Patents

EFF Beats 'Stupid' Patent Troll In Court (courthousenews.com) 34

An Australian court can't make a California advocacy group take down a web page, a U.S. federal judge just ruled on Friday. Even if that web page calls a company's patents "stupid." Courthouse News reports: San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Global Equity Management, or GEMSA, in April, claiming the Australian firm exploited its home country's weaker free speech protections to secure an unconstitutional injunction against EFF. Kurt Opsahl, EFF's deputy executive director and general counsel, hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech. "We knew all along the speech was protected by the First Amendment," Opsahl said in a phone interview Friday. "We were pleased to see the court agree." Opsahl said the ruling sends a strong message EFF and other speakers can weigh in on important topics, like patent reform, without fear of being muzzled by foreign court orders.

The dispute stems from an article EFF published in June 2016, featuring GEMSA in its "Stupid Patent of the Month" series. The GEMSA patent is for a "virtual cabinet" to store data. In the article, EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer called GEMSA a "classic patent troll" that uses its patent on graphic representations of data storage to sue "just about anyone who runs a website." The article also says GEMSA "appears to have no business other than patent litigation."

The judge granted EFF a default judgment, saying the Australian court's injunction was not only unenforceable in the United States but also "repugnant" to the U. S. Constitution.
Music

Apple's HomePod Gets Delayed Until 2018 (theverge.com) 41

Apple has reportedly delayed the release of its HomePod smart speaker until 2018. In a statement to The Verge, Apple says that it needs more time to work on the device. "We can't wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple's breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers," an Apple spokesperson said. "We'll start shipping in the U.S., UK and Australia in early 2018." From the report: The speaker was originally set to be released in December. Priced at $349, the HomePod is slated to take on higher-end sound systems like Sonos, as well as smart assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The cylindrical speaker features a seven-speaker array of tweeters, a four-inch subwoofer, and a six-microphone array, which puts it right on par spec-wise with the best speakers in its price range, but where it may fall short is Siri, which isn't really in the same class as Alexa or Google Assistant. That challenge is likely why Apple's focus at the launch of the HomePod back at WWDC in June was music first and smart features second.
AI

Humans Are Still Better Than AI at StarCraft (technologyreview.com) 142

29-year-old professional StarCraft player Song Byung-gu won 4-0 in the world's first contest between AI systems and professional human players, writes MIT Technology Review. An anonymous reader quotes their report: One of the bots, dubbed "CherryPi," was developed by Facebook's AI research lab. The other bots came from Australia, Norway, and Korea. The contest took place at Sejong University in Seoul, Korea, which has hosted annual StarCraft AI competitions since 2010. Those previous events matched AI systems against each other (rather than against humans) and were organized, in part, by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a U.S.-based engineering association.

Though it has not attracted as much global scrutiny as the March 2016 tournament between Alphabet's AlphaGo bot and a human Go champion, the recent Sejong competition is significant because the AI research community considers StarCraft a particularly difficult game for bots to master. Following AlphaGo's lopsided victory over Lee Sedol last year, and other AI achievements in chess and Atari video games, attention shifted to whether bots could also defeat humans in real-time games such as StarCraft... Executives at Alphabet's AI-focused division, DeepMind, have hinted that they are interested in organizing such a competition in the future.

The event wouldn't be much of a contest if it were held now. During the Sejong competition, Song, who ranks among the best StarCraft players globally, trounced all four bots involved in less than 27 minutes total. (The longest match lasted about 10 and a half minutes; the shortest, just four and a half.) That was true even though the bots were able to move much faster and control multiple tasks at the same time. At one point, the StarCraft bot developed in Norway was completing 19,000 actions per minute. Most professional StarCraft players can't make more than a few hundred moves a minute.

Australia

Australia Cockatoos Chew Billion-Dollar Broadband (bbc.com) 82

Australia's multimillion dollar broadband network is under attack -- from cockatoos. From a report: The National Broadband Network (NBN) company said it has spent tens of thousands of dollars so far fixing cables chewed by the birds. Australian broadband is already criticised for being slow. According to a recent report it ranks 50th in the world for internet speed. NBN estimates the bill will rise sharply as more damage is uncovered. In an attempt to improve Australia's internet speed -- currently lagging behind many developed countries at 11.1 megabits per second -- a national telecommunications infrastructure project has been instigated and is due for completion in 2021. But engineers returning to sites have found spare cables chewed and frayed. The culprits are cockatoos, a type of parrot which normally eats fruit, nuts, wood and bark.
Cellphones

Razer Unveils Gaming Smartphone With 120Hz UltraMotion Display, 8GB RAM and No Headphone Jack (cnet.com) 168

