An anonymous reader writes "Ed Bott recounts the story of Lala.com, an innovative online music service that reached the top of Google search rankings for consumers seeking music. Their prices were frequently better than the prices on iTunes, and they partnered with Google for the search giant's Music Beta. Lala's founder, Bill Nguyen, decided the time was ripe to sell, entertaining offers from both Google and Nokia. Unfortunately, Nokia's offer was poor, and Google tried to lowball Nguyen. Apple, however, was not so foolish. Correctly identifying a threat to its growing music empire, Steve Jobs offered $80 million for the company, and Nguyen accepted. 'The ultimate irony in this story is that quite a few notable members of the Lala-to-Apple team followed Bill through the door and onward to his next venture. They left millions in options at a the $196.48 exercise price they had from the 2009 sale/retention bonuses. Some of those same engineers returned to Apple in the highly covered [Color Labs acquisition] rumor that 20+ engineers went to Apple for $7M. Apple obtained the same employees for pennies on the dollar. This time with even more experience and startup life under their belt. Paying twice was genius.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Several groups are currently working on specifications for plugin-free, real-time audio and video communication. The World Wide Web Consortium has one called WebRTC, rudimentary support for which is found in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Back in August, Microsoft announced its own specification, CU-RTC-Web, because it thought WebRTC wasn't worthwhile. W3C carried out a vote to choose between the two specs, which came out strongly in favor of WebRTC. Microsoft went ahead anyway, and it has now published a prototype for the proposed specification. 'So what's Microsoft playing at, persevering with its own spec in spite of its rejection by the WebRTC group? The company's argument is twofold. First, WebRTC simply isn't complete yet, and Microsoft believes that working on its proposal can shed light on how to solve certain problems such as handling changes in network bandwidth or keeping cellular and Wi-Fi connections open in parallel to allow easy failover from one to the other. Even if Redmond's spec isn't adopted wholesale, portions of it may still be useful. Second, the company believes that WebRTC may not be as close to real standardization as its proponents might argue.'"
hydrofix writes "The Wikimedia Foundation is preparing for the transition of its main technical operations to a new data center in Ashburn, Virginia. This is intended to improve the technical performance and reliability of all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedia. The current target windows for the migration are January 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 2013, from 17:00 to 01:00 UTC. Since 2004, Wikimedia sites have been hosted in the main data center in Tampa, Florida, a location chosen for its proximity to Jimmy Wales at the time. In 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation's Technical Operations team started to look for other locations with better network connectivity and more clement weather. Located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ashburn offers faster and more reliable connectivity than Tampa, and usually fewer hurricanes."
New submitter EngnrFrmrlyKnownAsAC writes "Communicating with lasers has become the hot new thing. While most researchers are seeking faster throughput, NASA set its sights in a different direction: the moon. They recently announced the first successful one-way laser communication 'at planetary distances.' What did they send? An image of the Mona Lisa, of course. 'Precise timing was the key to transmitting the image. Sun and colleagues divided the Mona Lisa image into an array of 152 pixels by 200 pixels. Every pixel was converted into a shade of gray, represented by a number between zero and 4,095. Each pixel was transmitted by a laser pulse, with the pulse being fired in one of 4,096 possible time slots during a brief time window allotted for laser tracking. The complete image was transmitted at a data rate of about 300 bits per second.'"
An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times makes the case that Graph Search, Facebook's recently unveiled social search utility, will be a test for users of the social networking site which will have consequences for the internet at large. The test will show whether people are willing to take the next step in sharing parts of their lives, and whether social search is the future for online interaction. '...the company engineers who created the tool — former Google employees — say that the project will not reach its full potential if Facebook data is "sparse," as they call it. But the company is confident people will share more data, be it the movies they watch, the dentists they trust or the meals that make their mouths water.' CompSci professor Oren Etzioni says it's a watershed moment for the social internet because of the scale at which Facebook operates. A decade ago, people began making the choice to share their lives online; buying into social search would be the biggest step since then. A related post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation can be summed up with this single line: 'If you walk down a crowded public street, you are probably seen by dozens of people—but it would still feel creepy for anyone to be able to look up a list of every road you've walked down.'"
Dupple writes "The head of French telecoms operator Orange said on Wednesday it had been able to impose a deal on Google to compensate it for the vast amounts of traffic sent across its networks. Orange CEO Stephane Richard said on France's BFM Business TV that with 230 million clients and areas where Google could not get around its network, it had been able to reach a 'balance of forces' with the Internet search giant. Richard declined to cite the figure Google had paid Orange, but said the situation showed the importance of reaching a critical size in business. Network operators have been fuming for years that Google, with its search engine and YouTube video service, generates huge amounts of traffic but does not compensate them for using their networks. An editorial piece at GigaOm says Google is abandoning its principles and giving Orange 'the incentive to demand the same from other content providers.'"
An anonymous reader writes "After months of hype riding the coattails of the MegaUpload controversy, Kim Dotcom's new cloud storage site, Mega, is finally going live. After being available to early adopters briefly, it's now open to the public with 50GB of free storage and end-to-end encryption. Several outlets have posted early hands-on reports for the service, including Ars Technica and The Next Web. In an interview, Dotcom spoke about how Mega's encryption scheme benefits both the users and the company: 'The Mega business plan will be a distributed model, with hundreds of companies large and small, around the world, hosting files. A hosting company can be huge or it can own just two or three servers Dotcom says—just as long as it's located outside the U.S. "Each file will be kept with at least two different hosters, [in] at least two different locations," said Dotcom. "That's a great added benefit for us because you can work with the smallest, most unreliable [hosting] companies. It doesn't matter because they can't do anything with that data." More than 1000 hosts answered a request for expressions of interest on the Mega home page. Dotcom says several hundred will be active partners within months.' On top of that, the way it's designed will protect Mega from legal problems: 'It's all about the plausible deniability. Mega doesn't know what you're uploading. ... Mega isn't so much securing your files for you as it is securing itself from your files. If Mega just takes down all the DMCAed links, it will have a 100 percent copyrighted material takedown record as far as its own knowledge is concerned. It literally can't know about cases that aren't actively pointed out to it, complete with file decryption keys.'"
