mrspoonsi writes: Companies that move their profits overseas to avoid tax will be subject to a "diverted profits tax" from April, the chancellor has said. In his final Budget before the election, George Osborne said firms that aid tax evasion will also face new penalties and criminal prosecutions. The so-called "Google Tax" is designed to discourage large companies diverting profits out of the the UK to avoid tax. "Let the message go out: this country's tolerance for those who will not pay their fair share of taxes has come to an end," Mr Osborne said. In 2012 it emerged that internet giant Google avoided tax on £10bn UK revenue in 2011 by doubling the amount of money put into a shell company in Bermuda. Doing so helped it avoid £1bn in corporation tax. Under the new tax regime, companies with an annual turnover of £10m will have to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if they think their company structure could make them liable for diverted profit tax. Once HMRC has assessed the structures, and decided how much profit has been artificially diverted from the UK, multinationals will have only 30 days to object to the 25% tax.
mrspoonsi writes: The US government has developed spyware that invades the firmware of hard drives and eavesdrops on everything the user does. The software has been found on the computers around the world. The latest spyware software was discovered by the Russian computer security company, Kaspersky Lab, which found computers of government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists were infected. The software was found in 30 countries, including Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. But only a few high-valued computers were infected. The firmware of hard drives is highly valued among spies and hackers as any malicious software that is stored there runs automatically every time a computer is turned on and the software is near impossible to remove, even when the hard drive is wiped completely. The spyware software works on most major hard drive manufacturers, including Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, IBM, Micron and Samsung.
mrspoonsi writes: Kim Dotcom's US lawyer has denied that a guilty plea by one of the Megaupload's former employees has major implications for his client's case. Andrus Nomm was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement while working for the now defunct file-sharing site. The US is currently trying to extradite Mr Dotcom, who founded Megaupload, from New Zealand to stand trial. Mr Dotcom denies wrongdoing. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has alleged that Megaupload's staff had "operated websites that wilfully reproduced and distributed infringing copies of copyrighted works" over a period of five years, causing more than $400m (£260m) of harm to copyright owners. Nomm — a 36-year-old Estonian citizen — agreed to this damages estimate as part of his plea, according to a press release from the DoJ. He had been living in the Netherlands before he travelled to Virginia to make the deal with the US authorities. The DoJ added that Nomm had acknowledged that through his work as a computer programmer for Megaupload, he had become aware of copyright-infringing material being stored on its sites, including films and TV shows that had contained FBI anti-piracy warnings. It said he had also admitted to having downloaded copyright-infringing files himself. "This conviction is a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in US history," said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell.
mrspoonsi writes: A hacker who hijacked computers to make death threats has been jailed for eight years. Yusuke Katayama played a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, leading them to make numerous wrongful arrests. Katayama's campaign highlighted the difficulties the country's police force has had in dealing with cyber crime. "He committed the crime, and the purpose of it was [for police] to make wrongful arrests," said presiding judge Katsunori Ohno at Tokyo District Court, adding that Katayama's actions had been "vicious". Throughout 2012, the 32-year-old used a virus to gain control of strangers' computers. He then issued threats — which appeared to come from the computer's owner — and a series of riddles that captured the attention of the national media. The case highlighted the Japanese police's tendency to extract confessions from suspects, as four people owned up to crimes which the National Police Agency (NPA) later admitted they did not commit. Computers belonging to each had been infected with a Trojan Horse virus, introduced via a link on the popular Japanese chat forum 2channel. Police held one falsely suspected person for several weeks before media and a cyber crime expert received anonymous messages containing information that investigators conceded could only have been known by the real culprit. In one message, investigators were told to go to Enoshima, an island off Tokyo, and to look for a cat that turned out to be wearing a collar on which was a memory card. The card held details of the code and malicious program he had used to gain remote control of victim's computers.
mrspoonsi writes: Apple announced it will spend about $2 billion to build a new data center in Mesa, Arizona. It will be housed in buildings formerly used by GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), which went bankrupt last year after failing to supply sapphire display covers for the iPhone 6. the data center will be powered entirely by renewable energy. it will be a "command center for our global networks." Apple has said it would help find work for people affected by GTAT's bankruptcy. It's possible some of those former GTAT employees might help construct the new command center. When Apple initially partnered with GTAT to make sapphire displays, the company invested millions in a sapphire production facility. It makes sense that Apple would want to do something with the building if it couldn't make sapphire there.
mrspoonsi writes: Reports of RadioShack's demise are nothing new, but now it seems like the electronics retailer may be done for good. Bloomberg reports that company is in talks with Sprint to hand over around half of its remaining stores to the wireless company. The rest of RadioShack's locations will close, and those that are included in the deal will be painted yellow and black. This means the shops where most of us purchased parts for a project will cease to exist. Nothing's final, and until the ink is dry, another suitor could swipe up the company and allow it to keep on chuggin' along. RadioShack is facing bankruptcy after years of declining sales, so even if Sprint doesn't agree to buy those stores, a move of some kind is imminent for the company that's been selling tech since 1921.
mrspoonsi writes: President Barack Obama's fiscal 2016 budget would impose a one-time 14 percent tax on some $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings accumulated by U.S. companies abroad and use that to fund infrastructure projects, a White House official said. The money also would be used to fill a projected shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. "This transition tax would mean that companies have to pay U.S. tax right now on the $2 trillion they already have overseas, rather than being able to delay paying any U.S. tax indefinitely," the official said. "Unlike a voluntary repatriation holiday, which the president opposes and which would lose revenue, the president’s proposed transition tax is a one-time, mandatory tax on previously untaxed foreign earnings, regardless of whether the earnings are repatriated." In the future, the budget proposes that U.S. companies pay a 19 percent tax on all of their foreign earnings as they are earned, while a tax credit would be issued for foreign taxes paid, the official said.
