France's President, Mr. Sarkozy, said in a statement, "From now on, any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or that call for hate and violence will be punished. France will not tolerate ideological indoctrination on its soil." If politicians aren't blaming games for violent behavior, they turn to the internet. It's common political rhetoric, but does this announcement even make any sense?
What caused this? Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old, killed seven French people - three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi. He claimed Al Qaeda inspired him to do so. Luckily, there is a good distance to travel from this statement issued in the heat of the moment to it being implemented in a law. Sticking to this particular case, is there any evidence that Merah visited any of these "extremist websites?"
Besides, as most people know, these videos can be found pretty much anywhere, including sites like YouTube. Also, how would this law be implemented? This is starting to sound like an assault on France's internet freedom. Besides, how do you tell apart a PhD student from a radical? The simple answer: you can't. Let's just hope today's announcement is just more political rhetoric in an election year.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (say that ten times fast), who is kind of equal to the US Secretary of the Treasury announced that the government would make tex credits available to UK-based video game developers in the next budget. Andrew Eades, CEO of UK developer Relentless Software, said in a statement released by The Independent Game Developers Association (TIGA):
UK developers have been competing on an uneven global playfield. Today's decision by the government to back TIGA's tax break campaign will help ensure that we can remain competitive in the global market.
We were nearly here before, back in 2010, when the current UK government cancelled plans for gaming industry tax breaks when they came into power in 2010. Critics have said that the cancellations of these tax breaks were pretty catastrophic for the UK gaming industry, where they caused studio closures, impeded the nation's ability to compete internationally, and have caused a brain drain of talent seeking better jobs in countries like Canada.
OK. I admit it: since I purchased the new iPad, I've been obsessed about 'Draw Something', the Pictionary-like drawing game which is just insanely addictive. Most of the people around me, family and friends, have been playing it too, which makes it great. Today I wake up to the news that the maker of Draw Something, OMGPOP, has been acquired by social gaming powerhouse Zynga.
What price did Zynga draw on Draw Something's cheque? A very cool $210 million. TechCrunch has heard they were offered $180 million upfront, plus a $30 million earnout. OMGPOP chief executive, Dan Porter, now becomes a general manager and vice president of Zynga New York, with OMGPOP's employees joining Zynga. OMGPOP had not hit great success with titles up until Draw Something, when they bought the game to iOS and Android just over a month ago, they saw the title explode: racking up 35 million downloads, and 1 billion drawings.
It has also been reported that OMGPOP could have been worth more... a lot more. Simon Khalaf, the chief executive of mobile analytics company Flurry, said to TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler, as well a Business Insider's Henry Blodget that OMGPOP effectively left $800 million on the tablet by selling to Zynga. The reason behind this is that Draw Something could've branched out into different areas, the same way that Rovio took the Angry Birds franchise and made it flourish.
Several job hunters were taken aback recently when applying for a job because of something the interviewer did. The interviewer pulled out a computer, and pulled up the applicant's FaceBook profile. When the interviewer found the profile was private, she did the unthinkable: she asked the applicant for his/her login information to the site. The scary part is that this seems as if its becoming the normal practice; employers checking FaceBook and the Internet to try to find the best applicant.
But what do they do when it's private? Apparently, they just ask the applicant. But, is this legal? Can they do this? Obviously, one can refuse, but they run the risk of not getting the job. Or, in the case of Justin Basset, he chose to withdraw his entire application, citing that he did not want to work for a company that requested such private information.
"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former Federal prosecutor who labeled it "an egregious privacy violation." However, some people don't have a choice, such as Robert Collins of Baltimore who complied with the request citing he felt he needed the job to provide for his family and had no choice.
It seems as though Apple is on track to pass Intel as the world's largest mobile device chip provider, if all things continue as they are, before the end of 2012. This is according to technology research firm, In-Stat. The continued success is thanks to Apple's amazingly popular mobile devices, as well as the selective use of manufacturing partners such as ARM and Samsung.
The study done by In-Stat included what are commonly thought of as "mobile" devices, this includes notebooks, smartphones, tablets, handheld gaming systems, e-readers and the iPod Touch. It completely excludes desktop computers and servers. By the end of 2011, Apple were already in second place, where they sat behind Intel, shy of 5 million processor shipments. Apple had a total of 176 million mobile processors shipped, compared to Intel's 181 million. This provided Apple with a 13.5-percent share of the mobile device market versus Intel's 13.9-percent.
