31 July 2012
Last updated at 18:55
Mr Adams posted a tongue-in-cheek message after his account was reactivated
Twitter has restored the account of a journalist following a user backlash sparked by his suspension from the social network.
Guy Adams’ account was blocked after he criticised NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Olympic Games and posted the email address of one of its executives.
Mr Adams alleged NBC had only complained about the message after Twitter alerted the broadcaster to it.
Several users later retweeted the executive’s email address in protest.
Twitter had refused to discuss Mr Adams’s case, saying “it was company policy not to comment on individual users” for privacy reasons. However, it had said it did “not actively monitor users’ accounts”.
Mr Adams reported that an email from Twitter had said his account had been reactivated following “an update from the complainant retracting their original request”. He added that no apology had been offered.
Mr Adams – who is based Los Angeles – posted a message last Friday criticising NBC’s decision to broadcast the Games’ opening ceremony with a time-delay in order to target a prime-time audience.
On the US’s east coast it was shown with a three-and-a-half hours delay, on the west coast the gap was up to six-and-a-half hours.
This caused problems for users who enjoy swapping comments about major events on social network sites.
“The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think,” Mr Adams tweeted, referring to NBC’s Olympics president.
He also included Mr Zenkel’s business email address in the message.
Mr Adams said when he checked his account on Sunday he had received a message saying it had been suspended.
NBC Sports subsequently released a statement confirming it had called for the action.
NBC’s decision to broadcast events with a delay has led some users to add #NBCFail to their posts
“We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives,” it said.
Mr Adams then published an article saying a Daily Telegraph journalist had forwarded him an email from NBC.
He quoted an NBC spokesman as saying: “Our social media department was actually alerted to it by Twitter and then we filled out the form and submitted it.”
Twitter’s terms and conditions say posting another person’s private and confidential information, including “non-public, personal email addresses” is a violation of its rules.
But Mr Adams said he had done nothing wrong, as the address he had used was a corporate one based on the same system used by NBC’s other employees and could easily be worked out by “anyone in possession of 30 seconds of free time and access to Google”.
Before Twitter restored Mr Adams’ account many users had come out in his support.
“Scandal that someone should be banned for voicing an opinion,” tweeted London-based Nicholas Pritchard.
“I think Twitter’s suspension of Guy Adams’ account hurts its own brand. A lot,” posted George Maschke from the Netherlands.
Among the critics were others involved in the media industry.
“Twitter’s suspension of @guyadams jars with company’s claim to be the free speech wing of the free speech party,” wrote the Guardian’s special projects editor Paul Lewis.
“I wouldn’t have posted the email address. But Twitter’s removing his account was outrageous,” added Dan Gillmor, from the Arizona State University’s school of journalism.
NBC paid $1.18bn (£752m) for the US broadcast rights to the Olympics.
It formed a partnership with Twitter ahead of the Games to create a page highlighting messages from NBC personalities, athletes and fans during the event.
NBC has said that a record 40.7 million people watched its coverage of the opening ceremony, saying it was “a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in prime-time is working”.
Police have arrested two South Koreans who allegedly leaked the personal information of 8.7 million mobile phone subscribers. The pair have been charged with hacking into the systems of KT Corp, the country’s second biggest mobile carrier, and selling on the data.
A further seven suspects have been questioned by police over allegations that they bought the illegally obtained data to target telemarketing sales calls, the Yonhap news agency reports.
Investigators reckon telemarketers used subscribers’ personal information, including details of phones they were using and monthly plans, to punt alternative mobile services just before their current contracts were about the expire.
The illegal marketing tactic brought in estimated sales of 1 billion South Korean won (£563,560; $877,000). Police only released partial details of one of the two main suspects in the case, a 40-year-old whose family name was Choi. The other suspects remain unnamed.
KT has reportedly acknowledged the data breach and promised to tighten up its security in a bid to prevent a repetition.
