This Week in Geek: Government warns against Huawei, ZTE products
by Whit McGhee
Special to The Star
Oct 14, 2012 | 6557 views |  0 comments | 318 318 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Congressional report released last week warned companies and individuals against buying electronics made by Huawei and ZTE, both of which are based in China.

The report, resulting from an 11-month-long investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, said “the risks associated with Huawei’s and ZTE’s provision of equipment to U.S. critical infrastructure could undermine core U.S. national security interests.”

The fear in the eyes of the intelligence committee is that China could use telecommunications products the two companies sell here as a means of spying on the U.S.

On the consumer side, Huawei and ZTE manufacture mobile phones sold through Sprint, T-Mobile and several regional carriers. Huawei is also one of the world’s largest producers of equipment used on the backend of telecommunications networks.

While the committee’s report did not establish any clear links to the Chinese government or its ruling Communist party, findings cited in the report say Huawei “likely remains dependent on the Chinese government for support” and that both companies have state committees within their headquarters which may be influencing business decisions.

A statement issued Tuesday by China’s Commerce Ministry said the report was based on speculation and “made groundless accusations against China.”

New Windows OS could be tricky for some

Microsoft’s latest version of Windows is due to hit stores and new PCs in less than two weeks, but its revamped design could come with a steep learning curve for some computer users.

In Windows 8, the Redmond, Wash., company will overhaul many of the design elements familiar to Windows users since the venerable “Start Menu” made its debut in 1995.

Driven by the surge in tablet computer popularity, Windows 8 will introduce a new look to the desktop with touch-screen features and tiles which users can manipulate to perform tasks such as opening programs or displaying information from the Web.

The new look, while offering functions and portability not seen in previous versions of Windows, is already receiving criticism from some reviewers as being difficult to learn and hard to navigate.

In an effort to ease the learning curve, Microsoft has produced a handful of videos to demonstrate the features of the new operating system, according to tech news website Neowin. Those videos are likely to be used by salespeople, who will be tasked with training buyers on the ins and outs of the new operating system in the coming weeks.

Windows 8 is expected to be released Oct. 26.

Google, Apple work on map updates

While Apple continues to play catch-up on its botched introduction of a new maps program for iPhone and iPad, Google last week rolled out one of its biggest map updates ever.

The search behemoth updated some 250,000 miles of road data in “Street View,” an interactive tool which shows 360-degree photos of cities and neighborhoods as seen from street level.

Though Street View didn’t seem to show many updates of Calhoun County — Veterans Memorial Parkway still appears as a dirt construction site and the hill behind the Oxford Exchange is still shown with a thick, full head of trees — Google says the update effectively doubled the number of photos it offers of many destinations around the world, and users can now browse through it all from the Google Maps mobile website.

The improvements come as Apple engineers continue working on corrections to its heavily-criticized Maps app, which replaced Google’s maps in September in a software update for iPhones and iPads. Apple’s map replacement was almost universally panned for containing distorted images and inaccurate data on some cities.

Reports from various tech news websites say Apple has been fixing map data in its app over the past couple of weeks as users have submitted corrections.
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