Intel Unveils 14-Nanometer Chips

Intel has launched its Core M processor, which has 14-nanometer features, much smaller than the 22-nanometer features on newer commercial microprocessors. Smaller feature sizes let manufacturers put more transistors on chips, making them more powerful than processors of similar size; or create smaller chips that are as powerful as other processors. The latter capability would let manufacturers create thinner and lighter devices. This could help Intel better compete with ARM, the leading maker of chips for mobile devices. In addition to having smaller feature sizes, the new chips are smaller than their predecessors in part because they contain less packaging and are so power efficient and produce so little heat that they do not need a fan for cooling. ARM makes chips that are fanless. Intel expects the first devices with the Core M chips to be available during the 2014 winter holiday season, with more to be released in the first half of 2015. Intel executives note that although the new chips are intended for initial use in portable devices, they eventually will be used in bigger products, including large servers and desktop PCs. (CNET)(The Wall Street Journal)

US Court Rejects Settlement in Silicon Valley Employee-Poaching Case

A US district court judge has rejected a settlement in a wage-fixing lawsuit involving Silicon Valley employers including Apple and Google, saying the proposed $324.5 million in damages is too low. Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California in San Jose said her ruling was based on a related settlement in another wage-fixing case last year in which Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Intuit settled with the plaintiffs for a combined $20 million. The current suit alleges that executives of four firms—Adobe Systems, Apple, Intel, and Intuit—concocted a plan to not hire each other’s employees to hold down wages. The original class-action lawsuit was filed against all seven companies covering roughly 65,000 people who worked for them between 2005 and 2010. The remaining four firms--Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, and Intel--agreed to settle, and the two sides agreed on a $324.5 million payment. Koh ruled that the total should be on scale with the earlier settlement and thus should be “at least $380 million.” The plaintiffs originally sought $3 billion in damages at trial, which would have been tripled under antitrust law were the suit successful. Intel said it is “disappointed that the Court has rejected preliminary approval of an agreement that was negotiated at arm's length over many months.” (Reuters)(CNET)

Software-Analysis Method Stabilizes Shaky Sports Video

Video taken by enterprising outdoors enthusiasts using wearable cameras is designed to place a viewer in the moment of activities such as cycling, climbing, running, or paddling. However, such cameras frequently produce video that is “dead boring” if viewed in real time, Microsoft researchers told the BBC. Footage sped up, however, becomes shaky. Microsoft researchers have devised a software-analysis approach that speeds up and stabilizes video. Their hyperlapse software uses a three stage method to smooth camera jumps. First, it analyzes the video and identifies significant features that could help create a smooth reconstruction of the presentation. The software then calculates the smoothest possible way to use the video to create this virtual reconstruction. The software then renders the film accordingly, generating extra frames where necessary to smooth otherwise jumpy segments. Microsoft says it is working to transform the hyperlapse software into a Windows application. (BBC)(Microsoft Research)

IBM Partnership with Chinese Firm Signals New Business Model for Trade in China

IBM has entered into a business partnership with a Chinese financial-data firm, which could be a model for trade in that nation. IBM is performing cloud-based risk analysis for Shanghai Wind Information, which provides data and other services to the Chinese financial industry, including banks and investment firms. By using this technology in the cloud, Shanghai Wind neither has to disclose specific portfolio holdings to IBM nor does it have to install IBM software or hardware on its servers. This model adheres to Chinese data-privacy laws, which mandates that data be protected, confidential, and remain within China. Chinese government officials have been urging state-owned firms to use domestic technology vendors, citing security concerns.(Reuters)(IT Pro Portal)(IBM)

Google Torpedoes Barge Projects

Google is scuppering its secretive barges in Portland, Maine, and San Francisco. Mystery surrounded the vessels when the company started the projects, eventually saying it intended to use them as interactive spaces to teach people about Google technology. Now, though, Google has abandoned the project and sold both barges. The Maine-based barge, on which Google erected a four-story structure made of shipping containers, is now being dismantled and will be towed away. The California barge was towed in March from San Francisco to Stockton, California, where Stockton port officials say its dock fees are paid through October. Google has not commented about the barge project’s demise. (Tech Crunch)(Portland (ME) Press Herald)(CNET)

