Google Mystery Barges Scuppered After Coast Guard Calls Them Fire Traps

Google was found to be creating two four-story floating structures in San Francisco and Portland, Maine that were scrapped before they could be used as a showcase for the company’s products. The reason behind the end of the project has been as mysterious as the barges’ origins. Now, it’s been disclosed that the US Coast Guard deemed the barges fire hazards, according to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper reported that one e-mail stated: “These vessels will have over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck and a substantial amount of combustible material on board.” Google had not been able to adequately address the safety issues based on the expected number of visitors per day Construction was halted in October 2013. (Mashable)(The Wall Street Journal)

Five-Year-Old UK Boy Passes Microsoft IT Certification

A five-year-old boy from Coventry became the youngest computer specialist in the world after passing the Microsoft Certified Professional exam. Ayan Qureshi, now six, was introduced to computers at a young age by his father Asim Quereshi, an IT consultant.  He says Ayan has been eager to learn and has a good memory. The young tech pro constructed his own computer lab, including a network. He was originally deemed too young to take the exam, but Microsoft relented following a call. Ayan reportedly completed the test before the allotted two hours elapsed. Now the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, Ayan says he wants to eventually create a UK technology hub. (BBC)(Gizmodo)(Coventry Telegraph)

Raytheon Expands Cybersecurity, Surveillance with $420 Million Acquisition

Raytheon has acquired Blackbird Technologies, a provider of cybersecurity and surveillance services, for $420 million. Blackbird serves global-intelligence organizations, including those that work with the US Department of Defense. This now strengthens Raytheon as a defense contractor, particular for the US Special Operations Command. “The cyber business is heading for a shakeup, and Raytheon is determined to be one of the survivors that controls substantial market share,” stated defense-industry analyst Loren Thompson. (Reuters)(The Wall Street Journal)

Sensors Help Hydroelectric Facilities Protect Fish

Hydroelectric generation facilities throughout the US Pacific Northwest potentially threaten young migrating fish, such as salmon. For example, they subject the fish passing turbines to the physical stress of powerful water-pressure changes. To help avoid problems like this, the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) created a new version of the Sensor Fish. This device is packed with sensors able to analyze the physical stresses that hydroelectric facilities create for fish. Originally developed in the 1990s, Sensor Fish was created for use in the Columbia River Basin. The newest design is more accurate and gathers more information, roughly 2,048 different measurements, such as per second. It contains sensors, a radio transmitter, and technology that lets users retrieve the device after a specific amount of time in the field. Researchers will use the information to help engineers evaluate facilities, and redesign and retrofit dam turbines. Sensor Fish will be used in 2015 to evaluate projects in the US, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The PNNL researchers say the new device now costs $1,200, but they hope to transfer the technology to a manufacturer, which could reduce the price via mass production. The researchers published the work in the American Institute of Physics' Review of Scientific Instruments. (Newswise)(Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)(Review of Scientific Instruments)

Pirate Bay Founder Sentenced, another Founder Arrested

A Danish court sentenced Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, a Swedish hacker who founded the controversial file-sharing website Pirate Bay, to 3-1/2 years in prison after being found guilty of hacking crimes in Denmark. Prosecutors had sought a six-year sentence, near the maximum allowed. Svartholm Warg had been charged with vandalism, as well as hacking into several Danish public databases via an ISP and accessing people’s personal data, including criminal records and extradition agreements. He contended the hacking was done by someone who remotely accessed his computer. An unnamed co-defendant received a six-month sentence and was freed based on time served in pre-trial detention. He is not the only Pirate Bay co-founder now in custody. Hans Fredrik Lennart Neij was arrested in the Thai city of Nong Khai, just after arriving from Laos, based on an international warrant for his arrest on 2009 copyright infringement charges. He and three others, including Svartholm Warg, were convicted of those charges in 2009, but Neij fled Sweden while out on bail. (Naked Security)(BBC)


