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Samsung licenses HERE maps, still trying to escape the Google ecosystem

8/29/2014 8:30pm
Samsung has lots of ammunition against Google, but will it ever pull the trigger?

Samsung and Nokia have signed an agreement to bring Nokia's HERE mapping service to just about every Samsung device imaginable. Nokia announced that HERE for Android will be exclusive to Samsung's Galaxy smartphone line, and it will also be bringing a mini version of HERE to Samsung's Tizen-based smartwatches, including the newly-announced Samsung Gear S.

Nokia HERE's origins lie in Nokia's Ovi mapping service and the company's 2007 purchase of Navteq. HERE data is one of the main competitors to Google Maps—besides the in-house app, the data also powers Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, Amazon Maps, and Garmin GPS devices. This Nokia has nothing to do with Microsoft, which only bought Nokia's "Devices & Services" division. The remaining parts of the company deal with maps, cellular networking technology, and R&D.

The move is Samsung's latest attempt to distance itself from the Google ecosystem. "What will you do without Google Maps" is one of the biggest questions any company (or customer) needs to answer if it wants to ask itself how it could survive a Google-free existence. While it's not very difficult to dump the Play Store or Gmail for a different client, Google Maps is much harder to replace.

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Gencon: My journey into the heart of the nerd kingdom

8/29/2014 6:10pm
The crush as Gencon's main exhibition hall opens. Nate Anderson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN—"The Reavers in your bed," sang the kilted duo, "are going to eat your face!"

Sitting in the back row of a windowless conference room packed with 125 Firefly lovers, I listened to this demented lullaby while duly jotting down the chorus: eat... your... face. And I wondered, not for the first time, what I was doing among the 50,000 other attendees at Gencon.

I mean to say, when your job involves listening to a percussionist with more than a passing resemblance to Smee play a djembe while singer Marc Gunn strums an autoharp and belts out Irish drinking songs with lyrics like, "It's good to have Jayne Cobb on your side," certain questions inevitably arise. Chief among them: after seeing this, could I even call myself a 'nerd' anymore?

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Internet Archive posts millions of historic images to Flickr

8/29/2014 5:00pm
Image from page 400 of "Breeder and sportsman" (1882). Internet Archive Book Images

Earlier this year, communications technology scholar Kalev Leetaru began culling over 14 million images from the Internet Archive’s public domain ebooks and uploading them to the Internet Archive’s Flickr account. As of today, 2.6 million images are now easily searchable and downloadable.

When the Internet Archive originally scanned the books, they used Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which made the book text searchable, but that didn’t mean much if you were looking for images. So Leetaru wrote some software to take advantage of the OCR program that the Internet Archive had used to scan public domain works published and written between 1500 and 1922.

According to the BBC, the OCR program scanned the books and discarded sections of the text that it recognized as images. Leetaru had his software go back and find those discarded portions of text, automatically converting those sections into Jpeg images and uploading them to Flickr. "The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book,” the BBC wrote.

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Steve Jobs gets posthumous design patent on iconic NYC Apple store

8/29/2014 4:45pm
The original design of Apple's 5th Avenue NYC store, which stood from 2006 until 2011. Flodigrip / flickr

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and several other Apple employees are listed as inventors on a newly granted design patent, which describes the design of the company's flagship New York City retail outlet. Jobs is listed as one of the seven co-inventors of the design, although he passed away about a year before the application was filed in October 2012.

The company is an enthusiastic proponent of patenting and trademarking just about everything it can, and its retail stores are no exception. Apple actually acquired a US trademark on its interior store design last year, and it has patented other elements of the stores, such as their special architectural glass panels and floating glass staircases.

Apple's newest patent grant shows that it was especially proud of its iconic Manhattan store on 5th Avenue. The actual store exists beneath a 32-foot glass cube, an older version of which is pictured above. Its subterranean entrance is open 24 hours a day.

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Los Angeles cops do not need to hand over license plate reader data, judge finds

8/29/2014 3:50pm
This LAPD patrol car is equipped with a LPR unit, mounted just in front of the light bar on the roof of the vehicle. Steve Devol

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will not force local law enforcement to release a week’s worth of all captured automated license plate reader (ALPR, also known as LPR) data to two activist groups that had sued for the release of the information, according to a decision issued on Thursday.

In May 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in an attempt to compel the agencies to release a week’s worth of LPR data from a certain week in August 2012. The organizations have not determined yet whether they will file an appeal.

The organizations had claimed that these agencies were required to disclose the data under the California Public Records Act. In late July 2012, the ACLU and its affiliates sent requests to local police departments and state agencies across 38 states to request information on how LPRs are used.

