4G auction raises less than forecast

HTC One Smartphone

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom

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Telecoms regulator Ofcom has raised £2.34bn from its auction of 4G mobile spectrum, less than expected.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had forecast that the auction would raise £3.5bn for the Treasury.

The winning bidders are Everything Everywhere; Hutchison 3G UK; Niche Spectrum Ventures, a BT subsidiary; Telefonica (O2); and Vodafone.

4G mobile broadband should provide smartphone and tablet computer users with superfast download speeds.

The auction netted far less than the £22bn raised from the 3G auction in 2000.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, told the BBC that the figure was lower because “we are in very, very different times”, but he insisted that maximising the size of the auction was not the objective it was set by the government.

“What we were trying to do was ensure that a valuable economic resource was brought into productive commercial use,” he said.

The shortfall has important political implications, because Chancellor George Osborne included £3.5bn worth of 4G auction receipts in his Autumn Statement in December.

BBC political producer Andrew Fagg says this allowed Mr Osborne to play the “trump card” of predicting that the UK’s budget deficit would fall in 2012-13.

However, economists have now pointed out that without that full amount, borrowing would have been going up.

“The lower-than-expected windfall means that all bets must now be off on whether the deficit will in fact come down,” says our producer. “Next month’s Budget will reveal the answer.”

Responding to the announcement, a Treasury spokesperson said: “The £3.5bn number at Autumn Statement 2012 was certified by the independent OBR and based on external expert independent analysis based on similar auctions, including the last 3G one.

“The final auction revenue will be accounted for at Budget in the usual way.”

The OBR in its turn said it had described the £3.5bn “Government’s estimate” as “an area of particular uncertainty” in its December 2012 forecast.

But Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “This is yet another blow to George Osborne’s failing economic plan. It shows how foolish and short-termist the chancellor was to bank this cash in the Autumn Statement to make his borrowing figures look less bad.

“He couldn’t bring himself to admit that borrowing was up so far this year, but his trickery has now badly backfired.”

Even senior Tories took the opportunity to criticise Chancellor George Osborne’s figures.

John Redwood, MP, said: “The figure for the 4G auction was optimistic, just like most of the numbers in George Osborne’s strategy. This is a dent, but there are far bigger dents in the public finances.”

Radio frequencies

Ofcom says 4G will provide £20bn of benefits for UK consumers over the next 10 years.

But the culture secretary, Maria Miller, is even more bullish, saying: “Spectrum use is worth more than £50bn to the UK economy and 4G mobile broadband is a key part of our digital growth strategy, so I am delighted the auction has been completed.”

EE chief executive Olaf Swantee

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Everything Everywhere chief executive Olaf Swantee: ‘Auction pricing fair’

The regulator auctioned the spectrum in two bands, 800MHz and 2.6GHz, equivalent to two-thirds of the radio frequencies currently used by wireless devices, such as tablet computers, smartphones and laptops.

This “will allow 4G networks to achieve widespread coverage as well as offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres”, said Mr Richards.

“4G coverage will extend far beyond that of existing 3G services, covering 98% of the UK population indoors – and even more when outdoors – which is good news for parts of the country currently underserved by mobile broadband”, he said.

Vodafone bid £791m, the most of all the bidders, for five chunks of spectrum; EE, the T-Mobile and Orange joint venture formerly called Everything Everywhere, paid £589m for four chunks.

EE was the first to launch a 4G service in late 2012, but has struggled to attract users, leading it to run a cut-price special offer in January.

Its chief executive, Olaf Swantee, said: “One in four consumers and businesses are already buying this service when they are in a 4G area.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21516243#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Sony announces PlayStation 4 console

WatchDogsUbisoft’s WatchDogs was among the titles confirmed for the PlayStation 4

Sony has announced its next-generation gaming console – the PlayStation 4 – at an event in New York.

Its new hardware is designed to offer superior graphics as well as new social features including the sharing of recorded gameplay clips.

It will succeed the PlayStation 3, which went on sale in 2006 and has sold about 75 million units.

The PS4 will eventually compete against Microsoft’s still-to-be-unveiled Xbox 360 successor and Nintendo’s Wii U.

