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Breakfast Briefing: Windows Phone 8 update, scary hotel security hack, inside Google's time machine

Breakfast Briefing

Posted on 27 Nov 2012 at 08:47

Today's top technology stories include Microsoft's early Windows Phone 8 upgrade plans, hacked hotel key cards, how Google keeps its data centres in time, and the wisdom of scattering shredded documents across New York City. Plus, more grief for HP.

Microsoft planning Apollo Plus Windows Phone 8 upgrade

Microsoft has admitted it ran out of time with some features in its Windows Phone 8 OS ahead of its launch and has said it will make fixes in an upcoming release. According to The Verge, the update won't be a major new version, but will include improvements to Wi-Fi usability, a VPN for secure communications and some audio enhancements. It will be the first over-the-air update for Microsoft.

Hotel thieves use key card lock flaw to enter rooms

If you thought you were perfectly safe sleeping comfortably behind that keycard-locked hotel room door, think again. Forbes reports how a security flaw in locks made by Onity, and "specifically a model of lock that appears in at least four million hotel rooms worldwide" has been breached in the wild. Using a vulnerability revealed back in the summer, thieves have been able to gain access to rooms with ease by overriding the reader using equipment costing just $50. The issue has hit Hyatt in Houston, among others, in a security breach that requires a significant investment to fix.

With Onity refusing to make the complete alteration – a new circuit board in the locks – for free and only offering to plug up an override port with plastic, the concern is than many hotel chains won't fix the problem at all. Sleep well.

Inside Google's database time machine

Google took the lid off its Spanner network back in September, revealing the world's biggest database. Now Wired has a detailed look at how the system works, revealing data centres in multiple locations always holding exactly the same information. Probably the least glamorous but most important aspect of this is time keeping, with exact synchronisation across multiple continents via both GPS and atomic clocks. They're relatively cheap devices, but still required Google to write a new way of keeping time.

"As a distributed-systems developer, you’re taught from — I want to say childhood — not to trust time," the company said. "What we did is find a way that we could trust time — and understand what it meant to trust time."

Shredded private documents used as confetti for parade

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade had a unique feature this year: confetti made from shredded confidential papers. The strips of paper, which were scattered throughout New York City, included social security numbers, details from police incident reports, and even banking information from undercover cops, SC Magazine reported.

Hardly ideal, but we appreciate the efforts to recycle.

HP facing class action over Autonomy deal

HP's has been sued by an investor who claimed the company knew statements about its Autonomy acquisition were misleading and led the stock price to fall, Reuters reports.

According to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in San Francisco, HP hid the fact it bought Autonomy based on financial statements that could not be relied upon. It also said that HP had not revealed to investors that it tried to undo the Autonomy agreement before it closed because of the accounting issues.

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