Apple Reaches Out-of-Court Settlement on eBook Price Fixing

Apple has reached an out-of-court settlement with 33 attorneys general from US states and other jurisdictions who filed a class action lawsuit seeking $840 million in damages for the company’s fixing of eBook prices. A trial on the case, scheduled to start 14 July 2014, was to determine whether Apple led a conspiracy to increase eBook prices designed to force Amazon.com to change its low pricing. The settlement allows Apple to avoid a jury trial. Details regarding the settlement agreement, which is still subject to court approval, were not released. Apple has declined to comment and says it intends to appeal. It has repeatedly denied breaking any antitrust laws. The settlement hinges on the outcome of the appeal of a separate, but related ruling. In July 2013, a US federal court found Apple guilty of colluding with five major publishers to increase eBook prices ahead of the iPad launch. (Bloomberg)(Reuters)(The Washington Post)

Computer Simulations Aid in Additive Manufacturing

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed a new approach for additive manufacturing that promises to be more efficient for making metal parts. Their selective laser melting process makes a 3D object in layers using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles. Parts made using conventional selective laser melting typically have weaknesses that could lead to failures. Their method avoids these problems by using high-power machines and working with computer designs and simulations in which the problems can be worked out before making a part, allowing users to select the appropriate parameters – the laser power or distance between scan lines, for example, or powder thickness – to create high density parts consistently. The key with selective laser melting is computing the dimensions of the pool of liquid that is formed when the laser melts the metal powder particles. The pools should be sufficiently deep to melt through the powder into the substrate, which results in a high-density material and thus a high-density part. The Lawrence Livermore work is part of its Accelerated Certification of Additively Manufactured Metals Strategic Initiative, which is investigating how computer simulations can help efficiently determine additive-manufacturing process parameters. The researchers published their findings in the International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology. (EurekAlert)(Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)(The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology)

PayPal Expands Global Reach

PayPal is extending its operations to 10 new countries this week, making it available in 203 nations. Those countries are Belarus, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Zimbabwe. PayPal says it wants to provide web access and bank cards for Internet transactions to the 80 million Internet users in these nations, where financial fraud is common. It argues its system safeguards user financial information. PayPal will offer “send money” services for consumers to pay for goods and services at existing PayPal-enabled sites. It does not yet allow a user to send money to other consumers or local merchants in these   new nations it is now serving.  It did not indicate the rationale for this nor whether this type of service would eventually be available. (Reuters)(Tech Crunch)

Technology Detects Vital Signs Through Walls

A new technology from researchers at the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing lets users monitor a person’s breathing and heart rate through walls. This could, for example, monitor people trapped in rubble following some type of disaster. The MIT technology, Wi-Vi works by transmitting a low-power wireless signal that passes through walls and reflects off an individual’s body, while canceling reflections from other objects in the room. The system then analyzes the detected body movements to determine vital signs. For example, it can monitor the chest’s rise and fall to estimate the heart rate with 99 percent accuracy (SlashDot)(MIT News Office)(Wi-Vi)

US Agency Investigating Content-Delivery Congestion

The US Federal Communications Commission is investigating why content providers are experiencing congestion when trying to deliver their material to consumers. FCC chair Tom Wheeler says the agency wants to find out how Internet Service Providers handle video and data from providers such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Content providers have accused Comcast and Verizon of throttling traffic from those content providers that have not paid for faster connections. The ISPs counter that they should be properly compensated for heavy, high-speed traffic volumes. Wheeler said the FCC wants to understand how these types of paid and un-paid traffic exchange arrangements work in order to help consumers understand what is happening with the services for which they are paying. “Consumers want transparency. They want answers,” said Wheeler. “And so do I.” (The Associated Press)(ABC News)

Amazon Enters US Music-Streaming Market

Amazon now offers music streaming service in the US to its Amazon Prime members, putting it in competition with companies such as Spotify and Beats Music. These companies offer 20 million songs, compared to Amazon’s 1 million. The company’s catalogue features popular artists such as Justin Timberlake, Pink, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna but is not as large as its competitors in part because of a failed licensing deal with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company. For $99 per year, Amazon Prime members will be able to listen to streaming music without restrictions or advertisements on their Android or iOS mobile devices or on their PCs or Macs. The market for digital music is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive, particularly since Apple entered the fray by purchasing Beats for $3.2 billion in May 2014. (BBC)(USA Today)