Sony also confirmed a range of big-name software for the machine including Bungie’s upcoming “shared-world shooter” Destiny, which will include exclusive content for the PS4. The developer’s previous title, Halo, helped drive sales for the rival Xbox platform.

A successful launch might spur on sales of Sony’s new televisions and other consumer electronics, helping turn around its fortunes.

Sony posted a 456.7bn yen loss ($4.9bn; £3.2bn) in its last financial year, marking the fourth year it ended in deficit.

But the firm has forecast a 20bn yen profit for the current financial year ending in March.

Sony said the console was “coming holiday 2013″ suggesting it will go on sale in at least some countries in or around December.

It did not give any indication of its price nor did it show what the console would look like.

DualShock4 controllerThe new controller features a touchpad and a light so its movement can be tracked by a camera

There was also no mention of whether the console would support 4K – or ultra-high definition – video. However, Sony told the BBC it would have more to say on this matter “at the appropriate moment”.

PC-based chip

Sony described the machine as being like a “supercharged” PC.

It runs off an x86-based CPU (central processing unit) – similar architecture to that found in most desktop computers – and an “enhanced” PC GPU (graphics processing unit). Both CPU and GPU are designed by the US firm Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

It comes with the new DualShock 4 controller, which includes a touchpad, a “share button” and a lightbar, which allows a separate camera to track its movement.

“This is a complete controller upgrade with touch, share and better responsiveness,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at the tech consultancy Gartner.

“The new controller is the key to a better PS4 experience. It has the ability to share content easily, and brings in a component of touch that allows even more ways to interact with games.”

The console also includes new hardware dedicated to video compression to make it a more social device.

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Learning from the PS3′s mistakes

The PlayStation 2 was the most popular console of its generation

It launched ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube and trounced them in sales. Between 2001 and 2006 its market share ranged between 59% and 86%, according to IHS Screen Digest.

But the PS3 had a rougher ride.

Its $599 (£393) launch price was criticised as being too high and it suffered as a consequence of launching about a year after the Xbox 360 in the US and Japan.

A shortage of supplies meant Sony had to postpone the European and Australian launch by a further four months to March 2007.

Initial sales were slower than expected causing the firm to release a revised, cheaper model, which featured fewer USB ports and ditched a chip that had allowed compatibility with PS2 games.

Pitched against the Wii and Xbox 360, the PS3 only achieved a 24% share of sales in 2007, according to IHS.

By 2012 it had increased that figure to 43%, but overall the Wii proved the most successful model of its generation.

Ken Kutaragi – the so-called father of the PlayStation – was moved from his role as the boss of Sony’s Computer Entertainment division shortly after the PS3′s troubled launched.

His replacement was Kazuo Hirai whose success at helping turn the PS3′s fortunes around saw him promoted to chief executive of Sony last year.

Users will be able to pause a game, select a few minutes of recorded video of their most recent activity, and instruct the clip to be uploaded to a social network.

This will then occur in the background while they can return to their game. The firm said it wanted to make sharing video clips as common as it is today to share screenshots.

Another new feature is that gamers can let one of their friends connect to their machine and take control of their character to help if they have got stuck, or allow several friends to watch their live progress as spectators. This facility uses technology from Gaikai – a cloud-based service Sony acquired last year for $380m.

Gaikai’s technology is also being used to allow PS4 games to be streamed and played via the PlayStation Vita handheld console, which may boost its sales.

Sony said it was also exploring the possibility of using its Gaikai unit to allow PlayStation 3 games to be played on the new machine as well as other devices.

However, at the moment PS3 games will not run on the new console.

“The decision to not make the PlayStation 4 backwards compatible is disappointing and means the 5.5 million plus people who own a PS3 in the UK will essentially have to start their gaming collection from scratch,” said Alex Simmons, UK editor-in-chief of the gaming site IGN.

“PlayStation 3 games – and indeed PSone and PS2 games – will be available to download at some point, but most likely at an additional cost, which might turn consumers off.”

Mark Cerny, lead system architect for the Sony PlayStation 4

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The PS4′s lead system architect outlines some of its new social features

‘More important’

Sony invited developers on stage to preview some of the PS4 games being worked on. They included Killzone Shadowfall – an addition to its bestselling Killzone science fiction first-person shooter series; the racing game Driveclub; superhero game Infamous: Second Son; and Diablo 3.

