work.
Tesco has data about where different grocery products are located in its UK branches, which is used for its Tesco Finder app.

Interestingly, the non-public pilot app is only available on Android devices because, "Only Android easily offers the ability to install apps from 'unknown sources'." It's a good example of a large organisation opting to use Android's open platform for research and development innovations over, for example, Apple's locked down approach.

Solving loss of GPS signal

The firm gets aisle and shelf location spatial data from software that creates planograms and draws aisles on the screen via the Finder app.

But, as Tesco points out, customers lose GPS signal as soon as they enter Tesco stores.

Tesco has lots of Wi-Fi wireless network access points in its stores. Using unique Media Access Control (MAC) addresses associated with each access point, signal data can read by mobile phones without having to make a connection.

The Tesco API tells the mobile device where all the access points are in relation to the store map, including the MAC addresses.

Using in-built GPS services, the mobile devices can measure the wireless signal strengths from MAC address. The Tesco Finder app works out where it is on the map.

Infrastructure changes

Tesco admitted it still had a problem with radio waves, which would be reflected and absorbed by packaging materials and products on the shelves. It's unclear how they've solved this to provide a downloadable app.

 "If we crack this, it means that we can provide in-store 'satnav' style help with zero change in the infrastructure," said Nick Lansley in a blog post in October 2010.

However, in May 2011, Lansley said in a blog post, "The system involves a lot of infrastructure installation in the stores so we need to get all kinds of people involved in thinking about the customer experience."

An infrastructure installation sounds potentially expensive.

Although, with all the developments in mobile payments and the Google Wallet, perhaps retailers are due an overhaul of POS systems to support contactless payments - and 'satnav' style services?

What can other retailers learn so far?

-    It's important to describe store layouts in as few characters of data as possible to keep the amount of data transferred down and meet data plan limits. Tesco did this by updating its API server interface to make the spatial/map data available in as few characters as possible

-    The 'sat nav' app could be used to alert customers of products on special offer when they are close to them.  A recent YouGov survey showed retailers are failing to meet customer demands for real-time mobile services and offers. Finding new ways to target customers via mobile devices will be crucial to remain competitive. 

Securing social media: the debate continues

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Social Media has so much to offer businesses in terms of interacting with existing and potential customers, but despite all the advantages, there are possible drawbacks such as loss of productivity, loss of reputation, legal liability, malware infection and data loss.

Many businesses are looking for ways to balance the good with the bad and debating what approach to take, unsure whether to block access to social media, restrict by department or allow access while monitoring employee content.

IT professionals are warning that hackers have already embraced the concept of social networks to use old social engineering techniques in new ways to steal system credentials to gain access to corporate IT systems.

The challenge facing many businesses is coming up with the right combination of technological security controls and social media policy, but in the absence of any tried and tested solutions, there is still much debate around what is best practice for securing social networks in the business context.

Join in the interactive debate on the issues around securing social media at the SpeakUp Live event in London on 8 June.

Tips for keeping children safe online

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International Children's Day is 1 June, and to mark the occasion, computer security firm ESET has published a list of tips to help keep children safe online.

Although aimed at keeping youngsters safe, the tips cover the basics that anyone can follow to improve security online, and the same principles of awareness in combination with security and monitoring tools can be applied in the business environment.

ESET GUIDELINES FOR ONLINE SAFETY FOR CHILDREN

- Ensure anti-virus and security software is always kept up to date

- Set clear rules about the use of computers

- Be vigilant and monitor your child's internet connection: set a password and allow children to surf the web only during the times when you can periodically check on their online activities.

- Make children aware of the importance of privacy and that they should never supply personal data and details to strangers on the web and social networks.

- Control the web camera because it can be easily misused by criminals and strangers. Turn off or unplug your webcam when you are not using it.

- Monitor browser history: deleted history might be a reason to sit down and have a  talk

- On Facebook, if you or your child shares the wall with "Everyone" or "Friends of friends" then you have lost control of who has access to all data.

- The information posted on the internet does not go away. Do not assume that when you delete a photo or even the whole social network account that you have automatically deleted all the data forever. Pictures and information might be already saved on someone else's computer. Children and parents should think twice about which pictures and details  to put on the Internet.

What's new about Microsoft's Mango?

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Start Screen (1).jpg

Mango includes features, such as Office hub support for Microsoft SkyDrive and Office 365 as well as Twitter and LinkedIn integration.
 
The 'Threads' feature creates a single conversation thread by connecting various communication platforms, such as Facebook, text messages and emails (see picture below).

Integrated Messaging.jpg

"Groups" allows contacts to be grouped into a live title on the start screen (see picture below).

Groups.jpg
 

The latest version also unifies inboxes, such as Hotmail and Gmail, but keeps work emails separate.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Achim Berg, corporate vice president, Windows Phone marketing at Microsoft, said Mango is based around communications, applications and the web. 

"Phones haven't become a hub for all the ways we connect, until now. This is the first phone to bring together all the ways you connect and share in one handset," said Berg. 

Berg added, "In order to be successful, you need to create and provide lots of apps. It's critical for the ecosystem. We have 18,000 apps in our marketplace in less than seven months." 

However, it still has a long way to go to compete with the 350,000 apps currently available in Apple's app store.

