Over the course of the past year a case about four financial software patents has taken on great significance. In 2007, Alice Corp accused CLS Bank of infringing its patents on a type of computerized trading platform that used "shadow accounts." In the years since then, the Supreme Court has significantly tightened up the rules about what is patentable. In 2011, Alice's patents were thrown out by a federal judge, who ruled they didn't cover patentable subject matter.
Last year, Alice won a surprising reversal. An appeals panel ruled 2-1 that Alice's patents should be allowed after all, suggesting only the most abstract of claims should be barred from winning patents under Section 101. The third judge, US Circuit Judge Sharon Prost, wrote a blistering dissent, suggesting that the ruling violated Supreme Court guidance, by allowing a patent on a financial technology that was "literally ancient."
With the waters thus muddied, the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals, made the choice to reconsider CLS Bank v. Alice Corp. as an "en banc" case that all the judges would weigh in on. It became a highly anticipated decision, with many observers wondering what the nation's top patent court would have to say about software patents in the wake of several Supreme Court rulings giving more strict guidance about the patent system.
Google’s annual developer conference is mere days away, so expect a giant heaping of announcements in the near future. We absolutely know the keynote will take place on Wednesday, May 15, and there we can hope for a number of new products and features to be unveiled. But truthfully, for now, we can only assume and guess at what those might actually be.
Plenty of rumors cropped up to fuel this intrigue, most of them surrounding Google’s forthcoming Nexus devices. But there are a few related to new features within Android, like an integrated multiplayer gaming service. We may also see the return of the Nexus Q, or a device like it, that Google could be putting the finishing touches on at this time. Speculation points to happenings with Google's Wallet service too, and there is even talk surrounding Google's consolidated messaging service.Google "Games" Android Police
The hysteria began when Android Police first discovered a feature list related to what appears to be a multiplayer gaming service, a la Apple’s Game Center. The list was discovered in a tear down of My Glass, which is the companion application for Google Glass. The package contained back-end code for an integrated multiplayer gaming service that has a separate “Games” folder. The folder revealed files related to turn-based multiplayer games and an in-game chat module. Further evidence pointed to a gaming leaderboard, as well as the ability to receive invitations from other users wanting to play or “lobbies” where players can hang out as they wait for the roster to fill up. Many popular game titles have made their way over to Android in the last year and Google recently hired Noah Falstein as its Chief Game Designer. In the pre-I/O rumor mill, that's enough to give some credence to these findings.
The chances are good that if you're buying a smartphone or tablet in 2013, you're buying something with iOS or Android on it. The two operating systems loom so large over their competitors that even the entrenched, deep-pocketed Microsoft has had trouble making headway into this market with its Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Windows RT systems.
Google and Apple's combined dominance hasn't stopped others from trying, though. New mobile operating systems have been springing up like weeds in the last six months. RIM (now BlackBerry) finally launched the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Z10 in an attempt to overhaul its image. Mozilla is making Firefox OS in an effort to tackle developing markets and prove that a browser is all you really need. And Canonical wants to take Ubuntu beyond the desktop with Ubuntu Touch.
We got a not-quite-hands-on test drive of a 12.10-based version of Ubuntu's mobile operating system back at CES, but the OS images were recently updated to Ubuntu 13.04 when Raring Ringtail was introduced at the end of last month. Though Ubuntu Touch won't be available at retail before the end of this year at the earliest, we figured now is an opportune time to check in and see how things are going.
A flying car crashed near an elementary school in Vernon, British Columbia on Friday, according to a report from CBCNews. The car, which is kept aloft by a parasail and driven forward by a rear propeller, hit a fence and then a tree. Both the pilot and passenger were injured.
The experimental car is named Maverick, and CBC calls it “the fifth-ever flying car” in Canada. The Transportation Safety Board confirmed the crash, calling the vehicle an “I-Tech Maverick SP Powered Parachute.” The company is actually named I-TEC (Indigenous Peoples’ Technology and Education Center) and purports to “provide tools and technologies to God-followers in frontiers areas to meet their needs”
The pilot and passenger had to be pulled out of the tree and taken to a hospital where they were treated and released.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield would be notable solely for his work on the International Space Station. But... he may have the greatest YouTube account on Earth (and beyond) despite uploading only 17 videos. He's demonstrated how to open a soda on the ocean floor, explained the process of using a toilet in space, and modeled interstellar wristwear among other videos.
