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Linux, the 386, and Days of Auld Lang Syne

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The end of 386 support is “the passing of an era, but I think it’s a good thing,” said Google+ blogger Linux Rants. “386 support in many ways holds us back and makes things more difficult, so getting rid of it really makes sense. Seriously, how many people are going to be affected by this in a negative way? Still, kinda sad.”

The year 2012 may not yet have reached its final conclusion, but here in the Linux community another kind of curtain was recently dropped for the last time.

It’s the end of the line for Linux’s support of Intel’s 386 chip, specifically, and tears are being shed across the land — or not.

“This tree removes ancient-386-CPUs support and thus zaps quite a bit of complexity,” wrote developer Ingo Molnar when submitting the change last week. “Unfortunately there’s a nostalgic cost: your old original 386 DX33 system from early 1991 won’t be able to boot modern Linux kernels anymore. Sniff.”

Not everyone got choked up, however: “I’m not sentimental,” wrote Linus Torvalds, for example. “Good riddance.”

Is it the best of times? Is it the worst of times? Will anyone even care? That’s what bloggers on Slashdot and across the land have been trying to decide.

‘I Think It’s a Good Thing’

“This development kind of reminds me of the New Year,” said Google+ blogger Linux Rants over a Tequila Tux cocktail down at the Linux blogosphere’s seedy Punchy Penguin Saloon.

“It gives us an opportunity to look back on where we were, reflect on where we are, and look forward to where we’re going,” Linux Rants explained. “It’s kind of a sad moment to look at what’s moving into the past, but when all is said and done, it’s time for us to move forward and go on to bigger and better things.”

The end of 386 support is “the passing of an era, but I think it’s a good thing,” he told Linux Girl. “386 support in many ways holds us back and makes things more difficult, so getting rid of it really makes sense. Seriously, how many people are going to be affected by this in a negative way?

“Still, kinda sad,” he concluded.

‘This Makes Me a Little Sad’

Indeed, “this makes me a little sad, because my first Linux machine was a 386DX25 with 8MB of DIP DRAM onboard, on which I ran Slackware 2.0,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza began. “On the other hand, I understand; I was running kernel 1.1.47 back then!

“If you’re running such an antiquated processor, do you really want the latest kernel, anyway?” he pointed out. “You might not even want a 2.x kernel, let alone 3.x.”

Most of the 386s in the world today are probably running DOS and performing industrial control tasks, Espinoza suggested.

“It can be difficult to maintain a proper sense of perspective if you started computing on something with less power than a 386 (for some of us, it was a lot less), but even NASA likely isn’t using them any more, as Intel now makes radiation-hardened Pentiums,” he pointed out.

‘Thanks for the Memories’

Blogger and educator Robert Pogson had similar memories.

“My last ’486 died around 2000 when it was dropped on a runway,” Pogson recounted.

“In schools, the oldest machine I have seen recently was 15 years old, so it is time ’386 died,” he opined. “The few antiques left can run reasonably well on older versions of GNU/Linux but not on new ones just because of the bloat.

“Good-bye and thanks for the memories (Lose 3.1 and freezing),” he added.

In fact, “I was still using that ’486 when I discovered GNU/Linux ran solidly on hardware which Lose ’95 froze constantly,” he told Linux Girl. “I can still build an older kernel and an older distro to run something in a few megabytes if necessary, but I doubt it will ever be necessary again.”

‘History Moves On’

Similarly, “I can’t imagine anyone will miss the 386,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack agreed. “Most distros have dropped support for it ages ago, and some have even dropped the 486.

“Uselessly old CPUs that only serve to complicate the rest of the code are better off dropped,” Mack concluded.

And again: “I am an enthusiast of saving old machines from the recycling pile with GNU/Linux, but since packages are continually evolving, it is becoming increasingly difficult to work with any (even light) distribution on a Pentium III era computer,” Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. agreed. “Imagine that with a 386 DX33!!!

“History moves on; also technology does,” he added.

‘Good Riddance’

One more time: “What took them so long?” wondered Slashdot blogger hairyfeet. “Who still uses 386 anywhere for anything but nostalgia? You can find several orders of magnitude better than a 386 on an average street corner!”

