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One of the big negatives surrounding the Dell/EMC merger is that it takes two legacy companies that don’t appear to have a competitor for AWS and puts them together without directly addressing this seemingly big shortcoming.

However, both Dell and EMC are executing a similar strategy of creating solutions to sell to cloud services vendors rather than becoming cloud computing providers themselves. Both paths—offering services and selling to service providers—have hazards. With AT&T we saw the “do-it-yourself” path flame out rather badly in telecom, while selling in that market has proven, over the decades, to be far more lucrative.

The old AT&T was likely the largest vertically integrated vendor in a similar space we have ever seen short of Amazon. There are two problems with this strategy at scale, and we saw both do horrid things to AT&T. The first occurs if the company stops innovating and focuses on milking their customer base. This will undoubtedly result in either competition or regulation, and AT&T got both. In addition, it can lead to customer disloyalty and anti-trust action—and AT&T got both of these as well and eventually failed.

So, in extremes, vertical integration can result in company failure. We didn’t just see this with AT&T; we first saw it with the original Standard Oil and then later RCA. All three of these firms eventually failed. (The AT&T we see today was an attempt to recreate the old company, and Standard Oil is simply one of the retained names from when the original company was broken up).

Getting to dominance isn’t very easy either, particularly in a mature market. Standard Oil, AT&T, RCA and IBM all started out more than equal as their respective markets grew and were able to maintain leadership pretty consistently until they achieved dominance. Even Google, which you could argue is in a similar position, came up as the search market matured.

A technology supplier, if they can hold onto critical mass and demonstrate value in terms of both capability and economies of scale, is in a less-risky position. This is because they can sell to the firms until (and if) the market settles on one vendor. The cloud vendor in this case focuses on their customers, and the parts supplier focuses on the needs of the cloud vendor. Each is optimized for their own focused areas. The parts supplier is free to move to other markets as they mature, and because they are end-supplier independent, they are more secure against the failure of any one cloud services provider.

So the problem with the vertical integration path is that we already have Amazon Web Services becoming dominant. Catching them from behind will be incredibly problematic. The problem with becoming a supplier is that cloud service providers like Amazon are often not seeing the value of buying a solution from an OEM; instead, they are often working directly with component suppliers to build their own solutions.

IT has flirted with “build-your-own” on and off for decades. It always seems to come back to the OEM model because the OEMs have been able to demonstrate both competitive prices and unique technology that better assures the stuff works. OEMs also provide someone IT can point to when there is a failure, and cloud services have had a lot of embarrassing failures of late. So OEMs provide the dual sustainable benefit of both assuring the system is reliable and making sure the IT organization doesn’t get shot regularly when there is a problem.

In short, being a supplier makes better use of the skills an OEM actually has, while being a cloud services company would mean they would have to develop a whole new skill set and then chase a firm that is already expert. Granted, Amazon is having issues with both services and culture that suggests you could move against the company, but this would also suggest a strategy of selling to them could work. Here too an OEM would have the stronger skills.

There are two approaches to the cloud market. One is to develop or buy a cloud services vendor and compete directly with Amazon and their peer firms. The other is to build solutions that make these firms more successful and perform the role of kingmaker.

The strategy that both EMC and Dell are currently using, and are merging to enhance, comes out of their existing strengths and should be less risky. But like any strategy, it’ll come down to execution, market conditions and competitive issues (against cloud services companies building their own stuff and against competitors building their own cloud solutions).

One thing will be sure: the cloud computing market is about to get a lot more interesting.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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What Is An Xss Attack And What Can You Do About It?

What Is XSS?

The definition is in its name. An XSS attack is executed by modifying a URL in a way that can allow certain scripts to be injected into it. For example, you can make an entirely different website show up within a frame of the URL’s destination.

Look at an example of the modified URL:

How Does XSS Affect You?

