Google Inc.’s (GOOG) former CEO Eric SchmidtÂ expressed frustrationÂ in a recent issue about the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’sÂ antitrust probeÂ into its mobile and search offerings. Â He remarked, “It’s time for them to sort of move to one resolution or another. It’s not like they don’t have a million documents and so forth. I remain optimistic.”
It looks like that optimism might have been premature asÂ ReutersÂ reportsÂ that the probe’s conclusion has been delayed and willÂ likely take until January to wrap up. Â The probe has been ongoing forÂ more than two years. Â The delay is painful to Google, who was hoping to find out one way or another what changes it might have to make. Â FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz had previously stated that the probe would wrap up this week.
The company’sÂ rivals have complainedÂ in various FTC filings that Google downranks rivals to its services, such as travel or shopping, in its list of search results. Â Other complaints also accuse Google of improperly “scraping” data of their websites — the practice of using scripts to navigate webpages like a user and data mine values to enhance web results. Â Scraping is a legal gray area; many argue it is legal, while others argue vigorously that it is an attempt to gain unauthorized access and essentially a computer crime.
Google reportedly is offering to back off its patent lawsuits against rival Apple, Inc. (AAPL) (via subsidiary Motorola Mobility). Â It also is reportedly offering to make other changes to the way it handles service searches. Â However, it is reportedly very opposed to sharing intimate details of its core search algorithm with federal regulators or allowing them to modify it.
OverseasÂ Joaquin Almunia, antitrust chief for the European Union has reportedly concluded the EU’s antitrust probe of Google with a “last chance” offer to settle and make changes. If Google does not comply it could face a billion dollar or more fine, a fate other companies like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Intel Corp. (INTL) have recently experienced.
Google has set aside $500M USD to pay for potential antitrust fines in the U.S. or EU.
Methane-producing bacteria may have leverage nickel from volcanism to flood the atmosphere with methane
It was called “The Great Dying”.
I. A Time of Death and Desolation
If that title sounds dire it is because it was indeed a grim time for life on Earth. Â Occurring about 252 and one-third million years ago, the mass extinction came at a time when life on Earth had become fairly advanced. Â Terrestrial life consisted of a rich mix of large amphibians (think huge cousins of today’s salamanders) and scaly reptilian dinosaur predecessors. Â The seas teemed with life.
Then some sort of cataclysm swept the globe. Â Ninety-six out of every one-hundred marine species (96%) went exinct, while seventy out of every one-hundred terrestrial vertebrate species (70%) also bit the metaphorical dust. Â The exinction to this day remains the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history and what is believed to be the only mass extinction to feature a major extinction of insects — traditionally among the Earth’s most hardy species.
So what caused this severe event?
In line with all the hype and fervor surrounding global warming, some past researchers have suggested climate change may have played a role. Â Criticism of this hypothesis has traditionally been that it’s improper to assume the markers of climate change — atmospheric and ocean carbon levels — as causing ecological changes, when ecological changes can also cause climate change.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology ProfessorÂ Daniel Rothman has become the latest researcher to throw his hat in the paleontological ring, offering up an interesting alternate hypothesis of how such a catastrophic climate change incident may have been triggered, leading to the Earth losing so much biodiversity.
The Great Dying marked the edge of the Permian. Â Its end ushered in a new era — the Triassic — which would become the first of three major historical eras when the land-masses were ruled by large reptiles (dinosaurs).
To look for clues as to what caused The Great Dying, Professor Rothman dug back into sediments from the end of the Permian era. Â Examing deposits in China, he found something intriguing.
Carbon levels in the sediment indeed appeared to rise quickly. Â But the interesting part is that they rose so quickly that he feels that the sedimentary analysis rules out change by slower-acting forms of carbon release, such as volcanoes.
He also observed that oceanic nickel levels spiked 251 million years ago, as volcanoes in Siberia dumped tons of molten nickely into the sea.
II. What Caused Carbon Levels to Spike?Â
Nickel is a ubiquitous catalyst in certain kinds of biochemical reactions. Â Microorganisms, such as the ocean-based methane-producing bacterium methanosarcina, often use the metal to speed up reactions that produce carbon waste byproducts.
Thus Professor Rothman suggests thatÂ methanosarcina likely exploited the rising nickel levels to transform carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane. Â
In fact, Professor Rothman believes thatÂ methanosarcina fortuitously acquired the its triple metal-catalyzed methane-producing metabolic pathways about 251 million years ago, just as the nickel levels spiked.
The loss of atmospheric carbon dioxide would likely have twin adverse impacts — first as plants require carbon dioxide to produce sugars, there likely would be mass loss of foliage globally; second as methane is a more potent warming gas than carbon dioxide, temperatures likely would have spiked globally.
The researcher’s hypothesis was set forth on Dec. 4 at the annual meeting of theÂ American Geophysical Union. Â The meeting was held in San Francisco, Calif. at the Moscone Convention Center.
If he is correct it suggests that methanosarcina could be the most diabolical murderer in history, by far eclipsing mankind’s worst impact in terms of speciation.
Not all experts are convinced. Â Anthony Cohen, a researcher at the Open University in the United Kingdom, comments, ‘”[For the hypothesis to be correct] there are a lot of assumptions you have to make.”
After making a huge (and successful) splash in the tablet space with its Kindle Fire devices, it only makes sense that Amazon wouldÂ give smartphones a shotÂ – and rumor has it that Foxconn has already manufactured a new model for the e-tailer.
According to a report byÂ CENS.com, Amazon’s first smartphone will launch between the second and third quarter of 2013 and the e-tailer may ship as many as five million units for the year.
Foxconn has allegedly manufactured a new smartphone model for Amazon already, with touch panel makers J Touch Corp. and Young Fast Optoelectronics Co. rumored to be playing a role in the new smartphone’s development.