In fact, “I think they should throw out everything before 686 as there really isn’t a point — nobody is gonna be trying to run a modern OS on a Pentium 1, much less a 386 or 486, not to mention that even if the kernel supports such an old CPU, how much of the modern software required to make the kernel actually do anything is gonna run on a CPU that is THAT old without it having each action literally counted in how many hours it takes to perform?”

Bottom line: “I agree with Torvalds — good riddance,” hairyfeet concluded.

‘A Non-Issue’

Last but not least, “If you maintain support perpetually for every piece of kit ever invented, the software just grows and gets bloated,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien explained. “So you need to trim the list occasionally, and this seems perfectly justified.”

Indeed, “the great benefit of Free Software is that if anyone really needs this, they can use an older kernel, or they can hire a programmer to add in support, or if there is enough demand someone will probably provide a kernel that has it built-in,” he added. “This is really a non-issue.”


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl’s cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She’s particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

Emma Watson Valeria Golino


Most Facebook users get more from it than they put in, study says

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6a00d8341c630a53ef0163008cd22f970d-600wi

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.”

ALSO:

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

Marlee Matlin Rebecca Romijn


Most Facebook users get more from it than they put in, study says

0 comments

6a00d8341c630a53ef0163008cd22f970d-600wi

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.”

ALSO:

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

Zooey Deschanel Sara Cox


Google in Talks to Resolve Antitrust Issues in Europe

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Today in international tech news: Google appears to have smoothed things over with the FTC, but the company has yet to appease the European Commission. Also: Germany protests Facebook’s real-name policy, Canadian anti-piracy forces prepare for battle, and Iran says it was the victim of another malware attack.

Google is expected to agree to changes in the way it displays search results, a move that will likely allow it to skirt an antitrust investigation in the U.S. However, things are still unresolved between Google and the European Commission.

The Guardian reports that the Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce a deal this week that will end the controversy over whether Google used its market dominance to cripple competition.

As it nears a resolution in the U.S., Google is reportedly still negotiating with European Commission antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia. The EC is apparently more concerned with Google’s position because in Europe it commands a 95 percent share of the search engine market, compared with 65 percent in the U.S.

If Google and the EC don’t strike a deal, as appears to have happened in the U.S., then Google could be compelled to tailor its search results “according to EC strictures,” writes The Guardian.

Germany Pushes Facebook to End Real-Name Policy

A data protection body in Germany has ordered Facebook to cease its policy of forcing users to register with their real names, according to the BBC.

The policy reportedly violates German laws that allow people to use pseudonyms online, according to the data protection agency in the northern Germany state of Schleswig-Holstein. The agency has demanded that Facebook allow fake names immediately, adding that the company has two weeks to challenge in German court.

Facebook, which has a policy of removing accounts with fake information, has said it would fight the decree and that its naming policy complies with European data protection rules.

Canada Anti-Piracy Forces Zero In on ISP

Users of the Canadian Internet service provider TekSavvy will be “the first unlucky targets” of a BitTorrent crackdown spearheaded by Voltage Picture.

Torrent Freak reports that the Canadian anti-piracy company Canipre has been collaborating with rights holders to monitor BitTorrent networks to determine who is sharing files illegally. Canipre is partnered with Voltage Pictures, which in 2010 launched an anti-BitTorrent campaign in the U.S. targeting those who shared the film “The Hurt Locker.” The studio is trying to duplicate that fight in Canada.

About 2,000 TekSavvy users were confirmed to have shared Voltage films. The company has asked the ISP to fork over personal details of the alleged offenders. TekSavvy initially refused, but the company has now decided not to fight the request.

Canada is engaging in some of the most ambitious anti-BitTorrent measures to date.

Iran Claims to Find New Malware

Having been the apparent target of an unprecedented malware attack earlier this year, Iran is now claiming to have discovered a new “targeted data wiping malware.”

Naked Security reports that while the malware identified by Iran does indeed wipe files from computers, it is not all that clear why Iran believes it was specifically targeted at the country. This most recent malware bears no resemblance to other sponsored attacks, including the famous Flame attack, Naked Security said.

Emma Watson Valeria Golino


U.S. and UK refuse to sign treaty ‘that could lead to greater government control of cyberspace’

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  • 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

|

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.

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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

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:

NORTH KOREA

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. 

IRAN

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.

CHINA

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.

CUBA

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.

ERITREA

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.