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ALS Association drops ‘ice bucket challenge’ trademark app after complaints

8/29/2014 2:20pm
Antonio TwizShiz Edward

Just two days after a controversial trademark application by the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA) was made public, it has been dropped.

The group has made nearly $100 million from donations related to viral videos of people doing the "ice bucket challenge," in which ice water is dumped on a person's head. In the last month, ALSA has made far more money from the campaign than the association made in all of 2013.

Last week, ALSA filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to trademark the term for use in charity fundraising. That move quickly sparked an outcry, since ALSA didn't invent the phrase "ice bucket challenge" and the concept has been used to raise money for other charities before.

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Report: Next iPhone will use NFC for mobile wallet functionality

8/29/2014 2:00pm

We heard it in 2011 and again the following year, but this time it's (maybe) true—the new iPhone will reportedly come equipped with a near field communication system that powers a brand-new payment platform. On Friday, Wired reported that "sources familiar with the matter" have confirmed that a mobile wallet will debut on the new iPhone and that its inclusion will be treated as a "hallmark feature" during the phone's reveal event on September 9.

This news follows a report from The Information in July that linked Apple to credit card and payment processing companies, suggesting that such conversations were building the retailer backbone necessary for a wide "iWallet" launch this fall. The company's growing iBeacon push may also factor into how new iPhones' mobile payment information would be gathered.

The iPhone has long lagged in the smartphone-NFC department, an issue that could be thanks to Apple's insistence on wireless-unfriendly aluminum casings. According to our last rumor roundup, that technical issue may have been fixed with a number of plastic cutouts in the new phone's design, but it also stands to reason that a mobile-wallet rollout was probably slowed more by Apple working to secure any such communication protocol. As Wired's report notes, an Apple patent filed in January could be the final key in resolving such security worries; in it, the company described coupling NFC with either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as a second check in the protocol.

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The long game: How hackers spent months pulling bank data from JPMorgan

8/29/2014 1:25pm
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said attacks were "going to be non-stop." It looks like he was right. Steve Jurvetson

The electronic attack on JPMorgan Chase’s network, now under investigation by federal law enforcement, apparently spanned months, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Starting in June, hackers used multiple custom-crafted bits of malware to infiltrate the bank’s infrastructure and slowly shipped bits of bank transaction data back out through computers in several countries before it was sent onward to Russia.

The attack, which went on for more than two months before being detected by JPMorgan in a security scan, bears the fingerprints of similar long-game attacks against corporate targets by cybercriminals from Eastern Europe, some of whom have developed capabilities more advanced than state-sponsored hackers. While the details obtained by Bloomberg’s Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley are sparse, the information provided by their sources is consistent with attacks on a number of European banks earlier this year.

While the FBI and National Security Agency are reportedly investigating whether the attack came from Russian state-sponsored hackers—or at least state-sanctioned ones—in retaliation for sanctions against Russia, making that connection will be difficult at best. It seems more likely, based on recent security reports, that the attacks were criminal in nature—but relied on tools and techniques that may have a mixed provenance, using methods honed in attacks on other banks and on government targets for financial gain.

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An era ends as Microsoft completely shutters MSN Messenger

8/29/2014 1:04pm

The last trace of Microsoft's once-dominant Messenger network will disappear at the end of October, reports TechNode. After October 31st, Chinese users chatting on the instant messaging network will have to use Skype, not the Live Messenger client, for their communication.

In late 2012, Microsoft announced that it would discard the Messenger brand for its instant messaging client in favor of the Skype client and brand. The company started blocking the official client early in 2013.

But one part of the Messenger user base was left behind: Chinese users. The Messenger service in China was operated by a separate company and wasn't part of the initial Skype transition.

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Rival may have roasted Keurig’s coffee-pod DRM

8/29/2014 12:05pm
Mother Parkers is getting in on Keurig's new brewing machines, whether Keurig likes it or not. sarkasmo

Back in March, Keurig announced plans to lock down its popular coffee pod system in an effort to make third-party pod makers pay for a license. But the company's plans may be foiled. A press release last week from Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee suggests that the Keurig "DRM" used to lock out third parties has been cracked and that Mother Parkers is now making coffee pods that can work in Keurig's brewing machines.

New Keurig machines reportedly require pods to have a special "ink marker" on their foil top, according to The Verge. If that marking isn't detected, the machine will display an "Oops!" message and refuse to do anything further.

The Mother Parkers press release states that the company "will launch a new version of the RealCup capsule that is compatible with Keurig Green Mountain's K2.0 brewer scheduled for launch later this year." The release quotes Bill VandenBygaart, Mother Parkers' vice president of business development, as saying that the company's "new technology" means that "consumers will be the ultimate winners by having the best tasting coffees and teas available."