Back in July of this year,Â BloombergÂ reported thatÂ Amazon was looking to release a smartphone of its ownÂ as early as November 2012.Â Clearly that didn’t happen, but other rumors have left the mill as well, such as the size of Amazon’s first phone (4 to 5 inches).
Amazon dipped into the mobile realm last year when it released its first tablet, the Kindle Fire, in November 2011. The 7-inch, $199 tablet was a hit during the holiday season,Â moving 4.7 million units in Q4 2011. This was nearly one-third of what Apple’s iPad accomplished during that same period (15.4 million units).
In September of this year, Amazon announced the successor to theÂ Kindle Fire:Â Kindle Fire HD. The HD comes in 7-inch, 8.9-inch or 4G LTE models. The 7-inch model shipped September 14 at $199 while the 8.9-inch model shipped November 20 for $299. For those willing to step up to the 4G LTE Fire HD, it shipped November 20 for $499 — and don’t forget the great data package that offers 250 MB of bandwidth per month, 20 GB of cloud storage space and a $10 Appstore credit all for $49.99 per year.Â
Digital library has the Book of Deuteronomy and first chapter of Genesis
Israel had previously been criticised for restricting access to the scrolls
Website allows users to zoom in, read translations and see related maps
By Damien Gayle
PUBLISHED: 12:10 EST, 18 December 2012 | UPDATED: 12:10 EST, 18 December 2012
Google has partnered with the Israeli government to put 5,000 images of the Dead Sea Scrolls online in full colour and high resolution.
More than six decades since the discovery of the scrolls – and thousands of years after they were written – they are now finally available for anyone with an Internet connection to see.
The digital library contains the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the second listing of the Ten Commandments, and a portion of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, dated to the first century BC.
Online for the first time: The Dead Sea Scrolls are now available to researchers across the globe thanks to Google which worked in partnership with Israel to upload them to an online database
Israeli officials said this is part of an attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts to make them broadly available.
They have been often criticised for allowing the artefacts to be monopolised by small circles of scholars.
‘Only five conservators worldwide are authorised to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls,’ said Shuka Dorfman, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
‘Now, everyone can touch the scroll on screen around the globe.’
Ancient meets the modern: The scrolls are the work of an ascetic Jewish sect who fled Jerusalem into the desert 2,000 years ago and settled at Qumran, near the shore of the Dead Sea
Considered one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century, the scrolls are thought to be the work of an ascetic Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and settled at Qumran, near the shore of the Dead Sea.
Google says the new digital library took two years to assemble, using technology first developed by Nasa.
The multimedia website allows users to zoom in on various fragments, with translations and Google maps alongside.
Valuable: The scrolls are considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century, and Israel had been criticised for allowing them to be monopolised by a small band of scholars
Google hopes to further expand its project. Two months ago Google launched a ‘Cultural Institute,’ a digital visual archive of historical events in cooperation with 17 museums and institutes around the world.
‘We’re working to bring important cultural and historical materials online and help preserve them for future generations,’ said Yossi Matias, head of Google’s Research and Development Center in Israel.
‘Our partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is another step toward enabling users to enjoy cultural material around the world.’
Anyone interested in the scrolls can visitÂ www.deadseascrolls.org.il for a closer look.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIND OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Discovered between between 1946 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 ancient manuscripts containing parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible, as well as a range of extra-biblical documents.
They were first found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib, as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea in what was then British Mandate Palestine – now the West Bank.
The story goes that, finding a a cave in the dark crevice of a steep rocky hillside, Muhammed hurled a stone into the dark interior and was startled to hear the sound of breaking pots.
Rich archaeological seam: Qumran cave 4, in which 90 per cent of the scrolls were found
Venturing inside, the young Bedouin found a mysterious collection of large clay jars, in some of which he found old scrolls, some wrapped in linen and blackened with age.
The texts are of great historical and religious significance and include the earliest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, as well as preserving evidence of diversity in late Second Temple Judaism.
Dated to various ranges between 408BC and 318AD, they are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus and bronze.
The scrolls are traditionally divided into three groups. ‘Biblical’ manuscripts, which are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible comprise 40 per cent of the haul.
Other religious manuscripts, including known documents from the Second Temple period like the books of Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit, and Sirach, that were now included in the Bible comprise 30 per cent of the identified scrolls.
The so-called ‘Sectarian’ manuscripts – previously unknown documents that shed light on the beliefs of Jewish groups of the time – like the Community Rule, War Scroll, Pesher on Habakkuk, and the Rule of the Blessing, make up the remaining 30 per cent.
While some of the writings have survived as nearly intact scrolls, most of the archive consists of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments.
A flaw in the kernel of the Samsung processor at the heart of several Galaxy series devices allows access to the phone’s RAM. It looks as if Samsung downplayed security in setting up permissions for kernel access, said Carl Howe, research vice president at the Yankee Group. “That’s a bit concerning because it means that this may only be one of many vulnerabilities.”
A new security flaw has been discovered in Samsung’s vulnerability-plagued Galaxy S III. This time, the problem lies in the company’s Exynos 4 series of chips.
The flaw was discovered by a hacker with the handle “Alephzain,” who posted the information on the XDA Developers Forum.
Three hackers have posted solutions for the vulnerability so far.
However, Samsung has remained silent on the flaw.
Samsung did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
About the Exynos Flaw
The flaw, which is a bug in the Exynos 4 series’ kernel, affects only devices running the Exynos 4210 and 4412 processors. These include the international versions of the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note, and Galaxy Tab 2 and Galaxy Note 10.1.
However, versions of the Galaxy S III sold in the United States are not affected.
The flaw gives access to the device’s RAM. This will let a malicious user download the contents of an affected device’s RAM and examine them. It will also let malicious users upload new processes of their own. In theory, a malicious app concealing this exploit can root a victim’s phone on the sly and send data on the phone to third parties, for example.
Such apps could be downloaded from Google Play, Alephzain warned.
