Tech News courtesy of Ars Technica
- Big Q2 growth in tweeting masses has investors strong on Twitter
- AT&T might fix Netflix problems for its customers before Verizon does
- RadioShack edges closer to running out of money
- Why one New Jersey school district killed its student laptop program
- Podcasting patent troll: We tried to drop lawsuit against Adam Carolla
- Former NSA director will file “at least” 9 patents to detect malicious hackers
- ISPs tell government that congestion is “not a problem,” impose data caps anyway
- “Mac Mini (Mid 2014)” briefly appears in Apple support document
- BlackBerry doubles down on security with acquisition of German crypto firm
- Analysis: Bill banning phone metadata collection gives NSA access to it
Twitter announced the financial results for its second quarter today, showing strong growth in average monthly active users. Although by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), Twitter posted a loss this quarter, non-GAAP numbers reflected a small profit that beat analyst expectations enough to send Twitter stock rising in after-hours trading.
Revenue for the social media company was up 124 percent year-over-year to $312 million. Twitter lost $145 million according to GAAP numbers, but made a non-GAAP net income of $15 million. (Companies are required to used the stricter GAAP rules when perparing financial statements in order to ensure consistency across an industry.)
The company reported an average of 271 million twitter users as of the end of June, which constituted a 24 percent increase year-over-year. Of those users, a staggering 78 percent accessed Twitter through their mobile devices.
Netflix has agreed to pay AT&T for a direct connection to the Internet service provider's network, a move that will improve streaming video quality.
The deal is no surprise—it was widely expected after Netflix reached similar agreements with Comcast and Verizon. What is surprising is that AT&T customers might see their Netflix quality problems resolved before Verizon customers.
"We reached an interconnect agreement with AT&T in May and since then have been working together to provision additional interconnect capacity to improve the viewing experience of our mutual subscribers," a Netflix spokesperson told Ars. "We're now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days."
Just one month after announcing a loss of $98.4 million in a single quarter, RadioShack risks falling apart. Late last year, Ars named it as one of five companies that we’re monitoring under “deathwatch” for 2014.
“Barring an improvement in the top line and margins, we think they will continue to burn cash and their liquidity position will continue to deteriorate,” Mickey Chadha, a Moody’s analyst in New York, said in an interview with the news outlet. In short, time is running out.
One school district in Hoboken, New Jersey has decided to abandon its one-to-one laptop program for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Ultimately, the Hoboken School District decided the scheme was more trouble than it was worth—even when supported by federal grants.
“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of the Hoboken School District, told The Hechinger Report. “It became unsustainable.”
The district is now going through the process of identifying the remaining laptops and seeking a bid for their destruction. District officials did not immediately respond to an Ars request for comment (Ars has filed a public records request to learn more).
Personal Audio LLC is an East Texas shell company that gleaned national attention when it claimed it had the right to demand cash from every podcaster. The company was wielding a patent on "episodic content," which it said included anyone doing a podcast, as well as many types of online video.
Now the company is trying to walk away from its highest-profile lawsuit against comedian Adam Carolla, without getting paid a penny—but Carolla won't let the case drop.
In a statement released today, Personal Audio says that Carolla, who has raised more than $450,000 from fans to fight the case, is wasting their money on an unnecessary lawsuit. The company, which is a "patent troll" with no business other than lawsuits, has said Carolla just doesn't care since his fans are paying his lawyers' bills.
In an interview Monday with former National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander, Foreign Policy's Shane Harris learned that Alexander plans to file “at least” nine patent applications—“and possibly more"—pertaining to technology for detecting network intruders.
Alexander left his government post in early 2014 and went on to co-found a private company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., with unnamed business partners. Alexander said that these business partners helped him create the “unique” method for detecting hackers that he plans to patent. Of course, Alexander himself had unparalleled access to classified security operations from 2005, when he took charge of the NSA, to 2014, when he retired.
Since starting IronNet, Alexander has been peddling his consulting services to major corporations, especially those in the financial industry, and has quoted fees of up to $1 million per month. That astronomical number drew at least one federal representative to suggest that Alexander might be disclosing or misusing classified information.
