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The Art of Technology
Updated: 3 hours 57 min ago

Jury gives full defense verdict to Apple, swats down $511M patent demand

7/12/2014 9:07am
The Major League Baseball iPhone app was one of several accused of infringing a patent held by Emblaze. A jury ruled against Emblaze's claims on Friday. Zach Chisholm

Following a two-week trial in San Jose, California, a jury reached a verdict (PDF) Friday afternoon finding that Apple doesn't infringe a patent own by Emblaze, an Israeli company that sued Apple back in 2010.

While the outcome is a clear victory for Apple, the jury declined to invalidate US Patent No. 6,389,473, titled "Network Media Streaming," which Emblaze said was infringed by Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol. That protocol has been built into Apple products, including iPhones and iPads, since iOS 3.0 was released in 2009.

Emblaze accused several HLS-powered streams in Apple devices, including streaming video used by ABC News, ESPN, and sports services like the Professional Golf Association, Major League Baseball, and National Football League. The company also accused Apple Keynotes and the iTunes Festival. The jury didn't find any of the services infringed.

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White House responds to Tesla petition, passes buck to states, Congress

7/11/2014 11:45pm
The White House sidestepped questions about Tesla's desire to sell cars directly to consumers in more states. Lee Hutchinson

Last June, a petition filed on the White House's "We The People" site about direct-to-consumer car sales took less than a month to reach 100,000 signatures, the threshold required for a response from the Obama administration. "State legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition," the petition read, and it made no bones about Tesla's direct-sales efforts standing out from the standard dealership sales model found throughout the United States.

Late Friday afternoon, more than a year after the petition's filing, White House spokesperson Dan Utech's response went live. After praising Tesla's efforts in "innovation" and helping America "reduce our dependence on oil," Utech (perhaps unsurprisingly) passed the buck: "Laws regulating auto sales are issues that have traditionally sat with lawmakers at the state level."

Utech continued by reaffirming the administration's "goal of improving consumer choice for American families," but then frankly stated that any federal attempt to interfere with current auto sales state laws "would require an act of Congress."

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Judge orders unmasking of “negative” reviewers

7/11/2014 8:01pm

A federal judge has granted a nutritional supplement firm's request to help it learn the identities of those who allegedly left "phony negative" reviews of its products on

The decision means that Ubervita may issue subpoena's to and Cragslist to cough up the identities of those behind a "campaign of dirty tricks against Ubervita in a wrongful effort to put Ubervita at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace" (PDF).

According to a lawsuit by the maker of testosterone boosters, multivitamins, and weight loss supplements, unknown commenters had placed fraudulent orders "to disrupt Ubervita's inventory," posted a Craigslist ad "to offer cash for favorable reviews of Ubervita products," and posed "as dissatisfied Ubervita customers in posting phony negative reviews of Ubervita products, in part based on the false claim that Ubervita pays for positive reviews."

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Lyft reverses under legal pressure, cancels Friday night New York launch

7/11/2014 6:03pm
Alfredo Mendez

Facing the weight of the New York Attorney General, Lyft now says it will delay its planned Friday evening launch in the Big Apple. Earlier in the day, the Empire State’s prosecutor asked the New York Supreme Court to grant a temporary restraining order (TRO), hours before the company’s scheduled debut.

According to the Attorney General’s office, an injunction was issued on Friday—a fact that Lyft disputes.

Lyft is a San Francisco-based startup that allows its users to book rides from drivers via its smartphone app, effectively acting just like a taxi service. Earlier this year, as Lyft has expanded in various cities across America, the firm has faced fines and citations from numerous jurisdictions for not complying with local taxi law.

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Police beating of woman goes viral, rekindles images of Rodney King

7/11/2014 4:26pm

Warning: This video contains disturbing imagery. "This is not just jabs, they are hooks. Those are lights-out punches. Those aren’t like taps. You see it, you heard it. It was like ‘thump, thump, thump’ and then you see her head bouncing ‘bam, bam’ on the concrete. Then you hear her screaming, ‘No, don’t, stop.’ Then you even—at the end where she has her hands up like this—when it’s clear there is no more resistance, he takes another four or five shots."

That's how motorist David Diaz described the incident he recorded with his phone of a homeless African American woman being beaten by a white California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer alongside a Southern California highway.

