When Nokia completes the sale of its telephone business to Microsoft, a transfer of its substantial patent portfolio will be conspicuously absent from the deal. Microsoft got licenses to those patents but won't buy the patents themselves. That situation immediately led to speculation that Nokia was interested in doing standalone patent-licensing when it would be mostly immune to counterattack.
As Nokia's management must surely have been aware, creating businesses that do nothing but license patents has become controversial. Whatever Nokia does, it isn't just going to become the chatter of the Internet—in Europe, antitrust regulators are watching as well.
EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said in a speech on Monday that Nokia had better think twice before trying to "extract higher returns" from its patents, according to an AP report. "In other words...behave like a patent troll, or to use a more polite phrase, a patent assertion entity."
Cisco executives recently announced declines in product orders in China, and have placed at least part of the blame on the National Security Agency.
"In our Q1 earnings call of November 13th, we stated that product orders in China declined 18% in Q1 FY14, whereas in Q4 FY13, we referenced that our business in China had declined 6%," a Cisco spokesperson told Ars. "By comparison, China bookings were up 8% in Q3 FY13. So, yes, there is a short-term trend of declining business in China, which we have acknowledged."
Cisco noted that overall revenue is growing. "From a topline perspective, total revenues grew 2% $12.1B for the first quarter. Cisco revenues also grew at 6% in the preceding quarter, and grew 5% in the quarter ending April 2013," the company said.
We called the PS4's ability to Stream gameplay over Twitch and Ustream a potential killer app when we reviewed the system, and many PS4 owners seem to agree with that sentiment. Sony announced today that PS4 users have streamed 800,000 distinct sessions since the system launched in North America on November 15 (and in 31 other countries November 29), comprising more than 20 million minutes of live streamed gameplay from the console between both services.
Sony didn't break down how many distinct PS4 owners are represented in those sessions, but Twitch announced that over 100,000 PS4 owners signed up for and used its service in November, growing the Twitch userbase to more than 700,000 people. Assuming that Ustream's numbers are comparable, that would mean somewhere around 5 to 10 percent of the 2.1 million PS4 owners as of December 3 have tried streaming from the console.
Twitch says that a full 10 percent of the minutes broadcast across the service have come from PS4s since the system's North American launch, with the average user signing on to the service for 100 minutes a day (including spectating). Ustream says the average PS4 broadcast session on its service lasts 31 minutes. Between both services, PS4 users have watched broadcasts 7.1 million times.
On Tuesday, a Dutch anti-piracy group announced (Google Translate) that it had compelled The Pirate Bay to again alter its domain name—this time from thepiratebay.sx to thepiratebay.ac. The .sx top-level domain (TLD) is used by the Dutch Caribbean territory of Sint Maarten, while the latter is used by the British Atlantic territory of Ascension Island.
BREIN, the Dutch acronym for “Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands,” wrote in a Dutch-language press release on Tuesday that despite the criminal convictions against the site’s founders, The Pirate Bay still “persists in its illegal activities.”
TorrentFreak, citing a letter that it says BREIN sent to The Pirate Bay last month, notes the previous legal battles and demands that the site be taken down.
The timeline for Mars One, the space exploration program intended to send humans on a one-way trip to Mars that has earned a fair share of dubious looks and sideways glances from the technology and science community, has been pushed back two years as of Tuesday. The company announced the new timeline as well as commissions for both Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to develop “mission concept studies” for the expedition.
Lockheed Martin is at work on Mars One’s lander, which will be designed after NASA’s Phoenix mission lander, another Lockheed Martin project. The Phoenix spacecraft touched down in May 2008, completed all planned experiments by November 2008, and then lost contact with Earth.
Mars One’s lander will be able to scoop soil, just like the Phoenix craft. In addition, Mars One notes that “a water experiment will extract water from the Martian soil.” The press release does not elaborate further how this will be accomplished, though evidence suggests it was once there. The team could be referring to the extraction process done by NASA's Curiosity rover.
The National Security Agency is continually clawing for user data, and cell phones are a big part of that effort. Cyanogenmod, the popular aftermarket Android firmware, is going to take the encryption wars up a notch by performing end-to-end encryption on text messages by default.
The developers have enlisted the help of Open WhisperSystems, a company founded by security and cryptography expert Moxie Marlinspike that makes open source encryption software for Android (and soon iOS). While anyone can send encrypted texts on Android using WhisperSystems' Android texting app TextSecure, Cyanogenmod's implementation is an encryption middleware, meaning there is no special SMS app required. Encryption is done at the OS level, so users can use the default or any aftermarket SMS app and all messages will be encrypted. One of the biggest barriers to encryption adoption is that it's usually very inconvenient, but CyanogenMod, Inc. says users won't notice a difference. Ars Security Editor Dan Goodin recently explained how TextSecure uses a cryptographic property known as "perfect forward secrecy" to add an additional layer of protection to real-time text messages. Goodin also found TextSecure to be highly convenient to use.
