FTC publishes list of questions to ask “patent trolls”

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The FTC has voted 4-0 to start an investigation of so-called “patent trolls.” The first step is to solicit public comment on a long series of questions that the agency plans to submit to about 25 of the most controversial patent-holding companies, which the FTC calls “patent assertion entities.”

“We want to use our 6(b) authority to expand the empirical picture on the costs and benefits of PAE activity,” Ramirez said today. “What we learn will support informed policy decisions.”

There have been numerous academic studies of patent trolls, but the FTC will be able to use subpoena powers to learn far more about the business than any of these studies. The commission will be able to learn about trolls’ corporate structures, how much they make, and where the money is really going. The data it collects about individuals trolling organizations will not be made public, but the FTC will likely publish aggregate information. The agency could even file antitrust lawsuits if it believes patent trolls are hampering competition.


Samsung: Note 3 Reginal Lock Applies Only For Device Activation

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Reports that Samsung has crippled its new Galaxy Note 3 by adding region-locking, making buyers of unlocked units attempting to use it in geographies outside of the area in which it was purchased subject to exorbitant roaming fees, are not entirely accurate.

A statement from Samsung clears the issue. The notes refer to being able to bring your unlocked device into other regions, but rather that the initial activation must occur in a particular region. This means that unlocked Galaxy Note 3 devices intended for the European market devices can be activated only with a SIM card from that region. After initial activation and commissioning, everything is as usual, you can use a SIM card from any region.

AllAboutSamsung.de asked Samsung for comment on the matter. Here are the essential points from Samsung’s official statement (original in German):

Samsung does lock some devices based on the region where they were purchased from. These devices are, besides the Note 3: Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S4 Mini.
The region lock only affects units manufactured after the end of July 2013, that ship with the warning sticker on the box. Devices that have already been delivered, like those sitting in warehouses or in stores are not region locked.
If a user takes a new phone that hasn’t been yet activated to a country outside the home region, the user can unlock the phone at a local Samsung service partner for free.


$199, 4.2” computer is Intel’s first Raspberry Pi competitor

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

With the Raspberry Pi, Arduino Due, and BeagleBone, the world is full of cheap, tiny computers that can be used by creative developers in everything from robots to space flight.

One thing these platforms have in common is an ARM processor. Now they have some competition from Intel with its “MinnowBoard,” a $199 computer in the form of a 4.2″ x 4.2″ board with an Intel Atom processor.

The first 500 MinnowBoards rolled off the production line a few months ago and sold out within a week, Senior Embedded Systems Engineer David Anders of CircuitCo told Ars at the LinuxCon conference on Tuesday. CircuitCo, also the maker of the BeagleBoard and BeagleBone computers, made the MinnowBoard after being approached by Intel, which wanted to build an x86-based open hardware platform. A new MinnowBoard production run of 5,000 boards began this week.

Those numbers won’t threaten the Raspberry Pi’s million-plus-selling business, and the MinnowBoard at its initial price is likely to attract a different customer base. But Anders believes x86 boards will reduce in size and price to the point where they will become more suitable for hobbyists.


We Have Completely Lost Our Privacy On The Web

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Few years ago, before the social networks explosion everybody knew that it is important to keep your identity hidden and not to reveal any personal information about yourself. People used nick names and not shared personal information on the web. But as time passes where more and more services were being used in the cloud and social networks became popular we have lost all control of our privacy and personal information.

Lets take for instance Google and see just how much information Google know about us.
It started with email services like Gmail where Google knows all about our personal correspondence. Even if you didn’t fill any personal information when you signed up for Gmail just by reading your emails the information there is priceless.
Then we use Google calendar, where Google can learn about who we meet, what is our schedule and routine and significant dates and events in our lives.

Other people reveal information about you and you don’t even know it.

Even if you are not using Gmail Google knows a lot about you. People who do use Gmail have you in their contact and fill in your email, address, phone number, birthday and even your picture, and you have no control or knowledge that they did.

Even if you do try to keep private by using nick names on the internet, well in order to register to message boards like Google groups you fill in your email, and there you go Google and cross your nick name on the internet with your real identity.

The use of cell smart phone now puts a location tracker in our pockets, so now in addition to all the other vast information Google have on us, it also knows exactly where we are at all times. Adding Google wallet lets Google also know what we buy from whom and when. Not only what we are looking for in a search but potentially what we also buy offline (given cell phone payment will take off in the next couple of years).

Adding other services like note taking - Google knows out thoughts, YouTube and play - our taste in movies music books and what we like to play.

Given all these “Free” services we use Google know anything and everything about us, our lives, our friends and relatives. Adding Google+ and circles to the equation Google knows our relationships to other people interest, how we look like, what we like on the web and our hobbies.

The last piece of information is Google voice where Google knows who we speak with about about what.

While Google knows anything and everything about us, it is not just Google. Cloud services and social networks like Facebook hold a lot of information about us too. While we use these services more and more and rely on them in our daily lives we basically pay these “free” services with our privacy and no matter how much you try to keep information out of the web you have no control about what information your friends and family are sharing about you.

What do you think, is loosing your privacy a small price to pay for free services?
Can you trust commercial companies to keep this information safe ?

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