posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Free Press Wireless carriers like to say that monthly data caps are necessary to prevent heavy users from slowing down less active ones. After surveying the four biggest carriers this year, the US Government Accountability Office reported that “some wireless ISPs told us they use UBP [usage-based pricing, i.e. data caps] to manage congestion.” Verizon Wireless has insisted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that data caps are so effective at reducing congestion that they eliminate the need to throttle most customers. I won't argue that data caps have no positive impact on wireless networks—they can prevent the most egregious overuse of what is a limited resource. But it's a crude tool at best, targeting monthly averages with no regard for whether the network is congested at a particular time or place. Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Conal O'Rourke remains frustrated after his year-long battle with Comcast, which allegedly led to his termination. Cyrus Farivar OAKLAND, CA—Speaking over lunch last Friday, a Northern California man named Conal O'Rourke laid out what admittedly sounds like a crazy story: a year-long billing dispute over his home Comcast service that ultimately resulted in Comcast getting O'Rourke fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in nearby San Jose earlier this year. But O’Rourke arrived to last week’s lunch meeting with Ars with an astonishing amount of documentation: he has pages and pages of Comcast invoices. He has a spreadsheet, photos, notes, business cards, and complaint letters. He and his lawyer, Maureen Pettibone Ryan, happily provided digital copies of these materials to Ars, which we have re-published with his permission here. As a result of his firing, O’Rourke has hired a local attorney and is now threatening to file a lawsuit against Comcast if the company does not agree to his demands, which include "a full retraction and apology, his re-employment with his former employer, and $100,312.50" by October 14. Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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DC Comics The high-profile "copyright termination" dispute over Superman—arguably the most famous comic character of all time—is finally over. DC Comics defeated the heirs of artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel. Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined (PDF) to hear the petition filed by the heirs' lawyers. That leaves standing a ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and the heirs won't be allowed to wrest the copyright away. The litigants in the case included Shuster's sister, Jean Peavy, as well as Siegel's daughter Laura Siegel Larson. They lost their case in Los Angeles federal court in 2012, and lost again on appeal. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Weeks after Facebook deactivated "several hundred" accounts belonging to drag queens and other LGBTQ users, the company has faced continued scrutiny over the reason for those delistings: the site's real name policy, which requires users to identify themselves on the site by using a name on a driver's license or credit card. Last week, the company's course-reversal and lengthy apology over the matter hinted at bigger changes to come, and a report on Tuesday pointed to that change coming in the form of an entirely new app. According to sources close to The New York Times, Facebook has been developing a "stand-alone mobile application" for "the past year" that doesn't require logging in or interacting with a real name. Those sources claimed the app would launch "in the coming weeks," and its development has been led by a team that joined Facebook in January after the company acquired Branch, whose apps and software revolved around community and conversation services. The Times' report was unable to clarify how the app would connect to Facebook's services, going so far as to imply that it may not be part of Facebook's content ecosystem at all (though it's hard to imagine Facebook launching an entirely new, anonymous social network that mimics the likes of 4chan). The report's sources hinted that the app may connect specifically to health-community offerings, as well. Ultimately, any such product would have to balance the positives of Facebook's real-name policies, particularly cutting down on anonymous spam and abuse, while still somehow allowing users to engage in "topics of discussion which they may not be comfortable connecting to their real names." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Brian Bilek Infotainment systems are often marketed as being distinctly safer to use than picking up a cellphone while you're driving. But two studies released on Tuesday have shown that's just not the case. A handful of in-vehicle systems, as well as Apple's Siri, were tested for cognitive distraction, and the majority of systems were found to be incredibly distracting—more so than having a conversation on a handheld phone. In one of the studies (PDF), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah rated six infotainment systems from Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Toyota, Mercedes, and Hyundai (using the MyFordTouch, MyLink, Uconnect, Entune, COMAND, and Blue Link systems, respectively). Five of the cars were 2013 models, and one was a 2012 model. Study participants drove six different cars on a seven- to nine-minute loop throughout a residential area in Salt Lake City. Participants were allowed to complete a test loop to familiarize themselves with the area, and they were given time to practice using each car's infotainment system while parked until they were ready to begin the test. The participants were periodically instructed to “dial a 10-digit number, call a contact, change the radio station, or play a CD,” according to the paper. “All interactions took place using 'hands-free' voice systems which were activated with the touch of a button on the steering wheel.