The assault—which has generated millions of hits on YouTube and elsewhere—has prompted protests seeking justice, politicians demanding a federal inquiry, threats of lawsuits, and outrage against the CHP. The reaction virtually aligns with what happened in the immediate aftermath of the taped beating of Rodney King in 1991, when King's attack by Los Angeles Police Department officers went viral via a different means: the television.

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FCC passes controversial $5 billion Wi-Fi plan for schools and libraries

7/11/2014 4:16pm

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to devote an extra $5 billion over the next five years toward expanding Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries.

"The effort will potentially provide a 75 percent increase in Wi-Fi funding for rural schools over the next five years and a 60 percent increase for urban schools, delivering Wi-Fi to an additional 10 million students in 2015 alone," the commission said in an announcement. Wi-Fi networks are needed to deliver wireless Internet access to the tablets and laptops students increasingly use in classrooms.

The $5 billion over five years is in addition to E-rate's annual budget of $2.4 billion.

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Weeks after Gameover ZeuS shut down, a new derivative emerges

7/11/2014 4:07pm
Martin Lewison

Security analysts have detected a new strain of malware based heavily on the Gameover ZeuS, which infected users’ computers and joined them up to a massive botnet. That botnet, in turn, specifically was designed to steal banking passwords on Windows machines.

The revival comes just six weeks after American authorities announced a global takedown of the botnet earlier this year. Prosecutors say Gameover ZeuS’ masterminds have stolen more than $100 million as a result.

In a sneaky move similar to its predecessor, the new strain uses a “Domain Generation Algorithm” (DGA), where the infected computer attempts to contact a list of gibberish domain names. In this case, the analysts at the security firm Malcovery determined that it was able to successfully connect to the domain

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New anti-patent-troll bill advances, but some say it hurts more than helps

7/11/2014 3:50pm
The TROL Act would target patent-holding entities that send demand letters to businesses. ashley rose

Less than two months after Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) killed a comprehensive anti-patent-troll bill which had been passed by the House of Representatives, a much more modest bill taking aim at trolls has passed through a key subcommittee.

The TROL (Targeting Roguexe and Opaque Letters) Act of 2014 (PDF), which passed by a 13-6 vote yesterday, is modest in scope. It only targets patent trolls that send out "demand letters" that some believe are misleading. The bill would make the act of sending a patent demand letter "in bad faith" punishable as an "unfair or deceptive act" under the FTC Act.

Sending a letter would only be a crime if the letter met certain conditions, such as attempting to assert an invalid patent.

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Apple launches new Swift blog, offers Xcode 6 beta for free

7/11/2014 3:03pm

Apple's new Swift programming language has attracted a lot of interest from developers since it was announced last month at WWDC, and now the company is looking to get it in the hands of more developers. Apple launched a new blog specifically for Swift today, and as part of the launch, the company is offering free downloads of the latest Xcode 6 beta to anyone who wants to register for it. The Swift blog will also include "behind-the-scenes" information about Swift from Apple engineers.

This is a departure for Apple in a couple of ways—first, Xcode betas have heretofore been available to paying OS X or iOS developers only. The membership is just $99 a year, but it's still a paywall that has separated developers from the general public up until now. Along with the upcoming Yosemite public beta and the Beta Seed program, Apple is offering enthusiasts and developers access to more and more of its software before it's officially ready for public consumption.

Second, Apple engineers usually don't get to talk about what they're doing. Apple's official communication comes from its PR department, from various executives giving carefully controlled interviews, or from executives standing up on a stage in front of anyone who wants to stream it. The single post on the blog now doesn't go into detail about much of anything, really, but there's a chance the site could be a valuable source of information going forward.

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AT&T and Verizon accused of using data roaming fees to overcharge everyone

7/11/2014 2:51pm
Chris Young

AT&T and Verizon Wireless are extracting "monopoly rents" from competitors who pay them for data roaming, forcing smaller carriers to charge higher prices to their own subscribers, four public interest groups wrote in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday.

By making it difficult for carriers like T-Mobile US to lower prices or offer truly unlimited plans, the nation's two biggest carriers are also able to "charge artificially inflated prices to their own customers" and maintain strict data caps and overage fees, alleges the filing (PDF) by Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, the Benton Foundation, and Common Cause.