New Service Charts Websites’ Security Issues

A new online service offers a public index of websites with known security issues, enabling users to see if a site they visit has a security flaw. Project Un1c0rn < http://un1c0rn.net>, developed by a group of independent developers—is a searchable index of 59,000 websites currently, with more to come. It is focusing on problems caused by the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability as well as issues with open Mongo DB and MySQL databases, which are the sources of the most widespread vulnerabilities as they rely on common tools. The developers are working to make Project Un1c0rn the first peer-to-peer decentralized exploit system, which they say would enable individuals to host their own scanning nodes and let security researchers offer to help with fixes. (SlashDot)(Motherboard)(Project Un1c0rn)

National Science Foundation Suspends Researcher for Misusing Supercomputing Resources for Bitcoin Mining

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has suspended a researcher for misusing two universities’ supercomputers to mine bitcoins. Its Semiannual Report to Congress from the Office of the Inspector General<  states that the researcher mined roughly $8,000 to $10,000 worth of bitcoins via remote access using $150,000 worth of computer use on government equipment,. The universities involved stated the actions constituted unauthorized use of their networks. “Both university reports noted that the researcher accessed the computer systems remotely and may have taken steps to conceal his activities, including accessing one supercomputer through a mirror site in Europe,” noted the Inspector General’s report. The researcher claimed to have been conducting tests on the computers. The researcher is not allowed to use any NSF-funded supercomputer resources and, according to the Inspector General’s report, “In response to our recommendation, NSF suspended the researcher government-wide.” No additional details were released, including the universities involved or the researcher’s identity. “With the price of a bitcoin currently almost £400 ($679), there is certainly a strong temptation to misuse access to a powerful computer for mining,” Kadhim Shubber, a journalist with CoinDesk, a bitcoin news service, told the BBC. (SlashDot)(BBC)(CIO)(US National Science Foundation)

US Restaurant Chain Investigates Possible Data Breach

A US-based restaurant chain is investigating a possible breach in which hackers apparently stole payment-card data. The information from cards used at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, an Asian-themed international casual dining restaurant chain, appeared on a “card shop” website that cybercriminals frequently visit. The KrebsOnSecurity security and cybercrime news website contacted payment-card-issuing banks, which said the stolen data came from cards used at P.F. Chang’s US restaurants in the states of Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and North Carolina between March and May 2014. “P.F. Chang’s takes these matters very seriously and is currently investigating the situation, working with the authorities to learn more. We will provide an update as soon as we have additional information,” said P.F. Chang’s spokesperson Anne Deanovic in a written statement. (SlashDot)(Reuters)(The Arizona Republic)(Krebs on Security)

Cisco Opposes Net Neutrality

Cisco Systems has weighed in on the Net neutrality debate by saying that increased network activity requires some types of traffic to receive priority over other types. Net neutrality holds that service providers should treat all Internet traffic equally. The subject has been controversial, as service providers say that they should be able to handle their networks as they see fit. They also say content providers that provide large amounts of traffic—such as Netflix—should pay more for the higher volumes they create and higher speeds at which they want their material delivered. Opponents say this creates a two-tiered system in which only big, rich companies can afford to pay to have their traffic delivered at higher speeds, which would put other firms at a disadvantage. —Cisco says Web-based video services, home health monitoring, and public-safety applications are among the types of traffic needing priority access, while other types, such as email, could be delayed. “Different bits do matter differently,” stated Jeff Campbell, the company’s vice president for government and community relations. “We need to ensure that we have a system that allows this to occur.” Cisco continues to petition the US Federal Communications Commission for rules that allow broadband providers to manage their own traffic. “It's going to be more and more important to manage the traffic on the network in a way that does not treat all bits the same,” Campbell said. “That means using the intelligence of the network to ensure that those bits receive the quality of service they need.” A US court recently ruled that FCC rules don’t allow the agency to enforce the Net neutrality rules it adopted in 2010. The FCC is considering rule changes that would enable it to do so. (SlashDot)(Computerworld)(Reuters)

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