Developer Ubisoft also confirmed that its much-discussed title WatchDogs, which involves a hacker taking control of a smart city’s systems, is indeed being developed for the PS4.

Jim Ryan, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, told the BBC that his firm’s shift to an x86-based processor would make it easier for other developers to create games for the platform.

“One of the fundamental design principles was to make the PlayStation 4 considerably easier to develop for than some of its predecessor platforms,” he said.

DestinyPreviously unseen footage from Bungie’s big-budget title Destiny was shown at Sony’s event

“It is much more of a generic PC environment. It’s not a bespoke development environment as was very much the case with the PlayStation 3. So it’s something developers are aware of, are comfortable with and they don’t have to relearn the rules.”

Improved graphics

While the graphics shown during the demonstrations were more advanced that those in current games for Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony must also convince gamers to choose its platform over PC-based systems.

PCs will be capable of offering increasingly impressive visuals as the PS4 ages thanks to their ability to have their processors and other hardware upgraded.

US firm Valve, in particular, has been vocal about its ambition to bring PC-based gaming to living room TVs.

Even so, Stephen Totilo, editor of the gaming site Kotaku, was broadly impressed with what he had seen.

“The PS4 games we saw today don’t look that much better than the best beauties on the PS3 – until you look for the smaller details,” he said.

“It seems like you can see further into the distance in these games’ worlds. More sparks fly, more smoke swirls.

“This is nice, but it has the feeling of the spectacle of visuals alone is reaching a point of diminishing returns.

Quantic Dream demoDevelopers say they can create more realistic looking in-game characters, making it easier to convey emotions

“More impressive is how much more social the PS4 seems – to be able to capture video of what you play while you play and share that with people brings console gaming closer to the cutting edge of modern gaming on a PC. This system seems smarter and more connected – it doesn’t seem like a dinosaur.”

How much?

Sony did not announce how much it plans to charge – perhaps holding the news back for the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles in June or a later announcement.

The PlayStation 3 was initially sold at a loss, so if that practice is repeated with the new model its launch may initially put fresh strain on the firm’s finances.

Even so, one analyst suggested that Sony would be willing to take the pain to maximise early demand.

“Without the established user base and community of PS3 and PlayStation Network, Sony would be without a significant home entertainment foothold allowing it to connect many of its other consumer electronic devices, products and services,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at IHS Screen Digest.

“Sony’s next generation device is likely to take on more importance not less.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21526450#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Astronaut in Reddit chat from space

Chris HadfieldMr Hadfield will be the first Canadian to command the International Space Station

Canadian Chris Hadfield, who will assume command of the International Space Station (ISS) in March, took part in a web chat on Sunday – from space.

He appeared on social news site Reddit, typing on his laptop some 220 miles (354 km) above Earth during the site’s “ask me anything” (AMA) session.

Last year, US President Barack Obama also participated in an AMA chat.

To “beam” his answers down, Mr Hadfield logged on via a satellite relay to a server in Houston, Texas.

“The purpose of all of this is to connect with you and allow you to experience a bit more directly what life is like living aboard an orbiting research vessel,” wrote the astronaut.

The discussion drew more than 2,000 questions and comments.

The astronaut replied to queries ranging from describing the smell of space, saying that “airlock smells like ozone, or gunpowder”, to clarifying how astronauts shaved when bits of hair floated all around them: “just wipe it on a cloth every time”.

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I feel like an adapted ape swinging through the jungle canopy… until I miss a handrail and crash into the wall”

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Chris Hadfield

He said that he did not see the meteor that fell in Russia because the station was on the other side of the Earth, but added that small meteorites “burn up between ISS and the Earth every day.

“I watched a large meteorite burn up between me and Australia, and to think of that hypersonic dumb lump of rock randomly hurtling into us instead sent a shiver up my back,” he wrote.

He said that sometimes occupants of the ISS “hear pings as tiny rocks hit our spaceship, and also the creaks and snaps of expanding metal as we go in and out of sunlight. The solar panels are full of tiny holes from the micro-meteorites.”

‘Good moustache’

One of the questions was about weightlessness, and Mr Hadfield wrote: “Simply fly – to push off and glide magically to the other end of the station. It makes me smile to myself, every time.