Open WhisperSystems laid out the full technical details of the encryption methods in a blog post:
If early sales projections are any indication, Apple is selling a whole boatload of iPhones and iPads this holiday season. To sweeten the deal for those holiday buyers, the company has just posted a "12 Days of Gifts" app in the App Store—the app will offer a different free song, app, book, or movie from Apple's voluminous iTunes Store every day between December 26 and January 6, just in time to benefit anyone with a brand-new iPhone or iPad. Until then, the app will just show you a countdown to December 26, mocking you with its lack of free stuff.
Apple has been running similar holiday promotions for a few years now, though up until last year the app was less-inclusively called "12 Days of Christmas" and has typically been available for international customers only. There's no telling what kind of stuff you can expect to get from the app, but whatever it is, at least the price is right.
The 12 Days of Gifts app requires iOS 7.0 and can be downloaded on any device that supports Apple's latest operating system. This includes the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5C, and 5S; the iPad 2, both Retina iPads, the iPad Air, and both iPad minis; and the fifth-generation iPod touch.
Modern life would be quite different without decent batteries. Can you imagine powering your laptop on something like a standard automobile battery? It simply doesn't bear thinking about. Although we may make fun of battery engineers for claiming that three hours of real-world usage is the equivalent of being unplugged for an entire working day, they really have worked miracles. Unfortunately, even though they may want to think they can, even battery engineers can't bypass the laws of physics.
The performance of the current generation of lithium ion batteries is about to hit a wall, and if we want batteries with higher energy densities, an entirely new system will have to be developed. Among the many possible candidates, lithium-air batteries look very promising. When lithium oxidizes, it releases a lot of energy—so much so that, like sodium, it catches on fire. Lithium is also very light and reasonably abundant, making it the perfect element.
Except it's very hard to make a lithium-air battery that lasts. One of the big issues is unwanted side reactions. The battery contains the lithium, which we are going to repeatedly burn, an electrolyte for transporting charge between electrodes and electrode material. As we oxidize the lithium, a lot of energy is freed up, and not all of it gets extracted to do work. Instead, some of it goes into powering side reactions.
The latest discovery of Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover is evidence of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars that was part of an environment that could potentially have supported simple microbial life.
The lake is located inside the Gale Crater and is thought to have covered an area that is 31 miles long and three miles wide for more than 100,000 years.
According to a paper published yesterday in Science Magazine: "The Curiosity rover discovered fine-grained sedimentary rocks, which are inferred to represent an ancient lake and preserve evidence of an environment that would have been suited to support a Martian biosphere founded on chemolithoautotrophy."
Both leaders of the smartphone market have lately seemed on course to burst into the home gaming console scene. Apple has been cooking the Apple TV at a low simmer for a while now, but it is arguably one software update away from becoming a game console. Apple has already added full game-controller support to iOS and recently bought Primesense, the makers of the technology behind the first-gen Xbox Kinect. And many iOS games can already use Airplay to display on an Apple TV.
There have been a lot of rumblings lately about Google jumping into the gaming space, too, with an Android-powered gaming console. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was working on just such a product, and a few days ago, The Information reported that a "Nexus TV" device would be out by the first half of 2014—imagine an OUYA, but not as terrible.
With that information in mind, it is hard not to read into a Google announcement that it will almost triple the amount of gaming categories in the Play Store. The notice, which was first spotted by Droid Life, states that the Play Store games section will jump from six to 17 categories. Developers are free to update their apps with the new categories now, but the most interesting thing is that the change will not happen until February 2014, a time frame that fits nicely into The Information's "first half of 2014" launch window.
The Mountain Lion version of OS X Server marked the end of a transition for Apple's server software. When Apple released OS X 10.6 in 2009, Server was an expensive and entirely separate version of OS X that only shipped on Apple's rack-mountable XServe systems and cost $1,000 if you wanted to run it on any of your other Macs. Fast-forward to 2012 and the XServe was long-dead, OS X Server was a $20 add-on to OS X, and the powerful-but-complex tools used to manage and configure the server software had been thrown out in favor of a greatly simplified application primarily controlled via big on/off switches. It took a couple of years, but Apple had done the same thing to its server hardware and software that it did to Final Cut Pro. The company made its features more accessible for small businesses and high-end consumers at the expense of features important to a subset of professional users.