XSS can be used in a variety of ways. Some may just post a link on Twitter containing the malicious URL. Twitter does half the work for them by covering up the URL partially. Contextual links within untrustworthy blogs and websites may contain URLs that are masked by the “anchor text” (which is another fancy way of describing text that’s underlined and blue).

XSS can also be used to trace you by installing cookies on your computer without your consent. Gathering this data could allow hackers to better understand a “digital demographic” of the people they are targeting for future malware infections. In such a case, you might not even notice anything going on in your computer or mobile device at all.

How Dangerous Is XSS?

All things considered, XSS isn’t usually very dangerous. It may be annoying, but it won’t present any long term consequences, at least not in the short term. However, beware of combinations between XSS attacks and other sorts of malicious behavior!

For example, let’s say that Facebook is vulnerable to XSS. A hacker can easily inject a fake log-in page to Facebook’s URL. You’d log in successfully (since the fake page can send your credentials to both Facebook and its own database), but the hacker will now have your username and password. This is where the true danger of XSS presents itself.

How To Protect Yourself Against XSS

If you have a website you’re developing yourself, read this cheat sheet. This will protect you and your visitors from XSS. Be sure to mail the cheat sheet to any web developers you know. They’d appreciate it.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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What You Need To Know About The “Rosetta” Flash Exploit

Flash? What’s That?

Everyone who’s tech-savvy already knows that Flash isn’t exactly the safest piece of software to use. It’s written in stone: Avoid opening non-trustworthy pages with Flash. While the vast majority of the public is not aware of this, what is perhaps even worse is that they’re not aware that Flash has an exploit that can really ruin their day. This is why you’re about to find out what this new exploit, known informally as the “Rosetta” exploit, is and what you can do about it.

For those of you who don’t understand what Flash is, it’s the software you sometimes use to view animated content online. Websites like YouTube operated largely on Flash until recently. In case you’re curious, it’s developed and maintained by Adobe after an acquisition from Macromedia.

OK, So What Is The Rosetta Exploit?

An engineer at Google discovered something awry in Flash’s software. It was basically a security hole that allowed anyone who exploited it to gain access to things like cookies and any other additional data that the browser provides in a request. The engineer, Michele Spagnuolo, developed a tool called “Rosetta Flash” that showed how malicious SWF (Flash content) files can be used to do the things he claimed could happen. For years, the exploit has been out in the open and no one bothered to fix it until now. That fact alone should make you a bit wary of using Flash in the first place.

How to Protect Yourself

Luckily for you, Adobe has come up with a fix and it’s already available. The best way to protect yourself at this moment is to update Flash. It’s that simple.  Of course, you should also keep your browser up to date!

If you’re using Chrome, Flash will automatically update if you update your browser. The same goes for Internet Explorer versions 10 and 11.

However, if you’re using Firefox, you will need to manually update Flash using the link I provided above. In case you’re curious, the latest version number is 14.0.0.145.

How to Prevent Any Future Exploits But How do I Watch Videos Without Flash?

Don’t panic! There’s a little thing called hypertext markup language (HTML). For several years, it’s been the language that people used to display whatever you see in websites. Until recently, the only thing it did was allow you to create static content. Without helpers like Flash and other media languages and software, you’d just see websites as they were in the 90s.

This is not the case anymore, though. HTML5, the latest revision of HTML, allows for dynamic multimedia content to be implemented into web pages directly without needing extra layers of software running on top of it. This means you can see videos directly without having to use Flash. Most of the largest websites already support this, so you don’t need to do anything. Just stop using Flash!

All you need to use HTML5 is the latest version of either Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, or Safari. Using this link, you can see how compatible each one is with the new language. Oh, and don’t worry about your smartphone or tablet. They already support this as long as you’re using one of the mainstream browsers.

The important thing is to leave Flash behind and learn to live without it. Its outdated technology and security risks it presents make it more of a hassle to have around. It’s time for Flash to retire!

To disable flash, follow the proper procedure for your browser:

Internet Explorer – Follow this guide.

Goodbye, Flash! Or Not?

