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Updated: 5 years 42 weeks ago

Are climate change models too conservative?

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 19:30

As we've reported recently, climate scientists are continuing to develop and refine climate change models in order to predict the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. One aspect of these models that hasn't been explicitly tested is their ability to capture rapid, irreversible changes to the climate system. The author of a commentary in this week's edition of Nature Geoscience argues that current climate models (such as those used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] reports) fail to simulate abrupt changes we've seen in the past, and therefore may be unable to predict similar events in the future.

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Police raid Spanish copyright society in embezzlement case

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 17:30

Senior officials in Spain's Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), the country's leading collection society for songwriters and composers, face embezzlement charges in the wake of a Friday raid on the organization's offices. (A collecting society collects licensing fees for public performances of music and distributes them to artists and record companies.) 

According to Spanish newspaper El País, the investigation is focused on José Luis Rodríguez Neri, the head of an SGAE subsidiary called the Digital Society of Spanish Authors (SDAE). Neri faces charges of "fraud, misappropriation of funds and disloyal administration." On Monday, a High Court judge grilled him for more than four hours over the charges.

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"Massive infringement" case against CNET dropped

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 16:25

Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit accusing CNET of facilitating “massive copyright infringement” by distributing peer-to-peer software dropped their case Monday.

The May lawsuit was lodged in Los Angeles by a handful of musicians and filmmaker Alkiviades David. They accused CBS Interactive—CNET’s publisher—of illicitly profiting from piracy by distributing 220 million copies of LimeWire over CNET’s Download.com site since 2008—accounting for 95 percent off all LimeWire downloads.

The case appeared to be nearing its demise last month when the plaintiffs submitted just six copyrights as being infringed. On the July 4 holiday, David quietly dropped the suit.

What remains to be seen are threats by David’s attorney, Adam Wolfson, who wrote in a filing that the case would be re-filed to represent more plaintiffs and “many thousands of songs and other copyrighted works” (PDF).

The now-defunct LimeWire service agreed in May to pay $105 million to settle accusations from the recording industry that LimeWire users committed a “substantial amount of copyright infringement.” In that lawsuit, the Recording Industry Association of America sought damages on 9,715 copyrighted recordings, and forced LimeWire of New York to shutter.

CBS has maintained it would “prevail” in the David case.

The Copyright Act allows for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.

David claimed that CNET maintained a “business model to profit directly from the demand for infringing P2P clients.”

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Texas Supreme Court: no e-voting paper trail required

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 15:35

A group of Texas voters seeking to stop the use of paperless electronic voting machines reached a dead end on Friday; the Texas Supreme Court ruled that their suits could not proceed without evidence that they have been personally harmed.

Texas has been using direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines for more than a decade. In 2006, a coalition of voters led by the Austin NAACP sued to stop Travis County from using the eSlate, a DRE machine made by Austin-based Hart InterCivic. (Hart does offer a printer as an optional component of its system.) The voters claimed the machines were insecure and did not allow meaningful recounts.

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Astroturf hurts: leadership resigns after GLAAD supports T-Mobile sale

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 13:45

May 31, 2011 was a perfectly nice day in Los Angeles, California—a few patchy clouds on the horizon, but nothing to worry about. It's unlikely that the staff of the Wilshire Boulevard-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) saw the thunderstorm approaching as they submitted commentary to Julius Genachowski, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, in support of AT&T's plan to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.

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Xbox Live Indie Games: no way to make a living

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 11:50

If you want to publish a console video game, there's no easier route than the Xbox Live Indie Games program. But while it's relatively easy to get your game on the service, it's hard to get it noticed. There's a lot of junk on XBLIG, so much so that a group of developers banded together at the end of last year to promote quality indie titles. There have been success stories—like the recently released FortressCraft, which managed to sell 16,000 units on the day of release—but they're not exactly common.

So with virtually no promotion, and with average earnings of just $3,800 per title, why do developers continue to create games for the platform?

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Report: Apple orders 15 million iPhone 5s

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 11:05

Apple has placed an order for 15 million next-gen iPhones with Taiwan-based manufacturer Pegatron, DigiTimes reported today. The order is based on a September ship date for the new iPhone, which DigiTimes' sources say is not a major revision from the iPhone 4.

These numbers cast our memories back to when Apple was pushing the first iPhone toward a million sales within months of its launch. These days, Apple is shipping multiple millions per quarter: the first quarter of 2011 saw 16.24 million iPhone sales, topped by the second quarter's 18.65 million.

The increased sales are not entirely thanks to the new CDMA version of the iPhone, either. Pegatron overhauled its entire factory setup to satisfy a 10-million-iPhone CDMA iPhone 4 order, but less than four million of those have shipped. Since September's model is entirely new, we doubt this will be a repeat problem for the company.