Robots and Algorithms: Making Beautiful Music Together

French and US researchers are developing algorithms enabling computers to produce original music based on existing styles. “We are quite close now to [programming computers to] generate nice melodies in the style of pop composers such as [Michel] Legrand or [Paul] McCartney,” Francois Pachet, head of Sony’s Computer Science Lab in Paris, told The Atlantic website. One of the team’s experiments combined the sound of legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker with the style of French composer Pierre Boulez. . “Instead of thinking of it as computer-generated music,” said noted jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, “I tend to think more along the lines of computer assisted, since whoever writes the code or whichever user sets the parameters is going to be making many of the decisions about what the result might be like.” Among the possible applications for such technology could include generating music for public spaces, such as malls; and creating algorithms able to respond to the environment, such as creating soothing music when a baby is crying. (The Atlantic)(Sony Computer Science Lab)(Francois Pachet)

Microsoft Tempts Chinese Employees to Quit, Offering Free Smartphone

Microsoft is now offering a Nokia Lumina 630 smartphone as an incentive for Chinese employees who voluntarily quit. The offer is good for up to 300 workers per day, Microsoft inherited a huge workforce when it purchased Nokia’s handset business in April 2014 for $7.2 billion and said it intends to cut 18,000 employees—about 14 percent of its global workforce—, including 12,000 Nokia workers, from its payroll by 30 June 2015. (Tech Crunch)(Reuters)

Google Now Ranking Secure Websites Higher in Search

Google is giving those pages employing HTTPS encryption higher rankings in its search results. The company says it hopes this will prompt more sites to use encryption. Some organizations have hesitated to employ encryption on their websites, citing cost and slower response times, but higher search rankings may prove to be an incentive. Google says it still gives content and other factors more weight than encryption use in ranking search results. (BBC)(Google Online Security Blog)

Sprint Halts Courtship of T-Mobile US

Sprint has reportedly ended negotiations to acquire T-Mobile US, according to various news sources. Sprint made the decision 5 August 2014 at a board of directors meeting. The cause reportedly was concern that US regulators would find that concerns about combining the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers outweighed the potential benefits, according to the Bloomberg news website. US antitrust regulators wants four national wireless companies competing and likely would have blocked the merger, according to insiders familiar with the deal. The acquisition also would have to have cleared a Federal Communications Commission public-interest review. Other news sources claimed that the financing of the proposed purchase, including how much each company would contribute, was a problem. Sprint is owned by SoftBank, and T-Mobile US is owned by Deutsche Telekom. “If Sprint can’t buy T-Mobile, it will be difficult for Sprint to [continue doing] business,” Yoshihiro Nakatani, a senior fund manager at Asahi Life Asset Management Co., told Bloomberg. Sprint has lost money every year since 2007. Some market observers say Sprint’s decision opens the door for Iliad, a French telecommunications firm that has offered $15 billion for a 56.6 percent stake in T-Mobile US. Dish satellite-TV provider and Mexican telecommunications company America Movil SAB have also expressed interest in acquiring the company. (Bloomberg)(CNET)(The Wall Street Journal)

Apple, Samsung Drop All Pending Patent Cases Outside US

In a joint statement, leading smartphone makers Apple and Samsung Electronics have announced they will drop all patent-related suits outside the US against each other. They are currently embroiled in patent cases in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, and the UK. Apple has contended that Samsung copied its iPhone designs, while Samsung says Apple uses its wireless-transmission technology. The companies are not completely abandoning their patent-related claims and have not reached any agreements for licensing each other’s intellectual property. In a statement, the companies said, they “are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts.” Apple won two California-based suits—a $930 million verdict in 2012 and a $120 million verdict in early 2014. (Bloomberg)(Reuters)

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