Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good news or Bad news?

Osama bin Laden's death helps clear the way for a political settlement in Afghanistan by making it easier for the Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda.

But many other obstacles remain in reaching a negotiated end to the Afghan war, including regional rivalry and competing demands of different groups inside Afghanistan.

"Things are falling into their correct place," said one Pakistani official, who declined to be named. "Osama bin Laden's killing may lead us toward an end-game."

"I do think that this opens the door to push for a political settlement; that depends, however, on President (Barack) Obama choosing to take the opportunity," said Joshua Foust at the American Security Project in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in February that Washington wanted "to move this conflict toward a political outcome that shatters the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda, ends the insurgency," and stabilizes Afghanistan.

The U.S. wants the Taliban to break with al Qaeda, as well as renouncing violence and respecting the Afghan constitution.

"These are not pre-conditions, these are end-conditions," said a western official. "We are getting out the message. We can't do this too often. Come in and talk."

Official sources have said Washington has already begun talks with the Taliban, an effort which is matched, some Afghan analysts say, by a willingness on the part of the Islamist movement to break ties with al Qaeda.

But it has been unclear how the Taliban would be expected to make this break -- a public renunciation would be one thing; actively turning over former allies to the United States would be much harder.

Bin Laden's death may have helped resolve that problem.

"...it will be easier for the Taliban to distance itself from al Qaeda after bin Laden's death," Gilles Dorronsoro wrote in a post at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In a report which has acquired new relevance after bin Laden's death, international experts at The Century Foundation said in March one way to make the break would be for the Taliban to declare an end to the more than 30 years of jihad in Afghanistan which began with the Soviet invasion in 1979.

In a post on The Century Foundation website, foreign policy specialist Jeffrey Laurenti said the death of bin Laden, with whom Mullah Omar had shared personal ties, made that easier.

"The Taliban inner circle has long debated the wisdom of the movement's alignment with al Qaeda, but the high esteem in which the Taliban 'commander of the faithful', Mullah Mohammed Omar, was said to hold bin Laden as a pious Muslim warrior has long been decisive in squelching any talk of a divorce," he said.

"We cannot know if Mullah Omar's determination not to betray bin Laden will prove as fierce for any successor."

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, speaking after a meeting in Islamabad with officials from both countries, also stressed the need to follow up Clinton's call in February for a political settlement.

"Today, our discussion focused on how we can make Afghan reconciliation successful," he said.


However, while the United States launched its military campaign in 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda, it is far from clear that the decapitation of the Islamist group and its likely subsequent disarray is enough now to stabilize Afghanistan.

There is as yet no evidence the Taliban could act as counter-party to a settlement which allowed for power-sharing between insurgents and those now in power in Afghanistan.

Western officials say they do not enjoy enough broad support in Afghanistan to be treated as the kind of representative nationalist insurgency with whom a deal could be struck.

And so far, there are no signs the Taliban would be ready to strike a deal which gave them less than their demands for a withdrawal of foreign troops and imposition of sharia law.

"There are lots of feelers out there, but none of them have yet developed into anything authoritative," said one western official, speaking before the news of bin Laden's death.

The insurgency itself is fragmented, both within the original Taliban movement and between them and other groups like fighters led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani network.

So far, the Americans are talking only to representatives of the original Taliban movement, and based on what little has been said about these talks, substantive progress remains elusive.

Western officials and many analysts also say Afghanistan, with a weak central government and big problems of governance, cannot be stabilized easily, even if a political settlement were to be reached. And that leaves it exposed to competing regional powers -- including Pakistan and India.

Islamabad insists it is not aiming to install a Taliban government in Kabul, seeking instead an end to the instability which has spilled over into Pakistan itself.

Pakistani sources have said repeatedly over the past year that it wants a stable Afghanistan -- neither one hostile to its interests, nor a client state run by the Taliban and Pakistan-friendly Pashtuns.

After so many bombings, Pakistan has had what one western official described as an "epiphany" in its attitude to Islamist militants.

But Pakistan has yet to convince many in India.

India has renewed peace talks with Pakistan broken off after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants.

Bin Laden's death, however, raised worries that it would allow the United States to make a quick exit from Afghanistan.

"Washington will seek plausible reassurances that after it leaves, Afghanistan will not play host to terrorists targeting the United States," said Nitin Pai, founder of Takshashila Institution, an Indian thinktank.

"It might retain some troops and drones in Afghanistan just in case it needs to use a stick. That apart, it will accede to Pakistani demands that Kabul be made over to a pro-Pakistani regime."