Bit of a strange one here, but I guess it can make sense, too. According to a leaked e-mail from Alain Crozier, the chief financial officer of Microsoft's Sales, Marketing, Services, IT, & Operations Group (SMSG), Microsoft may install a policy that prevents employees from using corporate funds to purchase Macs and iPads.
The e-mail was passed onto a ZDNet writer, in its entirety below:
From: Alain Crozier
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 1:17 PM
Subject: Apple Purchases
Within SMSG we are putting in place a new policy that says that Apple products (Mac & iPad) should not be purchased with company funds.
In the US we will be turning off the Apple products from the Zones Catalog next week, which is the standard purchasing mechanism for these products.
Outside of the US - we will work with your finance and procurement teams to send the right message and put the right processes in place.
The current purchase levels are low, however we recognize there will be a bit of transition work associated with this. Details of historical purchases in the US are provided in the attachment to help understand the changes that will be needed.Thank you for your support and leadership on this...
This is just getting ridiculous. First, Apple sues for its "Slide-to-unlock" patent, and now Varia Holdings Inc. sues for a patent regarding using a menu to select an emoticon instead of typing it character-by-character. I mean, really? How did this even get a patent in the first place? Take a look at the picture below. "It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications... often involve the use of emoticons, such as the 'smiling face' or the 'sad face,'" the patent says. "However, few email or instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications."
If this patent is true, they need to be suing more than just Samsung and RIM. Microsoft Live Messenger, AIM, and Skype all have menus for emoticon selection. So why just these two companies? It appears they have the most infringing devices. The lawsuit claims a long list of Samsung phones infringe along with Blackberry's Bold, Curve, Pearl, and Storm. If you would like to read the patent for yourself, you can view it here.
Rumors are circling that HTC's Beats Audio unit have acquired music subscription service MOG, according to a rumor reported by Business Insider on Monday. One of Business Insider's writers, Matt Rosoff, based his report on a single source, but Gigaom have also heard rumblings from a source that term sheets went back and forth between the two companies just a few weeks ago.
Who is MOG, and what do they do? MOG is a smaller music subscription service that has struggled against larger services like Spotify since launching in the US last year. There have been previous rumors that MOG were up for sale in the last few months, but MOG's CEO, David Hyman, denied news of its sale last month.
Om reported just a month ago that HTC were rumored to be in talks to launch its own music subscription service on its handsets, with Beats Audio founder Jimmy Iovine apparently a key player to these plans, which may have been motivated by the fact of the success wireless operator 'Cricket' has been having with its own Muve music subscription service. Cricket announced earlier in the year that Muve sports over 500,000 paying subscribers.
Google has come to the aid of Megaupload and Hotfile, surprisingly, where they filed a brief at a federal court in Florida, defending the file-hosting site Hotfile in its case against the MPAA. Google acuses the movie companies of misleading the court, arguing that Hotfile is protected under the DMCA's safe harbor. Google is also refuting claims being made by the US government in the criminal case against Megaupload.
It was back in February of 2011 that the MPAA announced a lawsuit against Hotfile, where the site's popularity is "a direct result of the massive digital theft that Hotfile promotes", the MPAA said. Two weeks ago, the movie studios asked the court to issue a summary judgement against Hotfile, and to shut down the site. The MPAA argues that Hotfile is a piracy haven, and should not be eligible for DMCA safe harbor protection.
This request did not pass the eyes and ears of Google, who have now filed an amicus brief in support of Hotfile, and according to Google, the movie studios are misleading the court by wrongfully suggesting that Hotfile is not protected by the DMCA. Google has pointed out that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia are able to thrive thanks to the protection that the DMCA provides. Whereas, if the MPAA has its way, these and more services would be in quite serious trouble.
I'm having quite the laugh at this one. The Pirate Bay posted on their official blog that they are planning to experiment putting servers into low space orbit using radio-controlled drones to avoid being raided by ground-based police. While they will continue to only host the magnet links that they have been hosting terrestrially, this will make raiding and shutting down there servers much more difficult.
The front machines will still be located all over the planet, terrestrially bound, but all these machines do is forward you on to the secret locations of the actual servers hosting the data. These machines don't even have a hard drive. Right now they forward you to machines on the ground, but, if these experiments work, they may be sending your data into the last frontier: space.