New submitter dasacc22 writes "Campbell is inviting developers to hack the kitchen with their recipe API. But wait — the API is private, so first you need to submit an idea. If they like the idea, you'll be given access to develop the app. If they like the app, they may give you some money. Otherwise, you can expect to have an app that connects to an API you no longer have access to. The author of this article covers his recent experiences after engaging with Campbell's Adam Kmiec to try and answer the following: '... my question to software developers out there who are thinking of devoting any real effort to a corporate hackathon like this is: "Why?"'"
theodp writes "If Aaron Swartz downloaded JSTOR documents without paying for them, it would presumably be considered a crime by the USDOJ. But if U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did the same? Rather than a crime, it would be considered their entitlement, a perk of an elite education that's paid for by their alma maters. Ironically and sadly, that's the kind of inequity Aaron railed against with the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, a document the DOJ cited as evidence (pdf) that Swartz was a menace to society. On Thursday, Ortiz insisted Swartz — who she now characterizes as 'mentally ill' — received fair and reasonable treatment from the DOJ. But that wasn't good enough for Senator John Cornyn, who on Friday asked Eric Holder to explain the DOJ prosecution of Aaron Swartz." Federal prosecutors have come under heavy criticism for their handling of the Swartz case. Legal scholar Orin Kerr provides counterpoint with two detailed, well-reasoned posts about the case. Kerr says that, as the law stands, the charges against Swartz were "pretty much legit," and that the law itself should be the target of the internet community's angst, rather than the prosecutors. "...blame the system and aim to reform the system; don’t think that this was just two or three prosecutors that were doing something unusual. It wasn’t." James Boyle, co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, disagrees with Kerr (partly), arguing that Swartz's renown is simply drawing people together to collectively shine a light on poor legislation and poor prosecutorial practices.
dstates writes "The Department of Health and Human Services has released newly revised rules for the Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure patient access to electronic copies of their electronic medical records. Several years ago, there was a great deal of excitement about personalized health information management (e.g. Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health). Unfortunately, patients found it difficult to obtain their medical records from providers in formats that could easily be imported. Personalized health records were time consuming and difficult to maintain, so these initiatives have not lived up to their expectations (e.g. Google Health has been discontinued). The new rules should address this directly and hopefully will revitalize interest in personal health information management. The new HIPAA rules also greatly strengthen patient privacy, the ability of patients to control who sees their medical information, and increases the penalties for leaking medical records information. 'Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over fifteen years ago,' said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 'The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients' health information in an ever expanding digital age.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Broadcasting Cable reports on comments from Former FCC chairman Michael Powell (now president of the U.S. cable industry's trade association) confirming what many have long suspected: data caps on internet service aren't just about network congestion, but rather about 'pricing fairness.' 'Asked by MMTC president David Honig to weigh in on data caps, Powell said that while a lot of people had tried to label the cable industry's interest in the issue as about congestion management. "That's wrong," he said. "Our principal purpose is how to fairly monetize a high fixed cost." He said bandwidth management was part of it, though a more serious issue with wireless.' Powell went on to say that ISPs had huge up-front costs which had to be allocated out to consumers, and those consumers were familiar with usage-based fees from paying their power bill or buying food. He was part of a panel with three other former FCC chairs. Dick Wiley agreed with his cost argument, adding that the marketplace was responding better than new legislation could. Michael Copps thought the FCC could question data caps a bit more, but wasn't opposed in principle. Reed Hundt said he wants the FCC to focus on getting better, faster, cheaper internet to 100% of the population."
Press2ToContinue writes "Amazon has found a simple way around Apple's tight-fisted App Store rules: give users a web app to buy MP3s that runs in Safari. This way, they have no need to pay 30% per tune to Apple. Freedom of choice of vendor in Apple-only territory? Is this a big breach of Apple's walled garden? I wonder if Apple with have a response to this."
Trailrunner7 writes "Up to a million Android users in China could be part of a large mobile botnet, according to research unveiled by Kingsoft Security, a Hong Kong-based security company, this week. The botnet has spread across phones running the Android operating system via Android.Troj.mdk, a Trojan that researchers said exists in upwards of 7,000 applications available from non-Google app marketplaces, including the popular Temple Run and Fishing Joy games." Update: 01/19 12:54 GMT by S : Changed summary to reflect that these apps didn't come from Google Play.
redletterdave writes "Google just purchased a 2.4-acre plot in the King's Cross Central development in London, where the company plans to build a brand-new, 1 million square foot office. Google reportedly invested about £650 million ($1.04 billion) on the property, which, when finished, will be valued at more than £1 billion ($1.6 billion). While Google traditionally leases its overseas offices, the company's decision to buy rather than rent in this case was likely tax motivated, since Google can't repatriate its cash to the U.S. without paying a hefty tax."
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science Magazine "Last November, astronomer David Turner made headlines by claiming that one of the sky's best known objects—the North Star, Polaris—was actually 111 light-years closer than thought. If true, the finding might have forced researchers to rethink how they calculate distances in the cosmos as well as what they know about some aspects of stellar physics. But a new study argues that distance measurements of the familiar star made some 2 decades ago by the European Space Agency's venerable Hipparcos satellite are still spot on."