Patents

Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Patent Troll 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the clarence-thomas-speechless-at-the-verdict dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Supreme Court ruled today (PDF) that Cisco Systems can't skip out of a patent suit against them from patent troll Commil USA. The case reached the Supreme Court because Cisco argued it had a "good faith belief" that the patent they were infringing was invalid. The justices voted 6-2 that such a belief didn't matter if they were indeed infringing. The Supreme Court's opinion is that a company must know of the patent it's infringing, and that their product infringes upon the patent — which, at least, is more than what Commil was pushing.

The case isn't completely over — a $63.7 million verdict in Commil's favor was overturned by an Appeals Court, and now the Supreme Court has sent it back down for re-evaluation after it clarified the rules of infringement. The Appeals Court could still overturn the judgment for some other reason. The good news is that the Supreme Court dedicated a page in their opinion to telling lower courts how to sanction patent trolls and keep them from clogging the courts with ridiculous claims. "[I]t is still necessary and proper to stress that district courts have the authority and responsibility to ensure frivolous cases are dissuaded."
Transportation

Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the call-it-amtraking dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In the aftermath of the derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, the company has caved to demands that it install video cameras to monitor and record the actions of the engineers driving their trains. The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending such cameras for the past five years. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman says the cameras will improve train safety, though the engineers' union disagrees. In 2013, the union's president said, "Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security. More than a century of research establishes that monitoring workers actually reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, such as operating a train, because of the distractive effect."
AI

Microsoft Bringing Cortana To iOS, Android 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-ways-for-your-phone-to-yell-at-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: While many big tech companies have their own personal assistant software these days, few of them are available on a broad variety of devices. Microsoft has now announced that it's becoming one of those few: Cortana will be available for iOS and Android devices later this year. It's part of an initiative by the company to ensure Windows 10 plays well with all sorts of devices, even phones made by the other major manufacturers. Microsoft said, "Regardless of the operating systems you choose across your devices – everything important to you should roam across the products you already own – including your phone." This led them to develop a "Phone Companion app," built into Windows 10, that's designed to help sync a user's PC with his phone.
Privacy

Sniffing and Tracking Wearable Tech and Smartphones 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-follow-you-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Senior researcher Scott Lester at Context Information Security has shown how someone can easily monitor and record Bluetooth Low Energy signals transmitted by many mobile phones, fitness monitors, and iBeacons. The findings have raised concerns about the privacy and confidentiality wearable devices may provide. “Many people wearing fitness devices don’t realize that they are broadcasting constantly and that these broadcasts can often be attributed to a unique device,” said Scott says. “Using cheap hardware or a smartphone, it could be possible to identify and locate a particular device – that may belong to a celebrity, politician or senior business executive – within 100 meters in the open air. This information could be used for social engineering as part of a planned cyber attack or for physical crime by knowing peoples’ movements.” The researchers have even developed an Android app that scans, detects and logs wearable devices.
Biotech

Sex-Switched Mosquitoes May Help In Fight Against Diseases 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-girls-allowed dept.
cstacy writes: Only the female mosquitoes bite and transmit viral diseases such as Dengue Fever. Scientists have finally discovered the elusive genetic switch called Nix, that determines the sex of these blood sucking insects, and hope to selectively eliminate females to control the spread of diseases. "Nix provides us with exciting opportunities to harness mosquito sex in the fight against infectious diseases because maleness is the ultimate disease-refractory trait," explained Zhijian Jake Tu, an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute and a biochemistry professor from Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Programming

Google's Diversity Chief: Mamas Don't Let Their Baby Girls Grow Up To Be Coders 405

Posted by samzenpus
from the starts-at-home dept.
theodp writes: Explaining the reasons for its less-than-diverse tech workforce, Google fingered bad parenting for its lack of women techies. From the interview with Google Director of Diversity and Inclusion Nancy Lee: "Q. What explains the drop [since 1984] in women studying computer science? A. We commissioned original research that revealed it's primarily parents' encouragement, and perception and access. Parents don't see their young girls as wanting to pursue computer science and don't steer them in that direction. There's this perception that coding and computer science is ... a 'brogrammer' culture for boys, for games, for competition. There hasn't been enough emphasis on the power computing has in achieving social impact. That's what girls are interested in. They want to do things that matter." While scant on details, the Google study's charts appear to show that, overall, fathers encourage young women to study CS more than mothers. Google feels that reeducation is necessary. "Outreach programs," advises Google, "should include a parent education component, so that parents learn how to actively encourage their daughters."
EU

EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The European Union recently published plans to ban 31 pesticides containing chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility. Those potential regulations have now been dropped after a U.S. business delegation said they would adversely affect trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue 'could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations.'"
GUI

