Tag Archive for iPhone

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?Updated 06-22-2017 – As predicted below, the NYT reports that the Japanese government formed a coalition including the US venture capital firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba’s microchip division. Estimates are the deal is worth approx. $20 Billion.

Toshiba is being driven to sell off its crown jewel, its microchip business, to stabilize the international giant. The New York Times reports that the stalwart of Japan’s postwar rise as a global industrial giant warned that its has doubts over whether it could stay in business. In a filing in Japan, Toshiba said it wrote off more than $6 billion connected to Westinghouse Electric’s troubled nuclear reactor projects in the United States, had created “substantial uncertainty” over its ability to continue as a going concern.

ToshibaThe Toshiba microchip division is the number two global provider of NAND flash memory. NAND flash memory is a type of non-volatile storage technology that does not need power to retain data. Flash memory is electronic (solid-state) non-volatile computer storage medium that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.

Toshiba originally invented flash memory in the early 1980s from EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory). They introduced it to the market in 1984. Called flash memory, after the flash on a camera, the chips have become an essential building blocks of the modern electronics industry.

WestinghouseThe two main types of flash memory are named after the NAND and NOR logic gates. The individual flash memory cells have internal characteristics similar to those of the corresponding gates.

Where EPROMs had to be completely erased before being rewritten, NAND-type flash memory may be written and read in blocks (or pages) which are generally smaller than the entire device. NOR-type flash allows a single machine word (byte) to be written—an erased location—read independently.

NAND flash memoryThe NAND type operates primarily in memory cards, USB flash drives, some solid-state drives, and similar products for general storage and transfer of data. NAND or NOR flash memory is also often used to store configuration data in many digital products, a task previously made possible by EEPROM or battery-powered static RAM. One key disadvantage of flash memory is that it can only endure a relatively small number of write cycles in a specific block.

Toshiba manufactures its NAND Flash Memories at its Yokkaichi Operations to maintain quality.

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) is the biggest maker of flash memory chips, followed by Toshiba, SK Hynix and U.S.-based Micron Technology (MU).

many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposalsA sale of Toshiba’s chip business, while offering the business a lifeline, would take away its most successful business — and, more broadly, would represent a shift of a major technology away from Japan, depending on the buyer. The Toshiba sale is still in its early stages, and the NYT say as many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposals. Reports are that Toshiba is asking bidders to value its operations at about $17.6 billion (2 trillion yen), and make at least a 50 percent investment.

One of the better-known suitors is Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn. Foxconn is the assembler of Apple (AAPL) iPhones and is world’s largest contract electronics maker. Foxconn is based in Taiwan but performs most of its manufacturing in mainland China. According to the article Foxconn could pay billions to buy the business.

offered $27 billionSources told Japanese public broadcaster NHK the first round of the Toshiba auction drew 10 offers. Toshiba has narrowed the field of bidders for its chip unit to four: U.S. chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO), a private equity firm Silver Lake Partners which reportedly offered $18 billion; SK Hynix; Western Digital (WDC); and Foxconn (2354), reports say Foxconn offered $27 billion.

Apple is considering teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for Toshiba semiconductor business, Japan’s NHK reported. Apple is considering investing at least several billion dollars to take a stake of more than 20 percent as part of a plan that would have Toshiba keep a partial holding so the business remains under U.S. and Japanese control, NHK reported.

The authors point out Toshiba’s situation is a remarkable turnabout for Japan, a country that once controlled the majority of microchip markets. In the past Japanese companies have banded together to rescue flailing domestic rivals and not let them fold or be acquired by foreigners.

BankersThe article speculates that the Japanese government may cobble together a “team Japan” offer, but the response from potential participants — who would have to explain the spending to shareholders — has been tepid. “It is fundamentally unthinkable that the Industry Ministry would intervene and take some kind of action,” Hiroshige Seko, the industry minister, said at a news conference, further dampening expectations.

Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, argued in a report that Toshiba’s memory business remained valuable enough that selling it amounted to “selling the crown jewels to pay next month’s rent.”

Apple teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for ToshibaJapanese politicians and industry leaders have voiced concerns over Chinese investors’ buying advanced chip production technology; semiconductors and memory are a major priority of China’s industrial policy. That could hinder any deal with Foxconn, said Mr. Newman, of Sanford C. Bernstein.

