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Business, Financial & Legal Posts - Page 11

Tech guru Tim Draper wins bitcoin auction, won't say how much he paid

More than 40 bidders were unable to keep Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, from purchasing the entire lot of 30,000 bitcoins auctioned by the US government. Instead of just flooding the market with the bitcoins, Draper has teamed up with bitcoin exchange company Vaurum, and wants to expand cryptocurrency use worldwide.

 

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"With the help of Vaurum and this newly purchased bitcoin, we expect to be able to create new services that can provide liquidity and confidence to markets that have been hamstrung by weak currencies," Draper said in a statement. "We want to enable people to hold and trade bitcoin to secure themselves against weakening currencies."

 

The seized bitcoins were valued near $19 million, and Draper won every single lot - but won't say how much he spent to dominate the auction.

Samsung to quit plasma panel business by the end of 2014

Samsung will be shutting down the last of its plasma panel screen production by the end of this year.

 

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Although plasma TV sets have been in decline for some time, this will be a serious nail in the coffin for the technology along with Panasonic's exit late last year. According to a statement, Samsung SDI will instead invest cash and resources in the energy and materials sectors, and an overall decline in demand for the sets has been cited as the main contributing factor. The news comes amid rumors that LG, another of the three major players in plasma, is also seeking to exit the business.

 

"We plan to continue our PDP TV business until the end of this year, due to changes in market demands," a Samsung spokesperson told CNET. "We remain committed to providing consumers with products that meet their needs, and will increase our focus on growth opportunities in UHD TV's and Curved TV's."

Man fined for defacing ex-girlfriend's Facebook page

A man in Ireland has been fined 2,000 euros - or nearly 3,000 US dollars - for defacing his ex-girlfriend's Facebook profile, a landmark case that could set the precedent on the legality of online vandalism.

 

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It seems to be the first time posting from someone else's Facebook has been ruled illegal, but an Irish court decided he had violated the Criminal Damage Act, which typically covers private property. He was found guilty of posting a malicious status update by using her phone.

 

The man was originally faced with and later acquitted of a series of more serious crimes, Engadget reports, but pleaded guilty to the profile defacement. A financial penalty was considered most appropriate, and the judge ruled that the update damaged the good name of the victim, even though it was taken down.

Apple makes changes to AppleCare support plans

Apple has been offering support plans for a number of its gadgets for a while now called AppleCare. Apple plans to make a big marketing push to get people to adopt the premium AppleCare+ offering for the iPhone and iPad.

 

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AppleCare+ is a premium plan offering support for two years on top of the standard 90 days of support. AppleCare+ will also cover your device for up to two instances of accidental damage. One of the big changes to AppleCare+ is that users now have longer to buy the protection on their phone.

 

In the past, you only had 30 days to opt to purchase the protection if you didn't get it at the time of purchase. Moving forward, the plan will bring that purchase window out to 60 days. AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPads is $99. Apple has also now discontinued the older and cheaper AppleCare plan that didn't cover damage from accidents.

Apple rolls out new Mac Pro security lock adapter

It has been a while now since Apple rolled out the cylinder shaped Mac Pro desktop computer. One of the problems that this machine has for people who use them in areas with lots of traffic is that the new Mac Pro has no provision for locking itself to a desk as you can with laptops thanks to the Kensington lock port on many computers.

 

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With the lack of a Kensington port, many people were left cobbling their own systems together to help prevent theft. Apple has now announced an official accessory for the new Mac Pro that lets users add a Kensington lock to the machine for more security.

 

The accessory is called the Mac Pro Security Lock Adapter and it sells for $49. The device is a metal bracket that secures the lift-off cover of the Mac Pro to the base of the machine with a security cable. This prevents access to the internals of the machine. The cable can also be locked to the desk to make it harder to steal the machine. The security adapter is available now on the Apple Store.

Synek draft system lets you draw a pint of beer at home

Homes and offices around the world have made specialty single cup coffee machines very popular over the last few years. Those coffee machines can brew you up a cup of your favorite coffee and even have flavors from high-end coffee shops like Starbucks among the selections. Beer drinkers may soon have a similar system for getting a pint of their favorite beer anywhere.

 

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The system is called the Synek draft system and it will make a personal pint of beer straight from the tap. This isn't exactly like making a single cup of coffee using water from your faucet at home though. This device is designed to let you fill the beer bag from any tap and then place it inside the machine to keep it cold and fizzy.

 

The company says that the beer inside the machine can remain fresh for months and dispensing a pint from the bag won't affect the freshness of the beer still in the bag. The bags are also designed to be interchangeable so you can get different brews when you need it. The device is legal in all states except Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont. It is on Kickstarter now seeking $250,000 in funding.

Facebook ICO probe in UK to investigate user experiment legality

A couple days ago, it came to light that Facebook had tweaked the algorithms in the news feeds of hundreds of thousands of users to see if it could affect the mood of the users of its network. In this experiment people were shown either posts that were more negative in nature or posts that were more positive in nature. Facebook says that the experiment proved you could change the mood of a user based on what they read.

 

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Facebook's experiment was controversial and now the social network is facing a probe from the ICO, Information Commissioners Office, in the UK to see if the experiment violated the law at all. A spokesperson for the ICO has said that it is too early to tell what portion of the law the experiment might have broken.

 

Facebook was found to have added a clause to its terms and conditions four months after the experiment was conducted that allowed research to be performed on users of the service without their express consent. Facebook maintains that it has permission to experiment from the terms and conditions that people agree to by using the site.

Google purchases Songza music service with mood-based playlists

Google has been reaching into its wallet to make some purchases and the latest purchase made by the web giant is of a music startup called Songza. Songza may not be a name you recognize, it is a company that streams music from playlists that are based on your mood.

 

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For instance, it offers playlists for taking the day off, an energy boost, and other moods. Google hasn't really said what it has in mind for Songza, but the assumption is that the tech will be used in Google Play to help personalize music.

 

The tech could also be used in the coming subscription service on YouTube, but no official comments have been made at this point. Some reports indicate that Google paid around $15 million for Songza.

FTC says T-Mobile knowingly hit subscribers with bogus charges

If you're a T-Mobile subscriber, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to inform you that the wireless carrier has been accused of adding bogus charges to subscriber bills. Without customer consent, "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of charges were added, starting in 2009 and lasting until December 2013. Charges typically were tied to expensive premium apps with monthly surcharges, often not even wanted by smartphone owners in the first place.

 

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The cramming practice led to 40 percent refund rates per month, and that should have provided an "obvious sign" to T-Mobile that something was wrong, the FTC noted. And with T-Mobile phone bills sometimes more than 50 pages in length, it was virtually impossible for subscribers to fairly identify - and request - the charges to be halted.

 

"It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent," said Edith Ramirez, FTC Chairwoman, in a press statement. "The FTC's goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges."

Europe cuts cell roaming charges in all territories

Gadget-happy consumers across Europe will breathe a sigh of relief to hear the European Union has officially slashed roaming charges in all 28 countries.

 

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Anyone with a contract from European telcos won't have to spend an arm and a leg for calls, text messages or even data abroad - compared to the widely reviled, sky-high rates that were previously set by providers. "This huge drop in data roaming prices will make a big difference to all of us this summer," European commissioner Neelie Kroes, who oversaw the plans, said in a recent statement. "But it is not enough."

 

These developments will be welcome for beleaguered European consumers - who have been left behind in the worldwide race for 4G networks. But they may not be so welcome for network providers who have felt forced to up call rates outside of Europe to compensate. Companies such as Vodafone have struggled in Europe of late, posting profit warnings amid high tax rates in certain territories, and diversifying product portfolios to supplement mobile businesses.

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