While most prominent multimedia websites already support HTML5, it’s not always going to be a Flash-free world out there. In the event that Flash is absolutely crucial for you to view content, ensure that the website you’re visiting is trustworthy first. If you’ve never used it, assume hostility on first contact. Safer browsing breeds healthier computers!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox

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What Do We Know About The Next Generation Gaming Consoles

If you’re an avid console gamer, you know how exciting it is to hear about all the new console news being released. Whether it’s a brand new console or a remix of an older model, there’s always something to look forward to.

We’ve had relative silence when it comes to the new models of each of the main three consoles, but details are slowly trickling through. Here’s what we know about each console so far.

What’s New for the Nintendo Switch?

If you think about what Nintendo has done with their past portable consoles, it’s easy to see that that the Switch will get a luxury and budget-friendly variant. The 3DS, for instance, had both the larger XL version and the cheaper 2DS without the 3D vision.

Rumors have stated that both a luxury and economy version are currently being developed, with a release date of late 2023. The luxury version will be aimed at “avid gamers,” which could tackle some issues people have with the console, such as low processing power and no native ethernet support. The budget version may strip off some of the unneeded features of the console to lower the price, such as controller vibration.

What’s New for the PlayStation 4?

The PS4, however, already has its luxury and economy versions: the PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim, respectively. As such, Sony’s sights are less on remixing the PS4 and more pushing ahead with their new console, presumably called the PlayStation 5.

There has been confirmation that Sony is working on a successor to the PS4, and some of the details coming out sound very good. For one, Sony has learned from the awful PS4’s backward compatibility issues, which left a foul taste in the mouths of gamers who adopted the console early and wanted to play their PS3 games. Not only will the PS5 be fully compatible with PS4 games, but PS5 players can still play online games with PS4 owners.

Sony has also confirmed that PlayStation VR owners need not fear – their kit will work on the PS4. PSVR is the best option for anyone who wants to get into virtual reality console gaming, so this will be a breath of relief for people who invested in the unit.

The PS5 won’t slack off in the specifications department. It uses a bespoke 8-core AMD processor, a GPU that borrows from the Radeon Navi line, and support for 8K televisions. As such, this is not simply another rehashing of the PS4; this is a deliberate and significant jump ahead of the previous unit, ready for the future of gaming.

If this sounds exciting, it’s best to start saving for it now. While a price point hasn’t been confirmed yet, the console won’t be released until mid-2024 at the earliest.

What’s New for the Xbox One?

With Microsoft’s odd naming pattern for their consoles, we have no clue what their next console will be called. At the moment we know it’s under its codename “Project Scarlett,” and it boasts a range of features that will please any Xbox fan.

One of its most impressive features is its full backward compatibility with every Xbox console. That’s right, it can go as far back as the original Xbox! If you’ve been a loyal Xbox gamer until now, this will be a great time to dust off that collection. It will also carry over all your previous achievements to your new console.

Project Scarlett’s specs are somewhat similar to the PS5’s, with a processor using the Navi architecture and support up to 8K resolution. The new console has boasted an impressive 120FPS limit, which will be a good selling point if the games manage to achieve such levels with the hardware.

Project Scarlett’s main focus is to get rid of the loading screen. If it can’t achieve that with a game, it will instead focus on making it load as fast as possible.

The Next Generation

In the console wars, each company has to bring their best to prevent themselves from being left behind. Whether it’s a brand new console or a new version of an existing one, the rumors of these new consoles show that the gaming world will be an exciting place in the coming year or two.

Which are you looking forward to the most? Let us know below.

Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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What You Should Know About The New Climate Change Report

It’s a beautiful day to talk about climate change. Pixabay

Even tiny increases in global temperature—give or take just 0.5°C—could severely alter our planet, bringing us hotter days year-round, the total destruction of the world’s corals, more dangerous flooding, and increased instances of drought and wildfire. Even though we have the technology and know-how to cap warming at a 1.5°C increase, humanity is on track to warm the planet by 3°C by the end of the century.