Sony admits to second data loss

EMBATTLED GAMING OUTFIT Sony has confessed that personal details belonging to nearly 25m of its online entertainment users might have been stolen by hackers.
Last week the firm reported that the number of affected online gaming users could have been as high as 77m, but according to Sony a third more could be involved.
A further 12,000 individuals might also have had their data compromised in the hack attack, as the company said that an 'outdated' database had also been penetrated. Sony added that the attack most likely happened on April 16 or 17, which was almost two weeks ago.
"This information, which was discovered by engineers and security consultants reviewing SOE systems, showed that personal information from approximately 24.6 million, SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) accounts may have been stolen, as well as certain information from an outdated database from 2007," it said.
"The information from the outdated database that may have been stolen includes approximately 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes), and about 10,700 direct debit records of certain customers in Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Spain."
The majority of information should be safe, Sony said that while they were not encrypted they were 'hashed', but the 10,700 old users may have had their bank account details, including personal data, stolen. All users are advised to change their personal log-in information, the firm added.
Sony has suspended all SOE services for now.
Maybe our internet is not SAFE as our thinking abount.

Latest hack apology from Sony

Below is the full text of Sony's statement regarding the security breach on the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) system.
Dear Valued Sony Online Entertainment Customer,
Our ongoing investigation of illegal intrusions into Sony Online Entertainment systems has discovered that hackers may have obtained personal customer information from SOE systems. We are today advising you that the personal information you provided us in connection with your SOE account may have been stolen in a cyber-attack. Stolen information includes, to the extent you provided it to us, the following: name, address (city, state, zip, country), email address, gender, birthdate, phone number, login name and hashed password.
Customers outside the United States should be advised that we further discovered evidence that information from an outdated database from 2007 containing approximately 12,700 non-US customer credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes) and about 10,700 direct debit records listing bank account numbers of certain customers in Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Spain may have also been obtained. We will be notifying each of those customers promptly.
There is no evidence that our main credit card database was compromised. It is in a completely separate and secured environment.
We had previously believed that SOE customer data had not been obtained in the cyber-attacks on the company, but on May 1st we concluded that SOE account information may have been stolen and we are notifying you as soon as possible.
We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the attack and as a result, we have:
1) Temporarily turned off all SOE game services;
2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation into what happened; and
3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our network infrastructure to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.
We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and goodwill as we do whatever it takes to resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as practicable.
For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone, and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information. Sony will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. If you are asked for this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking. When SOE's services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your Station or SOE game account name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them, as well.
To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to remain vigilant, to review your account statements and to monitor your credit reports. We are providing the following information for those who wish to consider it:
U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.
We have also provided names and contact information for the three major U.S. credit bureaus below. At no charge, U.S. residents can have these credit bureaus place a "fraud alert" on your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name. This service can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, it also may delay your ability to obtain credit while the agency verifies your identity. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts on your file. Should you wish to place a fraud alert, or should you have any questions regarding your credit report, please contact any one of the agencies listed below.
Experian: 888-397-3742; www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
Equifax: 800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
TransUnion: 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
You may wish to visit the web site of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or reach the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 or 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580 for further information about how to protect yourself from identity theft. Your state Attorney General may also have advice on preventing identity theft, and you should report instances of known or suspected identity theft to law enforcement, your State Attorney General, and the FTC. For North Carolina residents, the Attorney General can be contacted at 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001; telephone (877) 566-7226; or www.ncdoj.gov. For Maryland residents, the Attorney General can be contacted at 200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202; telephone: (888) 743-0023; or www.oag.state.md.us.
We are committed to helping our customers protect their personal data and we will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs. The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in regions in which such programs are commonly utilized.
We thank you for your patience as we complete our investigation of this incident, and we regret any inconvenience. Our teams are working around the clock on this, and services will be restored as soon as possible. Sony takes information protection very seriously and will continue to work to ensure that additional measures are taken to protect personally identifiable information. Providing quality and secure entertainment services to our customers is our utmost priority. Please contact us at 1 (866) 436-6698 should you have any additional questions.
Sony Online Entertainment LLC

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How the iPhone 3GS Makes AT&T Look Better Than It Should!

This morning AT&T revealed its first-quarter earnings, and things certainly smell like they're coming up roses for the carrier. That's probably expected considering it's destined to soon become the nation's largest wireless provider thanks to its recent move to acquire T-Mobile. But there was one part of the company's results that was a bit surprising: the debut of the Verizon iPhone appeared to have little effect on AT&T's iPhone subscriber base. Were there really that few people switching when AT&T finally lost its exclusive grip on the device?