Apple has decided just what it wants to do with its near 100 billion in cash reserves. Today, Apple announced that they would being buying back shares of stock to help fight the effects of dilution and start paying dividends of $2.65 a quarter which works out to about 1.8%. Let's put 1.8% in perspective. Intel pays 3%, Microsoft pays 2.5%, Texas Instruments pays 2.1%, and telecom giants like Verizon and AT&T pay out north of 5%.
I highly doubt that Apple is doing this to juice stock prices, but they may be doing it to offload some payroll costs onto stock holders. Most likely, however, they are using it to end the questions that people have been asking endlessly. Think about it, having a 100b cash pile doesn't really help investors and only spurs questions about their future plans.
Google is committed to being environmentally friendly with their data centers. They've been reducing power usage, and now they are using treated waste water instead of fresh water. By using water and evaporative cooling, Google has already reduced their power usage by half, according to Google. Google quickly realized they didn't need to use fresh, drinkable water to cool their servers, so they worked out a deal with the local water district to syphon 30% of the treated waste water that would otherwise flow into the local river.
Now, some of the water leaves the cooling towers as water vapor, and the rest gets sent to an on-site treatment plant where it is filtered and released into that same local river "clean, clear, and safe." The water is treated before going to Google, used to cool the servers and then processed once more before being released. They claim the water is cleaner than if they had never taken the water.
Today may just be Kim Dotcom's lucky day. I'm sure most of us remember that fateful day 8 weeks ago when his mansion was raided by police. Well, apparently, his house was raided on a court order that should have never been granted. A judgment from Justice Judith Potter on Friday declared the restraining order "null and void" and having "no legal effect" which means that the government may be forced to return his assets and property back to him.
Justice Potter has said that after the police found the mistake, they sought to correct the mistake after the raid by applying for the proper order, retrospectively listing assets already seized. This order has been granted temporarily, but Potter has said that she will rule on whether this means Mr. Dotcom should get his property back. The raid left him without any money or means to fight the charges that he was running the biggest criminal copyright operation in history.
Court papers show Akel stating Dotcom's belongings and fortune "must be released" because it was "unlawfully seized and restrained under the order". All of this does not guarantee Mr. Dotcom's property back, however. The law allows for mistakes, and for him to get his property back, his lawyers will need to show a "lack of good faith."
At least something good regarding air travel is finally happening. The FAA has announced plans to re-evaluate the use of electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and landing. This will be the first time that this has happened since 2006. The unfortunate part of this is that they are only considering devices other than cellphones. So while you may not be making phone calls during takeoff, you may be able to get a few more pages done on the latest thriller novel you happen to be reading on your tablet or e-reader.
Previously to this, testing was an expensive and arduous task. For a device to be approved, it had to be taken up on an empty flight, by itself, on every plane in an airline's fleet on every single airline that wanted to approve the device for use. Clearly, this is an expensive and time consuming process, so the airlines haven't been conducting the tests. The FAA has pledged to work with "manufacturers, consumer electronic associations, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airlines, pilots, flight attendants and passengers" to solve the problem of gaining device approval.
Minority Report fans, check in, please. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has started up a new initiative, Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), where it aims to use sensor technology to detect cues "indicative of mal-intent", as defined by the DHS, as intent or desire to cause real harm, "rapidly, reliably, and remotely". They would use it to, "fight terror".
What is the FAST system capable of? Well, it has the features to monitor physiological and behavioral cues without contact. This means it is capable of capturing data such as your heart rate and steadiness of gaze of passengers that are about to board a plane. With said cues, FAST can then run through algorithms in real-time to compute the probability than an individual is planning to commit a crime.
According to the science journal, Nature, the first round of field tests for the program was completed at an "undisclosed location" in the northeast several months ago, where in lab tests, FAST reported a 70-percent accuracy rate. Not too damn bad for what would be a first-gen attempt/device.
PayPal have had the thirst for business for quite sometime now, and aren't just content with staying online, and so they should be. The company revealed their latest PayPal service: PayPal Here.
With PayPal Here, the service includes a free card processing app, as well as a unique triangle-looking thingo that attaches to most Android and iOS-based devices. From here, you can swipe a credit card at literally any location in the world, as long as you have Internet access.
This isn't something new in itself, but PayPal's transaction fee is: just 2.7-percent with no monthly fees. The 2.7-percent is universal to boot, which means you could use any card you like, including American Express, and you'll be charged just 2.7-percent of the total. At the moment, mobile card processing pioneer, Square, charges a universal 2.75-percent transaction fee.