What, exactly, the IPCC report says

The report combined expertise from 91 scientists and government agents from 40 countries around the world, and referenced 6,000 studies and reports. The final document is intended to guide policymakers as they make decisions about how to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If business continues as usual, the report says it’s likely the globe will reach 1.5°C of warming between 2030 and 2052. If we manage to cap warming at 2°C in this century, as the Paris Agreement aims to do, we would still be living with the extreme effects of global climate change—like the loss of all the world’s coral reefs.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC group, in a release.

How will 1.5°C or 2.0°C of warming affect me?

Earth has already warmed about 1°C compared to average temperatures in pre-industrial times—that is, before humans started burning lots of fossil fuels. You can already see this incremental change in your everyday life.

“We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice,” Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC working group focused on the physical science of climate change, said in the IPCC release.

An additional 0.5°C of warming would mean the hottest days of the year get 3°C hotter across much of the globe. The number of hot days in a year will go up almost everywhere, though the tropics will be hit particularly hard.

The differences are even more evident when you compare a 1.5°C increase and a 2°C increase. At 2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels, eastern Asia and eastern North America will see more heavy precipitation events, and tropical cyclones (like hurricanes) will dump even more rain. Meanwhile, other parts of the globe will get less rain and face persistent periods of drought.

The scientists also estimate global sea levels will be four inches higher if we reach 2°C. Ice in the Arctic Ocean would melt completely in the summer at least once a decade instead of once a century. And “virtually all” coral reefs would die off, instead of just 70 to 90 percent of them. Because other air pollutants are often spewed along with greenhouse gas emissions, reducing emissions enough to limit warming to 1.5°C by 2100 could also potentially prevent 150 million premature deaths around the world in the next 80 years. That’s because worldwide, ambient air pollution is one of the leading contributors to illness and death worldwide, according to a study of global disease burden in 2024 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What will our leaders do to keep climate change from irreversibly altering our planet?

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, Earth’s inhabitants need to reduce our global net CO2 emissions by 45 percent compared with 2010 emission levels. We need to do that in the next 12 years. We would have to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere completely by 2050. To do this, governments need to change land use practices, make our buildings more efficient, switch to clean energy sources, revolutionize manufacturing practices, and change the way we get around.

We also have to physically remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the climate models in the new report, every scenario that keeps global warming below 1.5°C involved carbon capture strategies, which are currently largely theoretical or possible only on a small scale. To keep us from exceeding a 1.5°C increase, humans need to remove 1,000 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2100.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC’s climate change mitigation group, in the IPCC’s release.

This year, global greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise, not fall. Most countries are not on track to meet their Paris Agreement goals. That includes Germany, which has invested $580 billion in renewable energy. The United States has declared it will pull out of the agreement entirely in 2023.

With current policies, including those from Paris, the global temperature increase could reach 3°C over pre-industrial levels, wrote Diana Liverman, one of the IPCC authors who studies the human aspects of climate change at the University of Arizona, in a statement by her university. That much warming would mean a state like Arizona, which already experiences sweltering summers, could get hotter still by an average of 7°F, Liverman said. That much warming would mean cranking up the effects of 2°C of warming: Even more extreme weather, higher seas, hot days, and the loss of whole ecosystems, like coral reefs.

The report is one of six currently in the works by the IPCC. It will serve as a focal point for the Katowice Climate Change Conference in December, when countries gather to review the Paris Agreement and discuss a way forward.

World leaders will have to take fast, drastic action to avoid the future laid out here, or worse. It’s not impossible for us to curb warming at 1.5°C, but it will require massive political will, capital investment, and mutual determination.

What Science Says About Popular Pre

DO YOU HAVE a big tub of pre-workout powder sitting close by? Look at the label. How many ingredients do you recognize?

