The Tech 411 at 9:01, Sept 29

Greetings from somewhere outside Orlando, Fla. I'm on the road this week, and back to blogging from the mother ship -- otherwise known as Starbucks. You'll notice today's blog entry has a new headline. Reader feedback keeps forcing us to switch it up. But back to the business at hand: Here are five technology headlines, news nuggets, rumors and gossip to start your day for Sept. 29, 2014 -- including Richard Branson's latest IPO details.

Actually, it's far more than five... Let's go with 14 for today...

14. Hackers Taking Notes?: More than 2,000 anti-money laundering experts are in Vegas this week, attending the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) conference. It's good to hear about white hat money pros sharing best practices. But I've got to wonder: How many black hat folks are walking the halls and developing new schemes to crack all the best practices?

13. Digital Advertising & Privacy: Facebook this week, as expected, will unveil its Atlas advertising platform. We covered that topic on Tech News Today last week (video below):

Atlas strives to help customers more effectively measure their ad impact. And apparently, there's no need for cookies. Most folks expect Atlas to push Facebook far forward on mobile devices. But as TNT Anchor Mike Elgan asked last week: Where is the line between advertising technology and digital privacy? My knee-jerk reaction: There is no line. It's gone. Interesting side note: Facebook acquired some of the new ad technology for pennies on the dollar from... wait for it... Microsoft.

12. Ello Noise Grows Louder: The chatter about Ello, a social network that wants to be the anti-Facebook, continues to grow louder. Currently in beta release, Ello requires an invitation for you to get onto the network. The founders claim Ello will free users from traditional social networks that track and attempt to monetize your every move. That has some early testers intrigued. And the buzz is growing because Ello is making sure some of the world's most influential social media voices are on its network. TNT's Mike Elgan is on the system... and he kindly opened the door to me. I'll be jumping on later today. I'll share some early reactions tomorrow.

11. Yahoo Directory Is Nearly Dead: You read it right. As CNet put it,  "One of the Internet's earliest mainstays is going away by the end of the year... Yahoo's Directory -- once the cornerstone of the company. The service, a search tool for a bygone era, lists popular sites by category, instead of surfacing search results by keyword, like search engines such as Google allow." For the record, I still have a yahoo email address. But it's mostly my catch-all for promotional enewsletters and vendor offers.

10. Bendgate Overblown: Apple says only nine people worldwide have complained about bendgate -- the potential bending of an iPhone 6 Plus. Our question: So what happens After Nines? Sorry, couldn't resist. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports' iPhone 6 Plus tests suggest the bendgate concerns are overblown.

9. Help Wanted: Quarterback who can throw the ball to his own receivers. Ideal candidate will stand tall behind strong offensive line, check to the open receiver, or throw ball out of bounds when pressured. Pick-six specialists need not apply. Interested candidates encouraged to join us on road trip to San Diego on or before Oct. 5.

8. Follow the Money Man: On Friday we mentioned that bond king Bill Gross was leaving Pimco to join Janus. Admittedly, that ain't exactly an IT story. But anyone with a stake in the US stock market should be tracking this story. Investors withdrew about $10B from Pimco when the story broke, according to The Wall Street Journal. While some folks (including me) have been guilty of praising Gross's bond expertise in recent years, there is a potential red flag to watch closely: The SEC has been investigating how Gross manages a bond-related Exchange Traded Fund. Definitely worth watching.

7. Nearly a Done Deal: Lenovo's $2.1 billion buyout of IBM's x86 server business is expected to close on Oct. 1. I like the deal. But I would have loved it had IBM and Lenovo come to terms back in 2009 or so. Generally speaking, "server" growth has shifted from physical on-premises systems to virtual cloud systems. And IBM's x86 hardware is not a dominant player in the third-party cloud server market. Still, Lenovo has done a great job -- yes, great -- innovating around its ThinkPad notebooks and desktop PCs, acquired from IBM in 2004. Now, Lenovo will try to push deeper into SMB markets with servers.

6. Tech Bellwether Earnings: Synnex, the big IT distributor, will deliver earnings today. Keep an eye on the earnings for overall clues about tech industry health -- especially as it pertains to the mobile market.

5. Finding the Money (In New York): Let's assume you run an IT startup in or around the New York area. And you want to raise some money. If your business is women-led (meaning that a woman owns a major stake in the company and is part of your c-suite), you can certainly reach out to Golden Seeds (where I dabble a bit). But for additional options, be sure to check out The Complete Guide to Venture Capital Firms in NYC. I'll be scouring it later today to learn more.

4. BlackBerry Reality Check: The smartphone maker delivered quarterly results on Friday (Sept. 26). Ahead of the earnings, I kept on predicting that BlackBerry would show momentum in its turnaround. And yes, I've been praising CEO John Chen as a well-respected turnaround artist. But Bill Maurer on SeekingAlpha offers a healthy reality check today, stating that BlackBerry's latest earnings took two steps forward and one step back. Maurer's biggest concern involved weak top-line revenues -- down to $916 in the quarter vs. $1.573 billion for the corresponding quarter last year. Analysts had been expecting about $950 million. That's a key concern, indeed.

3. Uncle Sam Investigating Small Businesses Fraud: The inspector general of the Small Business Administration has issued a report, accusing the agency of awarding $400 million in contracts to small businesses that don't deserve the deals, notes American Thinker. An example of the alleged fraud: White executives getting minorities to front them as small business owners in order to qualify for certain deals, the blog said. I'm curious to see of the inspector general starts naming names...

2. Sir Richard's Latest IPO: Virgin Money, backed by Sir Richard Branson, is expected to announce its IPO within days. I haven't seen the prospectus. But you can bet a media storm is about to ensue.

1. Me This Week: As I've mentioned, I'm in and around Orlando most of this week on personal business. But I'm available for IT-related meetings, too. If you're interested, just drop me an email (

Bonus: If you'd like our blog headlines delivered to your inbox each business morning, please subscribe to our enewsletter. It launches Oct. 6.

That's all for now. Check the blog again later today. I'm pretty sure I'll be back with more surprises.