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Haswell-E arrives, bringing a $999 8-core desktop CPU with it

8/29/2014 12:00pm

Most of Intel's announcements lately have focused on low-power chips, but every now and again it throws a bone to its high-end desktop users. Today we're getting our first look at Haswell-E and a new Core i7 Extreme Edition CPU, a moniker reserved for the biggest and fastest of Intel's consumer and workstation CPUs (if you want something faster than that, you'll need to start looking at Xeons).

We already got a little bit of information on these chips back in March, when Intel made announcements related to refreshed Haswell chips ("Devil's Canyon") and a handful of other desktop processors. Though much of today's information has already leaked, we'll run down the most important stuff for those of you who don't follow every leaked slide that makes its way to the public.

The CPUs

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It’s made-for-TV patent war, as AT&T sues Cox

8/29/2014 10:25am
Bill Bradford / flickr

The majority of patent lawsuits today are brought by "patent trolls" that do nothing but sue—but suits between actual competitors do still happen.

Case in point: AT&T has sued Cox Communications, saying that Cox has infringed seven AT&T patents covering everything from DVRs to methods for hiding "packet loss or frame erasure" over a network.

In its complaint (PDF), AT&T claims it "provided a detailed explanation" of how Cox's products infringe its patents during meetings that took place in 2009 and 2010.

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Nintendo tweaks portable line with new, more powerful 3DS for Japan

8/29/2014 9:19am
That grey blob on the right side is actually a second analog stick.

Continuing its tradition of splitting its portable hardware partway through its lifecycle, Nintendo today announced that a new version of its 3DS line, simply called the "new Nintendo 3DS," will be coming to Japan on October 11.

The new model features a number of internal and external hardware improvements. Much like the Game Boy Color before it, the new 3DS has a slightly improved CPU from the version that preceded it, though Nintendo didn't say specifically just how much more powerful. While the new revision will still support all existing 3DS and DS games, it will also be required to run some exclusive games, such as a newly announced port of the Wii's Xenoblade Chronicles.

The new 3DS sports some new features on the outside as well. A smaller, second analog nub, dubbed the "c-stick" in a nod to the old Nintendo GameCube, sits on the right side of the system, just above the face buttons. This addition removes the need to buy a bulky analog pad attachment for certain games, such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.

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Tripping through IBM’s astonishingly insane 1937 corporate songbook

8/29/2014 9:00am
The songbook of the damned—or at least of the employed. CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});

"For thirty-seven years," reads the opening passage in the book, "the gatherings and conventions of our IBM workers have expressed in happy songs the fine spirit of loyal cooperation and good fellowship which has promoted the signal success of our great IBM Corporation in its truly International Service for the betterment of business and benefit to mankind."

That’s a hell of a mouthful, but it’s only the opening volley in the war on self-respect and decency that is the 1937 edition of Songs of the IBM, a booklet of corporate ditties first published in 1927 on the order of IBM company founder Thomas Watson, Sr.

The 1937 edition of the songbook is a 54-page monument to glassey-eyed corporate inhumanity, with every page overflowing with trite praise to The Company and Its Men. The booklet reads like a terribly parody of a hymnal—one that praises not the traditional Christian trinity but the new corporate triumvirate of IBM the father, Watson the son, and American entrepreneurship as the holy spirit:

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Report: Google developing product delivery service via drones

8/28/2014 9:30pm
Google / The Atlantic

On Thursday, Google unveiled its latest project: a product delivery service powered entirely by drone aircraft. Coming from the same Google X teams that developed the likes of self-driving cars and Google Glass, the drone program, currently dubbed Project Wing, received a feature-length reveal in The Atlantic.

The article's video showed a prototype drone dropping a package at an apparent height of dozens of feet, which was guided to the ground by a combination of a wire and an attached "egg" that slowed the drop to a near-halt just before reaching the ground and releasing a box. MIT roboticist Nick Roy received the lion's share of credit for putting the machine together during his two-year stint with Google X; he came to the project with experience in helping Navy drones navigate through zones that lacked GPS signals.

In particular, Roy pushed for Google to employ a hybrid design, combining fixed-wing and helicopter elements, so that it could take off vertically in tail-sitter configuration. Google did not confirm that it will settle on this design for any final model. However, the wired "egg-drop" configuration will probably remain for the sake of both wind factors and safety concerns. Speaking of safety, Roy admitted the drones' detect-and-avoid system is far off, and this, among other concerns, has added years to Google's Project Wing time expectations.