The privacy flap involving the details of million of mobile phone subscribers follows the leak of personal information of 35 million South Korean users last August after a hacking attack against two popular portal websites run by SK Communications, the country’s biggest security breach to date. ®
Five years ago I recall listening to the Financial Times‘s chief executive, John Ridding, as he outlined his paper’s digital strategy. It was under way by then, of course, but the FT was moving faster and more enthusiastically than many papers – including its major global rival, the Wall Street Journal.
In practical terms, the FT’s transition from print to screen was highlighted by its integration of print and online operations. And the year before the FT had launched its live financial markets blog, Alphaville, which has since prospered by attracting a regular audience and winning awards.
These initiatives can now be seen in the context of what Ridding calls “the journey of transformation” during which continued experimentation has carried the FT to an important milestone. It was able to report last week that the FT’s digital subscribers have exceeded its print buyers.
Here are the relevant statistics of Ridding’s “growth story”: the FT’s combined paid-for print and digital circulation during the three months up to June this year was 598,698, up 2% year on year (and, incidentally, the largest daily audience in the FT’s 124-year history).
Breaking that down, the average global print circulation was 297,227 compared to the digital circulation of 301,471. It meant that the number of digital subscribers increased by 31% in that April-June quarter compared to the same period in 2011.
Just a couple more facts: the FT’s average daily global audience has grown to a smidgeon under 2.1m while print has stayed flat. There has been a 30% improvement to the online desktop audience and treble digit rises for both tablet and smartphone audiences (from low bases of course).
These figures bear out Ridding’s expectation that ink-on-pink-paper would continue its sales decline while the future was digital. He may not have been alone in foreseeing that, but he certainly adopted an internal strategy aimed at smoothing the digital path.
By erecting a paywall, while gradually increasing the cover price for the print platform, he also ensured a flow of revenue that has resulted in the FT making a profit every year since 2005.
No wonder Ridding is able to tell me that the digital strategy is working. The FT has survived what was undoubtedly an existential crisis to be confident of its future, well, as confident as any paper can be nowadays. “If we had not made those changes,” he says, “we wouldn’t have got through.”
Not everything worked, of course. Its attempt last year to follow Alphaville with an online emerging markets service, called FT Tilt, didn’t last much more than six months. But that’s the nature of digital game. It is important to experiment.
By contrast, the FT’s various apps have been very successful indeed. Its web app alone has had 2.7m users since its launch. The importance of building apps – and not being reliant on Apple or needing to give it a giant cut – led the FT to acquire a development firm, Assanka, in January this year. Three months later it was rebranded as FT Labs.
“We’re no longer trying to do everything ourselves,” says Ridding who recognises that digital journalism can benefit from non-journalistic involvement by developers and data analysts.
Listening to customers and knowing who they are
In a world where top-down journalism is no longer relevant, listening to customers’ demands is paramount. One big advantage in the digital world is that it is easier to hear what they are saying and therefore know what they want. Ridding points out that in the old newsprint days “we didn’t know anything about our readers.
“Now we know their professions, their locations, what they’re reading, what they like. This information enables us to do a much more effective job. And the more subscribers we get, the information we get and the greater the engagement.”
One major initiative involves the building of future audiences through encouraging business school students to use the website. MBA Newslines enables the students (and their tutors) to comment on FT articles and see comments from other schools.
And ForToday, an FT partnership with the Wall Street Institute, uses FT articles in language classes. It has just launched an educational game app designed to help people learn English.
And there is also tagging to the FT’s ultimate parent, Pearson, which is one of the world’s biggest educational publishers.
Then there are specialist services and publications, such as China Confidential and Brazil Confidential. The exploitation of the FT brand to generate extra revenues appears to have endless possibilities.
There cannot be any doubt that, given its specialist content, that it made sense for the FT to introduce its paywall. It serves an affluent and educated audience that is happy to pay for the privilege of access.
It is not in Ridding’s nature to boast. But I’ve rarely heard him register such obvious delight at the way things are going. So is the FT on the verge of abandoning print altogether?
Not at all, he says, arguing that newsprint is undergoing “a new lease of life” because there are people who, despite accessing content digitally, through desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets, who still enjoy reading papers too.
