Judge Awards Carnegie Mellon $1.54 Billion in Patent Infringement Case

A US federal judge has ordered Marvell Technology Group to pay Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) $1.54 billion for infringing two hard-drive patents that the school owns. This is 41 percent of the maximum $3.75 billion award the university sought. The jury originally awarded CMU $1.17 billion in December 2012 for damages and another $79.6 million awarded for alleged infringements the jury did not consider as they lacked recent financial information. The court rejected the triple damages the university sought as well as the university’s request that further sales of goods containing the infringing technologies be blocked. At issue are two US patents related to the accuracy with which circuits in a hard drive read data from a high-speed magnetic disk granted to the university in 2001 and 2002. Carnegie Mellon says that Marvell sold at least nine different circuit devices that incorporated the patented technology, ultimately selling billions of chips. CMU has not yet commented on the court ruling. Marvell said it plans to appeal, claiming the school’s patents were invalid. The company also contends the court’s damages assessment was wrong. (The Associated Press @ ABC News)(Reuters)

Judge Orders Bitcoin Exchange CEO to Appear at Bankruptcy Hearing

A United States federal judge has ordered Mark Karpeles, CEO of failed bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, to answer questions related to the company’s US bankruptcy case. The exchange closed and filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan and the US after the company lost $400 million in customers’ bitcoins. Mt. Gox claims hackers stole the digital currency. This week, US Bankruptcy Judge Stacey Jernigan ordered Karpeles—who is currently in Japan—to appear 17 April at his Dallas attorney’s offices. Karpeles has asked a Dallas court to grant Mt. Gox Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection, which would temporarily stop US creditors. Jernigan said Karpeles must agree to appear in her court because his testimony is critical to his request for Chapter 15 protection. Should Karpeles fail to appear, he faces several potential consequences, including the court’s dismissal of his case. His attorneys say he should not have to be questioned in the US; they did not respond to requests for comment on this point. Concurrently with this legal proceeding, the Tokyo District Court continues its investigation. (Reuters)(PC World)

Report Examines Tech Firms’ Green Footprints

A newly released Greenpeace report says that Apple, Facebook, and Google are increasingly adopting renewable energy sources but that the energy-intensive data centers that other leading Internet firms run are still reliant on coal and gas. Greenpeace gave Apple, which uses a mix of solar and -cell technologies at its North Carolina data center, a perfect 100 percent Clean Energy Index score. The organization gave Facebook and Google 49 percent and 48 percent scores, respectively. On the other hand, it gave Amazon Web Services a 15 percent score, in part for using nuclear- and coal-energy sources to run its datacenters. In its biennial report, Google evaluated 19 companies with 300 datacenters and estimated how of much each company’s Internet infrastructure is based on renewable energy. Renewable energy credits, which companies can buy to meet US clean-energy goals, were not included in the assessments. Greenpeace’s report, Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet”—is available online at www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/A-Green-Internet/clickingclean. (Reuters)(CNET)(Greenpeace)

Debates Surface over US Computer Science Degrees’ Return on Investment

A survey by PayScale of the return on investment (ROI) on US college degrees in various majors found that computer science graduates make the most money after graduation. However, the findings are only part of the debate over the best value for the educational dollar. PayScale—an online employee compensation-information company—calculated ROI based on the total amount graduates could expect to earn over the next 20 years above what they could expect to earn without a degree, minus the cost of the education. Nine of the survey’s top 10 college-major pairings in terms of ROI were computer science majors. A Stanford economics degree was the only other degree foundin the survey’s top 10 most valuable degrees. Some schools on the list of top-ranked colleges for computer science majors include public institutions such as the Colorado School of Mines (for in-state students) but consist mainly of private institutions like Harvey Mudd College, the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. On the other hand, IT World, an IT-information website, looked at ROI on computer-science degrees, and found the best value generally to be public schools for in-state residents. IT World’s top five schools were the University of Virginia; the University of Washington; the Georgia Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; and Harvard University. “If you're just thinking of college as a financial investment, studying computer science at one of your state's public universities is the way to go,” concluded IT World. “Of course, that's purely based on raw financial numbers and it doesn't take into account other important things that can affect one’s college experience, like the location, the choice of extracurricular activities, and the quality of the dining hall food. You (or your child) will have to do that math yourselves.” (SlashDot)(PayScale)(The Atlantic)(IT World)

Financial Systems Are Vulnerable as Windows XP Support Ends

Despite Microsoft repeatedly heralding the end of Windows XP support, analysts say several types of financial systems are vulnerable as their operators will likely keep running the 12-year-old operating system. The problem is that systems such as independent automated teller machines (ATMs) and small businesses’ credit-card-sales systems are likely to continue running XP—for which supported ended on April 8—because of the high cost and inconvenience of upgrading. For upgrades to Windows 7, some retailers could pay $1,700 for a single-store credit-card payment system and ATM vendors could pay between $4,000 to 5,000 per machine. If new ATM hardware is needed, that could cost another $50,000 and $60,000 per device.



