Intel moves deeper into software with server KVM tool

February 18th, 2014 | Edited by | software


Intel has released a new tool for remotely managing servers from multiple hardware vendors, though it’s having to be careful not to upset partners as it looks to make more money from software.
Intel’s Virtual KVM Gateway is a software console that lets operators troubleshoot server and other hardware problems remotely, allowing them to check BIOS configurations, analyze server logs and in some cases restart systems.
Intel launched the Virtual KVM Gateway as an SDK (software development kit) last year, allowing partners such as Schneider Electric and Japan’s Niscom to bundle it with their DCIM (data center infrastructure management) suites. This week it started to sell the software as a standalone product on its website, priced at US$99 per server, said Jeff Klaus, general manager of Intel’s Data Center Solutions Group. There is also an option for a 30-day free trial.
KVM tools have traditionally been hardware switches that connect directly to servers (the KVM stands for the keyboard, video and mouse that plug into the switch). That approach creates extra cabling in the data center, though, and extra hardware boxes to manage.
So the market is moving toward virtual KVMs, or tools that provide remote management by tapping directly into server firmware instead of going through a switch, according to Klaus.
Most server makers offer their own KVM tools, so operators can end up having to switch back and forth between different consoles. One big benefit of Intel’s KVM is that it can be used to manage hardware from multiple vendors on a single screen, Klaus said.
Intel’s Virtual KVM allows operators to access up to 50 servers simultaneously, he said, making it easier to compare data from a group of servers. It can also access network and storage gear, or pretty much any equipment with a standard IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) port, he said.


The tool provides both in-band and out-of-band (OOB) access to servers, though OOB might be a challenge in some cases. OOB access involves skirting the server OS and communicating directly with the baseboard management controller, which allows access to servers when they’re offline.
However, server makers generally charge extra to enable OOB access to their systems, and the top-tier vendors—HP, Dell and IBM—only sell it as part of a bundle that includes their own KVM. So customers who want the benefits of Intel’s KVM might end up paying more if they need OOB access.
Klaus noted that second-tier OEMs such as Fujitsu and Lenovo tend to offer OOB access as an “a la carte option,” making it a smaller additional fee. And not all the top-tier OEMs’ customers buy their enterprise server management tools anyway, he said.
As Intel looks to sell more data center management products, it has to be careful not to cause friction with partners like Schneider that license its technologies. Intel intentionally priced its Virtual KVM Gateway so that it doesn’t undercut its partners’ offerings, Klaus said.
“It’s delicate, I won’t deny it,” he said.
Intel could face similar challenges in other areas besides KVM. It commands some 95 percent of the x86 server market, giving it access to a variety of instrumentation data including thermals and power consumption. It licenses access to that data to other companies that make data center management tools, particularly ones used to manage energy use.
“We think we’re in the best position, being the manufacturer of the hardware, to be that connected layer just on top of the hardware, and to provide that instrumentation data,” Klaus said.
A decision for Intel is whether it will continue to monetize the power and thermal data primarily through third parties, or whether it will use it to develop more software products of its own. The answer might depend on how well those third-party tools sell.
“Are we going to achieve the growth through partners, or are we going to have to pivot and be more direct?” Klaus said. “Right now, we’re putting more emphasis on partners on the power and thermals side, and we’re just trying this direct route on virtual KVM.”
How that strategy will evolve remains to be seen.


How to prevent strangers on Google+ from flooding your Gmail inbox

January 18th, 2014 | Edited by | software


If you use Google+ and Gmail, Google is about to open your email account to a whole new level of spam. A new feature rolling out over the next couple of days makes it possible for any Google+ user to email you, as long as they follow you on Google+—they don’t need to know your actual email address, and you don’t even have to follow them back. And to make it even worse, Google took the Facebook approach by turning on the new feature by default.
Fun, right? Not so much. I’ve already got this new “feature” in my inbox and the first thing I did was turn it off. Today, I’m going to show you how to do the same thing.
But first, let’s cover the basics about how this new “email via Google+” feature works.

The good news

Even though any Google+ user can crowd your inbox now, they won’t know your actual email address unless you reply to their message. Plus, Google+ users who aren’t in your Circles (read: you aren’t following) can only email you once without your approval. When someone from your Circles emails you, it shows up in your Gmail’s “Primary” inbox tab. If the message is from some random Google+ stranger, the email gets filtered into your “Social” inbox tab.
The other good thing is that if you want to keep the “email via Google+” feature, you can restrict Google+ emails to just people in your Circles or your extended Circles (which functions like Facebook’s friends of friends).
Got it? Good. Let’s get down to business.