Protein used to be the “it factor” in fitness supplements. But these products, sometimes called “pre-workouts,” have tweaked their recipes in the past decade. “One new trend is the increasing caffeine content,” says Andrew Jagim, director of sports medicine research at Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin. In 2023, he and two other experts analyzed the chemical contents of 100 widely available pre-workout powders, vitamin supplements, and drinks to understand how consuming them might affect the average exercising adult. While the breakdown hasn’t changed much in the past four years, Jagim thinks some labels are more transparent now. “Historically, companies have listed their ingredients as proprietary blends,” he explains. “From the consumer’s perspective, they didn’t know how much of the ingredients they were getting.”

In general, Jagim says it’s safe to take one serving of a pre-workout before hitting the gym. The bigger question is whether the supplements really up your stamina, strength, and total fitness game. Let’s take a look at some of the helpers.

Beta-alanine

This protein builder counters muscle fatigue and soreness, letting you exercise harder and longer. But you have to take the right amount to feel the effect. In their study, Jagim and his team found that most pre-workouts contain around 2 grams of beta-alanine per serving—half of the recommended daily dose for adults. 

One word of caution: Ingesting more than 4 grams, or even 2 to 3 grams for some people, of beta-alanine at a time could lead to a tingling effect known as paraesthesia. There have even been reports of gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, and symptoms similar to anxiety after taking it on an empty stomach. Taking a lower dose, splitting it throughout the day, or consuming a different form (like a pill instead of powder) might ease any bad reactions. 

Caffeine

As any coffee or Red Bull fiend knows, caffeine gets you into a hyperexcited state by raising your heart rate, respiration, and blood flow. In other words, it warms up your body before you pop a single jump squat. It also fuels you throughout your workout, metabolizing slowly as your blood moves from the digestive organs to the central nervous system and muscles. Caffeine’s energizing effects are mainly caused by its interactions with the nervous system. They’re strongest 30 to 60 minutes after consumption and subside after another hour or two.

Most pre-workouts contain 250 to 300 milligrams of caffeine—equivalent to one to two cups of coffee. That falls under the daily 400- to 600-milligram limit recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But if you’re getting the same stimulant from other sources—energy drinks, soda, lattes with extra espresso shots—you might go overboard. “If you have anxiety or underlying heart problems, it can complicate issues,” Jagim says. He also cautions against giving highly caffeinated pre-workouts, or any caffeine, to kids younger than 16, and against taking them in the evening in case they make it harder to fall asleep.

Creatine

This coveted ingredient contains three nonessential amino acids that are naturally found in the human body, fish, and red meat. A main fuel source for muscles, creatine has all kinds of positive health effects, many of which have been well studied, Jagim says. For starters, it helps prevent muscle cramps, repairs torn tissue, and builds mass after intense interval training and heavy lifting. 

Many pre-workout products fall short of athletes’ creatine needs. On average, Jagim and his team measured 2.1 grams of the muscle-making additive, compared to the minimum of 3 grams recommended per day through diet and supplements. So what else is in these mixes?

Dimethylamylamine

A chemical that’s probably not listed on your pre-workout could be in it anyway. Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) is like a supercharged version of caffeine: It comes from amphetamines, a potent class of drugs that can be misused and result in addiction. The stimulant was often added to fitness supplements until the FDA classified it as a controlled substance in 2013. But some companies still slip in small amounts to get an edge over competitors, Jagim says. You shouldn’t be afraid of accidental “doping”—reports of bad DMAA side effects from pre-workouts are rare. Just avoid products on the FDA’s warning list for health violations.

If you’re still worried about what’s in your pre-workout and how it will affect you, look up the ingredients on a website reviewed by medical experts like chúng tôi read the supplement fact label, and check if the item has a third-party certification seal. Or follow Jagim’s DIY approach and mix together three to four items (creatine powder, Greek yogurt, soy protein, or even cold brew) that fit your body’s needs. A store-bought supplement will probably do more good than harm, but in the end, you might spend more than it’s worth.

Read more in the Workout 360 series: the best basic routine, the muscles you forgot, and post-workout soreness. Or check out these other PopSci+ stories.

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