AT&T May Back Out of US Spectrum Auction

AT&T is threatening not to participate in a major US spectrum auction of airwaves if regulators reserve some spectrum for smaller companies. The US Federal Communications Commission is drafting rules for a pending auction of spectrum now being used by television stations. The draft proposal would set aside up to 30 MHz of spectrum in each market for those wireless carriers without dominant blocks of low-frequency spectrum, according to Reuters. Wireless carriers are keen to secure precious spectrum to ensure they can deliver faster, better services to consumers. AT&T, the second-largest wireless carrier in the US, says these limits would cause it to rethink participating in the auction. “AT&T has never declined to participate in a major spectrum auction and certainly did not intend to do so here,” stated Joan Marsh, vice president of federal regulatory affairs at AT&T. “But if the restrictions as proposed are adopted, AT&T will need to seriously consider whether its capital and resources are directed toward other spectrum opportunities that will better enable AT&T to continue to support high quality LTE network deployments to serve its customers.” The auction, in which television spectrum would be relinquished to the government for sale at auction to wireless companies, is slated to occur in mid-2015. Commissioners are expected to formalize the rules at their 15 May meeting. (Reuters)(The Washington Post)

Canadian Man First Arrested for Using Heartbleed Exploit

A Canadian man arrested 15 April 2014 is the first person known to have been arrested for using Heartbleed – a vulnerability in Open SSL encryption – in a data breach. Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, 19, of London, Ontario, is being charged with one count of Unauthorized Use of a Computer and one count of Mischief in Relation to Data after he allegedly stole 900 social insurance numbers and other data from the Canada Revenue Agency, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Computer equipment in the suspect’s home was seized. No other information was released. Those affected by the theft will be contacted by registered mail, according to the agency, which will also offer free credit protection services and additional security on their accounts. Solis-Reyes, a computer science student attending Western University, is scheduled to appear in an Ottawa court 17 July 2014. (Reuters)(The Associated Press)(PC Mag)

TSMC Revenues Up on Smartphone Chip Sales

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the largest contract chip manufacturer in the world, announced its revenues – which have increased for eight consecutive quarters -- should reach record levels as its chips are used in more high-end smartphones. The company bases this on greater than anticipated sales and expects double-digit growth as more 20-nanometer chips enter the market. It did not state what its current or targeted market share for high-end smartphone chips might be. It estimates its second-quarter revenue will grow NT$180 billion ($6 billion) to NT$183 billion. Increased adoption of Long-Term Evolution technology is also driving chip sales, company executives report. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)

Japanese Court Rejects Bankruptcy Protection Petition of Troubled Bitcoin Exchange

Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the largest bitcoin exchange in the world, had its bankruptcy protection application rejected by a Japanese court. The company will likely be liquidated as a result. The Tokyo District Court found the company could not be rehabilitated. The remaining assets may be sold by an administrator, but it is unlikely that creditors will be paid. An administrator has yet to be named. Mark Karpeles, the failed company’s chief executive officer, will likely be investigated for liability in the business’s failure, according to a statement by Nobuaki Kobayashi, an attorney and the provisional administrator of the company, appearing 16 April on the Mt. Gox website. The exchange filed for bankruptcy protection 28 February after “losing” roughly 850,000 bitcoins worth about $425 million; 200,000 of them were later found. The company has also filed for protection in the US courts. Karpeles, who remains in Japan, says he will not comply with an order from the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to attend an 18 April hearing in the US. Karpeles claims he is seeking legal representation before appearing in court in the US. (The Associated Press)(Reuters)(USA Today)(Forbes)(Mt. Gox)

Soft Robotics Research and Development Growing

A growing research area within robotics is that of soft robotics. Most robots have rigid structures, but soft structures pose several operating advantages. These types of robots move differently, which means the movements do not need to be precisely calculated by operating algorithms. They also can work in environments alongside humans without fear of injury to human or robot. The danger “is on par with being attacked by a pillow,” notes MIT researchers who are working on a fish-inspired silicon robot named Bubbles.  Among the other academic organizations and businesses working on soft robotics are Harvard University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, San Francisco-based Otherlab, and researchers in Italy who constructed a robotic tentacle. (SlashDot)(The Verge)(MIT News Office)