VIDEO: Interview with Terry Kramer, US WCIT Ambassador:

Hetty Baynes British Marines


Redesigned Technology blog moves to new address

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Tech blog

The L.A. Times Technology blog has been redesigned, and with our new duds we’re rolling out a new URL. So if you’ve been a loyal follower of our work, please update your bookmarks.

Our hope is that you’ll find the new look to be cleaner and easier for reading, viewing photos and watching videos. Please let us know what you think about the new look by leaving us a comment on the Technology blog’s Facebook page or by shooting a tweet to @LATimesTech.

Thanks for reading, watching and clicking.

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of the Technology blog’s new look. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Isla Fisher this link


Could lasers help harness the power of geothermal energy?

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By Charles Walford

|

It has long been thought that tapping the planet’s nearly limitless amount of geothermal power would greatly relieve the burden on rapidly depleting fossil fuel sources.

But harnessing such a renewable energy source is currently a slow and expensive progress.

However, now there may be a revolutionary solution to the problems of cumbersome and costly giant drilling equipment – lasers.

While geothermal power requires no fuel (except for pumps), and is therefore immune to fuel cost fluctuations, the capital costs are very high.

Heat is on: US company Foro says it has tested a laser drill that could make harnessing geothermal energy far easier

Heat is on: US company Foro says it has tested a laser drill that could make harnessing geothermal energy far easier

Steaming ahead: The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland

Steaming ahead: The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland

Drilling accounts for over half the costs, and exploration of resources deep in the Earth entails significant risks.

But now a US company has offered its alternative solution, the New Scientist reports.

Foro Energy, a start-up company in Littleton, Colorado, has developed what it claims is an inexpensive system of high-powered lasers that can cut through rock.

Foro announced last month that a test system had sent a beam from a 20-kilowatt commercial laser through 1.5km of optical fibre.

Development has been funded by the US Department of Energy’s research arm, ARPA-E.

Borehole drilling trials are planned for next year.

Mechanical drills can easily grind through soft rocks like sandstone to tap petroleum reserves, but they wear out quickly in hard crystalline rocks such as granite and basalt, which are found near volcanoes.

Thus it is these rocks that often hide the best sources of geothermal energy.

Foro’s intense laser beam heats hard rock surfaces so fast that thermal shock fractures the upper few millimetres, leaving a crumbled layer that a normal mechanical drill can scrape away.

Power source: How geothermal energy can be harnessed

Power source: How geothermal energy can be harnessed

Global geothermal electric capacity: Upper red line is installed capacity; lower green line is realised production

Global geothermal electric capacity: Upper red line is installed capacity; lower green line is realised production

This approach could increase drilling rates, a major component in well cost, by up to a factor of 10, says ARPA-E.

However, the success of the prototype will not be guaranteed to be replicated hundreds of metres underground.

The bottom of a borehole, which is filled with rock chips and churning water that lubricates the drill bit.

But for the laser system to work, the optics must deliver the beam directly to the rock, Jared Potter of Potter Drilling in Redwood City, California, who is developing a drilling process that shatters rock with extremely hot water, told the New Scientist.

If the beam hits fluid, it will heat the liquid instead of the rock face.

Foro ‘has a long way to go to have a tool they can deploy in a geothermal or oil well, he adds.
But it is the huge cost of drilling that has hindered the adoption of geothermal energy as a legitimate power source.

If Foro can make it work, it would be a major breakthrought for the way we power our world.

Veronika Zemanova Barbara Schoeneberger


Analyst: iPad Mini 2013 Shipments to Leave New iPad/iPad 2 in the Dust

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  (Source: gawkerassets.com)

Apple’s iPad mini will make up about half of Apple’s total iPad shipments in 2013

The fact that Apple’s iPad is predicted to steal much of the tablet market share next year is no surprise; however, the fact that the iPad mini may outpace the iPad 2 and the new iPad is certainly interesting.

According to DisplaySearch, which is a global market research and consulting firm, Apple’s iPad mini will make up about half of Apple’s total iPad shipments in 2013.

Apple expects to ship a total of 100 million iPads in 2013. Out of that total, DisplaySearch predicts that the iPad mini will account for about 50 million of those shipments while the new iPad and the iPad 2 will ship about 40 million and 10 million respectively.

DisplaySearch further predicts that there will be a total of 170 million tablet shipments in 2013 (from all tablet makers, not just Apple). If Apple were to achieve the 100 million shipments, it would have about 60 percent of the market share.