While there are other ways to access a device’s RAM to dump its contents or inject malicious code into its kernel, this Exynos flaw makes things easier for the bad guys, Alephzain said. It’s easy to conduct exploits with native C and the Java Native Interface.
Workarounds for the Problem
Three hackers, “Chainfire,” “Supercurio” and “RyanZA” have all posted solutions on the Web for the Exynos vulnerability.
Chainfire’s solution lets users disable the exploit, re-enable it and disable the exploit at boot, before any Android app runs. However, Chainfire warns that this will require rooting the mobile device and is a workaround, not an actual fix.
Rooting mobile devices voids the manufacturer’s warranty.
Supercurio’s solution does not require rooting, doesn’t modify the device’s system, copy files or flash anything, can be enabled or disabled at will, and is free. It works on any device and lets users know if their device is vulnerable.
However, it breaks the proper function of the front camera on some Galaxy S III and Note II firmware when activated. Other flaws include being unable to protect efficiently against some potential attacks, Supercurio warns.
RyanZA’s fix is similar to Supercurio’s but allows users to toggle it on or off in order to use the camera.
Who Really Cares?
“It’s not a problem in the U.S. because our Galaxy S IIIs have a different chip … but it does sound like Samsung developers weren’t concerned about security in how they set up the permissions for the virtual directory within the kernel,” Carl Howe, research vice president at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “That’s a bit concerning because it means that this may only be one of many vulnerabilities.”
In September, Galaxy S III and S II smartphones were discovered to be vulnerable to remote malicious resets. A single malicious line of code concealed in a Web page could remotely wipe these devices, Ravi Borgaonkar, a researcher at the Technical University Berlin, demonstrated at the Ekoparty security conference in Argentina.
However, “I don’t think consumers keep up with [security issues],” Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research, said. “They care about whether the device has the apps they want and the screens they want.”
Over time, we have become less concerned about privacy, Lopez told TechNewsWorld. Further, “two decades of PC viruses have desensitized us [to security flaws]. The average consumer assumes we’ll have a patch.”
Still, smartphone manufacturers have to pay attention to securing smartphones, which “have become essential computing devices for most of the world, or face backlashes from consumers,” Howe suggested.
Security is an issue for consumers, according to a survey from Crossbeam Systems. More than half of the respondents said they’d consider changing providers, and another 19 percent said they’d definitely change providers if their smartphones had security issues.
It’s that time of year again–the time of year to take incredibly detailed macro shots of pointsettias. And what better camera to do it with than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the winner of Popular Photography’s hotly contested “Camera of the Year” contest? The follow-up to one of the most important cameras in the history of photography, the Mark III bests its predecessor in every way, topping strong competitors on its way to the prize. Read more here.
Facebook’s IPO filing on Wednesday offers investors, bankers, analysts, journalists and anyone willing to read the massive S-1 document a deeper look at the business and financial side of the world’s largest social network than we’ve ever had before.
Our team of tech and business reporters has been digging into the filing, reporting on the Menlo Park, Calif., company’s $3.7-billion revenue, rivalries with Twitter and Google+, perspective on China, social mission and hacker ethos, Zynga accounting for 12% of Facebook’s revenue, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s pay cut from $600,000 in 2012 to $1 in 2013 and even what the IPO could mean for the Winklevoss twins.
But that wasn’t all the S-1 had to say. Here are some other highlights from Facebook’s IPO filing before the company actually goes public in May:
Users: Facebook has an average of 845 million monthly active users, 483 million of whom log into the social network daily.
Workforce: At the end of 2011, Facebook had 3,200 full-time employees, up 50% from 2,127 employees 2010. In 2009, the company had 1,218 employees.
Worldwide: Facebook’s plan, unsurprisingly, is to continue to grow by gaining more users in countries around the world. But the company also said in its S-1 that it plans to grow its workforce worldwide as well. “We plan to continue the international expansion of our business operations and the translation of our products,” Facebook said. Currently, Facebook is offered in more than 70 different languages, and the company has data centers in more than 20 different countries.
Popularity: Facebook said that about 60% of the online population in the U.S. and U.K. is registered on the social network. But Facebook is more popular in Chile, Turkey and Venezuela, where the company has “penetration rates of greater than 80% of Internet users.”
There are more than 2 billion Internet users worldwide and Facebook said its goal is to connect all of them through its social network.
“In countries such as Brazil, Germany, and India we estimate that we have penetration rates of approximately 20-30%; in countries such as Japan, Russia, and South Korea we estimate that we have penetration rates of less than 15%; and in China, where Facebook access is restricted, we have near 0% penetration,” the filing said.
Money in the bank: Facebook said that it had $1.5 billion at its disposal in a mix of “cash and cash equivalents” as of Dec. 31, as well as $2.3 billion in “marketable securities.” In 2010, Facebook had $1.7 billion in cash and cash equivalents and no marketable securities. Total assets on hand amounted to $6.6 billion in 2011, while Facebook had a total of $1.4 billion in liabilities.
R&D: Facebook’s research and development efforts have seen massive growth over the last few years. In 2011, the company spent $388 million, or about 10.5% of its revenue, on R&D. In 2010, Facebook spent less than half that amount, with $144 million going toward R&D. In 2009, the company spend $87 million on R&D, up from $47 million in 2008 and $81 million in 2007.
Patents: Faceook said a major factor in whether or not the company will be able to maintain the huge success it’s had thus far will ride on its ability to “protect our core technology and intellectual property.”
To do that, Facebook will “rely on a combination of patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, including know-how, license agreements, confidentiality procedures, non-disclosure agreements with third parties, employee disclosure and invention assignment agreements, and other contractual rights.” The social media giant ended 2011 with 56 patents and 503 patent applications filed in the U.S., along with 33 corresponding patents and 149 patent applications filed in foreign countries.