The Mavericks version of OS X Server ushers in no such sweeping changes. In fact, the scope of the update is closer to the incremental updates that the Mountain Lion version has received between its launch in July of 2012 and now. Despite a version number increase from 2.X to 3.X, OS X Server is finished with the major overhauls. The software has been changed from an enterprise-targeted package to one better suited to power users and small businesses. Now that the transition is complete, it's clear that slow, steady improvement is the new normal.
This means there's a little less truly new ground to cover than there was last year, but in keeping with last year’s review, we’re still going to go through all of the services OS X Server offers item by item. This will serve as both an evaluation of those services as well as a basic how-to guide for those who are new to the software—in cases where nothing has changed, we have re-used portions of last year's review. If you'd like to read more about OS X Server's transition from an enterprise product to a "prosumer" product, that's background information that we covered last year.
Developers of the FreeBSD operating system will no longer allow users to trust processors manufactured by Intel and Via Technologies as the sole source of random numbers needed to generate cryptographic keys that can't easily be cracked by government spies and other adversaries.
The change, which will be effective in the upcoming FreeBSD version 10.0, comes three months after secret documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor Edward Snowden said the US spy agency was able to decode vast swaths of the Internet's encrypted traffic. Among other ways, The New York Times, Pro Publica, and The Guardian reported in September, the NSA and its British counterpart defeat encryption technologies by working with chipmakers to insert backdoors, or cryptographic weaknesses, in their products.
The revelations are having a direct effect on the way FreeBSD will use hardware-based random number generators to seed the data used to ensure cryptographic systems can't be easily broken by adversaries. Specifically, "RDRAND" and "Padlock"—RNGs provided by Intel and Via respectively—will no longer be the sources FreeBSD uses to directly feed random numbers into the /dev/random engine used to generate random data in Unix-based operating systems. Instead, it will be possible to use the pseudo random output of RDRAND and Padlock to seed /dev/random only after it has passed through a separate RNG algorithm known as "Yarrow." Yarrow, in turn, will add further entropy to the data to ensure intentional backdoors, or unpatched weaknesses, in the hardware generators can't be used by adversaries to predict their output.
Now that the Internet is on computers, phones, and eyeglasses, a lot of people think it's time to get the Internet on everything.
That's why the Internet of things has become such a popular catchphrase, based on the premise that Internet connectivity can be embedded into nearly any product and form a larger network of devices that collaborate for the benefit of consumers. But actually making devices from a variety of manufacturers work together is a lot easier said than done.
The Linux Foundation and Qualcomm say open source software is what's needed to bridge the gap. Qualcomm already developed the open source project, AllJoyn, available under the Apache and BSD licenses. Now the company is contributing what it likes to call its "Internet of Everything" software to a new collaborative project called the AllSeen Alliance, which will be overseen by the Linux Foundation. Consumer device makers, service providers, retailers, appliance makers, and chipmakers have joined the effort.
Seismologists have to sort of compartmentalize their emotions about big earthquakes. They present exciting opportunities to study the details of earthquakes, but they can also result in tremendous human suffering. The massive magnitude 9.0 quake off Japan in March of 2011 was one such occasion—truly remarkable yet also infamous. Of course, a seismologist’s scholarly pursuits are not just academic. It’s critical to learn about these events in order to reduce the potential for future calamities.
That 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake was nothing if not colossal, but the size of the deadly tsunami that it triggered was still a surprise. Faults along these subduction zones, where one tectonic plate dives beneath another, extend at an angle from the surface near the seafloor trench to deep beneath the overriding plate. We often picture faults as simple planes marking the boundaries between two, distinct slabs of rock, but they are far more geometrically complex in reality. The shallow portion of the fault runs through contorted layers of sediment and rock that have been squished between the bulk of the two plates, and it behaves differently from the deep portion of the fault during an earthquake.
The Tohoku-Oki earthquake was centered at a depth of 20 to 30 kilometers (12.5 to 18.6 miles), where the rock is under greater pressure. As the motion on faults like this propagates towards the shallow end, the amount of sliding between the two plates normally decreases. Down deep, the frictional resistance along the fault weakens the faster the plates slide. Closer to the surface, the opposite is true—the faster the slipping motion, the greater the friction to dampen it. That didn’t seem to happen in this case, as the seafloor moved an astounding 50 meters (164 feet) or so, displacing the water above it and creating the tsunami wave.
Qualcomm continues to reveal, bit by bit, its processor roadmap for the upcoming year. At the top of the range we've got the Snapdragon 805, which focuses mostly on improving graphics performance and memory bandwidth. And now we know that the middle of the market will be served by the just-announced Snapdragon 410, a successor to the Snapdragon 400 family that brings a new 64-bit CPU architecture, tweaked GPU, and improved cellular capabilities to "sub-$150" devices.