For 2012, despite being released in October, the iPad mini is holding its own concerning sales. In Q3, Apple shipped 1.6 million, and for Q4, the tech giant is asking panel makers to ship over 12 million.

This is an interesting prediction, considering many saw the iPad mini as being far too expensive for a 7-inch tablet (starts at $329) when so many others in the 7-inch arena typically start at $199 (i.e., Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD).

The iPad mini was unveiled in late October of this year. It sports a 7.85-inch display, a 1024×768 resolution, dual-core A5 processor, 16GB/32GB/64GB storage options for $329/$429/$529 respectively, a lightning connector and LTE capabilities for an extra $130 to those sticker prices.

Source: Display Search Blog

Emily Symons Melissa Gilbert


Redesigned Technology blog moves to new address

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Tech blog

The L.A. Times Technology blog has been redesigned, and with our new duds we’re rolling out a new URL. So if you’ve been a loyal follower of our work, please update your bookmarks.

Our hope is that you’ll find the new look to be cleaner and easier for reading, viewing photos and watching videos. Please let us know what you think about the new look by leaving us a comment on the Technology blog’s Facebook page or by shooting a tweet to @LATimesTech.

Thanks for reading, watching and clicking.

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of the Technology blog’s new look. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Lisa Snowdon see more


Microsoft Stores taking $25 deposit on Nokia Lumia 900

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Nokia Lumia 900

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.

RELATED:

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+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

Jenny Agutter Victoria Beckham


U.S. and UK refuse to sign treaty ‘that could lead to greater government control of cyberspace’

0 comments

  • 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

|

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

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:

NORTH KOREA

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. 

IRAN

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.

CHINA

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.

CUBA

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.

ERITREA

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.

Denise Van Outen Betty White


After School Shooting In Newtown, Connecticut, A Social Media Tragedy Plays Out On TV, Web

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Facebook doesn’t kill people. The media using Facebook kills people’s reputations. And several outlets added insult to the injury of a young man who just lost his brother, his mother, and any semblance of privacy for the foreseeable future.

Any news outlet worth its salt rushed to Google and Facebook and Twitter the minute we heard the supposed name of the gunman in a horrific shooting death of 28 people, including 20 children, as many as seven adults (likely including his own mother), and the shooter himself, in the kindergarten classroom and halls of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the rush to find answers, sometimes someone’s online identity and social web can provide clues.

There were lots of hits online for Ryan Lanza, the name being bandied about as that of the shooter. There was a correctional officer, a few kids. And then there was this 20-something-looking guy dark glasses and what could have been a trench coat. (It should be noted that there are several people named “Adolf Hitler” on social media, too, but it doesn’t mean Nazi No. 1 is alive and tweeting.) There was even some military game-themed stuff on this one Ryan Lanza’s Facebook page. His hometown was listed as Newtown, CT. But he lived in Hoboken, New Jersey.

And then it happened. Pete Williams from NBC News mentioned that Ryan Lanza had a connection to Hoboken.

They were going with the Facebook kid.

Then Fox used his picture (the blurring below is ours).

Then came the denials and claims of wrong ID. The New York Times‘ Jenna Wortham sent around an image of what looked like statuses from the Facebook Ryan Lanza himself, claiming not only to be alive and not dead inside the Newtown school, but asking people to stop accusing him of some horrific crime based solely on his name and some corresponding social data (no one really knew if those images of Ryan Lanza’s Facebook statuses were fake, either, at the time).

At the time of this intitial post, Twitter was alive with people convinced that the Facebook Ryan Lanza was the guy responsible for one of the grizzliest mass murders in recent history. As things have developed into the evening of December 14, it appears Ryan Lanza is the brother of the presumed shooter, Adam Lanza. In other words, several prominent media outlets not only got the wrong guy, they slandered Ryan Lanza, a guy whose brother just did something unimaginable before taking the life of his, and Ryan’s mother, then his own. His family was wiped out, and, thanks to some slapdash use of social media and an itchy trigger finger, so was his reputation.