Facebook’s S-1 already has a (fake) Twitter account
Facebook IPO: Winklevoss twins could reap big payday
Facebook IPO: Mark Zuckerberg’s salary falling to $1 in 2013
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+
Photo: Visitors pose in front of a sign at the entrance of Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Wednesday. Credit: Kimihiro Hoshino / AFP/Getty Images
It’s that time of year again–the time of year to take incredibly detailed macro shots of pointsettias. And what better camera to do it with than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the winner of Popular Photography’s hotly contested “Camera of the Year” contest? The follow-up to one of the most important cameras in the history of photography, the Mark III bests its predecessor in every way, topping strong competitors on its way to the prize. Read more here.
AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia haven’t said when the Lumia 900 will hit stores or how much it will cost, but if the flagship Windows Phone is a device you just have to have, you can now pre-order it.
Microsoft’s retail stores are currently taking a $25 deposit for those looking to reserve themselves a Lumia 900 on launch day, whenever that is. The deposit offer was first reported by The Verge and confirmed to The Times on Friday through Microsoft Store employees.
Rumor has it that the Lumia 900 could launch in March at a price of about $99 on a 2-year contract, which would undercut top-of-the-line rivals such as Apple’s iPhone 4S and the Android Ice-Cream-Sandwich-equipped Galaxy Nexus, built by Samsung.
In the U.S., the Lumia 900 will be exclusive to AT&T and feature a 4.3-inch display, a polycarbonate body in cyan or black, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm single-core processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel/720p video rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
I spent a bit of time with the Lumia 900 at CES in Las Vegas last month, and the phone did look quite impressive and something I thought could sell at $150 or $200 on a 2-year contract. Check out my hands-on look at the Lumia 900 below.
Nokia’s Lumia 900 Windows Phone may launch at $99
Lumia 710, Nokia’s first U.S. Windows Phone — review
CES 2012: Lumia 900, Nokia’s first 4G LTE Windows Phone, debuts [Photos and Video]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+
Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg
U.S. led group of 20 nations which walked away from the treaty
Rival countries had sought to break the Western grip on the Internet
U.S. and allies claimed new rules would harm free-form nature of the net
By Damien Gayle
PUBLISHED: 11:53 EST, 14 December 2012 | UPDATED: 13:57 EST, 14 December 2012
The UK and the U.S. today refused to sign the first UN telecommunications treaty of the Internet age, claiming it would lead to greater government control of cyberspace.
They were among a group of 20 nations which walked away from negotiations in Dubai after an ideological split over the nature of the Internet and who is responsible for its growth and governance.
Rival countries – including Iran, China and African states – insisted governments should have a greater sway over Internet affairs and sought to break the Western grip on information technology.
Summit: Delegates at the ITUtalks in Dubai listen to Hamadoun Toure, the group’s secretary-general. The UK and U.S. today led a bloc of 20 nations which refused to sign the accords
They also favoured greater international help to bring reliable online links to the world’s least developed regions.
In a testament to the contentious atmosphere at the negotiations of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, the pages of reservations and comments by various countries involved were longer than the treaty itself.
In the end, it was supported by 89 countries in the 193-member union. Fifty-five did not sign, including the U.S.-led bloc of more than 20 nations, and others needing home country approval.
The remainder did not have high-ranking envoys in Dubai.
The ITU – which dates to the age of the telegraph in the mid-19th century – has no technical powers to change how the Internet operates or force countries to follow its non-binding accords, which also dealt with issues such as mobile phone roaming rates and international emergency numbers.
But the U.S. and its backers nevertheless worried that the new treaty could alter the tone of debates about the Internet.
Instead of viewing it as a free-form network, they claim, it could increasingly been seen as a commodity that needs clear lines of oversight.
Hamadoun Toure, the group’s secretary-general, said he was ‘very much surprised’ by the U.S.-led snub after days of difficult negotiations that dropped or softened wording that troubled the West.
Yet it fell short of American-led demands that all references to the Internet – even indirect or couched in general language – be omitted.
Breakdown in communications: Mr Toure, left, said said he was very much surprised by the snub after days of difficult negotiations had softened or dropped wording that had troubled U.S. delegate Terry Kramer, right
Even apparently clear-cut issues such as unsolicited email ‘spam’ brought division.
Efforts to try to address blanket electronic message barrages was seen by American envoys and others as something governments could use as possible U.N. cover for increased surveillance on email traffic.
‘Fundamental divides were exposed,’ said Lynn St. Amour, CEO and president of the Internet Society, an industry group.
STATES THAT BLOCK THE NET
Internet restrictions and availability at selected countries and regions around the world:
Internet use is extremely restricted with many of North Korea’s 24million people unable to get online. Some North Koreans can access an internal Intranet that connects to state media. Members of the elite, resident foreigners and visitors in certain hotels are allowed full access.Â
Most Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran, as well as political opposition and sexually explicit websites. But proxy server sites and other methods are widely used to get around the official restrictions.
There are more than 500 million Chinese online but they contend with an extensive Internet filtering and censorship system popularly known as the ‘Great Fire Wall.’ Censors police blogs and domestic social media for content deemed pornographic or politically subversive and delete it.
Tight control, slow connections and high costs mean only around 5 percent of Cubans have access to the global Internet, with another 23 percent relying instead on a government intranet with very limited content. Web access is mainly via public facilities where people must first register with identification.
GULF ARAB STATES
Internet censorship is prevalent across former Soviet Central Asian republics, but the strongest restrictions have been recorded in Iran’s authoritarian neighbours to the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The government restricts access to the Internet and closely monitors online communications. The U.S. State Department’s latest human rights report said the government monitored email without obtaining warrants as required by law, and that all Internet users were required to use one of three service providers owned directly by the government or controlled by members of the country’s sole party.
Mr Toure framed it as clash of ‘two societies’; a so-called digital divide with citizens of wealthy countries able to access the Net on one side, and 4.5 billion others in poor nations on the other.
‘We are defending here the right to communicate as a basic human right. That’s something very important in the ITU. We so remind our members constantly of that obligation,’ he told reporters.