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The death of the “gamers” and the women who “killed” them

8/28/2014 8:00pm
A screenshot of a domestic abuse scene from Watch Dogs used as an example in Anita Sarkeesian's "Women vs. Tropes in Video Games" series. Feminist Frequency

"Oh, Anita, you're so beautiful and sexy, you know that?" was the nicest terrible thing a random Twitter user said to Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the Tropes vs.Women in Video Games series, as he peppered her with threats of rape, death, and the address of her home and that of her parents following the posting of her latest video on Monday. The video, which would be right at home on PBS in tone if not content, suggested that many mainstream games represent women as accessories and shorthand rather than as humans, a viewpoint that generated swift and unrelenting rage.

The attack on Sarkeesian was among a number of incidents in the last few weeks that exposed some of the ugly (yet familiar) attitudes and prejudices that remain deeply ingrained in the gaming culture. This time, those sentiments have gotten tied up in ethical arguments in an attempt to highlight the toxic behavior.

A lie gets halfway around the world

The tide of abuse first surged over Zoe Quinn, creator of the game Depression Quest, who got a deluge of negative attention, abuse, threats, and harassment over a blog post written about her by an ex-boyfriend that was published August 16. The post, composed of narcissistic analysis mixed in with screenshots of several online conversations, exposed many personal details about Quinn irrelevant to her profession or professional conduct.

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FTC picks winners in latest robocall-defeating contest, scammers keep scamming

8/28/2014 7:30pm
Poor Robocallman just wants to make a friend. Kordite

On Thursday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the winners of a robocall-defeating contest that the commission held at DefCon in early August. Three groups of contestants each won $3,133.70, and two runners-up each won $1,337 (for being just that elite). The FTC says it receives 150,000 robocall complaints each month, down from 200,000 per month one year ago.

The contest was called “Zapping Rachel,” for the well-known scam in which a pre-recorded woman's voice tells an unsuspecting phone answerer, “Hi this is Rachel at cardholder services." The FTC separated the contestants into Creator, Attacker, and Detective categories—Creator entrants were asked to build a honeypot to lure robocallers, Detective entrants were given the honeypot data and asked to analyze it, and Attacker entrants were tasked with finding honeypot vulnerabilities. Contestants were given between 24 and 48 hours to submit their entries, depending on the category they entered.

For the Creator category, Jon Olawski, who is a software engineering director for an Internet marketing company by day, won the prize. He built a honeypot that used “an audio captcha filter, call detail analysis, and recording and transcription analysis” to automatically rate an incoming call as to whether it came from a robocaller or not. In an e-mail to Ars, Olawski described his idea as “a 10-point 'strike' system,” and if a caller hits a certain number of strikes, that number is known to be a robocaller and can be placed on a blacklist.

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Popular gamer’s real-life SWAT raid livestreamed on Twitch

8/28/2014 5:47pm
The raid and its aftermath start at the 6:30 mark.

Police in Littleton, Colorado are investigating a prank call on Thursday that led a SWAT team to raid an online video gamer's office. Heavily armed officers forced a well-known gamer to the ground in what is believed to be a case of "swatting" by an unknown rival gamer.

"This is not a game. It's not an online game. We have real guns and real bullets. There's some potential there for tragedy," Littleton Police Department Chief Doug Stephens told local media.

Nearby schools and businesses were immediately closed and sealed off after a 911 caller said he had shot at least two coworkers and was holding others hostage at the local gaming facility on Wednesday.

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Microsoft finally tries to de-crap the Windows Store

8/28/2014 5:25pm

The Windows Store has come under fire recently for its sheer amount of misleading apps. Scam apps that claim to offer downloads or training for other applications are abundant, and these bogus programs routinely abuse others' trademarks.

This situation doesn't sit well with an app store that's supposed to be curated and vetted to avoid scams.

Similar complaints have been made practically since the Windows Store's inception, and it appears that Microsoft has at least responded. Stricter rules on application naming and icons have been introduced and are being retroactively applied to existing apps.

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IRS wiped Lerner’s BlackBerry after Congress inquiry began, lawyer says

8/28/2014 5:05pm
Photograph by langleyo

While controversy still swirls over whether the Internal Revenue Service has backup tapes with the “lost” e-mails of former IRS executive Lois Lerner, an IRS attorney confirmed that the agency had disposed of Lerner’s government-issued BlackBerry in June of 2012.

That would mean that the destruction of the data on the phone—including e-mails that may have been part of the missing messages both Congress and the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch have sought from the agency—happened after congressional staffers had begun asking her about the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups. But it was over a year after the loss of e-mails on Lerner’s personal computer due to a reported hard drive crash.

In a declaration by the IRS in response to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, IRS Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel Thomas Kane wrote that the BlackBerry phone had been “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”

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