“I’m still learning! But sometimes now, I am graceful. I feel like an adapted ape swinging through the jungle canopy… until I miss a handrail and crash into the wall.”

He also said that the launch – “all that power and acceleration” – was the biggest danger astronauts faced.

HadfieldChris Hadfield became the first Canadian to walk in space during his 2001 shuttle mission

“Once we survive that, it’s just a steady threat of radiation, meteorite impacts, and vehicle system failure like fire or ammonia breakthrough,” he posted.

Describing how the world looked from space, Mr Hadfield wrote: “It looks like a carpet of countless tiny perfect unblinking lights in endless velvet, with the Milky Way as a glowing area of paler texture.”

He said that Australia looked “coolest”, calling the colours and textures of the Outback “severely artistic”.

“The most beautiful to me are the Bahamas, the vast glowing reefs of every shade of blue that exists,” he added.

Finally, when a Redditor asked: “If you discover intelligent life, who should play you in the movie?” Mr Hadfield said: “Someone with a good moustache.”

Canadian commander

The current space mission is Chris Hadfield’s third trip into orbit. His first was 17 years ago when he flew on the space shuttle Atlantis to the Mir space station.

In March, Mr Hadfield will become the second-ever non-Russian and non-American to lead an ISS crew. A European Space Agency astronaut, the Belgian Frank De Winne, was in command of the station in 2009.

Mr Hadfield was the first Canadian to undertake a spacewalk; and he was the first and only Canadian to board the Russian Mir space station.

He was also the first Canadian to operate his country’s major contribution to the space shuttle – its robotic arm, or “Canadarm”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21497468#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Google ‘seeks to cut piracy funds’

Google employee at deskGoogle is under pressure to combat the spread of illegal websites

Google executives are in talks with Visa, Paypal and Mastercard to block illegal websites from receiving funding, the Telegraph has reported.

It might mean Google could avoid making more alterations to its search results to disadvantage illegal sites, the report said.

Google has in the past urged authorities to “follow the money” when it comes to stamping out piracy sites.

Similar blocking measures were put in place against the Wikileaks website.

The site, which published large amounts of classified documents, had its funding sources strangled by firms who were reportedly pressured by US authorities into taking action.

The move was controversial, with many calling for boycotts of the companies involved.

Choking business

Google would not comment directly on reports it was having discussions with payment companies, but it stressed it had stepped up its efforts on piracy in the past year.

“Google has never worked harder to tackle piracy online,” the company said in a statement.

“Last month alone we removed over 14 million links to pirated material.

“There are also huge and growing opportunities for content creators to make money online, which is why so many have signed up to Google Play and as YouTube partners.”

In a report published last year, Google – in partnership with PRS for Music – outlined ways to choke businesses making money from illegal activity.

The report analysed various funding models in use by sites offering music downloads, movie streaming and other unlicensed content.

Google’s concluded that it was important to tackle the piracy problem at source by targeted companies which advertise on piracy sites – as well as payment providers that enable the collection of subscription money.

However, Google has been forced to demote certain websites in its search rankings, amid criticism it was easier to find piracy sites over legitimate music stores.

Paypal has yet to respond to the reports, while Visa told the BBC it would not be making a comment.

In a statement, Mastercard said: “Mastercard takes online safety and security seriously.

“We work closely with our part­ners to ensure the best possible experience when using elec­tronic payments.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21505060#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

China military unit ‘behind hacking’

Twelve-storey building in Pudong, Shanghai

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The BBC’s John Sudworth was detained while filming the reported hub of the hacking operation

A secretive branch of China’s military is most likely one of the world’s “most prolific cyber espionage groups”, a US cyber security firm has said.

Mandiant said Unit 61398 was believed to have “systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data” from at least 141 organisations around the world.

It traced the attacks to the doorstep of a non-descript building in Shanghai used by the unit.

China denied hacking and questioned the validity of Mandiant’s report.

‘Extensive cyber espionage’

“Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

“Determining their origins are extremely difficult. We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.

“Arbitrary criticism based on rudimentary data is irresponsible, unprofessional and not helpful in resolving the issue.”


Mr Hong added that Beijing “firmly opposes hacking”, has taken steps to prevent it and is also a victim of cyber attacks.