The iPhone 5's body reportedly resembles the iPhone 4, but may receive several internal revisions, including a dual-core A5 processor, 8-megapixel camera, and an edge-to-edge 3.7- or 3.8-inch screen with a resolution a third higher than the iPad 2's 1024x768 screen. Verizon also slipped up recently and said the new iPhone may be dual-mode CDMA and GSM, though whether it will be able to take advantage of 4G LTE has not yet been publicly discussed.

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How hot will Earth be by 2100? The answer's in the clouds

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 10:37

Understanding the behavior of clouds is key to any accurate projection of future climate (as we’ve covered in the past) because of the complex, competing effects that clouds have on Earth’s energy budget. 

Radiation from the sun in the form of visible light (which climate scientists refer to as "shortwave radiation") is reflected back into space by clouds. An increase in clouds (caused by increasing evaporation that comes with higher temperatures) will thus decrease temperatures by reducing incoming shortwave radiation. We call that a negative feedback—it acts to keep temperatures stable.

But water vapor is also a strong greenhouse gas. In fact, compared molecule for molecule, water vapor absorbs 100 times more outgoing infrared (or "longwave") radiation than does carbon dioxide. That means increasing evaporation will cause temperatures to increase even more. That’s a positive feedback—it acts to exacerbate rising temperatures. 

(Despite its greenhouse potency, water vapor provides a feedback, not a forcing—it can’t initiate temperature increases because its presence in the atmosphere depends on temperature, unlike carbon dioxide or methane.)

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Ask Ars: will iTunes Match be used to chase down music pirates?

Tue, 2011/07/05 - 09:00

In 1998, Ask Ars was an early feature of the newly launched Ars Technica. Now, as then, it's all about your questions and our community's answers. Each week, we'll dig into our question bag, provide our own take, then tap the wisdom of our readers. To submit your own question, see our helpful tips page.

Q: Will Apple's iTunes Match service be used to find out who has pirated music?

In the fall, Apple will launch its iCloud service for Macs and iOS devices. It includes two iTunes-related services: free access to previously purchased songs via any authorized device, as well as a $25 per year option to store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud. The latter feature, dubbed iTunes Match, will scan a user's library and give immediate iCloud access to any song that "matches" a corresponding track in the iTunes Store library. Songs that don't match will be uploaded to a user's iCloud storage.

The benefit of iTunes Match over competing services from Amazon and Google is that users with libraries that consist of the most popular content will only have to upload a small percentage of music. This makes the process much faster than uploading each and every track, especially given the relatively anemic upload speeds available to most US broadband users. The US iTunes Store boasts over 18 million tracks, so if your tastes don't depend heavily on obscure, independent, or foreign music, there's a good chance that a significant proportion of your library will match up.

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Feature: Unlicensed: Are Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player illegal?

Mon, 2011/07/04 - 19:00

Amazon.com made waves in March when it announced Cloud Player, a new "cloud music" service that allows users to upload their music collections for personal use. It did so without a license agreement, and the major music labels were not amused. Sony Music said it was keeping its "legal options open" as it pressured Amazon to pay up.

In the following weeks, two more companies announced music services of their own. Google, which has long had a frosty relationship with the labels, followed Amazon's lead; Google Music Beta was announced without the Big Four on board (read our first impressions). But Apple has been negotiating licenses so it can operate iCloud with the labels' blessing.

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The iCade review: your iPad as an arcade machine

Mon, 2011/07/04 - 10:00

The iCade might have started its life as an April Fools gag but, as Think Geek told us after the Internet went wild for the concept, some jokes have a way of becoming reality. The $100 iCade is now available, and we've had the chance to open one, assemble the hardware, and play for a number of hours. There are a few annoyances here, but this is an impressive way of adding physical controls to the iPad in a package that's both an instant conversation starter and small enough to fit on your desk.

I have yet to see anyone take a look at this thing and not immediately want to play it. My kids have been going ape playing the classic Atari games. It's easy to look past the hardware's uncertain future when the present is already so striking.

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Musicians, tune your keyboards: playing in a laptop orchestra

Sun, 2011/07/03 - 15:00

The words "laptop orchestra" might conjure up visions of zombie-like players seated at their computers—LAN party style—controlling electronic sounds that form some sort of musical performance. The reality is much more exciting, according to composer, performer, and professor Dan Trueman, who co-founded the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (also known as PLOrk) in 2005 and has since led the proliferation of laptop orchestras around the globe.

According to Trueman, laptop orchestras transcend "old world" performances by offering a new way for people to make music together. They also challenge the traditional notion of what's considered a musical instrument.

Is this just a new fad for music hipsters? Trueman would say: maybe, but who cares?

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ARM chips to rival PS3, Xbox 360 in 18 months?

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 17:30

ARM has been beating the performance drum again, this time telling the Inquirer that a new Mali GPU design due out in 18 months will make its chips the equal of current-gen gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. There can be little doubt that an ARM-based mobile chip will surpass these two consoles in pixel-pushing capacity (measured variously) at some point in the future, but we've heard this kind of talk about Mali before.

