Author: Nick Farrell

Apple antitrust case continues

courtroom_1_lgThe Tame Apple Press is aghast after a court decided that Apple’s antitrust antics were so important that a class action against the company could continue even if all the official plaintiffs had been ruled as inadmissible.

Apple lawyers managed to prove to the court that none of the official plaintiffs had owned an iPod 10 years ago and therefore could not have suffered from its competition snuffing DRM. So far it has not had to prove that it did anything anti-competitive, and was hoping to win on a legal technicality.

But the billion-dollar class-action lawsuit against Apple is expected to continue after a 65-year-old Massachusetts business consultant read about the plaintiffs’ floundering case online and volunteered to represent consumers in the suit.

A federal judge said she was tentatively satisfied with a proposal to add Barbara Bennett, the new named plaintiff, in the lawsuit over Apple’s iTunes software and the price of its iPods.

Plaintiffs are claiming that Apple’s restrictive software froze out competitors and allowed Apple to sell iPods at inflated prices. They are seeking $350 million (£224m) in damages, which could be tripled if the jury finds Apple broke federal antitrust law.

Apple stopped using the particular software in question in 2009, which means the lawsuit only covers iPod models bought between September 2006 and March 2009.

Each time an Apple user with non-iTunes music tried to sync their devices, between 2007 and 2009, the tech firm urged them to restore the players to factory settings which the plaintiffs claimed was a deliberate move to wipe the rival files, and cause the users’ music libraries to ‘blow up.’

Bennett, who sometimes used her iPod to listen to music while ice skating, boarded a plane early flew to California at the request of lawyers who are suing Apple. She told the court she bought a special-edition iPod Nano in 2006 because she liked its striking red case.

The Tame Apple press has been doing its best to cover up this set-back for Apple’s defence team.  The Daily Mail has been waxing lyrical about how the defence dug up Steve Jobs to testify by video.

“Legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs held an Oakland courtroom transfixed as attorneys played a video of his testimony in a class-action lawsuit that accuses Apple of inflating prices by locking music lovers into using Apple’s iPod players,” mused the Mail.

“Looking gaunt and pale, Jobs spoke softly during the deposition he gave six months before his death in October 2011. Despite this, he gave a firm defense of Apple’s software, which blocked music from services that competed with Apple’s iTunes store,” it added.

What the Daily Mail did not say was that Jobs had form for anti-trust behaviour and was not the best witness.

Fortune magazine was even more overt in its defence of Apple  under a headline “How dumb is this Apple lawsuit?” Fortune claimed that the case was proceeding for the benefit of lawyers and not consumers. Although Fortune did not say how supporting the actions of a convicted monopoly like Apple over a consumer law-suit benefits the consumer either.  It seems that Fortune no longer favours the brave.

Xiaomi banned in India

India_flagXiaomi has said it is ready to open talks with Ericsson after a patent row resulted in a temporary ban on its Indian business.

In New Delhi, the city’s high court issued an ‘ex parte’ injunction that prevents Xiaomi from importing and selling some of its smartphones in the country.

Officials have been ordered to visit Xiaomi India’s office to ensure it does not sell, advertise, manufacture or import devices that infringe the patents in question.

Xiaomi sells its Mi3, Redmi and Redmi Note phablet in India, but it is not clear which models are affected by this ruling.

Ericsson described Xiaomi’s use of its Standard, Essential Patents (SEPs) as “unfair.” It said its action is “a last resort” after Xiaomi ignored its letters for more than three years.

“Ericsson’s commitment to the global support of technology and innovation is undisputed. It is unfair for Xiaomi to benefit from our substantial R&D investment without paying a reasonable licensee fee for our technology,” a spokesEricsson said.

He said  Ericsson was looking forward to working with Xiaomi to reach a mutually fair and reasonable conclusion, just as we do with all of our licensees.

Xiaomi said that it had not received any note from the high court yet but claimed that it was willing to discuss the issue with Ericsson:

“India is a very important market for Xiaomi and we will respond promptly as needed and in full compliance with India laws. Moreover, we are open to working with Ericsson to resolve this matter amicably,” Xiaomi said.

Ericsson is said to be negotiating compensation for patents with a number of Indian smartphone makers, and it could be that its dispute with Xiaomi goes the same way.

Comcast gets customers to pay its power bill

nikolapic US telco Comcast has a wizard way to set up public Wi-Fi hotspots on the cheap.  It thought it could get its customers to use their home routers to send a “secondary signal” and get a decent coverage.

Now it appears that some people have a problem with the comms company effectively powering its network on their electricity bill. They also feel that they are inviting a security problem and stuffing up their own internet connections.

