Tech News courtesy of Ars Technica
- Mobile Safari creator talks about crafting Apple’s first iPhone apps
- Strong cloud, weak PCs, and accounting rules give Microsoft a flat 3Q 2014
- Report: Google to end forced G+ integration, drastically cut division resources
- Covert Bitcoin miner found stashed in malicious Google Play apps
- The inevitable arrival of subscription-based Windows
- Apple, Google will pay 64,000 engineers to avoid trial on “no-poach” deal
- Silk Road vendor pleading guilty to selling massive amounts of illicit drugs
- Lab gets funding to put 3D goggles on praying mantises
- Thursday Dealmaster has a 14-inch convertible Lenovo ultrabook for $749
- Dallas Buyers Club launches post-Oscar copyright salvo, sues 615 Does
Apple's infamous secrecy means that despite years of interviews, biographies, and testimonies, we still don't know everything about the development of the original iPhone hardware and the first version of the iPhone OS. Today, the New York Times Bits Blog ran an extensive interview with Francisco Tolmasky, the developer responsible for the first version of mobile Safari, and he shared some additional details about the creation of the very first iPhone apps.
We already know certain things about the development of the first iPhone's hardware and the early versions of what would eventually be named iOS—the phone was built in secret by teams that couldn't talk about their work, the software was a stripped-down version of OS X rather than a beefed-up version of the iPod OS, and certain iPhone OS developers began working on the project as early as 2004. Tolmasky said that the hardware and software teams were physically separated from one another, and that the software team itself was split up into often-overlapping "Web" and "app" teams.
Tolmasky, then a 20-year-old WebKit developer freshly graduated from the University of Southern California, was tapped to lead the five-person Web team. Like most of the people who worked on the iPhone project, he has memories of (twice-weekly) meetings with then-CEO Steve Jobs, and Jobs was characteristically unflinching in his demands. He wanted a finger-friendly mobile browser that could render standard pages properly on hardware much less powerful than the computers of the day.
Microsoft posted its financial results for the third quarter of its 2014 financial year, corresponding to the first quarter of the 2014 calendar year. Revenue was essentially flat, down less than one percent, at $20.4 billion. Operating income was down 8 percent at $6.97 billion, and earnings per share were down 6 percent at $0.68. Unless otherwise stated, all comparisons are with the third quarter of the company's 2013 financial year.
Devices and Consumer (D&C) Licensing revenue was up 0.7 percent at $4.38 billion, though gross margin was down 0.6 percent at $3.91 billion. Windows OEM revenue was overall up 4 percent, with Windows OEM Pro revenue up by a substantial 19 percent, reflecting increased sales of business PCs (stimulated in part by Windows XP's end-of-life) and greater penetration of Windows Pro in small and medium businesses. However, this strong Pro performance was substantially offset by Windows OEM non-Pro revenue, which was down 15 percent. Office Consumer revenue was also up, growing by 15 percent, with increased sales in Japan ahead a tax increase that Microsoft called out for special attention.
This reporting division also includes Windows Phone and related patent licensing. Microsoft didn't offer any specific information about its performance this quarter, but the year-to-date numbers (up $440 million in the first six months, but up only $429 million in the first nine months) indicate a $11 million deterioration in its quarterly performance, year-on-year.
When Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, suddenly announced his departure from Google today, many were left wondering "why" and what it meant for the future of Google+. He didn't give a reason for leaving, but according to a report from TechCrunch, the likely reason is a major shakeup for Google's social network.
In short, Google seems to be backing away from the original Google+ strategy. The report states that Google+ will no longer be considered a product that competes with Facebook and Twitter, and that Google's mission to force Google+ into every product will end. With this downgrade in importance comes a downgrade in resources. TechCrunch claims that 1000-1200 employees—many of which formed the core of Google+—will be moved to other divisions. Google Hangouts will supposedly be moved to Android, and the Google+ photos team is "likely" to follow. "Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform," the report said. The strange part is that both of these teams create cross-platform products. So if the report is true, there will be a group inside the Android team making iOS and Web apps, which doesn't seem like the best fit.
Researchers scouring the official Google Play market have unearthed more Android apps that surreptitiously abuse end-user devices to carry out the computationally intensive process of mining Bitcoins.