In an indication of the military sensitivity around the Shanghai site, the BBC’s John Sudworth and his camera crew were briefly detained by soldiers when they went to film the facility. They were only released once they had handed over their footage.

In its unusually detailed report, US-based computer security company Mandiant said it had investigated hundreds of data breaches since 2004, most of which it attributed to what it termed “Advanced Persistent Threat” actors.

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The scale of the Chinese hacking alleged by the computer security firm Mandiant is striking. Until now the bulk of this hacking has been a digital version of old-fashioned industrial espionage – stealing designs and company secrets.

But there is a more sinister side to this activity as well. Chinese hackers are alleged to have a growing interest in gaining access to key parts of the US infrastructure – gas lines, power grids and waterworks. President Barack Obama himself warned during his recent State of the Union address that the nature of the cyber threat was changing.

Gaining access to critical systems is the key. Once inside the digital perimeter – especially if the intrusion is not identified, there is the possibility of causing real physical damage to the infrastructure that the computers control.

The details it had uncovered, it said, “convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them”.

The most prolific of these actors is APT1, which Mandiant says is “a single organisation of operators that has conducted a cyber espionage campaign against a broad range of victims since at least 2006″.

“From our observations, it is one of the most prolific cyber espionage groups in terms of the sheer quantity of information stolen,” it said, adding that it was “likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors”.

“We believe that APT1 is able to wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign in large part because it receives direct government support,” said Mandiant.

The firm said it had traced the hacking activities of APT1 to the site of 12-storey building in the Pudong area of Shanghai. It said that Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army “is also located in precisely the same area” and that the actors had similar “missions, capabilities and resources”.

Among the findings about APT1 in the report were that it:

  • is staffed by hundreds, possibly thousands, of proficient English speakers with advanced computer security and networking skills
  • has hacked into 141 companies across 20 industries, 87% based in English-speaking countries, and is able to steal from dozens of networks simultaneously
  • has stolen hundreds of terabytes of information including blueprints, business plans, pricing documents, user credentials, emails and contact lists
  • stayed inside hacked networks for an average of 356 days, with the longest lasting 1,764 days
  • targeted industries identified by China as strategically important under its Five Year Plan for economic growth


Unit 61398 has for some time been suspected by the US of being central to China’s cyber espionage programme, the New York Times reports.


Mandiant admitted there could be one alternative explanation for its findings: that “a secret, resourced organisation full of mainland Chinese speakers with direct access to Shanghai-based telecommunications infrastructure is engaged in a multi-year, enterprise scale computer espionage campaign right outside of Unit 61398′s gates, performing tasks similar to Unit 61398′s known mission”.

Several governments, foreign companies and organisations have said in the past they suspect China of carrying out extensive cyber espionage over periods of several years.

Last month, the New York Times said its systems had been infiltrated over a period of four months, after it wrote a report on the alleged wealth of China’s outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao.

Mandiant, which the paper hired to investigate, traced the hack to China. However, the paper said its breach had been attributed to a different group. The Wall Street Journal also reported a China-based hack.

At the time, China’s foreign ministry dismissed the New York Times accusations as “groundless”, saying that to “conclude without hard evidence that China participated in such hacking attacks is totally irresponsible”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-21502088#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Google sues BT in patent battle

BT TowerGoogle has accused BT of aiding “patent trolls” in legal cases

Google is suing BT, claiming the British telecoms group has infringed a number of its technologies.

The search giant has launched a series of legal actions against the London-based firm in California, claiming four of its patents have been violated, and has also filed a separate case in the UK.

BT had been expecting such action after it launched its own case against Google in 2011.

That dispute has yet to be resolved.

“We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits,” said a spokeswoman for Google.

“But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers – and they’ve also been arming patent trolls.”

The term “patent troll” describes firms that acquire patents so that they can later extract settlements from companies on infringement claims.

In 2012, New Jersey-based intellectual property owner Suffolk Technologies sued Google and US internet service provider AOL over two patents it had acquired from BT.

In addition, Steelhead Licensing – another firm which owns patents but does not produce products of its own – has filed a case against 14 handset makers and mobile networks, including Google’s Motorola unit, claiming infringement of a wireless technology which used to be owned by BT.

A spokesman for the British firm said it did not comment on pending litigation.