Two East Bay residents are suing Comcast for plugging their home’s wireless router into what they call a power-wasting, Internet-clogging, privacy threatening network of public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Toyer Grear and daughter Joycelyn Harris, claims Comcast is “exploiting them for profit” by using their Pittsburg home’s router as part of a nationwide network of public hotspots.

Comcast is trying to compete with major mobile phone carriers by creating a public Xfinity WiFi Hotspot network in 19 of the country’s largest cities. The company is activating a second high-speed Internet channel broadcast from newer-model wireless gateway modems that residential customers lease from the company. It plans to spread to 8 million hotspots by the end of the year.

The secondary signal is supposed to be separate from the private Wi-Fi channel customers use, and it was intended for houseguests or Comcast subscribers who happen to be in range and using mobile devices.

But Comcast started activating the secondary channel in the Bay Area this summer and although Comcast has said its subscribers have the right to disable the secondary signal, the suit claims the company turns the service on without permission and places “the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers.”

The suit quotes a test conducted by Philadelphia networking technology company Speedify that concluded the secondary Internet channel will eventually push “tens of millions of dollars per month of the electricity bills needed to run their nationwide public Wi-Fi network onto consumers.”

Under heavy use, the secondary channel adds 30 to 40 percent more costs to a customer’s electricity bill than the modem itself.

The suit also said “the data and information on a Comcast customer’s network is at greater risk” because the hotspot network “allows strangers to connect to the Internet through the same wireless router used by Comcast customers.”

Although Comcast has said it has enough bandwidth to handle the extra traffic Grear and Harris have suffered from “decreased, inadequate speeds on their home Wi-Fi network.

The suit asks for unspecified damages and an injunction preventing Comcast from using home wireless routers for its hotspot network.

 

 

 

Microsoft mulls new model

andrew-neilSoftware aging lothario Microsoft is mulling if it is worthwhile moving to  a younger sexier subscription-based model.

At the recent Credit Suisse Technology Conference last week, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner was speaking to investors about the fact that Microsoft is interested in exploring new monetisation methods for its Windows line of products. The company might adopt a new pricing model for the upcoming operating system, as it looks to shift away from the one-time initial purchase to an ongoing-revenue basis.

When asked if Microsoft was going to start losing money on Windows, Turner said that we Microsoft had to monetise the software differently and link it to services.

“There are additional opportunities for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way. And through the course of the summer and spring we’ll be announcing what that business model looks like. At the same time it’s wonderful to see these nine-inch and below devices explode, because that was an area, candidly, I was blocked out and I had no share of what was getting built. So it’s a very fascinating transition for us,” he said.

It looks like Microsoft will be ruminating over its new cunning plan through the long winter nights and plan what a new Windows business model will look like. This could mean that Nadella and his team has already decided which path to take.

There have been previous rumours that have already pointed toward the creation of Windows subscriptions. What is crucial is the price and the frequency of upgrade cycles.

Windows 10, which is already promoted by Microsoft as ‘one Cloud OS’, will be the first to fall under this new pricing scheme. Microsoft also needs to lure in hundreds of millions of Windows 7 and Windows XP users who did not perceive Windows 8 and 8.1 as good.

Microsoft has made its Microsoft Office products available for free to mobile users on iOS and Android.

 

Postman Pat can print his own 3D cat

postman-patRoyal Mail is testing out a 3D printing service at its central London delivery office.

The move is to see if there is any interest for the “embryonic” technology, printing items including shoes, jewellery, soap dishes and phone cases.

Royal Mail is running a pilot this month that will let customers order “ready-to-print” items from 3D tech company iMakr from its New Cavendish Street delivery office. It will also be able to print customers’ own designs, which can be delivered by Royal Mail.

Customers can order items from 3D printing site MyMiniFactory.com, which sells designs for printable objects including home accessories, toys and stationery equipment.

Mike Newnham, Royal Mail COO said that 3D printing was an emerging technology that has many applications and offers an innovative way to create unique or personalised objects.

“It can be prohibitively expensive for consumers or small businesses to invest in a 3D printer, so we are launching a pilot to gauge interest in 3D printing to sit alongside Royal Mail’s e-commerce and delivery capability.”

Royal Mail claimed the market for 3D printing technology would grow 95 percent by 2017.

 

Swedish cops raid Pirate Bay again

swedish policeInspector Knacker of the Stockholm yard seized servers, computers, and other equipment believed to belong to the P2P outfit Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Bay and several other torrent-related sites disappeared yesterday, and although no official statement has been made, it is logical to assume that the Pirate Bay’s downtime and the raids were no coincidence.