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Criminals are installing fairly sophisticated malicious programs on banks' ATMs, allowing them to control access to the machines and easily steal cash, security firms Kaspersky and Interpol said in a joint statement released on Tuesday. The malware, which Kaspersky dubbed 'Tyupkin,' allows low-level thieves, known as money mules, access to the machines at certain times of day using an intermittently changing code, similar to the six-digit electronic tokens used for security in the financial industry. More than 50 ATMs in Eastern Europe and Russia were found to have been infected with the malware to date, leading to the theft of currency equivalent to millions of dollars, according to the statement. The attack shows that criminals are improving their tactics and appear to be able to gain enough access to ATMs to install code, Vicente Diaz, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Rosaura Ochoa Twitter sued the Justice Department on Tuesday, saying the agency's virtual ban of detailing the scope of US surveillance on the microblogging site is an unconstitutional "prior restraint" of speech protected by the First Amendment. The San Francisco-based company's federal lawsuit concerns the broad limits the government has placed on Twitter over how it may characterize national security surveillance of Twitter's users—like National Security Letters and FISA court orders. The same is true for other companies, too. Twitter attorney Eric Miller wrote: [PDF] Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth profiler) is lowered into the water. This is the standard tool for oceanographers making measurements from a ship. Andrew Meijers/BAS Of the energy added to the climate system by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, more than 90 percent has gone into the ocean. The monitoring of ocean temperatures has improved drastically over the last decade with the deployment of a vast fleet of Argo floats that drift around being our eyes and thermometers. Even so, they don’t yet cover depths greater than 2,000 meters, and their presence today doesn’t make up for their absence in decades past. Fortunately, time travel with gadgets from the future isn’t the only way to improve our knowledge of what’s gone on in the deeps. Ocean warming also manifests itself in another way—as rising sea level. Seawater expands ever so slightly with increasing temperature. And given how absolutely massive the world ocean is, “ever so slightly” adds up. In fact, thermal expansion and melting ice have made roughly equal contributions to sea level rise so far. Going deep There’s been a lot of interest in recent years in quantifying the warming of the deep ocean, but not much is currently known about what's going on below 2,000 meters. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change, a group led by William Llovel at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory combines sea level rise measurements with Argo data to look for the effect of warming in the deeps. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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GT's stock rode high on the iPhone rumors for months, but it dropped when the new iPhones launched without sapphire and fell down a hole when it announced the bankruptcy filing. GT Advanced Technologies, the company Apple currently relies on for sapphire in its iOS devices, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday. The filing came just a few weeks after Apple announced its new iPhones on September 10—both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were widely expected to use sapphire instead of glass to protect their screens from scratches. This didn't happen, though, and it sent GT's stock price sliding downward even before yesterday's bankruptcy filing pushed it off a cliff. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that GT CEO Thomas Gutierrez has sold over $10 million in stock since February of 2014, including 9,000 shares worth about $160,000 on September 8. This was two days before the iPhone announcement. The stock closed at $17.15 on the 8th, but had fallen to $12.78 on the 10th following Apple's event. A GT filing says that the stock sale was merely coincidental, and that the stocks were being sold according to a schedule set in March of 2014. The WSJ reports "no obvious pattern to his sales." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Owners of Belkin routers around the world are finding themselves unable to get online today. Outages appear to be affecting many different models of Belkin router, and they're hitting customers on any ISP, with Time Warner Cable and Comcast among those affected. ISPs, inundated with support calls by unhappy users, are directing complaints to Belkin's support line, which appears to have gone into meltdown in response. The reason for the massive outages is currently unknown. Initial speculation was that Belkin pushed a buggy firmware update overnight, but on a reddit thread about the problem, even users who claim to have disabled automatic updates have found their Internet connectivity disrupted. Others suggest that there is some kind of DNS problem at work. Although the routers are correctly picking up their DNS settings from DHCP, they're apparently unable to resolve domain names correctly. Connecting to the Internet using IP addresses alone does, in fact, appear to work, but with most of us dependent on DNS, this is of little value. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Samsung Electronics issued guidance today for its upcoming Q3 2014 earnings, and it isn't pretty. The company says it expects an operating profit of 4.1 trillion won ($3.8 billion) for the quarter, a 60 percent drop over the same quarter last year, when it made 10.2 trillion won. Overall sales are down, too. Samsung expects to sell 47 trillion won ($44 billion) worth of product, which is down 20 percent from the 59.10 trillion won it brought in the door this time last year. Over 50 percent of Samsung Electronics' sales last year were from the smartphone and IT division. This year it's probably even higher. Samsung Sustainability Report, 2014 Of course, last year Samsung was regularly turning in record quarters, and that couldn't last forever. While Samsung Electronics makes everything from TVs to refrigerators, the "Mobile and IT" division (read: smartphones) has become over 50 percent of the company's sales. Samsung was the first Android OEM with large enough sales, distribution, and branding to become a rival to Apple, and it rode that combination to record profits. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Android Hangouts app, seen here translating an MMS message from a Sprint account. On Monday, Google announced that its free Google Voice service received a long-awaited service upgrade in the form of Multimedia Message Service (MMS) support across nearly every major cellular carrier in North America. Senior software engineer Alex Wiesen took to his personal Google Plus page to post a statement on Google's behalf, declaring that the company worked with "nearly 100 different North American carriers," including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, to ensure that MMS texts received on Google Voice would display correctly starting this week. Up until this week, Google Voice users didn't see MMS messages as intended; instead, they arrived as SMS messages. Depending on the carrier, they'd either come with a link to the originally attached image or no indication that an image was ever attached. Now, while outbound Google Voice MMS attachments still appear on most carriers as a link, inbound MMS messages render images natively within Google Voice. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Nobel Prize Committee Each year, roughly a quarter of the electricity we generate goes to lighting. For decades, that lighting came in the form of an incandescent light bulb, which produced 16 lumens for every Watt it was fed. Fluorescent bulbs are roughly five times as efficient, but recent LEDs do nearly 19 times better than incandescents, producing 300 lumens for each Watt. The first LEDs date back to 1907, but it's only recently that their incredible efficiency has been brought to bear on the lighting market. One of the key holdups was our inability to generate a broad spectrum of colors. Specifically, we couldn't make white light because we lacked the ability to produce blue LEDs. Now, the Nobel Prize in Physics is being given to three materials scientists who overcame this roadblock. The people receiving the honor are Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, both faculty at Nagoya University in Japan, and Shuji Nakamura, now of UC Santa Barbara, who did much of his key work while at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Japan. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Adobe even logs what you read in Digital Editions' instruction manual. Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader—an application used by thousands of libraries to give patrons access to electronic lending libraries—actively logs and reports every document readers add to their local “library” along with what users do with those files. Even worse, the logs are transmitted over the Internet in the clear, allowing anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders. Ars has independently verified the logging of e-reader activity with the use of a packet capture tool. The exposure of data was first discovered by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who reported the issue to Adobe but received no reply. Ars has also reached out to Adobe for comment with no response. Digital Editions (DE) has been used by many public libraries as a recommended application for patrons wanting to borrow electronic books, because it can enforce digital rights management rules on how long a book may be read for. But DE also reports back data on e-books that have been purchased or self-published. Those logs are transmitted over an unencrypted HTTP connection back to a server at Adobe—a server with the Domain Name Service hostname “adelogs.adobe.com”—as an unencrypted XML file. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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When Google+ head Vic Gundotra abruptly left Google earlier this year, it quickly led to rumors that Google would be scaling back its ambitions for the social network and cutting the division's resources. In an interview with Re/code today, new head of social media Dave Besbris said that the Google+ team is still going strong, and the service won't be going anywhere anytime soon. “We’re the largest we’ve ever been,” Besbris told Re/code. "We’re actually very happy with the progress of Google+, [Larry Page] said this at the time that Vic transitioned that he’s going to continue working on building this stuff, that he’s very happy with it. The company is behind it." The full interview is worth a read—while Besbris didn't give surprising answers to any of the questions asked, he did talk about Google+'s ad policy and the challenges of battling peoples' "pre-conceived notions" about the social network. He also attempted to reassure those who feel they have been forced into signing up for Google+ just because they want to use another Google service. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Davide Restivo The US government may hack into servers outside the country without a warrant, the Justice Department said in a new legal filling in the ongoing prosecution of Ross Ulbricht. The government believes that Ulbricht is the operator of the Silk Road illicit drug website. Monday's filing in New York federal court centers on the legal brouhaha of how the government found the Silk Road servers in Iceland. Ulbricht said last week that the government's position—that a leaky CAPTCHA on the site's login led them to the IP address—was "implausible" and that the government (perhaps the National Security Agency) may have unlawfully hacked into the site to discover its whereabouts. Assistant US Attorney Serrin Turner countered (PDF). Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California. D. Ramey Logan Timothy Lance Lai, a Southern California tutor accused of orchestrating a group of Corona del Mar High School students to install keyloggers on their teachers’ computers, has finally been arrested after more than eight months of being on the lam. Lai's keylogging ring aimed to alter student grades at the school, but he is now being held at the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County. Lai was arrested late Monday after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, and he was promptly charged with one felony count of second degree commercial burglary and four felony counts of computer access and fraud, according to the Newport Beach Police Department. The police also noted that if Lai is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years and eight months in jail. Previously, Lai was wanted as a person of interest by local police but had not been formally charged with a crime. There also wasn't a warrant for his arrest. The police did execute a search on Lai's home in December 2013, seizing a number of items, including hard drives, flash drives, and school materials. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The above controller/adapter bundle will set you back nearly $100 when Smash Bros. finally hits the Wii U on Nov. 21. Nintendo certainly took its sweet time to announce the release date for the last undated major console release of the year, but our long wait is finally over. The game officially known as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will be coming to North America on November 21, just in time for the holiday sales rush to start on Black Friday, November 27. Europe will be getting the game on December 5, followed by Australia and Japan on December 6. For the record, only four of the 58 Nintendo-published games on the Wii or Wii U had their release dates announced less than 46 days before their eventual release (there are currently 45 days until November 21), meaning Nintendo waited almost as long as possible to confirm the release date. On its release, Smash fans will have waited 1,263 days since Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was first publicly announced on June 7, 2011, by far the largest such gap in Nintendo history. The release date announcement follows the release of the 3DS version of the game over the weekend in Europe and North America, and that first portable Smash is already a huge success. Nintendo announced sales of more than 2.8 million copies worldwide. To put that number in context, Nintendo had sold just over three million Wii U hardware units in the Americas as of June 30, and best-seller Mario Kart 8 hit two million worldwide sales on the Wii U after about a month on sale. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope NASA As we've recently discussed at length, dark matter is likely to be a WIMP: a weakly interacting massive particle. Weakly interacting doesn't mean no interactions, though, and there's always the chance that dark matter particles will collide with something else. Since dark matter is also the most common matter in the Universe, there's a good chance that the "something else" will be another dark matter particle. And if the collision results in the destruction of dark matter particles, it should produce a spray of things we can see, like energetic particles and photons. On its own, these collisions will be too rare to detect. But summed over large regions of the sky, we might be able to detect the collective output of many collisions. This has led to a number of astronomical dark matter searches, some of which have claimed to observe puzzling excesses of high-energy photons. Yet for each one of these results, there have been other researchers who have suggested that the champagne bottles reserved for the discovery must be quietly put back to chill longer. Why so many on-again, off-again discoveries? A review published in PNAS explains why looking at high-energy photons has been so difficult, and it describes what our prospects are for making one of these discoveries stick. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A single week of Soylent contains seven meal pouches and seven oil containers. Total weight is just about 10 lbs (4.5 kg). Lee Hutchinson Soylent, the slushy slightly sweet meal supplement/replacement from California engineer Rob Rhinehart and his company Rosa Labs, has by most accounts been a smashing success story. We tried it and liked it a year ago. While we wrote more about why folks might (or might not) want to drink it once it hit its official release, the Rosa Labs development team has continued work even as shipments of the powder leave the factory by the truckload. In an update e-mail yesterday morning, Rosa Labs announced two major milestones: first, that shipments have (finally) been completed to everyone who backed the Soylent crowdfunding project prior to its closure, and secondly, that Soylent is getting its first major update to version 1.1. It seems a little weird that food (or "food") has a version number, but Rhinehart always intended Soylent to be a product that changed over time based on feedback and market forces. In a quick post on the official Soylent blog, Rhinehart explains that the bump to 1.1 brings with it a decrease in the product’s sucralose level, dialing down the release version’s vague sweetness to a more truly neutral taste. The logic here, explains the post, is that it’s easier to add sweetness than to take it away, and many Soylent 1.0 users have expressed a desire to flavor the product with add-ons (peanut butter is a popular one, as is blended fruit). The second change deals with my biggest issue with Soylent—what can be politely termed as "a bit of gas." Regular Soylent use eliminates the gas, but using Soylent as an occasional substitute for a missed meal—which is my preferred usage of the stuff—can introduce some thunderous gut activity (which I referred to in my original Soylent review as "horse-killing farts"). Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Fans of driving games can generally be split into three overlapping groups. There are those who want the most accurate simulation possible, driving virtual cars that feel exactly like the real thing. There are those that want "arcade"-style accessibility, with crazy speeds and crazier turns that don't require perfect technique. Then there are those time trial fiends that just want to dominate the game with the absolute fastest races possible. DriveClub makes a few nods to those first two groups, but it seems designed to appeal mainly to the third group of time trial fans. If you enjoy challenging friends and strangers to overcome your best driving performance while answering the gauntlet from others, you'll quickly fall in love with DriveClub's deeply integrated system of online challenges. If repeating the same track for an hour to earn a place on the leaderboards doesn't sound too appealing, this probably isn't the game for you. As the name implies, getting the most out of DriveClub involves joining together with fellow players in your own "club" of up to six people. Club members don't actively race together in real time, but they do compete for the common good, representing their club in online challenges. For this reason, it's generally better to be able to form a club with other people you know in real life, but you can jump in to a club with strangers if you want. Any player can set up an online challenge, on behalf of an individual or club, using an automatically saved recording of a previous race as the basis for the "time to beat." (There are also trials to measure who can perform the best drifts, which is surprisingly fun.) Once a challenge is set, other entrants can dive in and try to beat that time before the challenge expires. If an entrant at least shows up in the Top 7 they will receive some credit for the challenge. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Hey! You there! You've got it pretty good, you know that? While you're sitting there using your Internet-enabled device to read about some other Internet-enabled device, it's easy to forget that the majority of people doesn't have any access to the Internet at all. The "World Wide" Web is actually not that worldwide—only about one-third of the population is online. That's 4.8 billion people out there with no way to get to the Internet. Bridging this digital divide will be one of the tech industry's biggest challenges—and growth opportunities—over the coming years. As all-encompassing as the Internet feels now, the user base has the potential to triple in size. So as of late, we've started to see Internet companies take an interest in getting more of the disconnected world online. Facebook launched Internet.org, and Google has a ton of projects that aim to provide Internet by fiber, balloon, and drone for example. But these initiatives are all focused on merely bringing Internet access, not addressing the actual hardware necessary to display the Internet. Enter the Intex Cloud FX, a $35 (Rs 1,999) smartphone from India aimed precisely at this issue. The Cloud FX runs Firefox OS, Mozilla's home-grown OS. Firefox OS is entirely Web-powered, and, therefore, Gecko, Firefox's layout engine, runs just about everything on the device. Apps are built entirely from Web technologies. Think "Chrome OS"—but from Mozilla and on a smartphone. Read 49 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were rumored to have sapphire-coated screens right up until the announcement, but it didn't come to pass. Megan Geuss Back in late 2013, Apple signed a deal with a company named GT Advanced Technologies to build a sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona. Apple would build the facility, and GT would manufacture sapphire for use in Apple's devices. Sapphire is even harder and more scratch-resistant than the Corning Gorilla Glass used in many smartphones and tablets today, and the deal gave rise to rumors that Apple would be using sapphire to protect the screens of its new iPhones. Those rumors were repeated many times in subsequent months, though others indicated that it wasn't a sure thing. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus ended up launching with glass screens after all. Apple still uses sapphire to protect a few important surfaces on iPhones—the camera lenses and TouchID buttons, specifically—but those components are much smaller and therefore less lucrative for their manufacturer. GT Advanced Technologies' stock took a dive in the days following the announcement, and the Wall Street Journal now reports that the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Under Chapter 11, companies generally continue to operate as they attempt to reorganize their operations, and GT CEO Tom Gutierrez emphasized that the company wouldn't be shutting down. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ivan David Gomez Arce James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, says Chinese hackers are daily targeting US companies' intellectual property. "I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They're kickin' in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they're walking out with your television set," Comey said Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes. "They're just prolific. Their strategy seems to be: `We'll just be everywhere all the time. And there's no way they can stop us."' 60 Minutes Comey's remarks on the news magazine comes two weeks after a Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that China's military broke into Pentagon contractors' computer networks at least 50 times—hacks that threaten "to erode US military technical superiority." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A breakup years in the making, and possibly at least three years too late. Hewlett-Packard Development Company L.P. Three years ago, almost to the day, as Meg Whitman was taking over as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, I offered her some unsolicited advice on what to do to save the company. Now it looks like she’s taken that advice, albeit a bit too late for the thousands of employees that will now be released into the wild to do something else with their lives. Was this trip really necessary? As we’ve reported, HP’s executive team has decided to split the company in two, setting the PC unit free—bundled with HP’s money-printing printer unit. That’s essentially the advice I gave in October 2011, when Whitman was trying to decide what to do with the wreckage left by her predecessor, Léo Apotheker. Apotheker had blown billions on the acquisition of the “big data” software company Autonomy, only to announce that HP would spin off or sell the personal computer business because “continuing to execute in this market is no longer in the interest of HP and its shareholders.” Since then, Whitman has been through several revisions of a new strategic vision to turn the company around. Instead of following through on Apotheker’s urge to get out of the consumer hardware business and become more like IBM—a business model that now even IBM is having a hard time with—Whitman pulled back from throwing away the PC business. She began a long process of trying to figure out what HP wanted to be when it grew up. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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