Apple have a very delicious kitty of nearly $100 billion in cash reserves right now, with $97.6 billion to be precise. Come 9AM Eastern on Monday, March 19, CEO Tim Cook as well as CFO Peter Oppenheimer will discuss the "outcome of the Company's discussions".
Apple will offer this discussion as a phone call and as a live stream with replays available for two weeks afterwards. Apple have actively been discussing what they should do with their cash reserves, where other companies would spend it, or acquire other smaller companies, or start-ups, Apple have just been saving, saving, saving.
Investment analysts have complained more than once that Apple should offer a dividend payout to shareholders despite the stock being the largest in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing, too. Apple have always been careful of its spending, which is at least attributed to the late Steve Jobs. Most believed that Jobs had recognized what happened to Apple previously in his absence from the company, and used it as a sign to build a cash reserve in the event of an unforeseen circumstance such as a sharp market drop, economic crisis, or something along those lines.
Here comes another blow to the search giant. Not only are they being investigated by both US and EU regulators, but they are now being sued. A lawsuit has been filed in California Superior Court that is seeking class-action status, damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. The lawsuit names California residents Dodd J. Harris and Stephen Sabatino. Harris is upset because he purchased the app "Learn Chinese Mandarin Pro" for $4.83 in December. He claims that the app did not work as advertised, but he was too late. It was already 20 minutes past his purchase. Google's return policy only allows 15 minutes.
Sabatino, on the other hand, bought "aBTC", a BitTorrent client for Android, for $4.99 in January. The product didn't work, however, he tried tinkering with it for an hour before attempting to unsuccessfully return it. In December 2010, Google lowered the return policy on apps from 24 hours to 15 minutes. They stated this was because "most users who request a refund do so within minutes of purchase."
In addition to the refund policy, the suit is challenging Google's app approval process, or lack there of. Google, unlike Apple, has previously allowed any app to be posted to the market. This has led to many apps on the market which contain malware. In response to this, Google last month added a new layer of security, dubbed Bouncer, which will attempt to scan apps for evidence of malware and bounce them.
US and EU regulators have launched an investigation into Google and the allegations that they bypassed the privacy settings of Safari users on both desktop and mobile iOS users. Google spokeswoman contends that these actions were unintended. She said, "It's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers." Let's try to understand what happened in a little more detail.
Google has discovered that when they created a temporary link between the user's Safari browser and Google's servers, it allowed other ad cookies to be placed on the browser. Google has since been removing these files, but the damage for Google has already been done. These investigations could have Google on the hook financially for quite a lot. If they are found to have broken a settlement agreement FTC, they could be fined $16,000 per violation, per day. In addition, state attorneys general can levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation. And all of this is only state side.
A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas earlier this week by 13 individuals alleging that "the defendants -- several of the world's largest and most influential technology and social networking companies -- have unfortunately made, distributed and sold mobile software applications that, once installed on a wireless mobile device, surreptitiously harvest, upload and illegally steal the owner's address book data without the owner's knowledge or consent." The defendants in question are Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Yelp and 14 other companies.
This claim, if true, is pretty worrisome for users of the apps, such as myself. Last month, one of the companies named in the suit was pressured into issuing a public apology after a Singapore-based programmer uncovered the fact in a blog post. An article, Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission by the New York Times, was cited several times in the 152-page complaint. This lawsuit comes at a time privacy concerns over mobile applications appears to be steadily rising.
According to our source:
Apple, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this week's lawsuit. A Twitter spokesman said the company did not comment on pending litigation.
AU Optronics, you naughty, naughty company. They've had their name thrown through courts before, where in a 2009 group suit they were targeted for LCD price fixing. But, it's not like LCD price fixing is anything new, but it seems that AUO will be getting slapped with the decision process in the US.
A US court found the Taiwanese company guilt in a case, where the fine could be as large as $1 billion. Quite a lot of green, if you ask me. The company was charged as part of an alleged price-fixing group, that operated for quite a while it seems, between 1999 and 2006 to be exact, where they were the only Asian LCD maker in that lot to plead not guilty.
This ruling comes after LG coughing up a $400 million fine in 2008, where Samsung talked themselves into an early deal to sidestep prosecution. A duo of AUO executives were also found guilty, but its former CEO, L.J. Chen, was not. AUO are expected to appeal, which could take a year, but that hasn't stopped their stock price from dropping in the meantime.