It is the first time in months that The Pirate Bay has gone offline. A number of concerned users thought that there might have been some technical issues, but Swedish authorities have confirmed that local police carried out a raid in Stockholm this morning as part of an operation to protect intellectual property.

Paul Pintér, police national coordinator for IP enforcement said that there had been a “crackdown on a server room in Greater Stockholm. This is in connection with violations of copyright law. A data centre in Nacka which is built into a “mountain” which suggests that the raid took place at Portlane.

Police are staying quiet on the exact location of the operation and the targets involved but the fact that the national police IP chief is involved at this early stage suggests something sizable.

In addition, expert file-sharing case prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad said that there were a number of police officers and digital forensics experts there. Several servers and computers were seized, but I cannot say exactly how many.

So far, police have fingered the collar of one many who was connected to the site.

Several other torrent related sites including EZTV, Zoink, Torrage and the Istole tracker are also down. The Pirate Bay’s forum Suprbay.org, Bayimg.com and Pastebay.net are also offline.

Microsoft accuses US of double standards

janus1Software giant Microsoft has accused the US government of operating a system of double standards when it comes to snooping on other countries.

Microsoft’s executive Vice President and General Counsel, Brad Smith said that by demanding companies hand over customer data stored overseas the US government was operating a double standard that it would not accept from other countries.

Writing in his blog, Smith said: “Imagine this scenario. Officers of the local Stadtpolizei investigating a suspected leak to the press descend on Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. They serve a warrant to seize a bundle of private letters that a New York Times reporter is storing in a safe deposit box at a Deutsche Bank USA branch in Manhattan. The bank complies by ordering the New York branch manager to open the reporter’s box with a master key, rummage through it, and fax the private letters to the Stadtpolizei.”

Microsoft has applied to the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in its ongoing case challenging a US government search warrant for customer data stored in Ireland. Microsoft filed the appeal after a US district court judge rejected the company’s argument that the warrant is illegal because it calls for the seizure of emails stored outside the United States.

If the situation was reversed the US government would be furious if a foreign government attempted to sidestep international law by demanding that a foreign company with offices in the United States produce the personal communications of an American journalist.

He pointed out that the Secretary of State would fume that he or she was outraged by the decision to bypass existing formal procedures that the European Union and the United States have agreed on for bilateral cooperation.

And then, if the Germans had responded the way the US had done,  they would claim that they did not conduct an extraterritorial search – in fact we didn’t search anything at all.

“No German officer ever set foot in the United States. The Stadtpolizei merely ordered a German company to produce its own business records, which were in its own possession, custody, and control. The American reporter’s privacy interests were fully protected, because the Stadtpolizei secured a warrant from a neutral magistrate,” Smith said.

That would not satisfy the Americans because the documents held by the foreign company for safekeeping are private letters, not business records.

“And any attempt to take possession of those letters through a warrant – even one served on the company entrusted with those letters – would constitute a seizure by a foreign government of private information located in another country,” Smith wrote.

As far as the US Government is concerned, your emails become the business records of a cloud provider. Because business records have a lower level of legal protection, the Government claims it can use a different and broader legal authority to reach emails stored anywhere in the world.

Intel’s China plans show mobile agenda

1220aIntel’s recently announced plans to invest shedloads into its Chengdu plant might be revealing much about its cunning plan for the future.

The move was a little unusual, as it did not come with the huge tax breaks and other sweeteners that Intel has required from Israeli governments and the US. This indicates that Intel needed a plant in China.

The move followed another similar-sized investment aimed at consolidating China’s wireless chip sector. The smart money suggests the two moves are linked Intel wants China to become a major centre for the company’s belated push into wireless chips.

Intel could be positioning both of these plants to manufacture smartphone chips. Intel failed to recognise the importance of mobile devices earlier, with the result that most of the market is now dominated by companies like sector leader Qualcomm, and mid-sized players like MediaTek, which mostly use chips based on an architecture supplied by European chip giant ARM.

Beijing wants to create a homegrown player to take down Qualcomm but its domestic chip sector consists of mostly small design houses that lack the resources to become major global players.

Unigroup, which is based out at the Tsinghua University, merged two of the biggest domestic players, Spreadtrum and RDA Microelectronics, into a single company. Intel joined that initiative in September, when it purchased 20 per cent of the new company for $1.5 billion. This makes it bigger than China’s largest chipmaker SMIC.

What Intel appears to be doing is getting itself onside with the Chinese and helping their domestic chip making plans with the idea of getting a foot in the door behind the bamboo curtain. Antitrust watchdogs are less likely to snap at its heels, or treat it as a problem, like they do Qualcomm and in the long term, it will have its fingers in the pies of a growing Chinese chip industry.