Today, Hadfield unleashed his newest creation: the most literal interpretation of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" we've ever seen. Hadfield and friends took footage from the ISS along with music partially created there to pay homage to Ziggy Stardust. Hadfield posted his recording on Google+ this afternoon. "With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World."
Hadfield thanked a number of collaborators including video editor Andrew Tidby, music producer Joe Corcoran, musician Emm Gryner, Evan Hadfield and all of the Canadian Space Agency. Fans of Hadfield's YouTube page will note this isn't his first musical foray, just likely the most popular. Previously, Hadfield paid tribute to Sally Ride with "Ride On" and he recorded an original called "Jewel in the Night" from the ISS.
Two astronauts completed an impromptu spacewalk on Saturday afternoon, per a press release from NASA. The crew of the International Space Station discovered a small leak in the cooling system, and the Earth crew stayed up overnight to plan an expedition to repair it.
The leak was first detected on Thursday when the crew saw small “snowflakes” of ammonia floating away from the station, according to the Associated Press. The leak was present for some time and located in the pump or flow control subassembly. When this suddenly accelerated the increasing issue prompted engineers on the ground to start plotting a spacewalk to fix it.
NASA emphasized that the leak was small to start, but the agency wanted to take advantage of “a spacewalking crew member who is about to return home,” according to the AP. The astronauts replaced the 260-pound pump controller with a spare. The operation took about five and a half hours and the leak appears to have stopped.
The port town, often referred to as "the British Atlantis," was a hub of activity up until its collapse in the 1400s. This was brought about after a series of epic storms battered the coastline in the 1200s and 1300s, causing repeated flooding, submerging parts of the town, and flooding the harbor and river with silt. Today it stands as a small village, but up until its demise it was around the same size as medieval London. Despite still existing at depths of just three to 10 meters (or, 9.8 ft to 32.8 ft) below sea level, the murky conditions have made investigating what lies beneath particularly tricky.
Since 2010, however, Southampton's David Sear—along with the GeoData Institute, the National Oceanography Center, Wessex Archaeology, and local divers from North Sea Recovery and Learn Scuba—has been exploring the muddy depths using dual-frequency identification sonar (DIDSON) acoustic imaging.
A website built by two programmers, Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, displays recent changes to Wikipedia in real-time on a map of the world. When a new change is saved to the crowd-sourced encyclopedia, the title of the edited article shows up on the map with the editor's location according to his or her IP address.
Not all recent changes are counted, however. Actually, the website only maps the contributions made by unregistered Wikipedia users. When such a user makes an edit, they are identified only by IP address. This is just as well—a similar website called Wikistream logs all changes to Wikipedia (although not in such a graphically-friendly way), and watching the flood of new entries can get overwhelming, fast.
Dokkat was contracted to do a small job on a website for a large corporation. After giving the project a once over, he realized the code base was full of security risks: "Lots of PHP files throwing user get/post input directly into mysql requests and system commands." Dokkat says the programmer responsible has a family and children, and he doesn't want to be the one to put this employee's job in jeopardy. How should he proceed without throwing someone under the bus?
See the original question here.
It's been a big week for subscriptions. First, Adobe announced that its Creative Suite software would be entirely replaced by the subscription-only Creative Cloud service. Now a report from AppleInsider claims that Apple will be replacing or augmenting its AppleCare and AppleCare+ extended warranty plans this fall with a new subscription offering referred to as "One Apple." The new plan would support all of the Apple devices a subscriber owns rather than individual devices paired with individual plans.
Tara Bunch, an Apple vice president formerly of HP, reportedly broke the news during one of Apple's internal town hall-style meetings. AppleCare and AppleCare+ plans are currently sold on a per-device basis. These options extend free telephone tech support and hardware repair coverage from 90 days and one year (respectively) to two years (for iOS devices) or three years (for Macs). Under the new plan, the complimentary phone support period would be increased from the current 90 days to one year.
The exact terms, pricing, and length of coverage available under the alleged subscription plan are unknown at this point. The report suggests that the plan's perks include in-store training similar to Apple's current One to One offering, as well as possible 24/7 phone support.
An antibiotic that also helps prevent stupidity. Alternatively, one of the most useful side effects of a drug that I've ever heard of. There's an antibiotic called minocycline, which is a close chemical relative of the more commonly prescribed tetracycline. But recently, some researchers discovered it has an intriguing off-label effect: the drug can "improve symptoms of psychiatric disorders and ... facilitate sober decision-making in healthy human subjects." To get a better grip on this effect, some researchers turned to a classic example of human stupidity, the "honey trap." In this case, rather than honey, the trap was baited with an attractive female, because "Males tend to cooperate with physically attractive females without careful evaluation of their trustworthiness."