He also said there was no specific endorsement of ‘Internet control or Internet governance.’
Still the dissident nations said the general acknowledgement of a government stake in 21st century telecommunications was just as troubling as any specific wording.
‘Internet policy should not be determined by member states, but by citizens, communities and broader society … the private sector and civil society,’ Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. delegation, told the gathering late last night. ‘That has not happened here.’
Mr Toure today said it was impossible and illogical to ignore the Net.
‘If the word Internet was used frequently here in Dubai, it is simply a reflection of the reality of the modern world,’ said Mr Toure, a Russian-trained engineer from Mali.
‘Telecommunication networks are not just used for making voice calls, so our two worlds are linked.’
Overshadowed by the Internet showdowns were other details in the pact. They include agreements that could lower mobile phone roaming charges, pledges to invest more communications infrastructure in poorer countries, efforts for greater communication technology for the disabled and a move to create a common emergency number for mobile phones and other devices.
Either the 911 or 112 number will be picked in later talks.
It’s unclear whether countries that rejected the pact could benefit from possible changes such as lower roaming rates when the accord takes effect in 2015.
‘Some really good stuff’ in the accord, said a Twitter post by .nxt, a website following Internet policy. But it said the disputes over possible Internet controls forced the U.S and others ‘to bail’ out on the deal.
UK police are putting tactic to use to fight crime
Romanian audio specialistÂ Dr. Catalan Grigoras, now director of the National Center for Media Forensics at theÂ University of Colorado, Denver, made an intriguing discovery about a decade ago. The ubiquitous hum of modern society follows a unique pattern that allows many recordings to be validated. Â Now police in the United Kingdom have begun to use the tactic to verify evidence in important court cases.
I. Industry’s Silent Song
Recordings traditionally have been a highly unreliable form of evidence, given that they could easily be cleverly staged or tampered with.
That’s where the hum comes in. Â Electrical sources such as light poles and power outlets emit a near imperceptible hum. Â While centered around the frequency of the alternating current (50 Hz in the UK), the hum dips and rises by a few thousandths of a hertz over time. Â The frequency drops when demand outpaces supply, and rises when supply outpaces demand.
Given a long enough window, this pattern of rising and falling frequencies is virtually unique, as Dr. Grigoras found.
But by using a technique calledÂ Electric Network Frequency (ENF) analysis, law enforcement can store the pattern of the humÂ for a particular gridÂ in a database. Â The Metropolitan Police lab has been compiling such a database in recent years, as has JP French Associates — another UK forensics lab.
CommentsÂ JP French’s Dr. Phillip Harrison toÂ BBC News, “We can extract [the hum from a recording] and compare it with the database – if it is a continuous recording, it will all match up nicely. Â If we’ve got some breaks in the recording, if it’s been stopped and started, the profiles won’t match or there will be a section missing. Or if it has come from two different recordings looking as if it is one, we’ll have two different profiles within that one recording.”
II. A New Time Stamp, but Could it be Gamed?
A trio of London gangsters –Â Hume Bent, Carlos Moncrieffe and Christopher McKenzie — recently saw their defense against London Metropolitan Police charges of gun dealing fall apart thanks to ENF. Â Dr. Alan Cooper, a Met Police ENF expert, validated police recordings of weapons deals using the grid buzz, scientifically damaging the defense’s claim that the recordings were tampered with.
The trio was founded guilty and sentenced to prison for a total of 33 years.
It seems appropriate the novel forensics method has been pioneered in the birthplace of fiction’s Sherlock Holmes. Â But in years ahead, some questions about ENF remain unanswered. Â For example, while individuals would be unlikely to be able fake the ENF hum, it might be feasible, albeit extremely difficult, for a police force to filter out the hum in a recording and dub in a hum at the time they wish to make the recording appear from, given that they have access to the entire database of recordings.
It might be even possible for a citizen skilled in audio recording to carry out such a feat. Â Thus the technique may lay to rest questions of cruder tampering, but may still have flaws of its own. Â For that reason, in time it will probably be used as a piece of a richer evidence puzzle, also composed of other circumstantial clues likeÂ cell phone tower recordsÂ orÂ surveillance footage.
Any television station or cable provider that doesn’t monitor the volume of its advertisements will pay a fine
No more panic-stricken searches for the volume or mute buttons on your remote control when commercials come on — the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially launched the CALM Act today.
The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, was instated today to prevent commercials from blaring at a significantly higher volume than the television programs. The FCC has received complaints about the volume of ads for several years and has told users to simply mute the volume in the past.
The act was introduced and passed in the House and Senate over a year ago, but providers were given time to upgrade their systems for the change.
“It’s about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that startle TV watchers into paying attention,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the act.
Any television station or cable provider that doesn’t monitor the volume of its advertisements will pay a fine.
That idea may not be too far fetched because according to Fox South Carolina’s Newberry College is pushing the envelope of tech education, and will allow its students to major in social media.
The kids will learn all about it, and how to use it, apparently…because all that time spent on their iPhones or home PCs using Facebook and Twitter and Instagram isn’t enough of an education all of its own.
Check out the news clip below to have your social world turned as upside down as a keg stand:
Now, we agree that Web 2.0 (if we can use so outmoded a phrase) is all about the social experience of the web, with a side serving of revolution in mobile social Net access. Obama leveraged Facebook to win an election, social media sites break news and important info like earthquake alerts before the mainstream media has even warmed up its cameras, and heck, even his Pope-iness himself has taken to Twitter. But is a major in social media really something you want to slap on your resume alongside your Klout score? (And did you see what I did there?)
The college, for its part, explains that this is one of the first interdisciplinary social media majors. It says it blends graphic design, communications, business, marketing, psychology and statistics, and that social media is such a vital part of marketing and other business habits that it’ll be a valuable qualification with a likely career path ahead of it. One way students will learn mobile marketing, the college says (via Fox), is by designing QR codes “those little black and white scanners you use with your smartphone.” Apparently this is the “hot new way” to do marketing with mobile phones.