The malware, dubbed "BadLepricon" by its creators, was stowed away inside
six five separate wallpaper apps that had from 100 to 500 downloads each, according to a blog post published Thursday by researchers from Lookout, an anti-malware provider for smartphones. Google employees promptly removed the offending apps once Lookout reported them. It's at least the second time in a month that third-party researchers have discovered cryptocurrency-mining apps available for download on Google servers. Four weeks ago, researchers from Trend Micro reported they found two apps downloaded one million to five million times that mined the Litecoin and Dogecoin cryptocurrencies without explicitly informing end users.
"These apps did fulfill their advertised purpose in that they provided live wallpaper apps, which vary in theme from anime girls to 'epic smoke' to attractive men," Meghan Kelly, a Lookout security communications manager, wrote in Thursday's blog post. "However, without alerting you in the terms of service, BadLepricon enters into an infinite loop where—every five seconds—it checks the battery level, connectivity, and whether the phone’s display was on."
The way Windows is developed and distributed is changing. Big releases every three years could be on the way out, replaced by regular releases and Windows subscriptions.
Businesses may still be grappling with getting the user interface-adjusting Windows 8.1 Update deployed onto systems—after complaints, Microsoft had to give them another 90 days to install it—but there's no respite in sight. Indications are that there's going to be another big update for the operating system just a few months later.
Prolific Russian leaker WZor and sources talking to Mary Jo Foley both claim that there will be an update in the second half of the year, with WZor saying it'll arrive in September and Foley's sources saying it's August.
A class-action lawsuit against Google, Apple, Adobe, and Intel over how they recruited employees was scheduled to go to a jury trial at the end of next month. But it's not going to happen. Court papers filed today indicate that the case has been settled. Reuters reports that the total settlement sum, which is still not in public court papers, will be $324 million.
A New York Times report on this case, published Sunday, suggested that the parties were nearing settlement. That's no surprise considering how potentially embarrassing a jury trial could have been for all of these companies.
The lawsuit had already made e-mails between Steve Jobs and Google executives about the agreements public, and more information would have surely come out. Jobs in particular may not have looked good at trial. "If you hire a single one of these people, that means war," Jobs emailed Sergey Brin, as the Times noted in its post on today's settlement.
A Dutch man who went by the online handle "SuperTrips" agreed Thursday to plead guilty in Chicago federal court to hawking millions of dollars worth of illicit drugs on the now-defunct underground website Silk Road, the authorities said.
Cornelis Jan Slomp, who faces a maximum 40-year term and a forfeiture of $3 million in ill-gotten gains, sold drugs ranging from amphetamine, ecstasy, and cocaine to LSD and a slew of others, according to the court record.
Court documents (PDF) say that the 22-year-old man was arrested in Florida this summer when he traveled to the United States to expand his European operations. Several unnamed co-conspirators are also being eyed across the globe and in the United States.
It sounds like the kind of research project that a future a Congressman might hold up as an example of wasteful government spending: gluing a praying mantis to a stick and putting mini-3D goggles on it. But this project is very real and pretty neat, and it should actually tell us something about neurobiology. (Plus, it's all being funded by a private foundation.)
Praying mantises aren't just unusually large insects; they're extremely efficient predators that have even been known to catch and eat birds. This requires both a lightning-quick strike and the visual acuity to direct the strike towards the prey. Researchers at Newcastle University, led by Jennifer Read, want to test out the limits of the mantis' vision. To do that, they'll try to determine how the animals reconstruct a 3D scene.
Right now, as the video below demonstrates, that involves placing a mantis (glued to a stick so it doesn't move around) in front of a television monitor and filming its strikes. But the lab is now attaching the world's smallest 3D goggles to a mantis and attempting to manipulate the 3D scene by sending each of its eyes slightly different images. It may turn out that the insect's brain operates much like a vertebrate's, using the physical separation of the eyes and the difference in perspective it involves to figure out locations in 3D. If so, it would indicate that the amount of neural horsepower needed to do so is much more limited than we might have thought.
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Shotgun lawsuits over illegal online downloads used to happen all the time courtesy of US record labels. But the mainstream content industry has abandoned the money-losing litigation strategy. Most attempts at mass-copyright enforcement today involve accusations about downloading porn movies. (See Prenda Law and Malibu Media.)
But there's one small movie studio that still likes trying its hand at courtroom enforcement. Court records show that Voltage Pictures, which made the film Dallas Buyers Club, is happy to pursue lawsuits.
Voltage filed an initial case on Feb. 3, suing 31 users over illegal downloads.