The groups are supporting T-Mobile's request for a ruling from the FCC to force AT&T and Verizon to negotiate lower rates. The T-Mobile petition asks for "prospective guidance and predictable enforcement criteria for determining whether the terms of any given data roaming agreement or proposal meet the 'commercially reasonable' standard adopted by the Commission in the Data Roaming Order [adopted in 2011]." T-Mobile's petition, filed in May, describes an ongoing dispute with AT&T and criticizes Verizon as well.

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Samsung’s first Tizen phone delayed—again

7/11/2014 1:25pm
Samsung Tomorrow

Samsung has been slowly working on turning Tizen, the company's home-grown OS, into a real commercial ecosystem. The OS first powered a Samsung smart camera and then came to a trio of Samsung smartwatches—both product categories without established software ecosystems.

But the real test will come with the first Tizen smartphone, where the OS will have to battle iOS and Android. Samsung's chosen warrior is the "Samsung Z," which has been granted the title of "world's first commercial Tizen phone." Or at least, it will have that title. Eventually.

The Samsung Z was expected to launch during Thursday's Tizen event in Moscow, but according to a report from The Wall Street Journalthe launch was cancelled just days earlier. This is just the latest in a series of delays for Samsung's OS. Tizen was originally scheduled to launch on a high-end smartphone in "August or September" of 2013. These plans were scrapped and the launch was then moved to March 2014 in Japan on NTT DoCoMo. Those plans were eventually killed, too, as NTT DoCoMo wasn't convinced that the OS would be successful in Japan's mature market. Tizen was then moved to a July 2014 launch in Russia on the midrange Samsung Z, and now that has been delayed as well.

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14,000 dead men receive draft registration notices after data snafu

7/11/2014 1:03pm

Thanks to a small problem in data formatting, the US Selective Service System recently sent notices to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men who were most likely eligible for military service... during World War I. The error came thanks to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) clerk’s failure to include the century when exporting data from a drivers’ license database for transfer to the Selective Service.

According to an Associated Press report, the error wasn’t caught because the Selective Service System’s database only uses two-digit codes for birth years—so records from men born between 1893 and 1897 were flagged by the system as being from 1993 to 1997. As a result, men born over 117 years ago received notices that they would face imprisonment and fines if they did not immediately register for the draft.

PennDOT spokesperson Jan McKnight told the AP, "We made a mistake, a quite serious selection error."

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Why wiping out HIV “reservoirs” is so hard

7/11/2014 12:48pm
HIV (green false color) buds off an immune cell (red). CDC

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, does its damage by decimating immune cells. But it also lies dormant in some cells, creating a reservoir that can restart an active infection long after the active virus has been cleared by treatments. This is apparently what happened to a child from Mississippi who was thought to have been cured of infection following antiviral treatments.

Researchers may now have found one of the reasons that it's so hard to clear out these reservoirs of infected cells. As part of the infection process, HIV normally inserts a copy of itself into a cell's chromosomes. By chance, some of these insertions cause the cell to grow faster, ensuring that more copies of the virus are around to cause trouble.

The researchers, who are all based in Seattle, took a pretty simple approach to discover this: they sampled cells from HIV patients who were receiving long-term antiviral treatment, looking for the sites of HIV insertion. In these patients, viral replication was suppressed by the drugs, often for periods of over a decade. Therefore, any viruses researchers found were from those cells that had quiescent viruses inserted into their genome.

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Police drop plans to photograph teen’s erection in sexting case

7/11/2014 11:39am
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

Local Virginia police have abandoned plans to photograph a 17-year-old boy's erection in connection with his felony prosecution for child pornography after he allegedly sexted his 15-year old girlfriend. The decision was made yesterday following a global outcry.

The brouhaha began earlier this week when Prince William County prosecutors obtained a search warrant from a juvenile court judge allowing them to photograph the boy's erection for evidentiary reasons (apparently to compare the photo with a video sent to the girlfriend's phone). The story, which included details that the authorities would chemically induce an erection in the boy, went viral.

In response, the Manassas City police department—which is investigating the case—said Thursday that it would let the search warrant expire.

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Paying AT&T to exempt users from data caps? There’s an app for that

7/11/2014 11:25am
The Syntonic Sponsored Content Store

AT&T's Sponsored Data program—in which content providers pay AT&T not to count the use of their services against customers' data limits—is about to get a lot easier to use.