Given photos from a panel of females who had already decided to exploit their partners, the men were asked to rate the photos' attractiveness and to decide whether they'd trust the woman as a partner. As expected, the decision to trust a woman became more common as the attractiveness rating went up. But the effect completely vanished if the men were given minocycline first.
Killing cancer with a radioactive bacterial infection. There's an unexpected bit of logic behind the approach in this study. The immune system normally helps keep cancer in check, and many tumors only survive because they evolve the ability to tone down an immune response. So, the people behind this study reasoned a tumor and the cells around it should be susceptible to infection by a weakened bacterial strain that the body usually clears with ease.
Porn trolls, 3D printed handguns, and complicated Arduino projects all hit the front page this week. Let's start with a feature from Joe Mullin, who sat down with porn troll John Steele for a 90 minute interview.
Ars covered the Prenda saga in-depth over the past several months, but for those who still aren't up-to-date, here's a quick overview: Steele's name has been connected (in one way or another) to two copyright holding companies—AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13—as well as the firm Prenda Law. Prenda's modus operandi involved collecting IP addresses that it alleged had illegally downloaded porn titles off the Internet and then requesting a discovery period from the court. During this, Prenda would subpoena ISPs for the identities of the people whose names were registered to those IP addresses. Next, Prenda contacted those customers saying it would file a lawsuit if the customer did not settle. Effectively, this was a shake-down campaign.
On Monday of this week, a federal judge in Los Angeles handed down a sanctions order against Steele and his compatriots and recommended them for investigation. In our exclusive article, “Look, you may hate me”: 90 minutes with John Steele, porn troll, Steele categorically denied any wrongdoing and said that there was no evidence to prove that AF Holdings was not a legitimate company.
It might have passed you by, but an essential part of the Internet's infrastructure took a heavy knock last week. The Silk Road—you know, the website where you can buy any drug imaginable—was subjected to a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Calling the Silk Road "essential" might seem an exaggeration, but it isn't if you're one of its many regular users. The same goes if you're a regular user of Bitcoin—its journey to mainstream acceptance began with the Silk Road, as it's perfect for anonymous, untraceable transactions (as long as you're careful not to make your identity obvious, of course).
Right now, Bitcoin is undeniably a mainstream currency, even if it is not necessarily popular in the sense of being used by a significant proportion of society. But it is viewed as a legitimate method of payment, and a legitimate asset, by the people who matter in these issues—CNBC has it as a ticker on its website, for example, and there's a Bitcoin hedge fund in Malta.
The crew of the International Space Station might be taking an unscheduled space walk tomorrow to check out what appears to be a leak in one of the recirculating ammonia loops used to keep the station's power-generating solar arrays within operating temperature.
The leak was first noticed on Thursday morning, when ISS commander Chris Hadfield (who tweets under the handle @Cmdr_Hadfield and has about 750,000 followers) radioed Mission Control in Houston to report what appeared to be some white flakes drifting away from the P6 segment of the station's backbone truss. The truss hosts the station's photovoltaic arrays and radiators; each solar array has its own independent ammonia-based cooling system.Transverse view of ISS (with Endeavour docked). Integrated Truss Structure visible in foreground, with P6 segment closest to camera. NASA
Mission Control confirmed on Thursday that the flakes were in fact from the truss' coolant loop, and that the ammonia levels were indeed dropping. If unchecked, the leak is expected to deplete the P6 array's supply of ammonia by tomorrow morning. The solar arrays generate and provide electricity to eight separate power channels, which feed into the ISS's various systems. ISS ground controllers are switching load off of the affected power channel in anticipation of the array going offline. It is responsible for about 12.5 percent of the ISS's total electricity generation.
It’s a tough time to be a frog. A fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis has been decimating populations across the planet for about a decade. Since its discovery in the late 1990s, it has already wiped out about 100 species. Although it seemed to appear suddenly, a team of scientists has now published the evolutionary history of the fungus, which suggests that chytridiomycosis has been killing amphibians for thousands of years.
The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, damages amphibian skin, often with fatal consequences, because these creatures use their skin to absorb water and electrolytes they need. The infection spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact, but a form of the fungus called a zoospore can persist in wet environments for months. Though the spread and impact of the disease have been well-documented, the reason for the rising infection rate remained under debate.