Computer hardware company Razer has unveiled its first smartphone. While the design doesn't appear to be up to par with the competition, it does pack some impressive specifications under the hood. The Razer Phone features a 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution display, Snapdragon 835 chipset with 8GB of RAM, 12-megapixel dual camera with a wide-angle lens and 2x optical zoom, 4,000mAh battery, dual front-facing stereo speakers, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat running out of the box. While there is a microSD card slot for expandable storage, there is no headphone jack, no waterproofing, and no wireless charging. The device also won't support CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. CNET reports: [W]here most new flagship phones are shiny rounded rectangles with curved screens, the Razer Phone is unabashedly a big black brick. It flaunts sharp 90-degree corners instead of curved edges. You can even stand the phone on end. The 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution screen is flat as a pancake, and you'll find giant bezels above and below that screen, too -- just when we thought bezels were going out of style. When the Razer Phone ships Nov. 17 for $699 or £699 -- no plans for Australia at launch -- the company says it'll be the first phone with a display that refreshes 120 times per second, like a high-end PC gaming monitor or Apple's iPad Pro. And combined with a dynamic refresh technique Razer's calling Ultramotion (think Nvidia G-Sync), it can mean beautiful, butter-smooth scrolling down websites and apps, and glossy mobile gameplay.
Education

'Daylight Savings' Is Grammatically Incorrect (qz.com) 312

A reader shares a report: We talk about time like it's money, and that may explain why we say "Daylight Savings Time," capitalizing the concept to emphasize its awesomeness. After all, who wouldn't want to be able to save hours like cash? The phrase "Daylight Savings Time," though commonly used in Australia, Canada, and the US, is technically incorrect. Time and Date, a website devoted to all things chronological, posits that the plural "savings" became popular because it's used in everyday contexts, like "savings account." The grammatically correct usage is "daylight saving time." The expression is singular and not capitalized, according to the US Government Publishing Office style guide. The GPO provides the guidance, "d.s.t., daylight saving (no 's') time."
Iphone

PSA: Apple's iPhone X Screen Repair Will Cost You $279 (macrumors.com) 144

We already know the iPhone X is expensive: it starts at $999 for the 64GB variant. But what about the cost of a screen replacement? If you don't have the extended warranty, a screen replacement will cost you $279, which is more than twice the price of an iPhone 6 screen replacement ($129) and about 65 percent higher than a new iPhone 8 screen ($169). MacRumors reports: In the United States, Apple will charge flat rates of $279 for iPhone X screen repairs and $549 for any other damage to the device, unless it is a manufacturing defect covered by Apple's standard one-year limited warranty. The fees vary in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

-Australia: $419 for screen repairs, $819 for other damage
-Canada: $359 for screen repairs, $709 for other damage
-Germany: 321 Euros for screen repairs, and 611 Euros for other damage
-United Kingdom: 286 British Pounds for screen repairs, 556 British Pounds for other damage
-United States: $279 for screen repairs, $549 for other damage

These prices do not apply to customers who purchase AppleCare+ for the iPhone X, which costs $199 upfront in the United States. AppleCare+ is an optional warranty plan that extends an iPhone's coverage to two years from the original purchase date of the device. The plan adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a lower service fee of $29 for screen repairs, or $99 for any other damage.

Science

New Science Suggests the Ocean Could Rise More -- and Faster -- Than We Thought (washingtonpost.com) 204

Chris Mooney, writing for the Washington Post: Climate change could lead to sea level rises that are larger, and happen more rapidly, than previously thought, according to a trio of new studies that reflect mounting concerns about the stability of polar ice. In one case, the research suggests that previous high end projections (PDF) for sea level rise by the year 2100 -- a little over three feet -- could be too low, substituting numbers as high as six feet at the extreme if the world continues to burn large volumes of fossil fuels throughout the century (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). "We have the potential to have much more sea level rise under high emissions scenarios," said Alexander Nauels, a researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia who led one of the three studies. His work, co-authored with researchers at institutions in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, was published Thursday in Environmental Research Letters. The results comprise both novel scientific observations -- based on high resolution seafloor imaging techniques that give a new window on past sea level events -- and new modeling techniques based on a better understanding of Antarctic ice. Further reading: Sea levels to rise 1.3m unless coal power ends by 2050, report says (The Guardian).
Space

The Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility: Where Spacecraft Go To Die (bbc.com) 100

dryriver writes: Whether you launch a satellite into space or an entire space station like the Russian Mir, the Chinese Tiangong-1 or the International Space Station, what goes up must eventually come down -- re-enter earth's atmosphere. The greater the mass of what is in space -- Mir weighed 120 tons, the ISS weighs 450 tons and will be decommissioned in a decade -- the greater the likelihood that larger parts will not burn up completely during re-entry and crash to earth at high velocity. So there is a need for a place on earth where things falling back from space are least likely to cause damage or human casualties. The Oceanic Pole Of Inaccessibility is one of two such places.