Some Googling turns up 2009 and 2010 as years when Mali was supposed to bring Xbox 360-level graphics to mobiles, and we're certain that if we went past the first page of search results we could find more.

But whatever ARM has said in the past, it's not really a stretch to imagine this happening in roughly an 18-month timeframe. For reference, at the 2010 ISSCC, Microsoft showed off the SoC that powers the latest version of the Xbox 360, a combo chip that puts the CPU and GPU of the console on the same 45nm die and clocks in at only 372 million transistors. That's a bit over 100 million transistors more than NVIDIA's 40nm Tegra 2 mobile chip from that same year. So yes, given a process shrink to 28nm or thereabouts, it seems quite possible that ARM will at the very least be able to pack as much hardware as the Xbox 360 does into an application processor.

So much for ARM's Mali claims. The much more interesting question is, what will NVIDIA have out at this point? 

The company's upcoming Kal-El part is due out in the second half of this year, and it could well bring something approaching console-level performance to tablets and other portables. And 18 months from now, we may begin to see something out of Project Denver, which could well make for a killer desktop gaming chip (assuming that any games will run on it).

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Samsung drops (one) Apple patent countersuit

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 15:29

After Apple sued Samsung back in April over claims that the Korean company's Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets ripped off Apple's iPhone software, hardware, and design patents, Samsung fired back. It filed lawsuits against Apple in Europe and Asia, and it filed a patent infringement countersuit against Apple here in the US.

That lawsuit quickly got messy, with both sides demanding access to unreleased prototypes of the other's hardware as part of the case and firing off accusations of harassment at their opponents. Today, though, it was reported that Samsung decided to drop its US countersuit.

According to Bloomberg, which got hold of a Samsung rep in Seoul, the case was actually dismissed on June 30. The dismissal will "streamline" Samsung's legal caseload, according to the report, but Samsung will continue its overseas cases and continue to prosecute an earlier US case against Apple.

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Microsoft follows Google's lead, cancels Hohm energy service

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 15:00

On Thursday, Microsoft announced that it was shutting down its home energy monitoring service, Hohm. The move comes just days after Google announced that it was discontinuing its equivalent service, PowerMeter. Google's cancellation was coupled with the termination of its medical software, Google Health; so far, there's no indication that Microsoft intends to cancel its equivalent offering, Health Vault.

Both Google and Microsoft entered the energy field several years ago at a time when it appeared that it had significant growth potential. Many utilities were beginning to offer smart meters and other services that could give home users finer-grained information on and control of their energy use. Rising energy prices also seemed likely to motivate consumers to exert greater control over how they used their power.

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Week in Apple: Why Thunderbolt cables cost fifty bucks

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 12:00

The biggest Apple news dropped right at the end of the week—Lion has just hit "gold master" status and should make its way to the Mac App Store for downloading soon. When that happens, look for our unbelievably in-depth uber-review—and clear your calendar. (Seriously, it's a monster.)

While waiting for Lion, though, why not catch up on the top bits of Apple news from the week that was:

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Week in gaming: Supreme Court strikes down Cali's gaming law

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 11:00

The Supreme Court struck down California's gaming law in a 7-2 decision, and now the gaming industry has a strong precedent to keep laws like this from springing up again. This was big news for the industry. Games are considered legally protected expression; now it's time for developers to ask themselves if they actually have anything to say.

Check out the rest of the big stories from last week, and catch up on anything you missed.

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Week in technology: Google+ launches as the Lulz Boat sinks

Sat, 2011/07/02 - 10:00

MySpace was sold… for a mere $35 million. Google+ was launched. LulzSec sank the Lulz Boat. The run-up to the July 4 Independence Day celebrations here in the US wasn't a quiet one after all—and here are the top ten general tech news stories of the week, collected for your reading pleasure.

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So sue me: are lawyers really the key to computer security?

Fri, 2011/07/01 - 18:00

If your code gets hacked, are you the one on the hook? In the early decades of the software industry, the answer was usually "no." Software licenses routinely disclaimed liability, and until recently, security flaws were considered to be just another fact of life. When problems were discovered, companies were expected to fix them quickly, but they were rarely on the hook for the resulting damage.

That's changing rapidly. Recently, Sony faced a class action lawsuit for losing the private information of millions of users. And this week, it was reported that Dropbox is already being sued for a recent security breach of its own.

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Zynga's IPO filing shows utter dependence on Facebook

Fri, 2011/07/01 - 14:50

Zynga, creator of games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Words with Friends, has filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to take the company public. The casual games giant hopes to raise $1 billion by selling stock. That may seem ambitious, but the filings note that the company enjoyed profits of over $392 million in 2010. The company shows no signs of slowing down, but the filing also reminds us just how much of Zynga's business is directly dependent on Facebook.

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