Survey: US Software Developers Expect to Become Millionaires

More than half of US software developers expect to make millions before they retire. This is according to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S.-based software developers about their attitudes regarding their position in business and society, conducted by automation platform vendor Chef. Of those surveyed, 56 percent expect to become millionaires in their lifetime while another 66 percent expect to get raises in 2015. The survey found the respondents to be “well aware of their value in society and extremely optimistic about their future.” Another optimistic finding is that 69 percent of respondents said their jobs were “recession-proof.” The survey, according to Chef, also debunks various stereotypes about software developers. They are socially active and involved in political and civic activities, including as community volunteers. (SlashDot)(Application Development Trends)

Google Shows Off Project Ara Smartphones

Google is releasing more details about its customizable modular smartphone known as Project Ara. Timed to a developer conference for the so-called “gray phone,” project leader Paul Eremenko claims the device should be on sale in January 2015 for roughly $50. “It’s called the Gray Phone because it’s meant to be drab gray to get people to customize it,” he said during an event at the Computer History Museum. The phone has an exoskeleton structure into which interchangeable modules can fit to easily provide a user with the desired smartphone features, such as sensors, cameras, and radio antennas. The phone exterior can also be designed by the user with options including colors and 3D printed texturized surfaces for the phone. The phone originated in Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division. The company retained the division, once part of Motorola, when it sold Motorola to Lenovo. Regina Dugan, the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), heads the unit. (San Francisco Business Journal)(CNET)(TechCrunch)

Computer Tinkerers Use Raspberry Pi to Resurrect Commodore 64

A group of Commodore computing enthusiasts are developing an emulator able to convert a Raspberry Pi system into a fully functioning Commodore 64. The goal is to create a native Commodore 64 operating system that can run on Raspberry Pi, complete with the ability to connect a joystick. Eventually, the developers want to add new features, including changing the emulation speed and new, modern graphics modes, to the system. The computer competed in the nascent personal computing market of the 1980s with the Apple II and was widely adopted based on its affordability. The project development is being carried out via GitHub. (SlashDot)(International Business Times)(Commodore Pi @ GitHub)

Toyota Replacing Robots with Human Workers

Although robots are widely used for industrial production, Toyota is replacing machines with human craftsmen able to teach new skills to their younger colleagues as well as improve the car-building process. The move is designed to help workers understand the processes involved in making car parts from scratch and also allows them to take that knowledge and use it to reprogram machines. Ultimately, this can help improve various processes. This approach is succeeding in the Honsha plant where crankshafts are now made by hand. The company reports this has reduced the amount of scrap by 10 percent, shortened the production line by 96 percent, improved production, and also reduced the costs associated with making chassis parts. Toyota still uses robots throughout its manufacturing operations. It uses 760 robots, for example, in 96 percent of the production at its Motomachi facility. (SlashDot)(Bloomberg)

Telefónica Proposes Changes to Secure German Mobile Company

Telefónica, the Spanish telecommunications firm, is offering to lease spectrum and provide network access to its market in order to court favor with European Union officials for its pending $11.59 billion purchase of E-Plus in Germany. This amends its preliminary offer after input from European Commission officials. Regulators are concerned this consolidation will further reduce competition in the German market and have been worried about consolidation throughout the European market. Telefónica says it would lease spectrum above 2 Gigahertz to mobile network operators, which would cover 100 German cities, and would provide access to mobile virtual network operators at wholesale rates. It has also proposed the sale of 10,000 cell sites and 50 retail outlets. Third parties can submit comments through 17 April 2014. A decision is expected by 23 June 2014. Telefónica has not commented on the matter. (Reuters)(Financial Times)

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