Stop the email madness

To prevent Google+ users from emailing you, simply click on the settings cog in the upper right-hand corner of your Gmail inbox and select Settings from the drop down menu.
When the Settings panel opens, scroll down the “General” tab until you see “Email via Google+” label. (If you don’t see the new setting in your Gmail account, check back over the next few days, as the feature is still rolling out to all Gmail users.) Click on the drop-down menu and choose the setting that you’re most comfortable with. Remember, by default Google is letting anyone from Google+ send you unsolicited mail. I chose to stop Google+ emails completely by selecting “No one,” as you can see below.
Once you’ve picked your setting, scroll down to the bottom and click on “Save Changes.”
After that, Gmail kicks you back to your inbox. Congratulations, you’ve beaten back a potentially serious case of Google+ spam.


Developers Dish Advice on Building Apps That Will Sell

December 14th, 2013 | Edited by | software


There’s a lot to juggle when developing an app: The expectations of your users, the demands of your boss and a multitude of other facets that need to be weighed — and possibly tossed.
These topics and more were part of a lively discussion during the “App development: the right way to build your tablet app” session at the recent TabletBiz Conference & Expo.
Panelists Andreas Pfeiffer, president of Pfeiffer Consulting; Joe Zeff, president of Joe Zeff Design; and Kevin Kim, co-founder of App Orchard discussed what they’ve learned about the not-so-nascent world of app development.
Zeff said he created Joe Zeff Design to bring current magazines to the iPad. He found Apple’s tablet a natural fit for the publishing industry. “The tablet is the ultimate storytelling device.
He advised, “It comes down to that core capability of that tablet device to present content. Take content that people already like and make it more likeable. Make it something that people want to spend more time with and present opportunities for them to interact with it.”
His work, along with an infectious enthusiasm, has attracted attention beyond the world of publishing. Now Zeff counts JP Morgan and Notre Dame Football among his clients.


Independent Developers Can Be Rock Stars

Kim shared his take on development, specifically on the developers themselves.
“Some of the best, most innovative developers aren’t working in the trenches of corporate America,” he said. Instead, the best ideas are “mostly coming from independent developers. They’re the ones who are pushing the envelope when it comes to technology.”
It turns out, for example, that the pull-to-refresh feature that is now the latest and greatest iCandy on the iPhone didn’t come by way of Cupertino, Calif. Kim said it originally was produced by an independent developer for his client. “Now Apple has made it a default behavior.”
Amusingly, he and his team like to create “quick and dirty” apps when a developers’ ambition may overreach his ability to deliver a seamless user experience. “We say it has to pass the Mom test. Whatever gesture she does [to the screen] is probably the one you should use.”

Don’t Count on Apple’s Help to Make Your App a Hit

And finally, Pfeiffer touched upon problems with Apple’s app store that developers need to be aware of.
“There are 1,000 to 2,000 app submissions a day. The real problem isn’t the distribution, but the promotion. You cannot count on Apple,” he said.
Apple calls out very few apps, and Pfeiffer mentioned a friend whose game was picked as game of the week. However, he asked, “How many are as lucky?” (Technically, 51 others. But we get the point.)
“Apple has a responsibility to inform,” he said, yet Apple has failed to provide a complete and easy-to-browse catalog of their apps, relying on the users to find apps on their own.
“Now the responsibility to reach the users falls directly onto the shoulders of the developers,” he said. “That’s your work, not Apple’s.”
Apple’s seamless user experience — which seems to be in inverse proportion to the bumpy ride of the developer experience — is just something else to consider when developing your next app.


What to Do if Your Mac Can’t Run OS X Mavericks

November 5th, 2013 | Edited by | software


The wait is finally over: Apple released a new version of its Mac operating system, OS X Mavericks (version 10.9).