That may not be forever, of course. But, for now, it makes sense to keep publishing on every available platform.
Source: Telephone interview with John Ridding Hat tip: Media Week
30 July 2012
Last updated at 18:15
Games affected include the massively popular Assassin’s Creed series
Games maker Ubisoft has been forced to release an emergency patch to fix a security hole discovered in its Uplay application.
A web browser add-on reportedly left users open to outside attackers gaining control of their computer.
The Uplay software is bundled with major titles like Assassin’s Creed.
“We recommend that all Uplay users update their Uplay PC application without a Web browser open,” Ubisoft said.
“This will allow the plug-in to update correctly.
“An updated version of the Uplay PC installer with the patch also is available from Uplay.com.”
Uplay is a system that allows gamers to earn points and rewards for performance which are logged online.
As well as the multi-million-selling Assassin’s Creed series, Uplay is also used with games such as Call of Juarez: San Francisco, Just Dance 3 and several titles in the Tom Clancy series.
The spokesman added: “Ubisoft takes security issues very seriously, and we will continue to monitor all reports of vulnerabilities within our software and take swift action to resolve such issues.”
The flaw was discovered by Tavis Ormandy, a Google employee.
On a mailing list for information security experts and hobbyists, he wrote: “While on vacation recently I bought a video game called Assassin’s Creed Revelations. I didn’t have much of a chance to play it, but it seems fun so far.
“However, I noticed the installation procedure creates a browser plug-in for it’s accompanying Uplay launcher, which grants unexpectedly (at least to me) wide access to websites.”
It was discovered that any website could force users with the plug-in to open any program on their PC.
To demonstrate this, one security researcher created a website proving the exploits’ existence. When a person visited the website, the calculator program would launch.
While the calculator is harmless, experts warned that the technique could be used to launch a potentially malicious program.
Scotland Yard officers cuffed a 51-year-old man this morning on suspicion of handling stolen goods in relation to its investigation of alleged computer hacking.
That arrest is the eighth one under Operation Tuleta, which is a probe into criminal breaches of privacy being carried out in tandem with the ongoing phone-hacking inquiry (Op Weeting) that has engulfed News International, the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper publishing arm of News Corporation.
The Met confirmed that the unnamed man is a journalist who is currently attending a central London police station by appointment.
Scotland Yard said in a statement:
The arrest relates to a suspected conspiracy involving the gathering of data from stolen mobile phones and is not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately.
Last week, Murdoch’s one-time right-hand woman Rebekah Brooks and Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-spin chief Andy Coulson were charged with alleged phone-hacking offences, along with six other suspects.
The Crown Prosecution Service said that those individuals charged faced a “realistic prospect of conviction.” ®
30 July 2012
Last updated at 01:06
Apple’s court filing demonstrates what it says is evidence that Samsung copied its iPhone design
Samsung and Apple’s patent battle heads to a court in California this Monday – one of the biggest trials of its kind.
The tech firms have accused each other of intellectual property infringement.
Billions of dollars of payments could be triggered from one business to the other and sales bans imposed if the jury finds one or both parties guilty.
Submitted documents and testimony are also likely to throw fresh light on decision making processes and deals made by the two tech firms with others.
Together the two companies account for more than half of all the world’s smartphone sales.
Despite the fact that Apple buys many of its components from Samsung, the two have failed to agree cross-licencing deals even after the courts forced their bosses to meet for talks.
The case was prompted by a lawsuit from Apple in April last year. A countersuit by Samsung followed and the two actions were combined.
The iPhone maker is claiming a total of $2.5bn (£1.6bn) in damages – although the judge could triple that figure if she decides to punish Samsung for wilful misconduct.
Apple claims it is victim to seven patent breaches in addition to other trade violations.
It alleges these include copies of its designs for the bodies of the original iPhone and the iPad as well as user-interface elements such as the bounce-back response when a person scrolls beyond the end of a list, and tap-to-zoom.