Hackers Immediately Exploit Recently Discovered Drupal Vulnerability

As many as 12 million websites may have been compromised through a recently discovered vulnerability in Drupal 7 software, commonly used to manage Web content. Immediately after the bug discovery was announced, Drupal noted, hackers began attacking vulnerable sites. In a statement, Drupal said users failing to apply a patch within at least seven hours of the bug announcement on 15 October should assume they were hacked. The company said that the attacks might escape detection by conventional security approaches so users should check for back doors inserted into their sites as well as missing data. The vulnerability lets an attacker exploit a database abstraction API, which ensures queries made against a database are sanitized to prevent SQL injection attacks. Drupal reports the content of the malicious requests dictates the type of attack launched. These can include attacks used to escalate a hacker’s privilege status and inject malware. They can also use the access to steal data. (BBC)(Dark Reading)(Drupal)

Hungarian Government Drops Internet-Tax Proposal

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced he is removing a proposed Internet tax from the nation’s pending budget. The draft 2015 tax bill, submitted to Parliament on 22 October 2014, called for ISPs to pay a tax of 150 forints (60 cents) per gigabyte of data traffic. Tens of thousands of protesters subsequently marched in the Hungarian capital Budapest. The ruling Fidesz party unsuccessfully tried to appease the opposition by amending the bill with a cap 700 forints ($2.81) per consumer and 5,000 forints ($20.10) for business customers. In a radio address, Orban then said “This must be withdrawn, and we do not have to deal with this now.” The government had expected to collect between 175 and 200 billion forints ($703.5 million and $804 million) from the tax and thereby reduce the national deficit. Opponents said the tax would stifle free expression and make it more difficult to start new businesses. (BBC)(Bloomberg)


Samsung Wants Out of Microsoft Patent Deal

Samsung is seeking to be released from a patent agreement with Microsoft on the grounds that the latter’s recent purchase of Nokia’s smartphone business breaches the terms of their deal. The companies’ 2011 agreement enables Samsung to use Microsoft Android patents and to collaborate on making Windows Phone handsets. “Before Microsoft’s merger with Nokia DSB, these provisions between Microsoft, an input supplier, and Samsung, a downstream seller, comported with United States antitrust laws,” Samsung said in its filing to be released from the patent agreement. “After the Nokia DSB Merger, the agreements, now between competitors, invite charges of collusion.” Once Microsoft purchased Nokia’s handset business, it competed with Samsung. The original agreement also compels Samsung to share information with Microsoft. Doing so, Samsung says, would put it at risk of violating US antitrust laws. According to Reuters, Microsoft denies Samsung’s claims. Microsoft filed a suit earlier this year in a New York federal court alleging Samsung breached a previous agreement by delaying royalty payments. Samsung had paid Microsoft $1 billion in 2013 licensing fees as part of the agreement but did not pay any of the other scheduled fees, claiming it would have resulted in one or more antitrust violations. Microsoft contends that Samsung is liable for $6.9 million in back interest on the unpaid fees. (GeekWire)(ZD Net)(Reuters)


Carnival Becomes First Cruise Line to Offer Hybrid Wi-Fi

Carnival’s cruise ship fleet is being outfitted with a hybrid wireless network designed to provide its consumers with reliable, faster connectivity at sea. The $10 million network is being installed in the 101 ships belonging to the cruise operator, the world’s largest line, which operates nine different brands. Carnival’s WiFi@sea smart hybrid network uses both satellites and land-based antennas located along its various cruise routes. Being able to switch between the two technologies, says the cruise line, enables customers to have service throughout a cruise, even at mid-ocean, where connectivity is notoriously difficult. The system is reportedly 10 times faster than the previous Internet service on its ships. Carnival says it is banking on this to help generate greater interest in cruise vacations, especially among tech-savvy younger travelers. WiFi@sea will initially be available in North America in the fourth quarter of 2014 with expansion to Alaska in the summer of 2015, then to the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Western Europe, and Asia. According to Carnival, the service will be designed so that it can add the latest new technologies. Carnival says the service’s cost to passengers will vary by brand. (Toronto Sun)(MarketWatch)(Carnival Corporation)

Technology Enables Veterinarians to Make House Calls on Demand

A newly launched service enables people to use technology to get a house call for their ill pets. VetPronto, which has operations in Seattle and San Francisco and plans to eventually expand into Los Angeles, is being dubbed the Uber for sick pets. The on-demand service lets pet owners use a mobile application to make appointments for basic services such as tests or vaccinations. Participating veterinarians can access and create a pet’s medical records using the service. VetPronto designed its service to eliminate the stress that animals and humans often experience when they must go to the veterinarian’s office. (Geek Wire)(VetPronto)

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