The place furthest away from land -- it lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands -- somewhere in the no-man's land, or rather no-man's-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America, has become a favorite crash site for returning space equipment. "Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian," reports the BBC. "The wreckage of the Space Station Mir also lies there... Many times a year the supply module that goes to the International Space Station burns up in this region incinerating the station's waste." The International Space Station will also be carefully brought down in this region when its mission ends. No one is in any danger because of this controlled re-entry into our atmosphere. The region is not fished because oceanic currents avoid the area and do not bring nutrients to it, making marine life scarce.

Security

US Weapons Data Stolen During Raid of Australian Defense Contractor's Computers (wsj.com) 78

phalse phace writes: Another day, another report of a major breach of sensitive U.S. military and intelligence data. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), "A cyberattacker nicknamed 'Alf' gained access to an Australian defense contractor's computers and began a four-month raid that snared data on sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Using the simple combinations of login names and passwords 'admin; admin' and 'guest; guest' and exploiting a vulnerability in the company's help-desk portal, the attacker roved the firm's network for four months. The identity and affiliation of the hackers in the Australian attack weren't disclosed, but officials with knowledge of the intrusion said the attack was thought to have originated in China."

The article goes on to state that "Alf obtained around 30 gigabytes of data on Australia's planned purchase of up to 100 F-35 fighters made by Lockheed Martin, as well as information on new warships and Boeing-built P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance aircraft, in the July 2016 breach." The stolen data also included details of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and guided bombs used by the U.S. and Australian militaries as well as design information "down to the captain's chair" on new warships for Australia's navy.

Australia

Unsent Text On Mobile Counts As a Will, Australian Court Finds (abc.net.au) 144

A court in Australia has accepted an unsent, draft text message on a dead man's mobile phone as an official will. The 55-year-old man had composed a text message addressed to his brother, in which he gave "all that I have" to his brother and nephew. From a report: The Supreme Court in Brisbane heard the 55-year-old took his own life in October 2016, after composing a text addressed to his brother, which indicated his brother and nephew should "keep all that I have," because he was unhappy with this wife. A friend found the text message in the drafts folder of the man's mobile phone, which was found near his body. The unsent message detailed how to access the man's bank account details and where he wanted his ashes to be buried.
Transportation

42 Solar-Powered Cars Race in 31st Annual 'Solar Challenge' Race (engadget.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: It's a special moment in the history of clean energy: the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge has begun. A total of 42 solar-powered cars (the largest field to date) left Darwin, Australia on October 8th to travel roughly 1,880 miles to Adelaide. The race officially lasts a week, but it's likely going to end considerably sooner for the front-runners -- the world record holders, Tokai University, took just under 30 hours in 2009...

This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That's half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don't need a sea of panels to keep a car running.

Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Australia

Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky (cetusnews.com) 279

schwit1 found this story in the Wall Street Journal: Daniel Parfitt thought he'd found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber. There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle. Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt's drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground... "It ended up being a pile of splinters"...

These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They've even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider... Camouflage techniques, like putting fake eyes on the drones, don't appear to be fully effective, and some pilots have even considered arming drones with pepper spray or noise devices to ward off eagles.

One mining survey superintendent said he's now lost 12 different drones to eagle attacks, costing his employer $210,000. Another drone was actually attacked by nine different eagles, and its pilot estimates eagles are now attacking 20% of all drone flights in rural Australia.
Australia

Australia Finally Creates Its Own National Space Agency (yahoo.com) 117

50 years after Australia became the third country to launch a satellite into space, they had another big announcement. An anonymous reader quotes AFP: Australia on Monday committed to creating a national space agency as it looks to cash in on the lucrative and fast-evolving astronautical sector. The announcement came at a week-long Adelaide space conference attended by the world's top scientists and experts including SpaceX chief Elon Musk. It brings Canberra -- which already has significant involvement in national and international space activities -- into line with most other developed nations, which already have dedicated agencies to help coordinate the industry and shape development. "The global space industry is growing rapidly and it's crucial that Australia is part of this growth," acting science minister Michaelia Cash said in statement.
The Australian government estimates that the global space sector now drives $323 billion in revenue each year.
Music

