Weekend news round-up: Self-assembling chips; more US retailers hit by hackers

13 Jan 2014

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, more US retailers were hit by hackers during the holiday shopping season, the key lessons learned from CES, and beyond Moore’s Law: will chips soon assemble themselves?

The next wave of computer chips will assemble themselves

The New York Times reported on major shifts coming to the chip-manufacturing industry, which has so far followed Moore’s Law (that the number of transistors on a circuit will double every two years). There are claims that Moore’s Law has run its course and new standards and rules need to emerge.

“But Moore’s Law is not dead; it is just evolving, according to more optimistic scientists and engineers. Their contention is that it will be possible to create circuits that are closer to the scale of individual molecules by using a new class of nanomaterials — metals, ceramics, polymeric or composite materials that can be organised from the ‘bottom up,’ rather than the top down.

“For instance, semiconductor designers are developing chemical processes that can make it possible to ‘self assemble’ circuits by causing the materials to form patterns of ultrathin wires on a semiconductor wafer. Combining these patterns of nanowires with conventional chip-making techniques, the scientists believe, will lead to a new class of computer chips, keeping Moore’s Law alive while reducing the cost of making chips in the future.”

Windows 9 set to arrive April 2015

The Next Web reported that the next evolution of Microsoft’s Windows operating system – code-named ‘Threshold’ – will touch down in April 2015. However, not more than 25m PCs have yet installed the free Windows 8.1 update.

“Delivering Windows 9 in 2015 means that Windows 8 will have been available for almost three years and may mean that consumers will look elsewhere for tablet devices.

“Microsoft has its work cut out; three major platforms (Xbox, Windows Phone, Windows) will need new features this year to bring them closer as a family of products before Threshold seals the deal.”

Syrian Electronic Army hacks Microsoft blog and Twitter account

While Microsoft has its work cut out managing its vast portfolio of product lines, news that the software giant’s blog and Twitter account have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army emerged over the weekend, The Verge reported.

“On New Year’s Day, when many Microsoft support employees were likely on vacation, the breaches weren’t addressed immediately, but today Microsoft appears to be actively combating the threat. Today’s first tweet was rapidly deleted, as were postings to the Official Microsoft Blog.

“However, the browser hijack is still in place as of this writing and it appears that the Syrian Electronic Army may have even deeper access than that. The group is posting screenshots to Twitter of what appear to be internal communications between Microsoft’s public relations team and Steve Clayton, the manager in charge of Microsoft’s corporate media platforms.”

Lessons learned from CES extravaganza

After last week’s gadget orgy at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, there is time to reflect on where all the trends from 4K TVs, wearable computers, robots, drones and more will lead us. According to GigaOM, the truth is not in the chips but the software.

“Instead of chips, we should be looking at the types of deals companies are striking to share APIs and SDKs to build out ecosystems in the connected home, the connected car and whatever other connected venues we want to consider. Because just like software has eaten the world, services are doing the same.

“And while in an ideal world we’ll see a lot of open implementations of SDKs that let people integrate different services without some kind of negotiated deal, today we’re still at the labour-intensive stage where a company like Sonos controls who and how people can connect to its music player.”

Hackers went after bigger target than Target

Reuters reported that Target and Neiman Marcus weren’t the only US retailers hit by hackers over the Christmas shopping season.

“Smaller breaches on at least three other well-known US retailers took place and were conducted using similar techniques as the one on Target, according to the people familiar with the attacks. Those breaches have yet to come to light. Also, similar breaches may have occurred earlier last year.

“The sources said that they involved retailers with outlets in malls, but declined to elaborate. They also said that while they suspect the perpetrators may be the same as those who launched the Target attack, they cannot be sure because they are still trying to find the culprits behind all of the security breaches.”

Hacker image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years