<IT WORLD> Floods drown hi-tech plants
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Devastating flooding in Thailand, the world's number two
exporter of hard disk drives (HDD) after China, will have a major impact on
production which is likely to affect the netbook and PC industries and drive up
Overall market shortage will reach up to 28% in the next six months, due to
flooded factories in Thailand, industry research firms iSupply and IDC predict.
The country provides 40% of the international hard drive supply.
Western Digital, the largest producer of hard drives, is expected to be hit the
hardest, with up to 75% of its production shut down. Seagate, which also has
factories in Thailand, has said these are still operational but will see a
significant drop in production due to difficulties in obtaining parts. Toshiba
has reported that water is 2
meters deep in its storage device plant and 3 meters deep in its semi-conductor
factory in Thailand.
Hard disk manufacturers have already increased their prices by up to 50% in
some instances, and local vendors are seeing supplies run dry as lingering
inventories are quickly snapped up. IDC research analysts commented "We
generally believe the HDD industry will find way to return to pre-flood
production levels by March, but by that point HDD supplies will be at extremely
low levels. It's still going to be a pretty painful period from December
through February for most HDD customers."
PC manufacturer Asus said it would run out of hard disks this month. Other
major computer companies such as Lenovo and Apple have confirmed that the hard
drive drought and consequent price hikes will continue well into next year.
Camera manufacturers based in Thailand such as Sony, Canon and Nikon have also
been hit by the floods and have predicted a drop in shipments until the end of
the first quarter next year.
Researchers have discovered an installation file for the new Stuxnet worm
variant dubbed Duqu that exploits a security flaw in Microsoft Windows. (See
Google takes on iPhone 4S.) The installation pathway is triggered by a
simple Word file which, when opened, allows Duqu to spread from machine to
machine, according to security company Symantec.
Microsoft said it is working to address the issue and will release a security
update. The doc file, which is often tailored towards the target organization,
exploits a previously unknown flaw in the Windows kernel that allows remote
code execution. Once installed, the Duqu remote access Trojan begins to monitor
Symantec reported that Duqu infections have been documented by six unnamed
organizations in eight countries, including France, Netherlands, Switzerland,
India, and Ukraine. It has already been cited as the next major cyber threat
for its resemblance to the Stuxnet code, which attacked industrial control
There is currently no work-around or method of protection against infection so
experts are advising that people be extremely vigilant with email attachments.
Apple's brand new iPhone 4S has been in the tech news for the wrong reasons.
The woes this time concern not the antenna, a problem with the earlier iPhone
version, but poor battery life.
Thousands of disgruntled consumers have joined a discussion on Apple's support
forum claiming that the battery life of their iPhone 4S is woefully inadequate
and far below the times touted by the company in its sales pitch. Some users
claim the device will stay on standby for 10 to 12 hours and battery life
dropped by 1% per minute when in use.
Websites and tech blogs have posted a number of workarounds to save battery
life such as disabling location services or email notifications however they
kind of defeat the objective of owning a smart-phone.
Apple offered no explanation before confirming on Wednesday that its mobile
operating system, iOS5, had some issues with battery life and a fix would be
China's space ambitions took another giant leap this week when two of its
unmanned spacecraft docked in orbit 340 kilometers above Earth. Precise
navigation and rendezvous technologies involved in these maneuvers are the most
difficult to master; only two countries - the US and Russia - have so far done
so. China now joins this elite space club.
Beijing's first "space kiss" occurred between the Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace)
module and the Shenzhou 8 space craft, which navigated by using data from
radar, laser and optical sensors. Cameras beamed live images of the historic
linkup back to state television stations throughout China.
Chinese officials stated that the spacecraft will remain together for 12 days
before separating and setting up for a second rendezvous and docking on
November 14. Two similar docking procedures are planned for 2012, one of which
will be a manned mission. Beijing is also planning a moon mission next year
that will see the deployment of a lunar rover. It hopes to send a manned
mission to the moon by around 2020.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.
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