Samsung says its mock-ups demonstrate it did not “switch its design direction” after the iPhone
Samsung is demanding a “reasonable royalty rate” for five patents which it claims Apple has infringed.
Two of these relate to mobile phones’ ability to use 3G technology. These are called standard-essential patents since the innovations are necessary to offer a feature recognised as an industry-standard which must therefore be offered and licensed on “fair and reasonable terms”.
The South Korean firm says that Apple rejected its original licence proposal, never made a counter-offer “and to this day has not paid Samsung a dime”.
The Galaxy S3 maker’s three other patent claims cover the integration of a mobile phone, digital camera and email into a single device; bookmarking a picture in an image gallery; and using an app while continuing to listen to music in the background.
Although Samsung’s trial brief does not specify a sum that it thinks it is owed, Apple’s filing suggests its rival is seeking a share of 2.4% of the sale price of its products for the standards-essential patents alone.
Apple says this would be the equivalent of “$14.40 per unit” based on the average selling price of an iPhone. It notes that is more than the cost of the chip it uses to provide 3G functionality.
Apple says: “Samsung must play by the rules. It must invent its own stuff. Its flagrant copying and massive infringement must stop.”
Samsung counters: “Apple’s overreaching claim for damages is a natural extension of its attempts to monopolise the marketplace… It seeks to collect ‘lost profits’ despite the fact that no one buys phones because they have ‘bounce back’ feature or other manifestations of Apple’s alleged inventions.”
This filing by Samsung shows a concept design created by Apple in March 2006, which was inspired by Sony
Samsung’s paperwork suggests it seeks to undermine Apple’s accusations by showing it was already working on rounded rectangular handsets dominated by a screen and a single button months before the iPhone was revealed.
It also claims that Apple’s ideas were not one-offs, but were instead heavily influenced by Sony.
It alleges that the US company changed direction after reading an interview with two of Sony’s product designers and has submitted images of Apple-created concept designs featuring the Japanese company’s logo to back up its claims.
Apple argues the models it created looked nothing like Sony’s Walkman phones at the time and has asked the judge to exclude the evidence and stop it being presented to the jury.
The US company’s filings suggest it will argue that Samsung brought to market products it knew were “confusingly similar” to Apple’s.
In particular it highlights a Samsung survey that found that the most common reason for customers returning a Galaxy Tab 10.1 to the retailer Best Buy was because they had thought they had purchased an iPad.
It also says Samsung was warned by Google that its tablet designs were “too similar”. The claim carries weight because the search giant designed the Android system which powers the South Korean firm’s devices.
“The ferocity of the assorted Apple-Samsung legal battles reminds us that the courtroom has become perhaps just as important as the research lab for today’s technology companies,” commented Andrea Matwyshyn, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
“The factual details of the various Apple-Samsung suits highlight the fluidity of the design process in the smartphone and tablet space – with Apple alleging that Samsung copied its designs and Samsung alleging that Apple’s intellectual property rights are subject to the prior art of Sony.”
Apple filed this drawing as part of its iPad design patent in March 2004
The jury will hear the evidence over at least four weeks. Florian Muller, a patent consultant who has blogged about the run-up to the trial, said it was likely to be a complicated case.
“No trial before this one has been about such a diversity of intellectual property rights – we have different kinds of patents and so-called trade dresses [packaging and appearance claims] in play,” he told the BBC.
“The jury is probably going to be able to tell whether some of Samsung’s products look similar to Apple’s, but it will almost certainly be overtaxed as far as the highly technical patents are concerned.”
Other tech firms may also find the coming weeks hard going.
Chip designer Qualcomm has already seen details of one of its licensing deals become common knowledge despite requesting that the details remain confidential.
Microsoft, Nokia and Google’s Motorola unit have also asked that some portions of the evidence remain sealed, but the judge has said she would be guided by the rule that “public access must be respected unless truly unwarranted”.
Whatever the outcome, the lawsuits are likely to continue.
Apple and Samsung are already scheduled to attend a separate US hearing on 20 August to discuss another patent dispute.