US tech snooping is a trade barrier

 shoe phoneThe US government’s mass surveillance of the whole world has become a trade barrier for European Internet companies trying to provide services in the United States, a top EU official claims.

Paul Nemitz, a director in the European Commission’s justice department said that US citizens are deterred from using European e-mail providers because they do not get the same protection as they would by using US providers, said

Laws which empower the NSA to basically grab everything which comes from outside the United States, is a real trade barrier to a European digital company to provide services to Americans inside America.

Nemitz, who is overseeing an overhaul of the EU’s 20-year-old data protection rules, told a conference on data protection in Paris that an American in the United States using a European service does not have the same level of protection as he would if he used an American service.

Using a European service, his communication is transmitted outside the United States, so it is subject to interception.

The comments underscore the widespread unease within Europe about access to people’s data by both security services and companies. They also come at a time when Brussels and Washington are renegotiating a data-sharing agreement – called Safe Harbour – used by over 3,000 companies.

The Safe Harbour agreement makes it easier for US companies to do business in Europe by certifying that their handling of user data meets EU data-protection laws.

The EU wants Washington to guarantee that it will only access Europeans’ personal data for national security reasons when it is strictly necessary, as it does with US citizens’ data.

Meanwhile the EU is also negotiating a new pan-European data- protection law which would impose stiff fines on companies mishandling personal data in Europe.

Companies in both the United States and the EU have lobbied against some parts of the new rules, arguing that they will impose too much red tape on businesses.

Cyber criminals steal a quarter of digital adverts

the-great-train-robbery-movie-poster-1903-1020549358Almost a quarter of video ads and 11 percent of display ads are viewed by fake consumers created by cybercrime networks to steal the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising.

A study, by digital security firm White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers, is one of the most comprehensive looks to date at the persistent criminal activity involving online advertising. It looks at the problem of “bots” or automated entities that mimic the behaviour of humans by clicking on ads and watching videos.

The bots siphon money away from brands by setting up fake websites or delivering fake audiences to websites that make use of third-party traffic. Advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to bots next year, the report said.

Bob Liodice, the president and chief executive of the ANA, an organization that represents thousands of brands said that it had been suspected there was fraud in the industry, but it was not known how much was being taken or the reasons it was happening.

White Ops monitored 181 online advertising campaigns by the brands from August to October to determine fraud activity.

Bot fraud has long been part of the ecosystem of low-price ads that cost a few dollars or less. This study revealed, however, that many premium websites and publishers, which charge roughly 10 times more for an ad, are just as vulnerable.

In one instance, 98 percent of video ads at a premium lifestyle site were viewed by bots. The bots are extremely effective of looking like a high value consumer.”

Liodice said the report will help the industry develop an action plan to combat fraud.

Microsoft releases the hounds on subscription activators

White Puppy-02In a new move against software pirates, the software king of the world has unleashed its legal hounds on those offering subscription activating software.

Microsoft has filed a complaint at a federal court in Washington accusing a person behind an AT&T subscription of activating various pirated copies of Windows 7 and Office 10. The account was identified by Microsoft’s in-house cyberforensics team based on suspicious “activation patterns.”

Microsoft doesn’t have a long track record of cracking down on individual pirates so this move is new.

Microsoft filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a person who activated pirated copies of Windows 7 and Office 10 from an AT&T Internet connection.

“Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified a number of product key activations originating from IP address 76.245.7.147, which is presently assigned to ISP AT&T Internet Services..,” the complaint reads.

“These activations have characteristics that on information and belief, establish that Defendants are using the IP address to activate pirated software.”

While many think unauthorised copies are hard for Microsoft to detect, the company explains that its cybercrime team claims to use state-of-the-art technology to detect software piracy. It looks for activation patterns and characteristics which make it likely that certain IP-addresses are engaged in unauthorised copying.

In this situation, the defendant activated numerous copies of Windows 7 and Office 2010 with suspicious keys, which were nicked from Microsoft’s supply chain, used without permission from the refurbisher channel, and used more often than the license permits.

So, this is not an average user, but someone who sells PCs with pirated software.

Why does Intel need Broadwell H?

12-inch silicon wafer - Wikimedia CommonsThe Dark Satanic Rumour Mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn which claims that Intel has bumped off its Broadwell H range.

The rumour is based on pure speculation and common sense. Earlier this year Intel told the world that it would be launching its low-power Broadwell processors in “early spring” and Kirk Skaugen, who heads up Intel’s PC Client Group, showed a roadmap to prove it.