AT&T said it activated 3.6 million iPhones last quarter, the first quarter the Verizon iPhone was available. It also said iPhone subscriber "churn," or the number of iPhone owners ditching AT&T for another carrier, was unchanged from the same period last year. During a call this morning, company executives said the impact was, "significantly less than many in the financial community and the media expected and, frankly, they were less than we expected."

After a close look at the numbers, an X factor becomes apparent: the iPhone 3GS. In January, AT&T reduced the price of the 8GB iPhone 3GS from $99 to $49, and it's been pushing the discounted phone hard. The 3GS is a very capable smartphone (disclosure: I'm an iPhone 3GS user and AT&T subscriber) and looks extremely cheap next to the iPhone 4, which starts at about $200 on both Verizon and AT&T. Of course, Verizon doesn't offer the iPhone 3GS, so any iPhone cravers not willing to pony up a couple of C notes will be going to the AT&T store.

Tellingly, the numbers AT&T provided don't break down how many of those iPhone activations were iPhone 4s or iPhone 3GSes. Even if iPhone subscribers—both new and existing—are flocking to Verizon, the losses to AT&T's overall iPhone subscriber base would be mitigated by thrify customers snapping up the now ultra-cheap iPhone 3GS.

None of this is to suggest that AT&T is being deceptive here. In fact, the company should be congratulated on employing an effective tactic to keep iPhone subscriber numbers healthy in the wake of losing exclusivity on the device to a strong competitor. After all, a customer is a customer, and a two-year contract is a two-year contract, regardless of which iPhone they're using.

But price-slashing the previous model won't be an effective long-term strategy. When the iPhone 5 debuts (whenever that happens), both carriers will have warehouses full of iPhone 4s ripe for a discount. Add to that the iPhone owners who are simply holding out for the next model before they switch, and I suspect that in a couple of quarters, AT&T's iPhone churn numbers will start to see an uptick (more disclosure: one of them will probably be me).

The first clue will come tomorrow morning, when Verizon releases its first-quarter earnings. If the company's iPhone sales numbers truly are its "best in history"—and if many of those customers are new subscribers—it's probably an indicator that the impact of the Verizon iPhone was more than AT&T would like to believe. Then, with a little luck, AT&T might realize it actually has to come up with something better than a price cut to compete effectively for iPhone customers' hearts and minds. How about fewer dropped calls, for starters?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Report - Total shipments of new Apple TV top 2 million sold last quarter.

Shipments of the second-generation Apple TV continue to be strong, reaching more than 2 million estimated units since the device launched late last year, according to a new report.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities revealed the results of his survey of Apple suppliers on Tuesday. The numbers show that sales of the Apple TV have held relatively steady since the device first went on sale last October.

Sales of the streaming-centric iOS-powered Apple TV topped 1 million just before Christmas of last year, and within three months of its launch. That pace showed strong sales had continued after a breakout start of 250,000 units in its first six weeks.

Apple has famously referred to its set top box product as a "hobby," but with AirPlay instant wireless streaming of audio and video from iOS devices now available for third-party applications, the Apple TV could become a more integral part of the Apple ecosystem. And while the Apple TV remains a "hobby," steady shipments of the $99 device have bolstered its status.

Kuo estimates that Apple sold 820,000 units of the Apple TV in its second quarter of fiscal 2011, which ran from January through March. Apple will announce its quarterly earnings after the market closes on Wednesday, though the company frequently does not mention the Apple TV, focusing instead on more popular products like the iPhone and iPad.

As the new second-generation Apple TV gains a foothold in the market, Apple is rumored to be exploring other options to bring AirPlay to the masses. In March, Bloomberg reported that Apple is considering a plan to license AirPlay to third-party HDTV makers, allowing users to stream video directly from an iPhone or iPad to their TV set without the need for an Apple TV set top box.

There are also persistent rumors that Apple is developing its own full-fledged television set. One analyst said earlier this month that there are signs that Apple could release an Internet-connected television by the end of this year.

It is said by Analysts that China will be the largest PC market exceeing the United States within two years.

Some analysts predict that China will soon surpass the U.S. PC shipments, the specific time will be this year or next year. This will once again demonstrate the power of China's 1.3 billion population purchasing power.

The rapid growth of China's PC market will also have an impact on U.S. companies, especially Microsoft. Microsoft technical officials responsible for public affairs, Stuart McKee (Stuart McKee) on Monday in the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing said that at present 95% of China's PC market running Windows, and more than 80% of companies PC installed with Microsoft Office software.