Google first

Google has struck back with claims that BT has infringed a method to allow PCs to use an internet-based telephone system based on a patent originally filed by Fujitsu.

And it says BT failed to license a system used to let computer servers prioritise data – an IBM invention now owned by the search firm.

Patent consultant Florian Mueller said this was the first clear case of Google suing another company over its patents.

Previous cases involving Motorola were filed ahead of Google buying the Razr handset maker.

BT and Google are next set to meet in court in Delaware in July for a mediation hearing about the 2011 case.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21458094#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Facebook search limited for teens

Facebook under a magnifying glassFacebook says account activity by teenagers which could identify their location will be invisible to adults

The Facebook activity of users aged between 13 and 17 would have limited visibility in the network’s new “social graph” search facility, the firm said.

Posts which could identify the teens’ age or location should only appear in searches by friends and “friends of friends” in the same age group.

If an adult were to search for “single females aged 17″, for example, no results would appear, it explained.

Facebook said it was strict about its rules regarding age.

If it had cause for concern about the age of any user – whether it thought they might be older or younger than claimed – it said it would suspend the suspect account and only reactivate it after seeing official government identification.

It added that anyone aged under-17 could not share any of their posts publicly, and all location services were switched off by default, although they could be activated if the young person chose.

Search test

Facebook launched a test version of its search feature in January and it is currently limited to select users who have set English (US) as their language.

The move has raised privacy concerns. One blog has gained fame for showing how the tool can be used to carry out potentially embarrassing searches, such as “current employees of Tesco who like horses”.

At the search facility’s launch event the social network said it would take steps to protect its youngest users. The new restrictions – announced in a blog post – aim to fulfil this promise.

In a social graph test carried out on the BBC’s behalf, an adult searched for a specific school. The results only brought up accounts which appeared to belong to adults who had once attended, and over-17s who were still pupils.

Mark Little, principal analyst at research firm Ovum, told the BBC at the time that he was “underwhelmed” by the search facility but could see commercial potential in it.

“I think it’s going to help drive connections within the network between individuals and between companies and pages,” he said.

“If you are increasing connections between friends and pages you are effectively increasing the reach of advertisers.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21472219#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Valve opens Linux video game store

Half-Life screenshotThe original Half Life game has been converted to run on Linux

Software firm Valve has launched a Linux version of its Steam game store.

The games made available via the online Steam store are playable on the Ubuntu version of the Linux open-source operating system.

Through the store, Ubuntu users can get at almost 60 games including popular titles such as CounterStrike and Team Fortress 2.

The launch comes as Valve lays off about 10% of its staff including some who were working on hardware projects.

Open-source software gives users access to all its underlying programming code and stands in contrast to closed or proprietary software which locks such information away,

No discussion

Players can get access to the Steam store using an add-on application available via the Ubuntu software centre.

As well as games made by Valve, the Linux version of Steam also sells titles made by other companies.

They include Amnesia, FTL, Serious Sam 3 and World of Goo.

As it opened the Linux store, Valve also cut the prices of the PC and Mac versions of games available to Ubuntu users by up to 75%. The sale will run until 21 February.

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We’re not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn’t working here”

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Valve boss Gabe Newell

David Pitkin, who works for Ubuntu developer Canonical, said he now expected “a growing number of game developers to include Ubuntu among their target platforms”.

Currently, few game makers produce a version that can run on Linux or other open-source operating systems.

While almost 60 titles are available on Steam, the store sells more than 2,000 games that run on Windows.

The launch is important for Valve because Linux is expected to be the operating system for the console it is developing to allow Steam games to be played on TVs.

As the curtain was being lifted on the Linux store, Valve sacked about 30 members of staff including high-profile developer Jeri Ellsworth who was reportedly working on the hardware behind the company’s console.

Valve boss Gabe Newell took the unusual step of issuing a statement about the lay-offs to curb speculation about what they would mean for the company’s many projects.

He said the sackings did not mean it was cancelling any projects or changing its priorities.

“We’re not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn’t working here,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21471974#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Chubby Checker sues over penis app

Chubby CheckerChubby Checker celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Twist in 2010

Rock’n'roll singer Chubby Checker is suing HP over an app that used his name as a euphemism for penis size.

The Chubby Checker app – which appeared on websites for Palm OS devices – claimed to guess the intimate measurement based on shoe size.