Just after 3 p.m. NBC reporter Pete Williams started to sound like he might backtrack. But a moment before he issued a correction about fingering the wrong Lanza, a news conference in Newtown started, and NBC broke away. Finally, at around 3:45 p.m., more than an hour after accusing the wrong guy of mass child murder, Williams said to anchor Lester Holt: “This is an unusual situation where information is being corrected and revised, and, Lester, maybe this is one of them.” Not that they had any more solid information with which to correct their slander.

But Holt had already issued a blanket justification right before a teary eyed President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the families from the White House. Holt perfectly summed up the situation for his and other networks’ reckless assumptions:

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” he said, “But information never seems to come as soon as we want it.”

Sydney Moon Jerri Manthey


Samsung Galaxy S4 release time is determined and to hold a special conference

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According to media reports, the hot-issues Samsung Galaxy S4 release time it determined and they will hold a special press conference.

For Samsung Galaxy S4 release time, there were media reports that it will be released together with the cheap version Galaxy note 2 on CES 2013.

Subsequently, there were media saying that the product released on CES 2013 has nothing to do with the phone, but Samsung televisions and notebook products, Galaxy S4 will not be released.

In this regard, the industry analyses, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is Samsung major products and Samsung will prepare a separate conference for it. The specific time is roughly scheduled for May next year.

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Ivana Trump Marlee Matlin


Electric Grid Hum Used to Time-Stamp Digital Recordings, Verify Evidence

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UK police are putting tactic to use to fight crime

Romanian audio specialist Dr. Catalan Grigoras, now director of the National Center for Media Forensics at the 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.  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.  Electrical sources such as light poles and power outlets emit a near imperceptible hum.  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.  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 called Electric Network Frequency (ENF) analysis, law enforcement can store the pattern of the hum for a particular grid in a database.  The Metropolitan Police lab has been compiling such a database in recent years, as has JP French Associates — another UK forensics lab.

Comments JP French’s Dr. Phillip Harrison to 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.  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 – Hume Bent, Carlos Moncrieffe and Christopher McKenzie — recently saw their defense against London Metropolitan Police charges of gun dealing fall apart thanks to ENF.  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.  But in years ahead, some questions about ENF remain unanswered.  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.  Thus the technique may lay to rest questions of cruder tampering, but may still have flaws of its own.  For that reason, in time it will probably be used as a piece of a richer evidence puzzle, also composed of other circumstantial clues like cell phone tower records or surveillance footage.

Source: BBC

Jerri Manthey read more


These Terrifying Handcuffs Can Shock And Drug Prisoners

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A recently filed patent details the (scary dystopian) handcuffs of the future.

Electric Shock Cuffs USPTO via Patent Bolt

An Arizona-based company recently filed a patent for high-tech futuristic handcuffs that are, in a word, terrifying. In addition to restraining prisoners, the cuffs can also deliver electric shocks and sedatives.

They’re still in the patent phase right now, of course, but when they do exist on a full commercial scale, they could work manually at a guard’s behest or they could be programmed to automatically activate when someone in cuffs starts to act up or steps outside of certain boundaries. Safety mechanisms could–hopefully will–be set to prevent a guard from doping or shocking prisoners to the point where they suffer from major side effects. Death, for example.

As for the drugs: They could include “an irritant, a medication, a sedative, a transdermal medication or transdermal enhancers such as dimethyl sulfoxide, a chemical restraint, a paralytic, a medication prescribed to the detainee, and combinations thereof.”

If the cuffs move past the patent office and into commercial production, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of rules and regulations come attached. From patent photos, it looks like the developers might already have a prototype, which means we might be seeing them sooner rather than later. Note to self: Avoid jail.

[Patent Bolt via Daily Mail]

Michelle Branch Sonia Couling


Samsung Galaxy S4 release time is determined and to hold a special conference

0 comments

According to media reports, the hot-issues Samsung Galaxy S4 release time it determined and they will hold a special press conference.

For Samsung Galaxy S4 release time, there were media reports that it will be released together with the cheap version Galaxy note 2 on CES 2013.

Subsequently, there were media saying that the product released on CES 2013 has nothing to do with the phone, but Samsung televisions and notebook products, Galaxy S4 will not be released.

In this regard, the industry analyses, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is Samsung major products and Samsung will prepare a separate conference for it. The specific time is roughly scheduled for May next year.

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Janice Renney Jacqueline McKenzie


User added wireless charging for the Google Nexus tablet

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The user mentioned today is not an ordinary one, he has done a lot of functional improvements for smartphone before, this time this user adds wireless charging for the Google Nexus 7 Tablet PC, his name is -Rod Whitby, and I think he is not a stranger to some people. Currently that Rod Whitby adds wireless charging technology for Google Nexus 7 Tablet PC has reached the final step, his uses a Touchstone charging dock and an old circuit on an old Palm smartphone to complete this experiment, just like some software hackers have done.

Rod Whitby for Google Nexus 7 Tablet PC to add wireless charging technology has reached the final step, his old circuit to complete this experiment on the use of a Touchstone charging dock and an old Palm smartphone, just like some software hackers done.

However, in this process Whitby had to overcome some difficulties. First, he needs to find a large enough space to install something in the real cover of the Tablet PC. Then, he found a single charging coil can not meet the Nexus 7 Tablet PC charging voltage demand. How to solve these difficulties? He used two parallel wires to provide more stable power supply. He is currently testing another method, which is to remove the larger coil from the HP TouchPad to provide large enough voltage.

Although these tests have not yet completed, but we are very confident on Rod to add wireless charging technology for Google Nexus Tablet PC. As to the success, then please pay attention to his dynamic on Google to obtain the latest information about the message.

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Nicki Minaj Mia Farrow


These Terrifying Handcuffs Can Shock And Drug Prisoners

0 comments

A recently filed patent details the (scary dystopian) handcuffs of the future.

Electric Shock Cuffs USPTO via Patent Bolt

An Arizona-based company recently filed a patent for high-tech futuristic handcuffs that are, in a word, terrifying. In addition to restraining prisoners, the cuffs can also deliver electric shocks and sedatives.

They’re still in the patent phase right now, of course, but when they do exist on a full commercial scale, they could work manually at a guard’s behest or they could be programmed to automatically activate when someone in cuffs starts to act up or steps outside of certain boundaries. Safety mechanisms could–hopefully will–be set to prevent a guard from doping or shocking prisoners to the point where they suffer from major side effects. Death, for example.

As for the drugs: They could include “an irritant, a medication, a sedative, a transdermal medication or transdermal enhancers such as dimethyl sulfoxide, a chemical restraint, a paralytic, a medication prescribed to the detainee, and combinations thereof.”

If the cuffs move past the patent office and into commercial production, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of rules and regulations come attached. From patent photos, it looks like the developers might already have a prototype, which means we might be seeing them sooner rather than later. Note to self: Avoid jail.

[Patent Bolt via Daily Mail]

Meredith Vieira Ian McKellen


R.I.P. Pixels?

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Give the pixel five years, researchers say, and it’ll be dead–cast aside for a vector format.

Pixels Wikimedia Commons

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.

Vector-Style Image

Vector-Style Image:  University of Bath

Allie Mutch David Beckham


7 Gifts For The Geeky Kid In Your Life

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This kit from littleBits includes 10 tiny, color-coded circuit boards that connect to each other via magnets. Each one does something different, and kids can see what happens when they add and subtract modules. Children (age 8 and up!) can invent their own interactive objects, or they can follow the included project plans. 9v battery comes with, and everything stores neatly inside the magnetic case.

$89, littleBits

other facts Rebecca Gibney


South Korea Says North Korea Dumped $1.3B USD Into Missile Launch

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  (Source: [North Korean Propaganda Poster])

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.  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.  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.  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).  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).  

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.  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.  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.  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.  Since it has focused on its own internal rocket efforts for commercial and military purposes.  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.  For instance, North Korea in the past only broadcast Olympic events where its team or athletes won the particular match.  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.  But instead North Korea surprised observers and succeeded, shifting the question to a new one — whether the cost of success was worth it.

Source: CNN

Jamie Lynn Steffi Graf


Unified European Patent System Could Goose Innovation

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Today in international tech news: Europe adopts a unified patent system; Google pulls the plug on its Chinese shopping search; a leaked International Telecommunication Union documents hints that the body wants more control; and concerns abound — from authorities and activists alike — about the Chinese messaging system WeChat.

In an attempt to harmonize the various patent systems used throughout the European Union’s 27 nations, the European Parliament adopted a uniform patent system Tuesday.

The unified system, which is expected to come into effect in early 2014, could alleviate the “impediments to innovation” caused by the EU’s various patent systems, according to The New York Times. Following the Parliament’s 484-164 vote in favor of the new patent system, each EU nation will deliberate the measure in February.