Microsoft Tries Another Icon Theme For Windows 10 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-solid-color-rectangles dept.
jones_supa writes: Back in February, users decried the new icon look in Windows 10. In response to that feedback, Microsoft has implemented a new icon pack in build 10125, which was leaked early but expected to arrive soon for Technical Preview testers. Screenshots show what the final version of the OS could look like when it goes live this summer. The new icons go all-in on a flat approach, following the same design cues as the rest of the operating system, but the "pixel art" style has been abandoned. Once again, Softpedia asked for user experiences, and this time the comments have been mostly positive.
Businesses

Tech Bubble? What Tech Bubble? 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the shiny-bubbles dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Conor Dougherty writes in the NYT that the tech industry's venture capitalists — the financiers who bet on companies when they are little more than an idea — are going out of their way to avoid the one word that could describe what is happening around them: Bubble. "I guess it is a scary word because in some sense no one wants it to stop," says Tomasz Tunguz. "And so if you utter it, do you pop it?" In 2000, tech stocks crashed, venture capital dried up and many young companies were vaporized. Today, people see shades of 2000 in the enormous valuations assigned to private companies like Uber, with a valuation of $41 billion, and Slack, the corporate messaging service that is about a year old and valued at $2.8 billion in its latest funding round. A few years ago private companies worth more than $1 billion were rare enough that venture capitalists called them "unicorns." Today, there are 107 unicorns and while nobody doubts that many of tech's unicorns are indeed real businesses, valuations are inflating, leading some people to worry that investment decisions are being guided by something venture capitalists call FOMO — the fear of missing out.

With interest rates at historic lows, excess capital causes investment bubbles. The result is too much money chasing too few great deals. Unfortunately, overcapitalizing startups with easy money results in superfluous spending and dangerously high burn rates and investors are happy to admit that this torrid pace of investment has started to worry them. "Do I think companies are overvalued as a whole? No," says Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. "Do I think too much money can kill good companies? Yes. And that is an important difference."
Privacy

San Bernardino Sheriff Has Used Stingray Over 300 Times With No Warrant 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After a records request by Ars, the sheriff in San Bernardino County (SBSD) sent an example of a template for a "pen register and trap and trace order" application. The county attorneys claim what they sent was a warrant application template, even though it is not. The application cites no legal authority on which to base the request. "This is astonishing because it suggests the absence of legal authorization (because if there were clear legal authorization you can bet the government would be citing it)," Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars. "Alternatively, it might suggest that the government just doesn't care about legal authorization. Either interpretation is profoundly troubling," he added. Further documents reveal that the agency has used a Stingray 303 times between January 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015.
Transportation

Daimler and Qualcomm To Develop In-Car Tech, Wireless Charging 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-charge-it-they-will-buy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Car manufacturer Daimler announced a deal with mobile technology company Qualcomm to explore wireless mobile phone recharging in cars, as well as recharging electric vehicles without cables. The move is part of a push by Daimler, as well as rival carmakers BMW and Audi, to improve their status as high-tech carmakers. "It's important that we remain on the cutting edge of technology and continue to deliver unparalleled experiences to our customers," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. "With this in mind, we are eager to jointly explore possible fields of future cooperation with an internationally leading tech firm like Qualcomm."
AI

What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI 403

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-are-you-doing-dave? dept.
DaveS7 writes: There's been no shortage of high profile people weighing in on the subject of AI lately. We've heard warnings from Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking while Woz seems to have a more ambivalent opinion on the subject. The Epoch Times has compiled a list of academics in the field of AI research who are offering their own opinions. From the article: "A 2014 survey conducted by Vincent Müller and Nick Bostrom of 170 of the leading experts in the field found that a full 18 percent believe that if a machine super-intelligence did emerge, it would unleash an 'existential catastrophe' on humanity. A further 13 percent said that advanced AI would be a net negative for humans, and only a slight majority said it would be a net positive."
Google

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 101

Posted by timothy
from the teddy-ruxpin-pinned-it-on-the-one-armed-man dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."
Security

Netgear and ZyXEL Confirm NetUSB Flaw, Are Working On Fixes 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
itwbennett writes: In follow-up to a story that appeared on Slashdot yesterday about a critical vulnerability in the NetUSB service, networking device manufacturers ZyXEL Communications and Netgear have confirmed that some of their routers are affected and said they are working on fixes. ZyXEL will begin issuing firmware updates in June, while Netgear plans to start releasing patches in the third quarter of the year.
United States

What Was the Effect of Rand Paul's 10-Hour "Filibuster"? 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-keep-talking dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Sen. Rand Paul held up a vote on the Fast Track Authority for an eleven hour dissertation on the flaws of: the Patriot Act, the replacement the USA Freedom Act, bulk data collection including credit card purchases, the DEA and IRS's use of NSA intel. for "parallel construction", warrant-less GPS bugs on vehicles, as well as the important distinction of a general warrant versus a specific one. "There is a general veil of suspicion that is placed on every American now. Every American is somehow said to be under suspicion because we are collecting the records of every American," Paul said. The questions is what did the "filibuster" really accomplish? The speeches caused a delay in Senate business but it's unclear what larger effect, if any, that will have.