Dozens of bridges, tunnels, viaducts and station buildings that were part of the original Great Western railway are being listed or upgraded to ensure their preservation.
Begun in 1836 and dubbed “god’s wonderful railway”, the structures are testament to the genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer who Kenneth Brannagh played in the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday.
One of the newly listed structures is Box tunnel in Wiltshire which was, according to railway legend, deliberately aligned by Brunel so the rising sun would shine through it every year on 9 April, his birthday. In the 20th century the tunnel was linked by secret lines and tunnels to a complex of military stores and shelters, burrowed into a hill already honeycombed with old quarry works.
The line, which brought trains thundering across England, from London to Bristol and later on into Wales – originally on the huge wheels of Brunel’s broad gauge which gave a smoother ride but was more expensive and was eventually abandoned – was regarded as a marvel from the start. Brunel, typically, had a hand in everything from surveying the route to designing decorative ironwork for the stations.
Turner’s famous 1844 painting Rain, Steam and Speed shows a locomotive crossing the Thames over Brunel’s Maidenhead bridge, which is believed to have the longest and flattest brick arches ever built, and is being upgraded to the highest Grade I, an honour shared by only 5% of listed buildings.
The portals to other tunnels – as grand as entrances to mansions or the Roman arches Brunel sometimes consciously evoked – Fox’s Wood, Saltford, Chipping Sodbury and the Severn tunnel are also being listed. So are the ventilation shafts at Chipping Sodbury – essential in the age of steam in a two-and-a-half-mile tunnel, and topped with battlements to make them look prettier from the nearby Badminton estate.
The modest footbridge at Sydney Gardens in Bath, recently identified as the last of Brunel’s cast-iron bridges on the railway, is upgraded to Grade II*, along with the tunnel portals at St Anne’s in Bristol and the Twerton Wood near Bath.
“It is just such a masterpiece by the mighty Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a railway project of international importance,” said Emily Gee, head of listing at English Heritage. “It is highly engineered, and yet he maintains such a respect for the landscape and history of the places he takes it to.”
The heritage minister, John Penrose, said: “Our railways and the historic buildings that go along with them are a wonderful and emotive part of our national heritage, symbolising for many of us a sense of romance, history and adventure. And nowhere more so, perhaps, than on the Great Western railway.”
The listings and upgrades of one station – the modest stone building on the island platform at Swindon – four viaducts 12 tunnel structures and 26 bridges including the wonderfully named triple arched Silly bridge in Oxfordshire, almost double the number of listed structures on the line. Railway history enthusiasts hope the entire Great Western railway will eventually become a world heritage site, but so far the government has not formally proposed it to Unesco.
Those listed were chosen from more than 500 buildings and structures considered in extensive consultations between English Heritage, Network Rail, local authorities and railway and engineering history groups. The decision was taken against listing three stations, Maidenhead, Taplow and Newbury, and four bridges because they have been extensively altered or rebuilt.
29 July 2012
Last updated at 01:53
It is not yet clear which remote tropical island will host the two-month hackathon
Wanted: 12 programmers to live on a remote tropical island for two months to do nothing but write code.
Applicants are being sought for the coding jamboree that will take place on an as yet un-named island.
Those applying will have to submit a proposal explaining what they will work on during the hackathon.
They will also have to complete a psychological evaluation to show they can live in harmony with other coders for the duration of the event.
“I lived with a few people in Alaska working on a project and that was an amazing experience,” said Walter Heck, organiser of the Come Hack With US hackathon. “Why can we not recreate that experience in a tropical and remote location so we can really focus on our projects?”
Those attending would have all cooking and cleaning taken care of so they can concentrate on the code, he told the BBC. Mr Heck is currently looking for sponsors to help shoulder the cost of supporting the cost of feeding the coders during the hackathon.
Successful applicants will be expected to make their own way to the island and pay a small fee to attend.
“It’s a submission fee that’s largely symbolic,” he said. “It’s to keep away the people that are planning to party all the time or are not serious about their project.”
“That could be really detrimental to the atmosphere,” he said.