AT&T is partnering with a company called Syntonic Wireless, which yesterday announced "the Syntonic Sponsored Content Store for eligible AT&T mobile subscribers."

"The Syntonic Sponsored Content Store is integrated with AT&T’s Sponsored Data service and gives content providers an effortless way to offer sponsored application connectivity to AT&T mobile data customers," Syntonic's announcement said.

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@Congressedits tweets anonymous Wikipedia edits from Capitol Hill

7/11/2014 10:40am
The @congressedits Twitter feed.

Ed Summers, an open source Web developer, recently saw a friend tweet about Parliament WikiEdits, a UK Twitter “bot” that watched for anonymous Wikipedia edits coming from within the British Parliament’s internal networks. Summers was immediately inspired to do the same thing for the US Congress.

“The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool,” Summers wrote in his personal blog. “So using my experience on a previous side project [Wikistream, a Web application that watches Wikipedia editing activity], I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.”

The stream for the bot, @congressedits, went live a day later, and it now provides real-time tweets when anonymous edits of Wikipedia pages are made. Summers also posted the code to GitHub so that others interested in creating similar Twitter bots can riff on his work.

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3D printing used to control stem cell differentiation

7/11/2014 10:12am

The time between conception and becoming a fetus is a busy one if you're a human embryonic stem cell (hESC). As the embryo develops, hESCs are allocated into three distinct types of tissue through an orderly sequence of events. Although it's easy to grow hESCs in a culture dish, it's been impossible to make them repeat this orderly process—until now.

Scientists from the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Molecular Embryology at Rockefeller University are using principles from geometry to control the patterns through which hESCs develop.

The scientists tested how stem cell identity is affected by an array of geometries by creating molds made of Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a silicone-based elastomer. The group controlled the diameters and depth of the molds by 3D printing them. To get the hESCs to stick to the printed material, the scientists coated the molds with proteins that were known to increase cell adhesion. Once the molds were ready, the cells were added and allowed to incubate.

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Lyft defies New York City taxi agency’s ban, to launch Friday

7/10/2014 7:23pm

Despite being chastised by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which declared quasi-taxi firm Lyft as an “unauthorized” firm, the startup says it will go ahead with its scheduled Friday evening launch.

Lyft is a San Francisco-based startup that allows its users to book rides from drivers via its smartphone app, effectively acting just like a taxi service.

In a statement sent to Ars on Thursday, the commission said that the firm had “not complied with TLC’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers.”

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White House nixes Patent Office pick after tech-sector outcry

7/10/2014 7:05pm

The White House has reportedly put its chosen nomination for head of the US Patent and Trademark Office on ice.

Two weeks ago, Philip Johnson, the top intellectual property lawyer at Johnson & Johnson, was set to be named the next director of the patent office. Johnson has opposed changes to patent laws for years, and he was the head of the Coalition for 21st Century for Patent Reform, or 21C, an umbrella group opposing broad patent reform.

Johnson's bid looked like a 180-degree turn for the Obama Administration, which had pushed for a comprehensive patent reform bill to be passed. A bill called the Innovation Act was passed by a wide margin in the House of Representatives, but it died in the Senate in April. Large pharmaceutical companies were a key part of the opposition to the patent bill.

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The airborne panopticon: How plane-mounted cameras watch entire cities

7/10/2014 5:12pm
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

On June 28, 2012, in Dayton, Ohio, police received reports of an attempted robbery. A man armed with a box cutter had just tried to rob the Annex Naughty N’ Nice adult bookstore. Next, a similar report came from a Subway sandwich shop just a few miles northeast of the bookstore.

Coincidentally, a local company named Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) was flying a small Cessna aircraft 10,000 feet overhead at the time. The surveillance flight was loaded up with specialized cameras that could watch 25 square miles of territory, and it provided something no ordinary helicopter or police plane could: a Tivo-style time machine that could watch and record movements of every person and vehicle below.

After learning about the attempted robberies, PSS conducted frame-by-frame video analysis of the bookstore and sandwich shop and was able to show that exactly one car traveled between them. Further analysis showed that the suspect then moved on to a Family Dollar store in the northern part of the city, robbed it, stopped for gas—where his face was captured on video—and eventually returned home.

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