Rather than one of Qualcomm's own custom-made ARM CPU architectures, the company tells us that Snapdragon 410 will use four of ARM's Cortex A53 CPU cores (some variants of the Snapdragon 400, including the one in the Moto G, already use ARM's Cortex A7, so this move isn't without precedent). The A53 architecture supports the same features as the high-end Cortex A57, but it's a smaller, slower, and more power-efficient core—the relationship between Cortex A53 and A57 is similar to the relationship between the Cortex A7 and A15 cores. The A53 architecture will be faster than the A7 that it replaces, but more interestingly it offers support for the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set. This makes it Qualcomm's first 64-bit ARM SoC.
The Snapdragon 410 will also include a few other upgrades over the Snapdragon 400 series, including a new Adreno 306 GPU (if the model number is any indication, expect only minor changes from the current Adreno 305). The SoC will support up 13MP cameras and 1080p video playback, leaving playback of 4K and other high-resolution formats in the hands of higher-end chips. Finally, the chip will support LTE connectivity courtesy of a baked-in MSM9x25 modem and Qualcomm's "RF360 Front End Solution," which should enable OEMs to build a single phone model compatible with most common LTE bands rather than the multi-model approach needed with the Snapdragon 400 and older chips.
Those who experience a terrorist attack firsthand are prone to suffer from acute stress. That much is obvious. But does living that experience repeatedly through the media’s coverage of the event cause even more stress? This is the question Roxane Cohen Silver of the University of California Irvine has asked in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. And the answer seems to be that those who followed media coverage for long enough did indeed have a greater chance of suffering from symptoms of high acute stress—sometimes even more than those who were present at the site.
The April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was perhaps the largest domestic terrorist attack since September 2001. And the changed nature of traditional media and the introduction of social media presented an opportunity for researchers to understand how people cope depending on their exposure to the event.
For the study, an Internet-based survey of nearly 5,000 Americans was conducted in the two-to-four weeks after the bombing. About one percent of the respondents were present at the site of the event, an additional nine percent had someone close who was near the site, and another nine percent were directly affected by the aftermath (because of Boston's lockdown or other such reasons).
The latest document dump from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is getting a lot of deserved attention for revelations that international security agencies are taking steps to monitor communications inside online games. But those leaked documents also include an in-depth report on the potential for games to be used as recruitment, training, and propaganda tools by extremist organizations.
Security contractor SAIC produced the 66-page report "Games: A look at emerging trends, users, threats and opportunities in influence activities" in early 2007, and the document gives a rare window into how the US intelligence community views interactive games as a potential tool to be used by foreign actors. While parts of the report seem pretty realistic about gaming's potential use as a propaganda and planning tool, other sections provide a more fantastical take on how video games can be used as potential weapons by America's enemies.Games as propaganda
The strongest parts of the report focus on how games can be used as part of propaganda efforts, presenting a particular political viewpoint or ideology in an engaging and easy-to-digest way. For instance, MTVu's Darfur is Dying is cited for "evok[ing] sympathy for the people of Darfur" by putting players in the shoes of a refugee. Worryingly, neo-Nazi entertainment company Resistance Records used a game called Ethnic Cleansing to reinforce its message that Jews and non-white races are "sub-humans" worth killing.
President Obama is out to put the public's mind at ease about new revelations on intelligence-gathering, but the Office for the Director of National Intelligence can't quite seem to get with the program of calming everyone down.
Over the weekend, the ODNI was pumping up the launch of a new surveillance satellite launched by the National Reconnaissance Office. The satellite was launched late Thursday night, and ODNI's Twitter feed posted photos and video of the launch over the following days.
Imagine this scenario: your job is to take hundreds of pages worth of content every day and publish it to the Web, but the only way you're guaranteed to get that content is on paper. If you're lucky, the paper copy comes with an electronic version on CD—or a 3.5-inch floppy disk.
That's exactly what happens at the Federal Register, the New York Times reports. The federal publication, a record of executive orders, proposes regulatory changes and other official federal notices. It's assembled by an office of the National Archives and published on the Web and in print daily by the Government Printing Office. And while the laws and regulations that govern how agencies are required to submit content to the Register allow for digitally signed e-mail messages, some agencies haven't implemented the public-key infrastructure (PKI) required to send such messages. Flash drives and SD cards aren't even allowed yet because they didn't exist at the time the regulations were written.
That means that a number of agencies still submit their notices by courier and on floppy disk. Amy P. Bunk, the Federal Register's director of legal affairs and policy, told the Times that while many agencies now do use signed e-mails, the GPO could not make it mandatory until Congress amends the Federal Register Act and provides the funding required for all agencies to implement PKI. But due to budget cuts, some agencies are at least a year away from having PKI in place.