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)

Russian Hackers Stockpiling Stolen Data

A group of Russian hackers known as CyberVor has accumulated more than 1.2 billion unique usernames, passwords, and email addresses, making it the largest stockpile of stolen Internet credentials in history according to the researchers who discovered the breaches. The hackers gathered the data over several years from 420,000 websites, according to Hold Security, a corporate-website security consultancy. Hold did not disclose additional details but stated that companies of all sizes were targeted and that the hackers apparently used the stolen information to send out spam designed to sell bogus products. Although they initially bought user data on the black market, they eventually used bots to look for vulnerabilities on websites. (National Public Radio)(BBC)(The Wall Street Journal)(Krebs on Security)(The Washington Post)(Forbes)

Court Orders Microsoft to Return Data Stored Overseas to US

A US judge has ordered Microsoft return all the data it stores outside the US to servers in the country. This could be a blow for privacy protection in the US as well as for those businesses with data storage operations. The decision, based on a case in which a search warrant for email related to a narcotics case that is stored in Ireland, was rendered based on the court’s finding that because the US-based Microsoft controls the data it stores overseas, its foreign subsidiaries are equally subject to US law. US District Judge Loretta Preska in New York said the ruling will be stayed to let Microsoft appeal the decision. She said the issue “is a question of control, not a question of the location of the information.” Microsoft challenged the ruling, saying local laws must apply in each jurisdiction. Stated Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, “We will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people’s email deserves strong privacy protection in the US and around the world.” Apple, AT&T, Cisco Systems, and Verizon Communications and AT&T have supported Microsoft’s position via amicus briefs. In the European Union, authorities contend that regardless of where an EU-based company's parent firm is based, that subsidiary must abide by European law. (ZDNet)(Associated Press @ San Jose Mercury News)(Reuters)

Two Threats Place Most Smartphone Users at Risk of Data Theft, Hacking

Security researchers have revealed two threats that could put up to 90 percent of the world’s smartphone users at risk for problems such as having hackers take over their devices or steal their passwords or data. One threat is related to how device makers have implemented an obscure industry standard in smartphone management software, according to researchers with security firm Accuvant. The researchers found they could use a third-party vendor’s device management tool for remote configuration as an entry point into a cellular network. Hackers could change the functionality of the network and firmware updates as well as execute malicious code and install malware. The other threat, which Bluebox Security discovered, leverages malicious applications disguised as trusted software that are able to gain access to secured areas of Android devices without issuing any user notification. This Fake ID vulnerability affects Android systems starting with version 2.1. Google says it has already issued a fix for the Fake ID flaw. (Reuters)(The Daily Mail)(Dark Reading)(Wired)

New Motion Tracking Technology Provides US Football Teams and Fans with Player Information

New shoulder pad-mounted motion sensors will give fans, coaching staffs, and players with detailed information about US football teams’ players. Zebra Technologies’ RFID systems will provide real-time information about every National Football League player’s position and following plays, his speed, distance travelled, acceleration, and other performance-related metrics. A coach could see, for example, the distance between an offensive player and the defender assigned to cover him. Teams could use this information to, for example, change their strategy during a game. As for enhancing the fan experience, neither the league nor Zebra provided specific information about how the information would be conveyed from the database it will use to store the gathered data. The statement only mentioned that the data would “be outputted to generate new experiences built around this additional data.” Whether it will be used on displays in the stadium or mobile device applications remains open to conjecture. Zebra will install the technology in 15 sports stadiums hosting 2014 Thursday night football games—in Atlanta; Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C. (home of the Carolina Panthers); Chicago; Cincinnati; Denver; Foxborough, Mass. (home of the New England Patriots); Green Bay, Wisc.; Houston; Jacksonville, Florida; Miami; Oakland; San Francisco; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C.—as well as Detroit and New Orleans. (TechCrunch)(Zebra Technologies @ PR NewsWire)

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