Mackey pointed out that China will soon become the world's largest PC market, but the Chinese market, business software piracy rate of 80% to Microsoft's software piracy rate in terms of higher. He calls upon the Commission to develop strategies to address the piracy problem.

IDC and Gartner are predicting that China will in the near future in PC shipments over the United States. Gartner's data show that in 2010, the United States in the global PC market share of 20.4%, PC shipments of 71.7 million units. China's market share of 19.3%, PC shipments of 67.8 million units. Gartner believes that if the Chinese market grew by 12%, then China's PC shipments will surpass the U.S. this year.

IDC believes that China's PC shipments in 2012 surpassed the United States. IDC expects China's PC shipments this year, an increase of 10.8%, 4.7% higher than the United States. The company estimates that the United States and China last year, PC shipments were 7,500 million and 63.8 million units.

However, the United States Pace University School of Computer Science and Information Systems Expert Jonathan Hill pointed out that analysts and tech enthusiasts pay more attention to mobile devices, including tablet PCs and smart mobile phones, rather than the traditional notebook and desktop computers. Therefore, China's PC shipments will surpass the United States does not cause too much of American psychology.

Hill also believes that China is still not an operating system to replace Microsoft Windows, this may be because Chinese companies pay more attention to mobile devices. He pointed out that Baidu is currently developing a mobile operating system may be out of this consideration.

Currently, the U.S. PC makers have put most of China PC manufacturing activities. Therefore, U.S. companies in the industry on the development of hardware and software is still in the leading question.

Pace University Marketing and International Business Professor Robert G. Vambery said the next 10 to 20 years, China will lead in terms of hardware and software development. He said: "In the U.S. universities and R&D center, China's engineers and scientists have been and continue to receive the best training."

Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle said that China's growth in PC shipments was huge, and This is one of several trends that China is replacing the U.S. as the world's most with the strength of the country.

The Taboo About Programmers' salary.

Salary is an interesting topic. Each person has their own idea of this topic. It is also at work among people with a unique taboo. Although the completion of university studies, into the working environment of the programmer is only a month or so, I could not help my classmates start asking about their access to first job in the starting salary is how much. I first discovered it is not natural for everyone to face this issue, many companies have evaded the issue. Such as Microsoft, very clear requirements recruits must maintain confidentiality of their salary jobs.

From a company like Microsoft to consider the position, they practice this kind of thing is entirely understandable. They want all the information confidential as possible. If they offer you the treatment you well, and you told your friend, your friend is likely to produce an unreasonable expectation. If they give you a bad treatment, and you told your friend, then you discover that the treatment is very low, you will therefore unhappy. So, to keep the staff it is clear that taboos related to each company's best interests. However, despite this, for you, does not mean you need to comply with this taboo.

From a personal point of view, open your salary information is a good idea. Sharing salary information with colleagues that you can know how the company is an excellent way to repay. And eventually it will become your future bargaining with the company in salary effective tool. Of course, the treatment is difficult to make accurate comparisons good or bad, because different regions have different standards, but the direction, after all, is a start!

To make my proposal more valuable these proposals, the following is my collected four technology companies in the unofficial starting salary for new employees situation. If I play the drums, while his public salary information is not shared by the available information would make it very hypocritical! In each of the following companies, I refer to at least three in the company of people working full-time information, so the data close to the actual situation (especially for those who have not graduated from college students.)

Google: The Mountain View office and other large-scale office in the United States, the annual salary is about thousands of dollars, but where they will live in accordance with a number of indicators of confidentiality increase or decrease this figure. They also provide the equivalent of 40,005 to 70,001 thousands of dollars thousands of dollars (more recent than the latter) the retention period of 4 years the stock value of Google's other benefits about 40,005 thousands of US dollars per year, or even more.
Amazon: about $80,007 annual salary of thousands of dollars, they will not be known in the bargain with you on a starting salary. They usually will provide a roughly from 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. dollars the value of the different 4-year retention period of the stock (you will be the longer in the company, get more.)
Microsoft: average about $90,000 per year, but I heard only 8 million. Usually add about 5 million worth of four-year stock.
Facebook: each year $80,005 to $90,000 U.S. dollars between. Their stock structure is complex, but I guess the value is usually $1000 to $10,000 U.S. dollars 8 four-year retention period for the stock, if you believe the secondary market prices, these stocks already more than 20 million U.S. dollars in value, equivalent to each Shares 28 dollars.