When a scary new infectious disease starts spreading, scientists need to learn why the pathogen has suddenly become so deadly in order to understand how to protect at-risk populations. Epidemiologists know that a deadly disease doesn’t just emerge from thin air—either an existing pathogen evolved into a new, more virulent form, or something about the affected species or its environment has changed to increase its susceptibility.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the group that orchestrates the development of Web standards, has today published a Working Draft for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), a framework that will allow the delivery of DRM-protected media through the browser without the use of plugins such as Flash or Silverlight.
W3C Chief Executive Jeff Jaffe announced W3C's intention yesterday. This was met with a swift response from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which tweeted, "Shame on the W3C: today's standards decision paves the way for DRM in the fabric of the open web."
The popular sports network ESPN is negotiating with at least one wireless carrier to exempt its traffic from data caps. That's according to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news on Thursday. However, "no such arrangement is imminent, and ESPN isn't sure if the economics will work out," the Journal said.
The network neutrality advocates at Public Knowledge wasted no time denouncing the rumored arrangement. "Imposing data caps on consumers and then allowing wealthy content holders to buy their way around them is a recipe for stagnation online," wrote PK's Michael Weinberg. He worried that a world of discriminatory data plans will tilt the playing field against small content providers.
The Journal didn't specify which carrier it was talking to, but both Verizon and AT&T are rumored to be open to such an arrangement. A Verizon executive said his firm was "actively exploring" the possibility of charging content providers for some of the wireless bandwidth used by consumers.
Google is reportedly no longer pursuing the physical Google Wallet card that has been in development over the last year, according to a report from AllThingsD. The report comes shortly after the announcement that Google Wallet head Osama Bedier is leaving the company and just before Google’s I/O conference next week.
Google originally developed the card as a way for Wallet users to circumvent the need for NFC in transactions when either their smartphones or a payment terminal lacked the feature. AllThingsD describes the card as having “a black face adorned with the whimsical rainbow “W” of the Google Wallet logo.” In theory, the card would also have helped Google capture more customer-to-vendor transactions to mine for data.
Osama Bedier’s departure was announced on Wednesday, and no direct replacement was revealed. Reports had suggested that Google would give updates to its Wallet program at I/O next week and that the card would play a role in the program.
Bloomberg is reporting on a 14-year-old student in Colorado who found herself presenting data to the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver this week. Gianna Chien's study of the effects of an iPad 2 on implanted cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) is making some waves among the medical community because it appears to demonstrate that in a statistically significant number of cases, close proximity to an iPad 2 can disable someone's ICD and potentially lead to their death.A typical implanted defibrillator device. WikiMedia Commons
An ICD is a small device that can be surgically implanted into the abdominal cavity of someone suffering from certain types of cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. If the upper or lower part of the person's heart begins to flutter or beat irregularly, the ICD can deliver one or more electric shocks to the heart to restore normal rhythm. Atrial or ventricular arrhythmias can cause sudden death, so ICDs are potentially life-saving little things.
However, much like their pacemaker brethren, ICDs can be started and stopped by magnets near the skin. Chien's study, which originated as a science fair project conducted with the aid of her physician father, shows that the magnets in the edge of an iPad 2 can also switch off ICDs.
Now that you can watch a movie on your laptop, tablet, or even your phone, the cinema has many new competitors. But year after year, Hollywood banks on the summer blockbusters to draw crowds to the latest mega-movie at the cineplex (or IMAX screen). Cinema is not dead, but it sure is evolving. Many of us at Ars Technica enjoy going to the theater to see a movie, and as the summer movie season gears up, we're talking about some of the upcoming films we want to see, including Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Great Gatsby, and more.
In this episode, we explore whether movies have the same impact for us when we watch them on a TV or a mobile screen. Inevitably, we end up talking about the ways in which television has evolved and competed with standalone movies. Yeah, there are a lot of folks who think a TV series might actually be better than a 2-hour feature film. That’s sure to get some movie fans riled up. Join host Senior Apple Editor Jacqui Cheng, Senior Reviews Editor Lee Hutchinson, Contributor Casey Johnston, and Social Editor Cesar Torres in this episode dedicated to our love affair with the movies.
What about you? What movies are you getting ready to see this summer? How do you like to watch your films and TV shows? Tell us in the comments below.