After consulting focus groups of Internet customers, government researchers have come to a conclusion that should surprise no one: people don't want data caps on home Internet service.
But customers are getting caps anyway, even though ISPs admit that congestion isn't a problem. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released preliminary findings of research involving surveys of cellular carriers, home Internet providers, and customers.
The majority of top wireline ISPs are at least experimenting with data caps. But while cellular carriers say they impose usage-based pricing (UBP) to manage congestion on wireless networks, that's not the case with cable, fiber, and DSL. "Some wireless ISPs told us they use UBP to manage congestion," the GAO wrote. On the other hand, "wireline ISPs said that congestion is not currently a problem."
An interesting development today for people watching for an update to Apple's Mac Mini desktop: Apple's support document for its Boot Camp drivers and software for Windows briefly listed a heretofore unannounced "Mac Mini (Mid 2014)." 9to5Mac first spotted the entry after it was added to the page yesterday, and we were able to grab our own screenshot to confirm before it was removed earlier today. If the entry points to a real system and is not simply mistyped, we could see a new Mac Mini any day between now and the end of August—Apple reserves the "mid" label for systems released in the late spring or in the summer. Macs released in September or later normally get the "late" label instead.
The Mac Mini is the only computer in Apple's lineup, vestigial non-Retina MacBook Pro aside, that hasn't gotten an upgrade to Intel's Haswell CPUs. Any mid-2014 refresh would be a significant upgrade, since new CPUs would give the Mini better CPU and GPU performance and reduced power consumption. Adding a better GPU and a Thunderbolt 2.0 port to the Mini could even make it a capable little 4K workstation, a useful capability given that OS X Yosemite has been "optimized" for high-density displays (Apple's words, backed up by our own observations).
The 10.9.3 update improved OS X's support for 4K displays, but the 15-inch 2013 Retina MacBook Pro and Mac Pro are the only systems that benefit from it as of this writing. So far this year, the only Mac hardware updates have involved minor CPU changes and price cuts. The MacBook Air and iMac lines were both shuffled around earlier this year, and the Retina MacBook Pro lineup just got a minor bump this morning. As we discussed in each of those articles, the lack of next-generation Broadwell CPUs from Intel is probably holding up more significant makeovers for those products, which all transitioned to Haswell last year. We've contacted Apple to see whether the new Mac Mini entry was a misprint, but as of this writing we have received no response. Apple rarely comments on things like this, but we'll update the article if it does. When (and if) Apple releases a new Mac Mini, we'll give it the full review treatment.
BlackBerry executives announced today that the company had entered into an agreement to acquire Secusmart GmbH, a German voice and data encryption firm that specializes in “anti-eavesdropping” services for government agencies, corporate customers, and telecommunications providers. The two companies already collaborated to produce Secusmart-equipped BlackBerry phones for German government agencies and leadership, including Chancellor Angela Merkel—who had previously been the target of NSA eavesdropping.
Secusmart’s technology meets NATO standards for “NATO restricted” communications—the equivalent of sensitive but unclassified communications or “for official use only” classification in the US government and military. The German government, however, has certified the technology for classified communications. The company has used its “Made in Germany” nature to its advantage in recent post-Snowden revelations marketing, proclaiming on its website, “If you’re looking for the right response to recent spying affairs and wire-tapping scandals, you’ve come to the right place.”
The acquisition is part of BlackBerry CEO John Chen’s effort to reposition BlackBerry as a company focused on customers with hardcore security concerns, such as the government, military, and financial services sector companies that remain its most loyal customers. And by acquiring Secusmart, BlackBerry will likely be more able to convince customers that it is taking a course independent from the influences of the US government and NSA, despite the company’s long relationship with both.
A prominent senator unveiled legislation Tuesday that would end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of all telephone metadata—a package that still provides the nation's spooks limited access to the data of every phone call made to and from the US. And the probable-cause standard under the Fourth Amendment is not present.
Conceding the realpolitik, civil rights groups and others are backing the proposal from Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, even though the NSA may acquire the data absent constitutional protections.