Lawyers acting for the singer are seeking $500m (£323m) in compensation, saying the app has done “irreparable damage” to his reputation.

HP said it removed the app as soon as it received a complaint from lawyers.

Lawyers for the 71-year-old singer – real name Ernest Evans – filed a “cease and desist” order against HP and its subsidiary Palm in September 2012, soon after the app became available.

Now they have launched a trademark infringement case against the two tech firms.

Chart topper

“He’s hurt,” his lawyer Willie Gary told Associated Press.

“He worked hard to build his name and reputation over the years.

“We cannot sit idly and watch as technology giants, or anyone else, exploits the name or likeness of an innocent person with the goal of making millions of dollars.”

The app had used his client’s name and trademark without permission, said Mr Gary,

In a statement, an HP spokesman said: “The application was removed in September 2012 and is no longer on any Palm or HP-hosted website.”

The German firm behind the offending program, Magic Apps, is no longer selling the software.

It is not clear how many copies it sold before HP and Palm but WebOSNation, which monitors the use of Palm smartphones, estimates it was downloaded only 84 times before it was pulled.

Chubby Checker is best known for his song The Twist which topped the US singles chart in both 1960 and 1962.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21471967#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Blue Peter honours Apple’s Jony Ive

Blue Peter Presenter Barney Harwood and Sir Jonathan Ive

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Watch presenter Barney Harwood present Sir Jonathan with the gold badge

The BBC’s Blue Peter programme has honoured Apple’s design chief Sir Jonathan Ive with its highest accolade – the gold Blue Peter badge.

The British executive helped create the iMac and iPhone and, in October, took responsibility for the look and feel of the firm’s software user interfaces.

Blue Peter said he was an “inspiration to children around the world”.

He will appear in a gadget-themed special broadcast on Saturday, offering advice to the viewers.

In the pre-filmed segment he reviewed designs sent in by children and recalled how he had enjoyed watching one of Blue Peter’s past presenters reuse a detergent bottle to create a paintbrush holder.

“I loved the way there was just products that you thought were no longer useful, but reusing them,” he said. “It was fantastic.”

Blue Peter has only presented about 1,000 gold badges in its history,

Other recipients include footballer David Beckham and author JK Rowling.

Sir Jonathan, known as Jony, described the news as “absolutely incredible”.

He also presented the show with his own version of the Blue Peter badge made out of solid aluminium, manufactured by Apple’s equipment, using the programme’s catchphrase: “Here’s one that we made earlier”.

The award adds to a series of honours.

In May, Sir Jonathan was knighted at Buckingham Palace for his services to design and enterprise.

In September, he brought his entire design team to London to celebrate winning the best brand and design studio of the previous 50 years prize at the Design and Art Direction (DAD) awards.

App redesign?

October’s management shake-up at Apple means a lot is now riding on his shoulders.

After the firm’s previous iOS software chief was ousted, it was announced Sir Jonathan would provide “leadership and direction for human interface across the company” in addition to being its industrial design boss.

There had been criticism that the firm’s iOS operating system – which powers its iPhones and iPads – was in need of an overhaul to help it fend off competition from Google’s Android and other rivals.

According to new figures from research firm IDC, 159.8 million Android-powered smartphones were shipped worldwide between October and December 2012, marking an 88% year-on-year gain.

By contrast, IDC suggests that 47.8 million iPhone were shipped over the same period – an annual gain of 29.2%.

In its analysis of the data, the consultancy said “what stands out is how iOS’s year-over-year growth has slowed compared to the overall market”.

It has been widely speculated that Sir Jonathan might now shift the Apple’s software away from its reliance on “skeuomorphic” textures and effects – in other words stop trying to make its apps look like their real-world equivalents.

This might see an end, for instance, to it showing stitched leather borders and torn paper in its Calendar app and lined yellow legal paper in its Notes product.

Sir Jonathan’s hardware designs have been praised for having a more minimalist approach.

However, it is unclear whether he will have had enough time in his new post to make such changes to Apple’s next iOS and Mac OS X system revisions which are expected later this year.

Blue Peter’s gadget special will be broadcast in the UK on the CBBC channel at 10:00 GMT on Saturday 16 February.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21470637#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa