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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 21:20

Google is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that said Oracle's Java API's were protected by copyright.

Google told the justices in a petition [PDF] this week that assigning copyright to the code—the Application Programming Interfaces that enable programs to talk to one another—sets a dangerous precedent.

The appellate court's May ruling, Google said, allows "copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming."

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Author: "David Kravets" Tags: "Law & Disorder, API, copyright, Google v..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 21:15

On Thursday afternoon, giant antivirus firm Symantec announced that it would split up into two separate, publicly traded companies: one focused on security and one focused on information management. Symantec is the company that produces The Norton antivirus security suite.

This is this third giant technology company to announce a split into two separate companies in ten days.

Last week, eBay announced that it would spin off its PayPal division so that the two companies could pursue different strategies. Then on Sunday, HP announced that it would separate into “Consumer” and “Enterprise” companies, with the consumer side focusing on PCs and printers and the enterprise company providing corporate hardware and services. Symantec, it seems, is adopting a similar philosophy, saying that the two sides of the company as it stands face unique challenges. “Taking this decisive step will enable each business to maximize its potential. Both businesses will have substantial operational and financial scale to thrive,” Michael A. Brown, symantec president and CEO said.

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, eBay, HP, PayPal..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 20:50

If you follow Apple news closely, at some point in the last week you've probably seen the graph above. It's from Apple's Developer Support page, and the company calculates the figure by looking at the iOS versions of devices accessing the App Store. Like Google's analogous developer dashboard for Android, it's meant to give developers a broad look at OS usage so they can use that data to determine which OSes to support with their apps.

The problem with the graph above isn't that it shows iOS 8 and iOS 7 with the same amount of share, but that the number for iOS 8 has climbed just a single percentage point since the last measurement was taken on September 21. Apple's data mirrors what a number of other independent firms have been claiming virtually since launch day—Chitika's data shows that iOS 8 had rolled out to 7.3 percent of the iOS userbase after 24 hours of availability, while iOS 7 had already hit 18.2 percent in the first 24 hours after its launch. More recent data from Fiksu shows an adoption curve closer to iOS 5 (the last version you needed iTunes to upgrade to) than to iOS 6 or iOS 7.

Though the Ars audience is generally more tech-savvy than the general populace, our own data shows that you guys are embracing iOS 8 less enthusiastically than you picked up iOS 7. Here's data from iOS 7's first two full weeks (running from September 22 of 2013 to October 5) compared to data from iOS 8's first two full weeks (September 21 of 2014 to October 4). Around 70 percent of our site visits came from iOS 7 in that time period, compared to about 60 percent from iOS 8.

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Author: "Andrew Cunningham" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Infinite Loop, iOS 8"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 20:20
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Amazon plans to open "its first brick-and-mortar store" in Manhattan, with the possibility of expanding to other cities, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The store would open in time for the holiday shopping season.

"Amazon’s space at 7 West 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building in Midtown, would function as a mini-warehouse, with limited inventory for same-day delivery within New York, product returns and exchanges, and pickups of online orders," the report said. "A customer could, for example, order a pan in the morning and pick it up that evening in time to use for dinner... Amazon also may consider using the space to showcase inventory, particularly its devices like the Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphone or Fire TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking."

Amazon already offers same-day delivery in New York and other big cities and has set up temporary "pop up" shops and lockers for receiving orders. Rumors of a non-temporary retail store have been floating for years. Seattle was intended to be the location of Amazon's first physical store in 2012, but those plans were scrapped.

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 20:00

Data produced by Lex Machina shows that patent lawsuits reached a low point in September, down 40 percent from September in 2013. Last month saw fewer new patent complaints filed than any other month in recent years, going back to 2011.

The drop comes shortly after new patent rules came down from the Supreme Court. Most notably, the Alice v. CLS Bank decision made it clear that courts shouldn't accept "do it on a computer"-type patents as valid. That's resulted in nearly a dozen patents being tossed out in a short period of time, and some patent trolls with dubious patents aren't bothering to fight it out anymore.

"It is an interesting coincidence to me it lines up with Alice this way," said Brian Howard, Lex Machina's legal data scientist. "I'm not sure I can say Alice caused this, yet—but it is an interesting correlation."

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Author: "Joe Mullin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, patent trolls, patents"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 19:35

And a good Dealmaster day to you, too, fellow Arsians! We come to you today bearing a meaty, 37 percent discount on the i3 iteration of Dell's Inspiron 23 line, along with a cool 25 percent off a 65-inch Toshiba Smart LED set, a smattering of Dell desktops and laptops, and plenty more.

Top deal:


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Author: "Ars Staff" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, computer accessories, de..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 19:15
New Jersey wants to protect the information on black boxes in cars.

New Jersey looks set to become the next state to enact privacy laws [PDF] regarding who can view the data stored on a vehicle's black box—technically called an event data recorder or an EDR. Over 90 percent of all cars and light trucks in the US are now equipped [PDF] with EDRs that can track a vehicle's technical status and operational performance, making the information particularly useful to law enforcement and insurance companies when crashes happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made EDRs mandatory on all new cars.

New Jersey's potential new rules are outlined in two identical bills before state legislature—one was unanimously recommended for passage by the state's Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee last week, and the other is pending before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. If enacted, the law would prevent access to a driver's EDR data unless law enforcement had a warrant, or EDR data could be accessed via a discovery order if the driver were involved in a civil lawsuit.

Car repair shops also sometimes use EDR data to diagnose troubles with cars—in those instances, the repair facility would have to secure the owner's consent before downloading the information.

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Cars Technica, Law & Disorder, black box..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 19:05

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NEW YORK CITY—Sony has typically been slow to bring its flagship devices stateside, but today the company is showing the US some love and announcing the Xperia Z3v as a Verizon exclusive.

The Z3v is basically a merger of Sony's flagship Xperia Z2 and Z3 phones, supplemented with wireless charging and a big Verizon logo on the front. You can view the device as a Z2 design with slightly upgraded Z3 specs. It has a 5.2-inch 1080p LCD, a 2.5-GHz Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 20.7MP camera, and a 3200 mAh battery. That's 16GB of extra storage and 100 mAh more battery than the Z3.

The Z3v is waterproof—it carries an IP65/68 dust/waterproof rating—and Sony even had a working model hanging out in a fishtank. The waterproofing functions in part through a series of flaps that hide the microSD slot, micro-USB port, and the SIM slot.

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Author: "Ron Amadeo" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, android, gallery, Sony, ..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 18:40

When I first heard about the iPhone 6 Plus during Apple's announcement last month, my mind immediately jumped to the 3DS XL. That 2012 update to the portable platform made 3DS games both more comfortable to look at and the system itself much more comfortable to hold in adult-sized hands. The super-sized iPhone 6 Plus does the same thing for what has become one of the most popular gaming platforms ever, giving new life to games that could feel a bit cramped on smaller iPhone screens.

Apple isn't the first to discover the mobile gaming potential of a bigger screen, of course—Android and Windows Phones have sported displays as big or bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus for years. While those platforms are slowly catching up to iOS in terms of game selection and features, the iTunes Store still has a number of important gaming exclusives and a huge back catalog of great games, which make it the platform of choice for mobile gaming.

After our own Andrew Cunningham took a deep dive into the iPhone 6 Plus' capabilities as a productivity and communications device, I put the phone through its paces as a portable gaming machine. After a week tapping, swiping, and tilting through dozens of games, I found the iPhone 6 Plus a bit unwieldy for games designed to be played with one hand—but a thorough improvement over previous iPhones for just about everything else.

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Author: "Kyle Orland" Tags: "Infinite Loop, Opposable Thumbs, apple, ..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 18:15
This is how I've been spending my evenings.
Lee Hutchinson

It didn’t take much for me to justify $350 for an Oculus Rift DK2—after all, I told myself, the consumer version of the virtual reality headset won’t be out for a year or so, and I’ve spent far more on video cards that I’ve kept for less time before upgrading.

Don’t think about the credit card. Just hit the purchase button.

So I did, and now I’m pretty sure my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head.

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Author: "Lee Hutchinson" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Opposable Thumbs, Staff,..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 17:10
A depiction of a local animal, just above a hand stencil, from one of the Indonesian caves.
Kinez Riza

Art is one of the more enigmatic developments in human history. It simultaneously demonstrates that humans had mastered the ability to abstract images from the actual items they represented and had begun to create things without a direct benefit for survival. Since both of these are mental processes, it's impossible to link them to any change in anatomy or with the development of tools. Furthering the enigma, some of the first art we've discovered, such as the cave paintings in Europe, are remarkably sophisticated. How did such a large leap occur so suddenly?

Maybe it didn't. That's the suggestion made by the authors of a new paper that provides dates for some art left on cave walls on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The dates indicate that the cave art was created at the same time as the first European paintings, yet it was made by people who may have been out of contact with those who settled Europe since their common ancestors first left Africa. This, the authors suggest, may indicate that art was part of the "toolkit" people had when they left Africa.

This is the case of a discovery that's been hiding in plain sight. The paintings, located in a series of caves along the southwest side of the island, were first described in the 1950s. But they were initially thought to be a few thousand years old. Over the intervening years, Indonesian researchers noted that there were actually two distinct sets of art on the cave walls. One was clearly similar to works produced by Austronesians, a culture that spread across the Pacific relatively recently. But a second set—usually in hard to access locations in the caves—was stylistically distinct.

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Author: "John Timmer" Tags: "Scientific Method, Archeology, art, Beha..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 15:45
Hotas Warthog image taken with the pricey Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Lee Hutchinson

Our recent review of the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog joystick-and-throttle combo was notable not only for the really cool, really expensive piece of gaming equipment it featured, but also for the much-more-expensive full-frame DSLR used to take the article’s pictures: a $3,400 Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

This is a fair amount of scratch to lay down for a camera, especially when the Internet is full of examples of pro photographers going the opposite direction, ditching bags of expensive gear in favor of smartphone cameras for most applications. The idea here is that the person, not the gear, takes the picture. And there is a (likely apocryphal) story that tells the tale of an encounter between famous novelist Ernest Hemingway and famous photographer Ansel Adams. In the story, Hemingway is purported to have praised Adams’ photographs, saying, "You take the most amazing pictures. What kind of camera do you use?"

Adams frowned and then replied, "You write the most amazing stories. What kind of typewriter do you use?"

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Author: "Lee Hutchinson" Tags: "Features, Gear & Gadgets, Infinite Loop,..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 14:00

Over the past 40 years, evidence has turned up on Mars pointing to the presence of oxygen. This suggested that some oxygen must have been created in the early Earth’s atmosphere as well, due to the similar compositions of the two atmospheres. Before this new idea, it was widely understood that oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere originated in an event called the “Great Oxidation Event,” which occurred about 2.4 billion years ago as the first plants appeared and converted carbon dioxide to oxygen.

But a new experiment has confirmed that there is a mechanism for creating oxygen that doesn't require the presence of life. The results have implications not only for understanding the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere, but also for the study of exoplanetary atmospheres.

The experiment

The team used a vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) laser to break carbon dioxide apart, leaving free carbon and oxygen. Vacuum ultraviolet has a short wavelength (a range of 200-10 nanometers) that puts it at the far end of the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Today, VUV is absorbed by the oxygen in the atmosphere (hence its name). But in the early atmosphere, VUV from the Sun could have been producing oxygen out of then-abundant carbon dioxide.

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Author: "Xaq Rzetelny" Tags: "Scientific Method, astronomy, astrophysi..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 13:00

Microsoft has a message for businesses: it's in the hardware game for the long haul, and Surface Pro 3 is the ideal machine for corporate customers, able to serve both as a laptop and a tablet.

There have been questions over Redmond's commitment to hardware from practically the moment that the company announced its first Surface tablet. These questions became louder with CEO Satya Nadella's open letter. Although the letter said that that the company would continue building Surface devices, it moved away from former CEO Steve Ballmer's "Devices and Services" concept, leaving many unsure of just how strong the software firm's commitment to hardware really was.

The company is hoping to reassure potential buyers that it's serious about hardware and that Surface Pro will offer the kind of long-term support that corporate customers want. To that end, it's making some promises and offering some new pricing options that it thinks will appeal to corporate buyers.

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Technology Lab, corporate IT, hardware, ..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 13:00
Sam Machkovech

The last time Samsung released a newly designed smartphone that turned heads was in 2010—which we believe amounts to roughly 28 years ago in smartphone years. The debut Galaxy S, unlike most Android sets at the time, was noticeably clean and sleek. Users often compared its looks to the iPhone 4. But that comparison didn't hold much muster, especially when considering Samsung's love for cheap, plastic phone bodies. You only had to spin the first Galaxy around your palm once to be sure you hadn't mistakenly grabbed an iPhone.

Subsequent Galaxy S upgrades stubbornly stuck to the line's original design tenets, particularly an adherence to plastic shells. Most everyone else in the Android space upped their design game since, and while Samsung's jump from the S4 to the S5 would have benefited hugely from an aesthetic overhaul, it didn't receive one. As such, the April 2014 phone otherwise produced a collective yawn.

Finally, this fall, Samsung ticked the checkbox that drove Galaxy critics nuts for the past couple of years: a phone that looks good. The metal frame of the company's newest model, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, is distinct and different enough from its Galaxy S peers to make people wonder: Is this a new statement device from the Korean phone giant, or is it merely a redesign slapped onto the usual Galaxy experience? Does it belong among the rest of the $199-on-contract competition?

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Author: "Sam Machkovech" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, android, galaxy alpha, P..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 04:10

An employee of defense contractor Northrop Grumman has accused the company of faking tests on its LN-100 Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (INS/GPS). The GPS unit is installed on "various aircraft, including helicopters and unmanned drones (including the Predator drone), missiles, submarines, and other vehicles," the lawsuit said. The LN-100 provides essential positioning data to the sensitive systems.

The case was filed in September 2012 [PDF] by a plant manager named Todd Donaldson, but it was kept under seal from the company and from the public over the following two years. A Utah District Judge ordered the complaint unsealed last Friday. In the suit, Donaldson alleges that Northrop Grumman employees had been faking “pass” results for the LN-100 units, which were then sold to the US government for military and other purposes.

The tests took 10 minutes to run on each LN-100 unit. Donaldson's complaint against Northrop stated that because the LN-100 units typically failed the GPS Communication Test, “Defendant has taken to having its technicians manually key in positive responses, such that the word 'pass' appears on a print-out of the tests without the test actually being run.” Donaldson, who has worked at Northrop Grumman since 1986, said that he brought up the issue internally but was demoted, “as a result of his internal complaints regarding fake testing results on the LN -100 and other improper acts of Defendant.”

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Law & Disorder, drones, False Claims Act..."
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 00:00

Earlier today, the first Ebola patient to have been diagnosed within the US died of his infection. Thomas Eric Duncan succumbed to his illness 11 days after being admitted to the hospital. Duncan had become infected while in Liberia, but was asymptomatic until after his travels brought him to Dallas, Texas.

Also in Dallas, a sheriff's deputy has been hospitalized after exhibiting a limited set of the symptoms that are used to diagnose Ebola infection. The deputy had been in contact with some of Duncan's family members, but not the infected individual. CNN quotes an official from the Centers for Disease Control as saying that the individual, "does not have either definite contact with Ebola or definite symptoms of Ebola." Nevertheless, a local hospital has admitted him through its emergency room as a possible case of exposure.

In response to these events, the US has announced that passengers arriving from three countries where the epidemic is uncontrolled—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, will be subjected to screening if they arrive in any of five major airports. (These are JFK, Dulles, Newark, Chicago O'Hare, and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.) Customs staff will observe them, ask basic health questions, and screen them for fever. This will supplement the existing exit screening procedures already in place in the affected countries.

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Author: "John Timmer" Tags: "Scientific Method, Biology, ebola, medic..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 23:00

The next version of iOS may not be an upgrade for fans who use their iDevices to emulate classic games. The latest beta version of iOS 8.1 removes the famous (or infamous) "Date Trick" workaround used by iOS emulator makers to bypass App Store restrictions on their work, without the need to jailbreak the device.

Apple rules have long prevented emulators for classic game consoles and computers from appearing on the App Store, though some have managed to sneak their way through briefly (or more officially through a licensing deal with rights holders). Since last year, though, the makers of emulators like GBA4iOS and SNES emulator SiOS have relied on a loophole called the "Date Trick" to allow these apps (and ROM files) to be downloaded and installed through the built-in Safari browser. The trick gets around restrictions on unsigned apps by setting the device's date back at least two months, allowing users to easily run emulators to their heart's content without jailbreaking.

iOS 8.1 beta testers are reporting those days of easy emulation seem to be coming to an end in the latest update, though. GBA4iOS tester Dario Sepulveda writes that iOS 8.1 Beta 2 blocks the Date Trick workaround, cutting off the ability to install the app.

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Author: "Kyle Orland" Tags: "Infinite Loop, Opposable Thumbs, apple, ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 22:30
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) spoke to reporters and students after his event Wednesday at his alma mater, Palo Alto High School.
Cyrus Farivar

PALO ALTO, CA—Speaking at the gym at the high school where he used to play basketball in the 1960s, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) gave a dire warning to a group of students and locals on Wednesday about the effects of government spying on Silicon Valley: "There is a clear and present danger to the Internet economy."

The Oregon senator led a roundtable discussion on the "Impact of Mass Surveillance on the Digital Economy" with representatives from major Silicon Valley firms, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Dropbox. Wyden, a longstanding critic of the National Security Agency (NSA) and United States government’s policy on digital surveillance, made the case that active spying hurts the American economy.

"The NSA ran an expensive and invasive bulk e-mail records collection program for years, and it turned out to be worthless," he said. "And its bulk phone records collection program is still up and running now, even though the President’s own surveillance review group has indicated that it is not necessary or effective."

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Author: "Cyrus Farivar" Tags: "Law & Disorder, government, NSA, Ron Wyd..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 21:20

Comcast has to convince the federal government to approve its purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC), but so far the government advancing the most aggressive opposition may be in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kentucky's second-largest city is served by Time Warner Cable, and it isn't happy with the service. The city council "voted unanimously during a council work session Tuesday to put two resolutions denying transfer of ownership on the agenda for Thursday's council meeting," reported the Lexington Herald-Leader

Comcast's purchase of Time Warner Cable includes a sale of certain territories to Charter. Charter would take over in Lexington after the deal.

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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