So…last time we looked, the QR code was frowned upon by almost everyone, everywhere (though it does linger in the U.S.). And surely one worry is that by the time students graduate in 2017, with the course starting in 2013, the rocket-speed development of social media itself will have outpaced their education.
But, far be it from us to badmouth some innovation in education. And at least one bit of the U.S. education system is keeping up with the cutting edge of tech (and the rest of the world) for once.
Let’s be clear: Microsoft’s 3-D motion-sensing, depth-sensing, gesture-aware camera system Kinect is a breakthrough in gaming control. But the actual clever stuff inside Kinect is made by a company called PrimeSense, and this company has just said it’s got a wholly new sensor that’s better, and yet small enough to fit inside a smartphone. This means it has the potential to be a breakthrough in controlling anything.
The new system is called Capri, and though it’s due for an official unveiling at the CES event in January, PrimeSense has revealed that it’s about ten times smaller than the current generation of 3-D sensors, and the company suggests it’s “certainly the smallest 3D sensor in the world.” Along with the size reduction, Capri brings better algorithms and a lower cost. That means PrimeSense imagines it will be the sort of addition that would go into PCs, tablets, laptops, mobile phones, TVs, consumer robotics, and so on.
The implications of this are potentially huge, because we know developers are only just coming to grips with how clever they can be using Kinect as a PC peripheral. And the general public is fast becoming educated about the joys of gesture control on their iOS and Android devices. If PrimeSense’s tech really does get built into smartphones and TVs it could enable all sorts of amazing hands-free control of many more of your devices. And it could also bring new ideas, like easy 3-D scanning of objects to complement the explosion of 3-D printing.
Considering that voice control may really explode into more popular use in 2013, thanks to Apple polishing Siri, the implementation of Siri control in cars, and Google’s own efforts to make Android a voice-controlled platform, next year may be the first time we stop having to touch our devices altogether to control them.
Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.
That would be enough to buy 4.6 million tons of corn
North Korea’s missile launch succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit (perhaps thanks to some Iranian expertise) this morning. Â But at what cost did the successful launch come?
I. Money Could Have Ended Famine, Claims South Korea
According to South Korean officials in the Ministry of Unification, the launch and a failed attempt in April directly cost $600M USD (mostly for the rocket and engineering expertise), the launch site costs $400M USD, and additional $300M USD was spent on related facilities. Â That adds up to a total of a cool $1.3B USD — a massive sum for the poverty stricken nation.
To put this in context, South Korea says that would have bought 4.6 million tons of corn for the nation, where a third of citizens are estimated to be malnourished. Â That would be enough corn, it says, to feed the people in the north for four to five years.
North Korea is home to an estimated 24 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Â Average household income in North Korea is less than $1,900 USD a year, among the lowest incomes in the world.
There is some debate about the true cost due to potential deals between Iran and North Korea, in which North Korea agreed to act as the Middle Eastern nation’s weapons test bed (and thus may have received better rates on parts and engineering expertise). Â
Further questions on the price figure come in due to the fact that North Korean engineers are known to make much less than their foreign peers, but the exact rate is a topic of current reserach and debate. Â North Korea is very hostile, isolated, and secretive to its neighbors (other than China) and the U.S., so it is difficult for foreign observers to get accurate numbers to describe its economy.
II. North Korea — Proud or Used?
Despite its anti-U.S. propoganda North Korea has expressed of late a desire to be recognized by the U.S. and given aid. Â A food deal was in the works, but fell through when North Korea broke promises and launched its failed missile test in April.
The big winner in the missile test may be Iran who is unlikely to face sanctions for its supposed involvement, and appears to have offloaded some of the costs of its weaponization efforts on a far poorer ally. Â Average income in Iran, according to the CIA, is $13,200, meaning a single Iranian on average earns as much as nearly seven North Koreans (the average income in the U.S. $48,300 USD, roughly 3.7 times Iran’s per capita income, and 25.4 times as much as North Korea’s per capita income).
Iran had allegedly approached Russia in 2009 with a satellite launch request, but was rebuffed. Â Since it has focused on its own internal rocket efforts for commercial and military purposes. Â The White House and CIA have expressed in recent years the belief that Iran is eager to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be used to threaten the mainland U.S. and its Middle Eastern ally Israel.
Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh in recent statements denied it was targeting the U.S., but confirmed it was refining designs to fire at Israel, stating, “Israel is our longest-range target.”
North Korea contends that regardless of the cost, it is worth it to develop both peaceful space projects and nuclear weapons, which it says it needs to “defend itself” against the U.S.
According to a recent public radio report North Korea’s rhetoric has shifted since Kim Jung-un assumed power, taking the fresh stance that failure is (sometimes) acceptable, because as some observers put it, the leader says great nations often fail. Â For instance, North Korea in the past only broadcast Olympic events where its team or athletes won the particular match. Â This time around, they broadcast the whole event and welcomed home the athletes — even the losers — as national heroes (traditionally losers were sent to work camps).
Indeed many expected this unfamiliar new breed of mea culpas from the Asian regime to arrive this week when the rocket launched, given the delays due to technical difficulties. Â But instead North Korea surprised observers and succeeded, shifting the question to a new one — whether the cost of success was worth it.
Give the pixel five years, researchers say, and it’ll be dead–cast aside for a vector format.
The pixel isn’t perfect. For most everything, lining up tiny blocks and displaying them on a screen works well enough. But those blocks have limitations. Now a team of researchers is saying there’s a better way to present onscreen images–one that’ll replace the pixel in five years.
The team developed something called a vector-based video codec that attempts to overcome the challenges of a typical vector display. A typical vector display features drawn lines and contoured colors on a screen (rather than the simple, geometrical map of pixels we’re all accustomed to). But it has problems–notably, areas between colors can’t be filled in well enough for a high-quality image to be displayed, the researchers say.