The worry is that Foxconn “would build huge fabs in China,” Mr. Bernstein said, referring to semiconductor fabrication plants. “The jobs would move to China from Japan, and furthermore China would go after market share at the expense of crushing industry economics, so the U.S., Taiwan, Korea, Japan all get hurt substantially by this arrangement.” Foxconn has been successful in attracting subsidies from the Chinese government to build large-scale production facilities in China.

The article speculates that Foxconn could take the Toshiba technology and manufacture it more cheaply in China. Such a move could drive down pricing for memory, a boon for Apple and low-cost Chinese smartphone makers. But it would also propel China forward in its long push to become internationally competitive in semiconductors. Mr. Newman has warned that competition in NAND chips could heat up next year, creating the possibility of oversupply and putting more pressure on Toshiba’s ability to put in effect next-generation technologies.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Is Your Battery Healthy?

Is Your Battery Healthy?Lithium ion batteries have been in the news lately for causing fires and explosions. Explosions have happened with e-cigarettes, hover boards and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which was banned from all flights by the FAA due to its explosion risk. Despite the risks they power most of today’s most popular gadgets.

Exploding Lithium ion batteriesFred Langa at Windows Secrets Newsletter posted an article on how to get the most out of the lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Li-ion batteries need very different care and feeding than the nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in earlier devices. Proper care of a Li-ion battery can result in as much as 15 times longer service life than with an improperly cared-for battery.

The article does not cover ways to get more run time between recharges; those techniques are already well-known. Most portable devices offer ample manual and automatic power-saving modes and methods such as adjusting screen brightness, slowing CPU speed, and reducing the number of apps running.

Automatic power-saving modesRather, the article focused on ways to extend the battery’s overall service life. Follow these five important tips, and you’ll help make sure that your Li-ion batteries will deliver long, full, safe service lives in your new portable devices.

Tip 1: Keep your lithium batteries cool – Heat is the number-one enemy of Li-ion batteries. Heat issues can be caused by usage factors such as the speed and duration of battery charging and discharging. The physical environment also matters. Simply leaving your Li-ion-powered device in the sun or in an enclosed car, even if the device isn’t being used, can significantly reduce the battery’s ability to take and hold a charge according to the article.

High temperatures can reduce your Li-ion-powered device can significantly reduce the battery's ability to hold a chargeLi-ion batteries perform best at about normal room temperature (68F/20C). If the device warms to 86F/30C, its ability to hold a charge drops by about 20%. Mr. Langa says if the battery is used at 113F/45C — a temperature easily reached by devices that are working hard or that are in the sun, battery capacity can be reduced by 50%.

So if your device or battery becomes noticeably warm while you’re using it, the article recommends moving to a cooler place. If that’s not possible, try reducing the amount of power the device is using by turning off unneeded apps, reducing screen brightness, or activating the device’s power-saving mode.

Of course, you can turn the device fully off until its temperature returns to normal. For fastest cooling, remove the battery, if possible Windows Secrets recommends. The battery and the device will cool off faster if they’re physically separated according to the article.

Consumer-grade Li-ion batteries are useless at temperatures below freezingLow temperatures aren’t as much of a worry. Low temps usually won’t cause any long-term damage, although a cold battery won’t produce as much power as it otherwise would . The power drop becomes very noticeable at temperatures lower than about 40F/4C. Most consumer-grade Li-ion batteries are essentially useless at temperatures below freezing.

If your Li-ion powered device becomes excessively chilled for any reason, don’t try to use it. The article says leave it powered off and move it to a warm place until the device is at normal temperature. Once the battery warms to a normal temperature, so will its electrical performance.

Unplug the charger to save the batteryTip 2: Unplug the charger to save the battery – Overcharging, leaving a battery connected to a too-high voltage source for too long, can reduce a Li-ion battery’s ability to hold a charge, shorten its life, or kill it outright according to the author. Most consumer-grade Li-ion batteries are designed to work at around 3.6 volts per cell but will accept a temporary overvoltage of around 4.2 volts while charging. Mr. Langa  warns that if a charger outputs the higher voltage for too long, internal battery damage can occur.

In severe cases, Windows Secrets warns that overcharging can lead to what battery engineers delicately refer to as “catastrophic failure.” Even in moderate instances, the excess heat produced by overcharging will negatively affect battery life, as you saw in Tip #1.

High-quality chargers can work in concert with circuitry inside well-designed Li-ion-powered devices and their batteries, reducing the danger of overcharging by properly tapering off the charging current. The article says the simplest, can’t fail method is not to leave your Li-ion devices connected to any charger longer than needed.

These properties are quite different from those of older Ni-Cd and Ni-MH battery technologies, which did best when left on their chargers for as long as possible. That’s because those older battery types have a high rate of self-discharge; that is, they start losing a significant amount of stored energy the moment you take them off the charger, even if the device they power is turned off.
In fact, a Ni-Cd battery can self-discharge at a rate of 10% in the first 24 hours. The self-discharge curve flattens after that, but a Ni-Cd battery will still lose an additional 10–20% charge per month.Ni-MH batteries are even worse. Their self-discharge rate is about 30% higher than that of Ni-Cd.

But Li-ion batteries have a very low rate of self-discharge. A healthy, full, lithium battery will self-discharge at about only 5% in the first 24 hours off the charger — with only 2% or so per month after that.

It’s simply not necessary to leave a Li-ion device on the charger until the last possible moment. For best results and the longest battery life, unplug the charger when it or the lithium-powered device shows a full charge.

It’s also not necessary to give new Li-ion devices an extended charge before first use. (Ni-Cd or Ni-MH devices used to come with warnings to do an initial charge of anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.) Li-ion batteries are fully ready for use when the charger or the device reads 100% charge. No extended charging is needed.

Tip 3: Don’t deep-discharge your battery – Not all discharge cycles exact the same toll on a battery. Long and heavy usage generates more heat, putting more stress on the battery; smaller, more frequent discharges extend the overall life of lithium batteries.

Don't deep-discharge your batteryYou might think that a higher number of small discharge/recharge cycles would eat into the battery’s overall lifespan. That was true with older technologies, the author says it’s not the case with Li-ion. Battery specs can be confusing because most manufacturers count a full Li-ion charge cycle as whatever it takes to add up to a 100% charge. For example, three 33% discharge/recharge cycles equal one full-charge cycle, five 20% cycles equal a full charge, and so on.

In short, a higher number of small discharge/recharge cycles doesn’t reduce a lithium battery’s total available full-charge cycles.

Again, heat and stress from heavy discharges cut battery life. So try to keep your deep-discharge events to a minimum. Mr. Langa recommends that you don’t let your device routinely run down to zero charge (where the device turns itself off). Instead, think of the bottom 15–20% of battery capacity as a reserve — for emergency use only. Get into the habit of swapping in a fresh battery (if possible) or plugging the device into external power well before the battery is empty.

Slow and steady charge is best Tip 4: Slow and steady charge/discharge is best – As you now know, both fast discharging and fast recharging generate excess heat and exact a toll on battery life. Windows Secrets says if you’ve run a device long and hard, let the battery cool to room temperature before recharging it. Batteries won’t accept a full charge when hot. And when recharging, make sure your charger doesn’t make the battery become hot to the touch, a hot battery is a sign the charger is pumping too much current, too fast, through the battery.

Overcharging is more likely with chargers that are cheap, off-brand models; that use fast-charge circuitry; or that are wireless (inductive). These “dumb” chargers simply pump out current, accepting little or no feedback from the device being charged. Overheating and overvoltages can easily occur, damaging or even destroying the battery.

Fast chargers provide a useful charge to a drained battery in minutes and not hours. The author explains there are various approaches to fast-charging technology, and not all of them are compatible with all lithium batteries. Unless the charger and the lithium battery are specifically designed to work together, fast charging could cause overheating and overvoltages. Generally, it’s best not to use one brand of fast charger on a different brand’s device.

Wireless (inductive) chargers use a special charging mat or surface to restore a battery’s power. It sounds wonderfully convenient, but inductive charging always generates excess heat, even when it’s working normally.

Not only is the excessive heat produced by a wireless charger not good for lithium batteries, it also wastes energy. By its nature, inductive charging’s efficiency is always going to be lower than a standard charger’s. Mr. Lunga says that higher heat and less efficiency easily outweigh convenience.

In any case, the safest approach is to use only chargers sold by the OEM of your lithium-powered device. It’s the only way to be sure that the charger will keep temperatures and voltages within specs. The article recommends that if a OEM charger isn’t available, use a low-output charger that’s unlikely to pump damaging amounts of power into the device you’re charging.

One source of low-output, non-OEM charging that’s often available is the USB port on a standard PC. A typical USB 2.0 port provides 500mA (.5 amps) per port; USB 3.0 provides up to 900mA (.9 amps) per port. In contrast, some dedicated chargers will output 3,000-4,000mA (3-4 amps). The low amperages offered by USB ports will usually provide cool, safe charging of almost any Li-ion device.

Carry a spare batteryTip 5: Whenever possible, carry a spare battery – If your device allows for easy battery replacement, carrying a spare battery is cheap insurance. It will give you twice the run time. When the in-use battery approaches 15–20% charge, simply swap out the drained battery for a fresh, cool one — you get instant full power, with no heat worries.

A spare battery also allows for other benefits. For example, if you find yourself in a situation where the installed battery is running hot, you can swap out the hot battery to let it cool. Having two batteries should also eliminate any need to use fast chargers — you can charge the spare at a safe, slow rate while the other is in use.

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For more tips on how to keep your Apple iPhone battery in tip-top shape, check out this post from 2014.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Fake Fingerprints Hack Phones

Fake Fingerprints Hack Phones– Updated 03-30-2016 – The Business Insider proves that you can use Play-Doh to fool the fingerprint sensor in your iPhone

I have pointed out a number of times that biometrics will not be the complete final solution for passwords. Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people’s physical and behavioral characteristics. The technology is mainly used for identification and access control. The basic premise of biometric authentication is that everyone is unique and an individual can be identified by his or her intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.

BiometricsOne huge issue is that you can’t change your intrinsic physical or behavioral traits if they get stolen or hacked. Well now there is more proof that biometrics can be hacked without cutting off a finger.

Two smarty Sparty’s from Michigan State University’s biometrics group have figured out a way to hack mobile phone fingerprint authentication according to Help Net Security. Apparently the MSU researchers can hack your secure phone by using just a scanner, a color inkjet printer, a special type of paper and ink.

AgIC 2D inkjet printerTurns out that the attack is easy to execute. The first step is to scan the target’s fingerprint image at 300 dpi or higher resolution. Then, the image is mirrored and the original or binarized fingerprint image is printed on the glossy side of an AgIC special paper. The printer uses AgIC silver conductive ink cartridges (along with normal black ink).

CrunchBase explains that advances in material science have made it possible to manufacture almost magical conductive ink. AgIC silver conductive ink contains tiny silver particles and can be purchased online. The ink is printed by standard Brother printers. The ink dries in a few seconds and conductivity emerges instantly when the traces are drawn on special photo inkjet printing paper also available online.

Starbucks appAll in all, an attacker can have a spoofed fingerprint that would allow him to access a phone protected with fingerprint authentication in less than 15 minutes, and the cost of all the tools he needs to do this does not surpass $500.

Researchers Kai Cao and Anil Jain successfully managed to fool the fingerprint sensors on the Samsung (005930) Galaxy S6 and Huawei (002502) Hornor 7 phones.

They posted a demo of the attack on YouTube:

 

The attack is an improvement over Germany’s Chaos Computer Club’s attack against Apple (AAPL) Touch ID on iPhone 5S by lifting a fingerprint of the genuine user off a glass surface and then making a spoof fingerprint.

More details about the Michigan State researchers work can be found here (PDF).

Mobile paymentsThe Sparty researchers note that not all the mobile phones can be hacked using this method. But their experiment is proof of the urgent need for anti-spoofing techniques for fingerprint recognition systems, especially for mobile devices which are being increasingly used as a part of two factor authentication for site access and payment processing like Apple Pay, Google (GOOG) Pay or Samsung Pay.

The researchers warn that it is only a matter of time before hackers develop improved hacking strategies not just for fingerprints, but other biometric traits that are being adopted for mobile phones (e.g., face, iris and voice).

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for over fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Tablets are Doomed

Tablets are DoomedTechCrunch reports from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that tablets are dead. Six years after the original iPad ushered in the post-pc era, there weren’t any tablets at the premier mobile showcase. Companies and consumers have moved on.

iPadTo be fair, TechCrunch says that if you looked hard enough, you could find an Android tablet or two stashed away in a corner. And Apple (AAPL), the tablet leader, doesn’t come to MWC. They conclude that tablets are not the future for the Samsung’s (005930) and LGs (LGLD) of the consumer electronics world.

In fact, the author reports that Samsung, Sony (SNE), HTC (2498) and LG didn’t have any new tablets to announce. They didn’t even mention tablets during their conferences. It’s not just that people don’t care about tablets anymore — the big electronics companies themselves aren’t even trying to release new products for this market anymore.

Tablets are deadThe article lists a number of reasons why tablets have become so unpopular. First, tablets are now a commodity. You can find dozens of perfectly fine tablets for less than $200. And there’s no differentiating factor between Android tablets. As a result, companies are not making a profit on them.

Second, chances are you already have a tablet at home and it’s working fine. So the author reports that there’s no reason why you should upgrade it — it probably runs Netflix, Facebook (FB) and the Kindle app. It has a browser and your emails. Long replacement cycles mean you don’t need to pay attention to the new and shiny tablets. The Business Insider also observes tablets are more like PCs — you buy a new one only when the old one is worn out or doesn’t run the software you need.

Tablet ProphetThird, phones are getting bigger. The LG G5 (5.3-inch display) and Samsung Galaxy S7 (5.1-inch display) are the two most interesting flagship phones that were announced at MWC. The first Samsung Galaxy Note had a 5.3-inch display, could be called a phablet. Today, it would be an average phone. According to TechCrunch, big phones are the new normal, and everybody uses their phones constantly to interact with other people and do everything they’d do on a tablet.

BI explains the phenomenon of phones replacing tablets includes Apple. Apple started making larger phones, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, a year ago, which eliminates some of the justification for a bigger touch screen device. Also, consumers upgrade their phones every two or three years, since the carriers subsidize some of that up-front cost (plus, it’s just cool to have a new phone, which you carry with you everywhere in public).

Long replacement cyclesFor those who need a snapshot of the decline of the tablet, the Business Insider presented a chart from Statista put together this chart based on numbers from IDC. In each of the last four quarters, tablet sales have been down from the previous year’s quarter. Overall, shipments in the first three quarters of 2015 are down 9% from the same time a year ago.

The tablet market is in decline

TechCruch takes a pretty hardcore position on tablets. Tablets had a good run, but won’t be around for much longer. They argue that the iPad is a better tablet than any Android tablet because there aren’t many tablet-optimized apps on the Play Store. This is key to understanding the iPad’s appeal.

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I have covered the issues around tablets since 2011 including the first signs of a decline in Apple’s iPad Teflon armor in 2014.  TC says tablets can still make a comeback. They need to become something else. But something needs to change and soon. Current tablets prove that you should never bet against the smartphone.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for over fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Cisco Loves Apple

Cisco Loves AppleApple has announced a new partnership with network giant Cisco. If you believe Fortune, the goal is to sell more iPhones and iPads to business customers. The move is intended to make it easier for businesses to use Cisco products like its video and web conferencing services and chatting software on Apple‘s (AAPL) mobile devices. Fortune says that now, no new products have been announced under the partnership.

Apple and CiscoIn fact this collaboration seems to a deal looking for a plan. Rowan Trollope, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s collaboration technology group, told the author that both Cisco (CSCO) and Apple sales teams would soon meet with business leaders at other companies to discuss their technology needs. The conversations are intended to help give Cisco and Apple ideas about the products they will develop together. He also declined to confirm if any Cisco or Apple engineers are engaged or any timeline for when the new products will hit the market.

Even though there are no plans, the Cisco VP claimed that customers will be able to prioritize mobile traffic on their networks so that workers watching YouTube videos on their iPhones won’t hog all of a company’s bandwidth. Apparently Cisco and Apple engineers will work on updating iOS Apple’s mobile operating system, to prioritize network traffic from Apple devices, which “would be difficult without a joint engineering project,” according to the article.

Prioritization would be a good start, iOS updates have crushed networks in the past. The number of hoops you have to jump through to make AppleTV’s Bonjour work on an enterprise network is stupid.  Just proof that Apple is not ready for the enterprise.

TelePresence Cisco has tried to create new product lines outside of its core networking and switching businesses to help boost its sales. Sales of its collaboration products are so stagnant that the firm has resorted to 85% discounts on telepresence gear.

Cisco has a history of buying consumer-orientated business like Apple, destroying the business and then jettisoning the remains LinkSys and Flip Video come to mind.

Apple has also buddied up to IBM (IBM). The plan seems to be to add an IBM markup to overpriced Apple mobile devices and sell them to firms that have too much money. The combination has developed pushed-based apps that target specific industries, like healthcare or law enforcement.

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The fanboyz are drooling over this deal – Apple Will Change the World (again?) – Maybe if they clean up their proprietary non-routable protocols.

It has been a while since Cisco has done something notable. Maybe new CIO Chuck Robbins will shake things up at Cisco now that King Chambers has mostly moved on.

 

 

RaRalph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.