The projects that people will work on would be matched to the skills of those attending to ensure good progress was made on all of them, said Mr Heck.
Mr Heck, who is currently based in the Kuala Lumpur, said there were lots of islands in the Philippines that were potential candidates for the coding get together. Although remote, the islands had good power supplies and were connected to the mainland via microwave links.
Continue reading the main story
If you look at some of the bigger companies of the last few years like Facebook they just came out of one idea and they’ve changed the way we live and work”
Walter Heck, organiser
Reaction to the idea had been swift and positive, Mr Heck told the BBC. More than 4,000 people had showed an interest within hours of the advert going on the Y Combinator tech news site, he said.
“Some of the bigger blue chip companies do this already with their top employees on a smaller scale,” said Niall Cook, head of recruitment at hiring agency Computer People.
Retreats and other getaways had become a staple among firms that wanted to get staff focussing on new ideas rather than taking care of day-to-day business, he said.
He had no doubt that the isolation of the hackathon would boost the creativity of anyone taking part.
“If you look at some of the bigger companies of the last few years like Facebook they just came out of one idea and they’ve changed the way we live and work,” he said.
“Without think tanks and the like nothing new would emerge,” he said. “Whether putting 12 people on a tropical island is the way you get the best out of people I’m not sure.
“We won’t know until they’ve done it,” he said.
Zynga’s plummeting stock price has brought the attention of lawyers, who have started an investigation into the recent stock dealings by the senior management of the gaming company.
At issue is the sale of 43 million shares of stock by Zynga top brass, netting them $516m in profit. The sales were carried out a couple of months before the financial results were announced that have had such a calamitous effect on the company’s fortunes.
“The timing of these insider sales two months before is suspect,” Jeffrey Norton, senior attorney at law firm Newman Ferrara tells The Register. “Zynga insiders at the highest level all sold shares at that time.”
Norton said that the firm has already been contacted by dozens of investors and is looking to hear from those who bought stock in Zynga between December 16, 2011 and July 25, 2012. The company could be filing a legal case as soon as Monday morning he said.
This is not the first time Norton has been involved in holding companies to account for such dealings. He was part of the team that saw Veritas cough up $30m after it was found to have been cooking its books.
Zynga raised $1bn at its IPO last year, which was then the largest such offering since the floatation of Google. It’s shares peaked at over $14 in March but are now trading at a little over $3 and the stock market is showing little enthusiasm for the company after it warned of a tough 2012′s trading.
The company did not reply to a request for comment from El Reg. ®
28 July 2012
Last updated at 00:13
The Maker Faire gives inventors a chance to show off what they have made
Giant versions of well known games such as Kerplunk, Operation and Connect 4 all feature at a celebration of home hackery in Manchester.
The city’s Museum of Science and Industry is playing host to a two-day Mini Maker Faire.
Amateur hardware hackers, makers and other tinkerers will show off their creations at the event.
Also on show will be a chandelier made of lost earrings, a musical milk float and a home-made volcano.
Manchester has taken over as host of the UK’s Maker Faire from Newcastle which staged the first three such events.
The Faire brings gives together people who have a passionate interest in turning out their own gadgets or have used electronics to turn everyday, or discarded, objects into something more usable.
“Maker Faires celebrate the human spirit of inquisitiveness, creativity and ingenuity and aim to inspire others to try and make their own creations,” said organiser John Beckerson.
While most Faires are testament to the diverse interests of the exhibitors, a mini-theme has emerged at the Manchester Maker Faire as several of those attending are showing off giant-size versions of well-known family games.
Visitors to the Faire will be able to see a dress shop mannequin that has been converted into a full-size version of Operation.
Also on show will be a version of Kerplunk that stands almost two metres (6ft 6in) high.
In addition, attendees will get a chance to play a huge version of the Connect 4 game made using counters made of recycled polystyrene.
Maker Faires originated in the US and are an outgrowth of the success of the Make magazine which writes about amateur hardware hackers and gives advice about DIY electronics and craft projects.
The BBC news website will have a full report on the event next week.