Happy Music Boosts Brain's Creativity, Study Says (newscientist.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Need inspiration? Happy background music can help get the creative juices flowing. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. They put 155 volunteers into five groups. Four of these were each given a type of music to listen to while undergoing a series of tests, while the fifth group did the tests in silence. The tests were designed to gage two types of thinking: divergent thinking, which describes the process of generating new ideas, and convergent thinking, which is how we find the best solutions for a problem. Ritter and Ferguson found that people were more creative when listening to music they thought was positive, coming up with more unique ideas than the people who worked in silence. However, happy music -- in this instance, Antonio Vivaldi's Spring -- only boosted divergent thinking. No type of music helped convergent thinking, suggesting that it's better to solve problems in silence. The study was published in the journal PLoS One.
Facebook

Facebook Essentially Has Been Telling Advertisers It Can Reach More People Than Actually Exist, Analyst Finds (marketwatch.com) 117

Facebook claims its ads have the potential to reach more people than recent U.S. census data shows exist, and that's troublesome for one analyst, who thinks third-party measurement services stand to benefit. From a report: Recently, Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser was intrigued by a trade publication study in Australia that said Facebook was claiming to reach 1.7 million more 16- to 39-year olds than actually existed in the country, according to Australian census data. In reproducing the study for the U.S., Wieser said Facebook's Ads Manager claims it can potentially reach 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds, 60 million 25- to 34-year-olds, and 61 million 35- to 49-year-olds. The problem arises when Wieser pulls up U.S. Census data from a year ago, showing 31 million 18- to 24-year-olds, 45 million 25- to 34-year-olds, and 61 million 35- to 49-year-olds. The upshot: Where is Facebook getting the extra 25 million 18- to 34-year-olds that the U.S. census did not count? "Conversations with agency executives on this topic indicate to us that the gap between Facebook and census figures is not widely known," Wieser said. "While Facebook's measurement issues won't necessarily deter advertisers from spending money with Facebook, they will help traditional TV sellers justify existing budget shares and could restrain Facebook's growth in video ad sales on the margins."
Hardware

Researchers Find New Way To Build Quantum Computers (reuters.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: Researchers in Australia have found a new way to build quantum computers which they say would make them dramatically easier and cheaper to produce at scale. Quantum computers promise to harness the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time to solve problems that are too complex or time-consuming for existing computers. The team from the University of New South Wales say they have invented a new chip design based on a new type of quantum bit, the basic unit of information in a quantum computer, known as a qubit. The new design would allow for a silicon quantum processor to overcome two limitations of existing designs: the need for atoms to be placed precisely, and allowing them to be placed further apart and still be coupled. Crucially, says project leader Andrea Mello, this so-called "flip-flop qubit" means the chips can be produced using the same device technology as existing computer chips.
Space

Near Earth Asteroid 'Florence' Makes a Close Pass (space.com) 105

kbahey writes: A big, bright, near-Earth asteroid, known as 3122 Florence, made a safe fly by Friday night. Florence is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Object. At its closest, it was about 7 million km (4.4 million miles) away from earth. It is still visible in amateur telescopes over the next few days where it would be seen to move over several minutes against the background stars. It can be located using this map. According to NASA officials, the asteroid hasn't been this close to Earth since 1890, and it won't be this close again until 2500. "Asteroid 3122 Florence was discovered in 1981 by astronomer Schelte 'Bobby' Bus at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia," reports Space.com. "The asteroid is named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), who pioneered modern nursing, NASA officials said in a separate statement."
Robotics

Bricklaying Robots and Exoskeletons Are the Future of the Construction Industry (vice.com) 228

David Silverberg reports via Motherboard: One of the most staid and digitally conservative industries is on the verge of a robotic makeover. The global construction space isn't known for ushering new tech into their workforce, but a painful labour shortage, calls for increased worker safety and more low-cost housing, and the need to catch up to other tech-savvy sectors is giving upstarts in robotics and exoskeletons their big moment. The construction industry isn't immune to this phenomenon, but robots and humans may increasingly work hand-in-hand in industrial sectors, according to Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America. This is especially true when the construction industry en masse uses exoskeleton vests, which aim to assist workers with heavy loads and thus reduce their risk of injury.

The Hadrian X is a bricklaying robot courtesy Australia's Fastbrick Robotics, which uses its 30-meter metal arm to lay bricks at a rate of 1,000 bricks per hour, compared to a human worker's average of 1,000 a day. Due for release in late 2017, Hadrian X can read a 3D CAD model of the house and then it follows those instructions precisely, working day and night. New York-based Construction Robotics has also developed its take on a bricklaying robot. SAM can lay 3,000 bricks a day, and the company said it's about time this industry got a whiff of the change almost every other market has been seeing.

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