A codec takes digital video and can both encode and decode it into a new format (in this case, a vector format). The team isn’t releasing many details, but says it has developed a codec that gets around the in-between color problem. With the codec, they say, they’ll have a “resolution-independent” system that delivers pixel quality without, well, the pixels.
Under a new program, Los Angeles residents will be able to see public parking spots in real time via smartphone. The cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica announced a partnership with California-based ParkMe to generate real-time maps of public parking lots. Inside Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles, the partnership will also include real-time information on available metered street parking.
Within Los Angeles, ParkMe’s database will be integrated into the existing LA Express Park system, while the city of Santa Monica and ParkMe will jointly develop a dedicated smartphone app. Users will also be given access to real-time payment information.
Larry Page says that when you’re obsessed with the present you’re not looking ahead to the future
“We’re still 1 percent to where we should be. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to try to move things along. Not enough people are focused on big change. Part of what I’m trying to do is take Google as a case study and really scale our ambition such that we are able to cause more positive change in the world and more technological change.”
“I have a deep feeling that we are not even close to where we should be.”
I. Google — Doing Its Own Thing
Those sound like the words of a CEO of a company struggling technologically. Â But surprisingly the come from Larry Page, the current CEO of Google Inc. (GOOG) — the maker of the world’s most used search engine, most used online advertising service, and most used smartphone operating system platform.
In a new interview with Fortune,Â Mr. Page emphasizes Google’s philosophy on how it differs from competitors. Â He says that most rivals who have issues with Google are more worried about themselves than their end users, where as at Google it’s all about providing the best experience for the end user, which is built on the premise of openness. Â By providing Google services on as many platforms as possible (even those of arch-nemesis Apple, Inc. (AAPL)), Mr. Page says customers will have access to the best options on the market.
As for Apple locking out Google Maps and other apps from iOS 6, he simply comments, “We try pretty hard to make our products be available as widely as we can. That’s our philosophy. I think sometimes we’re allowed to do that. Sometimes we’re not.”
The CEO accuses Apple (and its late CEO Steven P. Jobs) as being overly fixated on Google. Â Reiterating his comments from a previous interview, he says that Apple’s legal campaign against Google is partly to rally the company against its competitor.
But he says that if you’re fixated on your competitor, you’re not looking forward at your own future. Â He remarks, “I don’t like to rally my company in that way because I think that if you’re looking at somebody else, you’re looking at what they do now, and that’s not how again you stay two or three steps ahead.”
To him, Google has no real “competitors”. Â He comments, “I feel my job is mostly getting people not to think about our competition. In general I think there’s a tendency for people to think about the things that exist.”
II. Risky Efforts are Important to Software Giant
The interviewer asks about Google’s so-called “70-20-10 model” in which 70 percent of the company’s spending is devoted to search/advertising, 20 percent is devoted to apps (like Google Docs), and 10 percent is devoted to experimental efforts (like self-driving cars and Project Glass).
He says that Google still mostly follows that model, but that some projects fall on the border of categories. Â He comments, “So where would you put Android? It’s probably in the 70 in terms of impact — the monetization is at an early stage.”
As for Google Plus, he says the social network is faring “pretty well” and is “improving”. Â He suggests that with Plus and other services users may not have received quite what they initially expected, but that Google’s philosophy is that users must get accustomed to services before making judgements.
As for how long he will remain CEO at Google (Eric Schmidt was chief for 10 years), he says, “I don’t know. It seems impossible to predict.”
The Pew Research Internet Project released a report about Facebook on Friday, providing insights into the company that you won’t find in its IPO filing.
Rather than focusing on the company’s financials, the report “Why Most Facebook Users Get More Than They Give” sheds light on how Facebook’s 845 million users engage with Facebook and what they get out of it.
The findings show that social interactions on Facebook closely mirror social interactions in the real world.
For example, over the course of a one-month period, researchers found that women made an average of 11 updates to their Facebook status, while men averaged only six. Also, women were more likely to comment on other people’s status updates than men.
“There was a general trend in our data that women use Facebook more than men,” said Keith Hampton, a professor at Rutgers and lead author of the report. “This is a phenomenon that is not unique to Facebook. Women are traditionally in charge of social relationships offline, and that seems to be true of the online world as well.”
The report says men are more likely to send friend requests and women are more likely to receive them. That’s something else we see in the real world — especially in bars.
The report also says that most people who use Facebook get more out of it than they put into it, which may explain why they keep coming back.
Researchers found that 40% of Facebook users in a sample group made a friend request, while 63% received at least one friend request. They found that 12% of the sample tagged a friend in a photo, but 35% were themselves tagged in a photo. And each user in the sample clicked the “like” button next to a friend’s content an average of 14 times but had his or her own content ‘liked’ an average of 20 times.
Why the imbalance?
“There is this 20% to 30% who are extremely active who are giving more than they are getting, and they are so active they are making up for feeding everyone extra stuff,” Hampton said. “You might go on Facebook and post something and have time to click ‘like’ on one thing you see in your news feed, but then you get a whole bunch of ‘likes’ on your news feed. That’s because of this very active group.”
He also said extremely active users tend to have a niche: Some are really into friending, others are really into tagging photos, and still others click the ‘like’ button a lot. Rarely is any one user extreme in all those ways.
I asked Hampton what he could tell me about these extremely active people, whom he calls Facebook “power users.” Are they unstoppably social? Unemployed? Lonely?
“It could be people who are always active — whatever they are doing in their life, they are very active. Or it could be that just in the one month we observed them they are active and another month a different group of people would rise up,” he said. “It could be that there is something going on in their life that causes them to be very active, or it could be that some people think of it almost as a job to be active on Facebook.”