Spring was expected to see millions of units in preparation for a very early spring fifth-generation Core launch of our traditional Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, i5, i7 which will be on Broadwell-U and Skylake in the second half of 2015.

But the higher-powered quad-core variants of Broadwell such as the Broadwell-H and Broadwell-M were not mentioned but were expected in “work week 29” and “work week 36” in 2015. That would mean late July to early September.

But if Skylake also appears in the second half of 2015, it seems that Broadwell chips is surplus to requirements. Intel could go traight to Skylake for the higher-performance notebook models  — after all . Skylake has a better CPU core, graphics and media subsystem than Broadwell.

Axing of Broadwell could also be a return to the “tick-tock” method for Intel. Skylake fully ramped in the second half of 2015 means that Intel could conceivably mean that the 10-nanometer Cannonlake product will be ready for deployment for back-to-school in 2016.

Cisco sues Arista

ciscologoNetwork equipment maker Cisco Systems has sued Arista Networks for copying its networking technologies.

The lawsuits, filed in a federal court in California, accuses Arista of infringing on 14 patents on networks and also on related copyrights.

Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler wrote in his bog that rather than building its products and services based on new technologies developed by Arista, however, and providing legitimate competition to Cisco, Arista took a shortcut by blatantly and extensively copying the innovative networking technologies designed and developed by Cisco.

Arista was formed by former Cisco employees, including Chief Development Officer Andreas Bechtolsheim, Chief Technology Officer Kenneth Duda, and Chief Executive Officer Jayshree Ullal.

Arista said it had not yet been able to evaluate the lawsuits.

“While we have respect for Cisco as a fierce competitor and the dominant player in the market, we are disappointed that they have to resort to litigation rather than simply compete with us in products,” Arista said in a statement.

 

IPod DRM court case could collapse on technicality

novità-apple-2013After ten years trying to get an antitrust case against Apple to court, the case might collapse because the plaintiffs can’t prove they ever bought an iPod.

The antitrust case was messy and would have bought a fair few skeletons out of the closet proving that Jobs’ Mob had done its best to kill off rivals with some dirty deeds ordered by its Messiah Steve Jobs.

The case is so old that Jobs even recorded a video testimony defending his actions. The lawsuit covers iPods purchased between September 2006 and March 2009. Lawyers representing both consumers and businesses claim that the restrictions meant Apple could inflate the prices of iPod in an anti-competitive manner. They are seeking $350m in damages, which could be tripled under US competition laws.

However, now it seems that he case might get chucked out on a technicality. Lawyers for Apple have raised a last-minute challenge saying new evidence suggested that the two women named as plaintiffs may not have bought iPod models covered by the lawsuit.

Apple lawyers checked the serial number on the lead plaintiff’s iPod Touch and found it was bought in July 2009. The other main plaintiff, Melanie Wilson, also bought iPods outside the relevant timeframe, they indicated.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said at the end of the trial’s third day of testimony in Oakland, California said she was concerned that she did not have a plaintiff.

Lawyer Bonny Sweeny said that her team was checking for other receipts. She conceded that while Ms Wilson’s iPod may not be covered, an estimated eight million consumers are believed to have purchased the affected devices.

It is a pity as so far it has emerged in the trail that between 2007 and 2009, if an iPod owner tried to sync their device with iTunes and had music from another digital store on the device, they would receive an error message telling them to restore their iPod to factory settings. This effectively wiped all non-iTunes music from the device.

Apple maintained at the trial that the software and restrictions were necessary to protect users from malicious content and hackers.

Cameron’s porn filter deletes other sites too

stupid cameronBritish Prime Minister David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron’s porn filter is being used to purge the internet of a few sites that he does not want British people to see.

The alarm call was sounded by the German hacker site the Chaos Computer Club over the weekend which noticed that its site had been blocked in the UK.

Vodafone customers were also being stopped from accessing the ticket sales to this year’s Chaos Communication Congress.

The group claims that its sites were on a list which censors the open internet. These internet filters, authorised by Prime Minister David Cameron, are implemented by UK’s major internet service providers (ISPs) were supposed to stop porn from falling into the hands of children. But it appears that the list has been extended to include material deemed “extremist”.

Users can opt-out of censorship, or bypass it by technical means, but only a minority of users know how to bypass those filters.

Chaos points out that accessing its server directly via http://213.73.89.123/ appears to work quite well, thereby rendering the censorship efforts useless.

CCC-spokesperson Dirk Engling said that he saw this as proof that censorship infrastructure – no matter for which reasons it was set up, and no matter which country you are in – will always be abused for political reasons