The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has warned retailers about the security risks of continuing to use XP systems but does not require them to upgrade their systems to operate on credit-card networks. Security analysts say malware writers sold new XP exploits that hackers have stockpiled in anticipation of Windows XP’s support ending. (TIME)(ZD Net)

Technology Increases US Maple Syrup Production

Maple syrup production is a seasonal business reliant on traditional operations. A common challenge is the leaks or flow-clogging bends in the lines running sap between trees and sugar houses caused by issues such as fallen tree limbs or hungry animals. Typically, crews check lines by listening and looking for leaks in the snow, an often daunting and ineffective task. Now, though, various remote-monitoring technologies are increasing productivity. For example, the Tap Track system monitors the pressure in sap lines via sensors and uses solar-battery-powered radio units to transmit the resulting data to a computer or smartphone. A test site with 20,000 maple taps in Ontario, Canada, increased sap collection by about 5 percent, netting an additional $15,000 in the course of a single season. (The Associated Press)

Users Hum or Whistle Tunes, and this App Produces Sheet Music

A new application is being designed to help users create written music simply by whistling or humming a melody into a microphone. Evan Balster, who is crowdfunding Imitone via Kickstarter, said the application’s goal is to transcribe sounds into musical notation. The multiplatform application essentially functions as a MIDI controller by taking those sounds made into a microphone and converting them into MIDI signals. This enables a user’s voice to become a digital instrument. “Four years ago, a stroke took away the fine motor skills of my left hand and has made playing piano frustrating,” wrote Greg Krywusha, a financial supporter of the project. “With the advent of [Imitone], the songs in my head may finally be envisioned.” Balster plans on licensing the technology for use in other applications. (Nextsound)(Ars Technica)(Kickstarter)

Digital Tool Displays Taxi-Sharing Benefits

MIT researchers have developed a tool that lets users see the possible energy and time savings that sharing taxi rides could generate. The HubCab tool is based on a dataset consisting of 170 million single-passenger taxi trips by all 13,500 licensed New York City taxis in 2011, complete with all pickup and drop-off points’ GPS coordinates. The tool uses OpenStreetMap street shapes segmented with Python imported into a Mongo database. During their research, the scientists found that taxi-sharing could reduce the number of trips by 40 percent. Were there device-enabled taxi sharing networks available, this could result in less traffic congestion costs, and pollution they say. HubCab is a project of the MIT Senseable City Lab, which investigates the convergence and changes digital technologies are bringing to cities and their inhabitants.  (SlashDot)(Co.Design)(HubCab @MIT Senseable City Lab)

Company Conducts Industrial-Scale Bitcoin Mining

The process of bitcoin mining—the creation of new bitcoins—is intended to be computationally intensive to discourage counterfeiters from trying to manipulate the system. Some individuals have built custom computer systems for more efficient mining operations. It was only a matter of time, given the increased interest in and value of the virtual currency, that someone decided to scale up such an operation. Dave Carlson has taken this to another level by scaling up this process and creating MegaBigPower, which is now a major bitcoin-mining organization. CEO Carlson said his operation will soon account for between 7 and 10 percent of the world’s bitcoin-mining processing power. He plans to reach that goal with thousands of bitcoin-mining computing units, using 1.4 million BitFury bitcoin-mining chips managed by a tiny Raspberry Pi computer. The company spent between $3 million and $5 million for the system and is now generating between 7,000 and 8,000 bitcoin—worth between $3.1 million and $3.5 million—per month. The operation’s primary investor is the Polish nonprofit R&D organization BioInfoBank. MegaBigPower also rents capacity on its system to others interested in bitcoin mining. (SlashDot)(Ars Technica)

US Security Companies Monitor Social Media to Protect Sporting Events

Security firms are taking a tip from law enforcement and becoming increasingly reliant on social media to prepare the organization and their staff for working sporting events. “Security firms tasked with monitoring fan behavior to stop them from rushing the court, threatening a coach or player, or getting rowdy during a big game are increasingly turning to social media as a predictor of whether or not [this will happen],” said a recent Associated Press article. Citadel Security Agency, responsible for providing security to National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer games, says its staff can, in 10 to 15 minutes, follow a trail of Twitter or other social-media posts to identify potential or direct threats to an event. The company says it can investigate individuals who make such posts to determine whether they have a ticket or media credential for the event. (The Associated Press) 

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