Facebook’s IPO filing, by the numbers
Vizio’s 21:9 aspect CinemaWide TV due in March at $3,499
Steve Jobs turning over in his grave? Look-alike touts rival Android
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: A worker at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park. Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP Photo
Justin Angel, an engineer working on Finnish phonemaker Nokia Oyj.’s (HEX:NOK1V) Windows Phone team, has made the curious decision of going public with details of security flaws in partner Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) Windows 8, which allow users to pirate games.
Windows 8 users can grab games viaÂ Windows Store. Â Paid titles typically come with a “Trial” option, which allow users to play a level or two of the game, before being prompted to purchase the title if they want to keep playing. Â The trial process is controlled by a Microsoft API.
But Mr. Angel reveals a fatal flaw in the scheme: Microsoft stores the key/hash in plaintext and the algorithm to encrypt/decrypt the data next to the app itself. Â In other words, while not for the novice, power users can write small programs to decrypt the program’s permissions, write new permissions to make the game look legitimately purchased, and then re-encrypt the permissions.
By exploit the flaws users cannot only get games for free, but they can rid themselves of ads, albeit in a somewhat unethical manner.
The flaws are a big deal as they could rob developers of essentially every way to monetize their content on Windows Store. Microsoft has not yet responded on these issues.
Mr. Angel’s page has been overloaded with traffic (or maybe yanked after Nokia brass realized what he posted) and isÂ now down. Â However, a cached version isÂ available here. Â Just remember, readers, every time you pirate a game another kitten dies.
On his Twitter account, responding to criticism about the post he writes, “These are fundamental flaws in the app platform, not individual apps. No secure storage, no wrote protection, etc…. Â Offline activation & execution mandate secure local storage. That’s how apps differ from fully connected web pages.”
The issues echo those of Apple, Inc. (AAPL) whoÂ experienced rampant piracyÂ in the early days of the Mac App Store, due to poor rights management implementation. Â The take-home message is that it’s a lot harder to manage apps on a personal computer, where users have full access to the files, versus on a smartphone, where user access to the file system is limited.
Steve Jobs likeness continues to pop up in the most unlikely places. He’s been immortalized as a bronze statue in an office park in Hungary, his image was painstakingly recreated in what might be the world’s most detailed action figure, and now a Taiwanese commercial making its way around the Internet depicts the recently deceased Apple visionary as a shill for an Android-based tablet called Action Pad.
Oh, the irony!
The man playing Jobs in the commercial is Taiwanese comedian and impersonator Ah-Ken, according to a report in Reuters. The commercial never explicitly uses Jobs name, but Ah-Ken is dressed in Jobs trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans, his hair is a silvery grey, and he’s wearing glasses. He’s standing on a stage meant to mimic those that Jobs paced across during major Apple announcements and speaking excitedly to an applauding audience. One thing he has that Jobs never had: a halo and wings.
At the end of his talk he says, “Thank God I can play another pad.”
Jobs of course hated Android with his whole being. His biographer Walter Isaacson writes that he never saw Jobs as angry as when he was talking about a lawsuit Apple had filed against Android.
After telling Isaacson that he considered Google’s Android to be a wholesale ripoff of the iPhone, he said:
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty.”
Maybe things change in the afterlife?
Action Electronics, the company that makes the Action Pad along with other electronic gadgets, sees no problem with the advertisement. “Steve Jobs always promoted things that were good for people, Apple products, so his image can also promote other things that are good,” a spokeswoman told Reuters. “It’s just an impersonator, not Jobs,” she said.
The reaction on YouTube has been mixed with commenters vacillating between disgust and amusement, but the video itself is rapidly racking up views.
Steve Jobs statue unveiled in Budapest office park
Demand for iPhones in China could skyrocket, analyst says
Steve Jobs action figure is advertised; will Apple respond?
– Deborah Netburn
Image: Screen grab from a Taiwanese commercial for Action Pad that depicts Steve Jobs as a shill for the Android-based tablet. Credit: YouTube
Material uses fibre optics to create light up effect
Battery pack powered LEDs that light the fabric up
By Mark Prigg
PUBLISHED: 11:12 EST, 10 December 2012 | UPDATED: 14:11 EST, 10 December 2012
If you’re afraid of the dark, a French firm could have the answer – curtains and bed covers that glow in the dark.
The firm has created the battery powered technology using fibre optic light – and claims the resulting effect is ‘subtle and mysterious’ – although its promotional images seem to tell a different story.
The firm, which also produces a range of light up fabrics for use in clothing, uses a specially developed materiel called Luminex.
Scroll down to watch promo
Lumigram’s curtains and bedspread light up due to fibre optic fibres in the fabric, and are powered by a battery
The firm also makes a range up light up cushions using the specially developed fabric
HOW IT WORKS
The material is made out of ultra-thin optical fibers, directly woven with synthetic fibers.
These fibres are connected to ultra-bright LEDs embedded in borders at the edge of the fabric.
These LEDs, in conjunction with the woven fiber optics, are what inject light into the fabric making it luminous.
The firm claims the fabric can be washed, although it warns users not tho iron their glow in the dark bedspreads.
LumiGram offer to light up your love-life with their eye-catching range of bed covers, pillow cases and luminous materials.Â
Made of a patented fibre optic fabric called Luminex the material emits a coloured light along the full length of the fibres producing an otherwordly glow effect.Â
A company spokesperson says: ‘Unlike other light sources like Neon, LEDs or Electroluminescence, the light coming from the fibre optics fabric is subtle and mysterious, producing a beautiful and dazzling luminous effect in dark or shadowed areas.’Â
The Â£320 bed cover is powered by low voltage (4.5V) electrical adaptor or batteries.Â
The firm reassuringly say ‘it doesn’t heat up, and presents no risks of electrical shocks.’
Made of a patented fibre optic fabric called Luminex the material emits a coloured light along the full length of the fibres producing an otherwordly glow effect – but thankfully you can switch it off
The material can be made in a range of colours, and can even be (carefully) washed, says the firm
Light is concentrated around the edge of the bedspread, where the high powered LEDs that light it up are situated