mrspoonsi writes: Google has apologised after it emerged that its translation tool has been replacing the word ‘gay’ with homophobic slurs. Google introduced a fix to the software and offered an apology yesterday (January 26) after an AllOut petition calling on the company to address the problem amassed over 50,000 signatures. When translating ‘gay’ from English into Spanish, French or Portuguese, Google Translate had been offering words like ‘faggot,’ ‘poof,’ ‘fairy’ and ‘dyke’ as synonyms. When the Russian word for ‘gay’ is translated into English, some of the results shown included ‘pansy boy’, ‘fairy’ and ‘sodomite.’ “Imagine learning English and being taught to say hateful insults instead of neutral language for ‘gay’. Google Translate – used by over 500 million people every month – was suggesting slurs as synonyms for the word ‘gay’, AllOut said in a statement. Google translate is based on the Google Brain, using AI which has recently been enhanced by the purchase of DeepMind Technologies.
mrspoonsi writes: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is adding crash imminent braking and dynamic braking support to its list of recommended advanced safety features for new cars. The former uses sensors to activate the brakes if a crash is imminent and the driver already hasn't. Dynamic braking support, on the other hand, increases stopping power if you haven't put enough pressure on the brake pedal. Like lane-departure and front collision warning systems, these features are available on some models already — this move gives them high-profile attention, though. And for good reason: As the NHSTA tells it, a third of 2013's police-reported car accidents were the rear-end crashes and a "large number" of the drivers either didn't apply the brakes at all (what?!) or fully before impact. Like
mrspoonsi writes: The British Serious Fraud Office today dropped its investigation into accusations of accounting improprieties at Autonomy, citing insufficient evidence to continue the investigation, but it made clear that the US investigation would continue. “In respect of some aspects of the allegations, the SFO has concluded that, on the information available to it, there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction,” according to a statement released by the Serious Fraud Office. While it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Autonomy, it does end the British probe of the matter. The statement went onto say, however, that they have ceded the investigation to US authorities. The jurisdiction issues were probably tricky here because HP, a US-based company bought UK-based Autonomy in 2011 for $10B, a price that some considered quite high at the time. By the following year, with the deal long done, HP claimed serious accounting irregularities at Autonomy, and a war of words ensued between the two companies, as former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch vigorously denied the charges.
mrspoonsi writes: President Obama is to use Tuesday's State of the Union speech to call for tax increases on the wealthy to help the middle class, officials say. The proposals would raise $320 billion (£211 billion) over a decade, to fund benefits such as tax credits. The speech is the centerpiece of the US political diary and may shape both Mr Obama's legacy and the 2016 election. But the president faces resistance to his proposals, with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress. With the US economy growing, President Obama will stress that it is time for ordinary US families to feel the benefits. According to US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the plans include: Closing a loophole allowing the wealthiest Americans to pass on certain assets tax free, Raising capital gains tax on the richest earners from 23.8% to 28%, New fees on US financial firms with more than $50 billion (£33 billion) in assets. The revenues would raise more than enough to fund the proposed benefits for the middle class, according to the officials.
mrspoonsi writes: Over the past two years, the growing popularity of mobile devices has eaten into PC sales. A new report by Gartner, however, shows that shipments may continue to enjoy a very slow but steady uptick this year as tablet sales hit a peak. The research firm found that worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2014 grew one percent year-over-year, the first increase since 2012. In the U.S., PC shipments increased 13.1 percent year-over-year, the fastest increase in four years, thanks to holiday purchases. Inexpensive laptops (about $200 to $300), thin and light notebooks, and laptops with a detachable screen helped drive growth. Lenovo continued to be the number one PC maker in terms of shipment volume, with a 19.4 percent marketshare.
mrspoonsi writes: Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences. Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as "mental disorders" now barring people from driving. The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents. "Pathological" gambling and compulsive stealing are also on the list. Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move. The announcement follows international complaints about Russian harassment of gay-rights activists.
mrspoonsi writes: Respected developer Marco Arment is worried about Apple's future. In a blog post, he writes, "Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future." Arment was CTO at Tumblr, before he left to start Instapaper. "Apple has completely lost the functional high ground," says Arment. "'It just works' was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer." He blames Apple prioritizing marketing for the problems with Apple's software. Apple wants to have new software releases each year as a marketing hook, but the annual cycles of updating Apple's software are leading to too many bugs and problems, he says: I suspect the rapid decline of Apple’s software is a sign that marketing has a bit too much power at Apple today: the marketing priority of having major new releases every year is clearly impossible for the engineering teams to keep up with while maintaining quality. Maybe it’s an engineering problem, but I suspect not — I doubt that any cohesive engineering team could keep up with these demands and maintain significantly higher quality.
mrspoonsi writes: The number of people going to the movies in 2014 in North America slipped to its lowest level in two decades. According to preliminary estimates, roughly 1.26 billion consumers purchased cinema tickets between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. That's the lowest number since 1.21 billion in 1995. Year-over-year, attendance looks to be off 6 percent from 2013, when admissions clocked in at 1.34 billion. Admissions have fluctuated dramatically over the years, and particularly since the advent of modern-day 3D, which can skew the average ticket price. Movie going in North America hit an all-time high in 2002, when 1.57 billion consumers lined up, thanks in part to Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.