Unlike most major new Mac OS X updates, Apple chose to continue supporting all the same Macs as the previous release of the operating system. This means that if your Mac was compatible with Mountain Lion, you’ll be able to upgrade to Mavericks.
However, some Macs are still limited to Lion (version 10.7.5), which might possibly still receive security updates for the next year or two, given Apple’s recent track record with providing Snow Leopard security updates after two newer versions of OS X were released.
Some older Macs can’t even be upgraded to Lion, meaning they’ll be stuck with Snow Leopard (version 10.6.8) or older. That’s not a good thing, because it could mean that Apple may not patch security vulnerabilities for those Macs for much longer.
Apple might stop releasing security updates for Snow Leopard in the near future. The now three-generations-old operating system costs Apple money and developer resources whenever a new security vulnerability needs to be patched. Apple continues to release Java 6 updates for Snow Leopard (and for Macs that have upgraded from Snow Leopard to a later version of OS X) even though Oracle is no longer making Java 6 patches available to the general public—which could possibly mean that Apple is paying Oracle for the privilege of obtaining the latest Java patches for older Macs.
For many generations of Mac OS X, Apple only released patches for OS vulnerabilities in the current and one previous version of the operating system. Apple eventually seemed to change its mind about supporting the then two-generations-old Snow Leopard after Mountain Lion became available, but only after a long delay before patching 121 vulnerabilities in Snow Leopard’s version of Safari that had been accumulating for several months.
Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure how much longer Snow Leopard or Lion will continue to get security updates from Apple. While Microsoft publicly announces its support timetables for Windows, and Canonical does likewise for Ubuntu, Apple has never given any official word to the public regarding how long each version of Mac OS X or iOS will continue to receive security updates.
The good news is that most new Macs sold within the past several years can be upgraded to a newer version of OS X.
Following are lists of Macs that can run a supported version of OS X. If your Mac is older than the ones listed, read on for suggestions on what you can do to upgrade to a supported system.

Mavericks Capable Macs

Mavericks, like its predecessor Mountain Lion, requires one of the following Macs with at least 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of available hard drive space:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

Lion Capable Macs

If your Mac isn’t new enough to run Mavericks, it won’t run Mountain Lion, either.  However, if your Mac has a Core 2 Duo processor (one of the models listed below), it should still be able to run Lion as long as it has at least 2 GB of RAM and 7 GB of free hard drive space:

  • iMac (Late 2006 or Early 2007)
  • MacBook (Late 2006, Mid or Late 2007, or Early 2008)
  • MacBook Air (original model from Early 2008)
  • MacBook Pro (Late 2006)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2007)
  • Mac Pro (original 2006 model, including any bought in 2007)
  • Xserve (Late 2006 or Early 2008)

If you’re not sure which Mac model you own, you may find EveryMac and apple-history to be useful sites.
If all you need is a RAM upgrade in order to upgrade your OS, by all means, do it! RAM is cheap, and you can either install it yourself by following guides available online, or simply have an Apple-authorized repair technician do it for you.
If your Mac can’t handle Mavericks but does support Lion, finding a legitimate copy of Lion could be a little tricky if you haven’t already purchased it. You’ll no longer find it in the Mac App Store, and Apple no longer sells an OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive (part number MD256Z/A) in its online store.
An Apple spokesperson told Macworld last year that customers should be able to purchase Lion from Apple’s “legacy products list” by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE. However, it’s unlikely that Apple has any left to sell at this point.
Since Apple doesn’t provide any way to purchase Lion anymore, your best bet might be to ask a friend who purchased Lion when it was still available. If they have a license that they’re not using, they might be willing to help you out.

Macs That Can’t Run Mavericks or Lion

If you have an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, or Mac mini model that was originally released in Early/Mid 2006, the latest version of Mac OS X your system supports is Snow Leopard.
Again, only time will tell exactly how much longer Apple will continue to release security updates for the now three-generations-old Snow Leopard operating system.
Apple no longer releases security updates for Leopard (Mac OS X version 10.5.8), Tiger (version 10.4.11), or anything older than that.
If you still use a Mac with a PowerPC processor, including G4 or G5 Macs, Apple hasn’t released any security updates for your Mac’s maximum operating system for over two years now. Apple hasn’t sold any PowerPC-based Macs since 2006.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t give users any kind of warning when their operating system or Mac is no longer supported. Worse, when users run Apple’s Software Update program, it misleadingly tells them “Your software is up to date.”
Lest you think that nobody would bother releasing malware to attack such old systems, in recent years malware has been found in the wild that was designed to attack multiple platforms, and often this malware has contained PowerPC native code. This didn’t just happen once; it has happened again and again.
While Apple boasts about the extremely high percentage of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices that are rapidly upgraded to each major new version of iOS, such is not the case with Macs and OS X.
Back in March of this year, Chitika reported that Snow Leopard was the #1 most widely used version of Mac OS X in North America. As recently as May, Net Applications reported that 33% of the worldwide Mac installed base was running Snow Leopard or an older version of Mac OS X while another 25% was still running Lion; a mere 27% was running Mountain Lion, the latest version of OS X available at the time.
Perhaps Apple hopes that by making OS X upgrades free beginning with Mavericks, major OS X upgrades may become more widely adopted much more quickly, similar to iOS. It certainly seems logical, but only time will tell how successful this tactic will be.
Anyone still using Snow Leopard or Lion should strongly consider upgrading to Mavericks if their Mac supports it, or if not, they should buy new hardware if they can afford it. (Let’s face it, that’s what Apple wants you to do anyway.)

But what can you do if neither Mavericks nor Lion is supported on your Mac and you can’t afford to buy a new computer?

If you have one of the early Intel Macs that can’t even run Lion, you have several options.
One solution is to set up Boot Camp and install Windows to use it as your Mac’s primary OS. While Apple may not support your Mac anymore, ironically Microsoft does; Windows 8.1 still supports systems with 1 GHz processors, 1 GB of RAM, and 20 GB of available hard drive space.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford to buy a copy of Windows (or just can’t stand the thought of it)—or if you prefer to support free and open-source software—there are guides online detailing how to install Ubuntu Linux on a Mac.
The latest versions of Ubuntu are still being made available for PowerPC-based Macs, including those with a G3 processor.
Another option is, of course, to buy a cheap PC. (Be forewarned: you get what you pay for.)
Obviously, none of those solutions is going to excite most Mac users. I suspect that most Mac users, geeks and non-geeks alike, would rather buy a newer Mac than switch to another operating system.
If you can’t afford to buy a brand new Mac but you do have a little money to spend, you can shop around for used Macs, but make sure you buy one that’s new enough to support Mavericks so it will hopefully be able to get security updates for a couple more years.

If you know a Mac user who’s still running an older version of OS X, do them a favor and check to see whether their Mac is capable of running Mavericks or at least Lion. If so, help them upgrade. If not, let them know it’s time to strongly consider getting a newer computer.
The burden of informing users about software and hardware that will no longer receive security updates should really fall on Apple—not on security researchers, security blogs, or blog readers. Let’s hope Apple eventually figures this out and starts giving users clear notifications when it’s time for them to upgrade.


8 Best Free Tools for Internet Security

November 2nd, 2013 | Edited by | software


If you’re one of those Internet users helping to make “password” the most popular online password for the umpteenth year in a row, you desperately need some help with your Internet security.
Online security threats get more sophisticated every year and now, more than ever, it’s important to keep your protection tools up-to-date. Luckily for you, web users are often frugal, and you can use and download a multitude of great security tools free of charge.
We’ve compiled the eight best free security tools available. You can use this list in conjunction with the link above, detailing the best free antivirus options to secure your computer and data from harm.


1. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is an excellent tool if you frequently use shared Wi-Fi. It secures your IP address, protecting your browsing from the eyes of any sneaky hackers at airports, hotels or coffee shops.

2. HTTPS Everywhere
Use the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension with either Chrome or Firefox to secure your data and online communication. HTTPS protects against eavesdropping attacks during downloads and account creation.

3. LastPass
If you’re following our trusty guide to creating secure passwords, you’re likely overwhelmed with various strings of letters, numbers and symbols. Even the most secure passwords still have to be remembered from time to time. That’s where LastPass comes in. It works by saving all of your passwords into an encrypted database and autofilling your login info when you first enter a site.
You can even use LastPass to generate secure passwords, eliminating the pesky temptation of using the exact same code for every website.

4. LongURL
If you’re using Twitter, you’ve seen shortened links. While useful for clearing web clutter, short links also come with the possibility of leading you to a risky, dangerous site. Use the web tool “LongURL” to revert your shortened links back to their original forms.

5. NoScript
This helpful Firefox add-on prevents plugins like JavaScript and Flash from running on sites you haven’t “whitelisted,” saving you from potential attacks.

6. Trusteer Rapport
Trusteer Rapport is an award-winning anti-malware and encryption tool that will block any third parties from stealing your information and keep you from entering your data in a fraudulent site masquerading as your bank.

7. VirusTotal
Run any mysterious files or URLs through this web tool (a Google subsidiary), which will then check them for viruses, worms, trojans and other types of malware.

8. Two-Step Verification
Multi-factor password verification is a necessary tool for web users with many accounts. The voluntary free service is offered by sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, and works by requiring you to “authorize” a new device from accessing your accounts by entering a code sent to your phone.


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