The new system will supplement the current array of patent rules that vary by nation, said the Times. Because rulings in one nation don’t necessary apply to another, it is believed to be 15 times more expensive in Europe than in the U.S. to protect inventions and innovations.

The European Commission estimates that under the new standardized setup, protecting patents would cost about US$8,400 — compared to a current cost of $46,500. Prices would plunge because individual nations would no longer need to validate the unitary patents which are granted by the European Patent Office in Munich, Germany. Moreover, the patents would no longer need to be translated into each of the EU’s 20-plus official languages — just English, German and French.

Alas, even this streamlining measure has ruffled feathers: Irked that their languages have been relegated to the dustbin, Spain and Italy reportedly have sued to overturn the decision.

Google Pulls the Plug on Chinese Shopping Search

Less than three months after closing its Chinese music search, Google nixed its Chinese shopping service on Wednesday.

It “wasn’t providing businesses with the level of impact” that it had hoped for, according to Bloomberg. Google was up against plenty of domestic competition, including China’s top e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding and 360buy.

Google Maps has also taken a dive in China, further solidifying the company’s cold streak in the Middle Kingdom.

ITU Draft Hints at Desire for Expanded Role

A leaked document from the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency overseeing an international conference in Dubai, suggests that it is using the summit to gain more control over governance of the Internet.

The leaked “draft language” would permit the organization to take a more “active” role in managing the Web, according to Cnet. The ITU would seek involvement in topics ranging from public policy to technical issues, the leak suggests.

The document was revealed on the same day the White House again expressed concern that the ITU summit could result in telecommunications treaties that would legitimize state censorship. The U.S. has repeatedly said it would reject attempts by the ITU to legislate the Web. In a unanimous resolution, the House of Representatives reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to a free Internet.

Concerns About China’s WeChat

Chinese authorities, human rights activists and Taiwan officials are among those who have, for differing reasons, voiced concern over WeChat, a messaging app developed in China and rapidly spreading elsewhere.

The angst over — and ascension of — WeChat, which is akin to the U.S.-based WhatsApp, is highlighted in recent articles in both The Guardian and Tech In Asia.

WeChat announced in September that its users doubled to 200 million in six months. The majority are in China, but the service is growing in the U.S. and Europe, as well.

Activists are concerned that the app’s voice-messaging service enables authorities to monitor users, as The Guardian points out. Hu Jia, a jailed human rights activist, reportedly suspects that WeChat played a role in his arrest. Moreover, when the app launched in Taiwan in October, legislators voiced concerns that it could pose a threat to national security by exposing private communications.

However, there are two sides to the coin: Chinese authorities also see WeChat as a threat, according to Tech In Asia. Plus, a recent feature on state-run TV discussed the dangers of WeChat, including how its location-related features can tip off criminals.


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

Sarah Miles Justine Bateman


Facebook’s IPO filing, by the numbers

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Facebook's Menlo Park HQ

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.

RELATED:

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+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

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

Janice Renney Jacqueline McKenzie


These Terrifying Handcuffs Can Shock And Drug Prisoners

0 comments

A recently filed patent details the (scary dystopian) handcuffs of the future.

Electric Shock Cuffs USPTO via Patent Bolt

An Arizona-based company recently filed a patent for high-tech futuristic handcuffs that are, in a word, terrifying. In addition to restraining prisoners, the cuffs can also deliver electric shocks and sedatives.

They’re still in the patent phase right now, of course, but when they do exist on a full commercial scale, they could work manually at a guard’s behest or they could be programmed to automatically activate when someone in cuffs starts to act up or steps outside of certain boundaries. Safety mechanisms could–hopefully will–be set to prevent a guard from doping or shocking prisoners to the point where they suffer from major side effects. Death, for example.

As for the drugs: They could include “an irritant, a medication, a sedative, a transdermal medication or transdermal enhancers such as dimethyl sulfoxide, a chemical restraint, a paralytic, a medication prescribed to the detainee, and combinations thereof.”

If the cuffs move past the patent office and into commercial production, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of rules and regulations come attached. From patent photos, it looks like the developers might already have a prototype, which means we might be seeing them sooner rather than later. Note to self: Avoid jail.

[Patent Bolt via Daily Mail]

Jodie Foster Olivia Pascal


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