Berg claimed Microsoft have "reinvented" the way apps work. "On other platforms, apps live in silos and are not connected. With Mango, we have taken apps to a new level, so consumers can author, edit and collaborate with colleagues using cloud services, including Office. Developers can write apps that integrate deeply with multi-tasking," he said. 

Mango also includes multi-tasking capability as well as a full version of the IE9 browser and HTML5 support.

Bing.jpg

It doesn't, however, include, Adobe Flash support.

As well as Samsung, HTC and LG and partnership newcomer, Nokia, Microsoft announced Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE will be bringing Windows Phone handsets to market. 

Microsoft confirmed Nokia will release devices using the Mango version of its OS. More details will be revealed later this year.

New Windows Phone devices will ship with Mango later this year. The update will be free and available for all Windows Phone 7 users to download in the third quarter of the year.

British Airways have developed a mobile app for Windows Phone, using the updated Mango features and development tools.

See images below:

BA points_blog.pngFlight details (2)_blog.png
Boarding pass_blog.png
DeepLinkedLiveTile_blog.png
Seat selection 1_blog.png

What is really behind Facebook's dirty tricks campaign against Google?

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Facebook's exposure for attempting to promote negative stories about Google's Social Circle service is one of the most curious stories to break this year.

The question on most people's minds is: Why did they go about it in such an underhanded way?

Facebook claims it merely wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles.

Not that Facebook can claim any moral high ground on privacy issues, but if this truly was its aim, why not be upfront about it for the good of the online community?

This is the online age, after all, so instead of going to all the trouble, and no doubt expense, of hiring a PR company when Facebook could have simply blogged about the issue.

Facebook could easily have reached out to its 500m users, so it is particularly curious that it chose instead to employ dirty tactics that would normally be associated with a weak and desperate company.

The biggest irony, perhaps, is that Facebook has been pushing users to open up more of their data to share with everyone, and yet is now claiming to be concerned about Google Social Circles, which clearly has similar aims.

None of this really adds up. In reality, being caught out in this way is unlikely to do any real damage to Facebook, which seems almost unassailable, but hopefully we will still find out what Facebook was really up to. 

 

Biz like Sony need to beef up comms as well as security and processes

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While many were still reeling from news that the personal details of 77m user of Sony's PlayStation Network were stolen by hackers, the company has warned that 25m more users another its networks may also be at risk of fraud.

 

The company suspended the Sony Online Entertainment service two weeks after its PlayStation Network was hit by hackers.

 

The company previously said it did not believe users of the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) service had been affected by the hack, but now says investigations have revealed SOE account information may have been stolen.

 

With over 100m user details potentially compromised, this is one of the biggest breaches to date and coming after several similar breaches at TripAdvisor, Lush, Play.com and Epsilon, highlights the urgent need for providers of online services to do more to safeguard the personal details of users.

 

Hacks will always take place, says Rik Ferguson director security research at Trend Micro. As businesses improve their security, a hacker will always try to find a way round it, but he says, it would certainly be advisable for companies to communicate such breaches in a more effective manner.

 

Sony has been criticised for taking so long between detecting an intrusion, to closing down the network, to alerting users their personal details had been compromised. The US House of Representatives has called on the company to explain the delay.

 

Given that hacks are always going to be a possibility, Ferguson says service providers should ensure they are able to communicate quickly and effectively with their customers.

 

The emails both TripAdvisor and Play.com issued to announce their breaches were not only vague, but also provided little advice on what a customer should do beyond, 'ignore spam emails', he says.

 

In the absence of any guarantees that email addresses will always be secure, Ferguson says users should opt for disposable email addresses for different websites.

 

"For example, Yahoo allows you to create a certain number of "disposable" email addresses under one account so that they can be used for various online activities. You could have an email address for Amazon and another for Ebay. That way, if one of those websites were breached, you would know which one and can simply delete the compromised email address," he says.

 

The more active users are in making sure their emails and passwords are not all interlinked, the more likely they will be able to stop an online hack becoming much more than the pilfering of their email address, says Ferguson.

 

Sony et al, he says, should provide details about exactly what was breached and what is being done to ensure the same thing will not happen again.

 

"It is important for them and their customers to make sure measures are being put in place," he says.

 

According to Ferguson, if recognisable targets like Sony, TripAdvisor and Play.com are more forthcoming with their advice and information on security breaches, and consumers become more proactive with how they manage their email accounts, the threat of serious attacks should be lessened.

 

"There is always the chance that someone can get hold of your information without you knowing, but as long as you take control and make sure you are as secure as you can be, and websites are ensuring they have the correct measures in place, there is certainly less to worry about," he says.

Sony warns 25m more users may be affected by hacker attack

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Sony has suspended another online service just two weeks its PlayStation Network was hit by hackers.

A week after Sony admitted that the personal details of 77m PlayStation Network users could have been stolen, the company warns almost 25m more may be affected.

The company previously said it did not believe users of the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) service had been affected by the hack, but now says investigations have revealed SOE account information may have been stolen.

Sony said the breach of the SOE data is believed to have been around the same time as a similar breach of its PlayStation Network, which was suspended on 20 April.

For an analysis on the Sony data breach, please click here.


 

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