Thursday, December 31, 2009

Going into 2010 with another good year in tech

Consumer Electronics ShowImage via Wikipedia
As technology companies make their annual trek to Las Vegas to unveil their coolest gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, investors are laying bets on another good year for the industry.

The mood at CES 2010 should be far more buoyant than in early 2009, when the economy was deep in recession and financial markets reeled from the credit crisis.
Tech stocks have since recovered, with the Nasdaq Composite Index ending 2009 up more than 40 percent, near a 15-month high. Analysts say stronger corporate IT spending, an explosion of activity around smartphones and mobile computing, plus consolidation, should further bolster the sector in 2010.
Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall predicted a climb of roughly 15 percent in the Nasdaq in 2010, noting that some of the good news was already factored in to stock valuations.
"It's going to be tough to find areas that won't do well next year," Marshall said.
Topping the list for many sell-side analysts are perennial blue-chip favorites like Google Inc, Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Intel Corp .
But with economic recovery slowly taking root and companies starting to upgrade their IT systems again, analysts say 2010 will offer tech investors a wide range of opportunities.



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South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has closed an antitrust investigation

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South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has closed an antitrust investigation of the flash memory industry, concluding that there is no evidence of a pricing cartel.

The investigation had targeted four major international manufacturers of flash memory, two of them in Korea, one in Japan and one in the U.S., Korea's FTC said. While it didn't name the companies it investigated, it noted that the world's largest manufacturers of the chips are Samsung Electronics and Hynix in South Korea, Toshiba in Japan and SanDisk in the U.S.
The FTC found no evidence of price fixing at the international level, and limited evidence of domestic price fixing, it said in a statement released Wednesday



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Blue Moon

New Year, Blue Moon and Lunar Eclipse.Image by Surajram Kumaravel via Flickr
Once in a blue moon, as the saying goes, there are two full moons in a single calendar month, which NASA says happens every 2.5 years. A blue moon on New Year's Eve is much rarer, last happening in 1990. Even rarer, though, is the partial lunar eclipse that will accompany the blue moon.
Not only is the decade going to end on a blue moon—the second appearance of a full moon in a calendar month—but also a partial eclipse of the moon, at least for sky watchers in Europe, Africa and Asia. A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is partially darkened by the Earth's shadow.
Most months, of course, have only one full moon, but the 29.5-day lunar cycle occasionally forces a second full moon into the 28-to-31-day length of calendar months. The last time a blue moon occurred on New Year's Eve was in 1990.
In fact, blue moons are not all that rare. On average there will be one blue moon every 2.5 years. What is rare is a partial lunar eclipse on New Year's Eve: It didn't happen at all in the 20th century and the phenomenon will not occur on New Year's Eve again until 2028.
The partial eclipse will be visible throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Brazil and Australia. Some parts of Canada and the United States will also get to see a glimpse of this eclipse, but overcast skies are expected over most the United States.
As for the origin of the term blue moon, according to a NASA statement Dec. 29, the modern definition came about back in the 1940s when "the Farmer's Almanac of Maine offered a definition of blue moon so convoluted that even professional astronomers struggled to understand it. It involved factors such as the ecclesiastical dates of Easter and Lent, and the timing of seasons according to the dynamical mean sun. Aiming to explain blue moons to the layman, Sky & Telescope published an article in 1946 entitled 'Once in a Blue Moon,'" which laid the basis for the modern definition.





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What British Women want

British Women Prefer Mobile Phones To Boyfriends

31 December, 2009, by Desire Athow
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"What a woman wants?" - While the question has remained an unsolved mystery for many since ages, a recent research has attempted to unleash the most treasured possessions of women in the present era.
In what could be seen as a massive setback for guys, a research conducted by a UK-based pawnbroker Borro.com has revealed that girls treasure their mobile phones and photos far more than their boyfriends.
The survey of 4,000 women has claimed that around 40 percent said they would be "devastated" if they misplaced their mobile phones, while one third of the respondents admitted they could lead a happy life without a man.
Mothers topped the list of the women’s most treasured assets, followed by touchy images and best friends. However, boyfriends only managed to garner the fifth spot in the list, surpassing stuffs, like diamonds, laptops, hair-straighteners, and pets.
In addition, as much as 20 percent of the women surveyed even admitted to think about pawning their valuable things to get the much required cash, the study added.
Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2009/12/31/british-women-prefer-mobile-phones-boyfriends/#ixzz0bJI0bn8n



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Federal court rules iPod safe

iPod nano (4th generation)Image via Wikipedia
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A federal appellate court ruled that U.S. technology giant Apple's diminutive music maker the iPod was not "unsafe or defective.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District in California upheld a 2008 lower court ruling that the volume allowed on an iPod, above 115 decibels was "unavoidable," and not unsafe, ComputerWorld reported Thursday.
Plaintiffs had sought class-action status in a suit that claimed the iPod put users at a high risk for hearing loss.
Federal Judge David Thomas wrote, "the district court did not err."
"The plaintiffs admit that the iPod has an ordinary purpose of listening to music, and nothing they allege suggests iPods are unsafe for that use or defective," Thomas wrote.



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AT&T drops Tiger

US telecoms giant AT&T announced Thursday that it was dropping its sponsorship deal with disgraced golfing star Tiger Woods who has been embroiled in a sensational sex scandal.

"We are ending our sponsorship agreement with Tiger Woods and wish him well in the future," the company said in a statement.
It was the latest blow for Woods since he crashed his car into a tree and fire hydrant in the early hours of November 27, unleashing a storm of revelations about his personal life.
The crash came just days after a US tabloid had reported that he was having an affair and thrust Woods and his wife, Elin, and two young children into the center of a media storm.



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IT continues to lead in hiring

Image representing Careerbuilder as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase
Information technology continues to be one of the leading industries for new hires in the coming year, show reports from CareerBuilder and ExecuNet. Yet, the winners in the first part of 2010 continue to be those who already have jobs.

More than a third of information technology employers will be hiring full time employees in 2010, according to CareerBuilder. The job board's recent report surveyed 2,720 hiring managers and human resource professionals in November 2009. Full-time employee headcount increases are expected for 20 percent of respondents across all industries. Other industries that will see hiring include manufacturing, financial services, professional services, health care, transportation and retail.

Existing employees, however, continue to be the winners by keeping their jobs and receiving salary increases in 2010. More than 60 percent of all employers polled are keeping headcount levels steady, while only 9 percent plan to make some cuts in the new year. Fifty-seven percent of employers will be increasing salaries in 2010 with 63 percent increasing existing employee salaries by 3 percent, yet only 11 percent will increase by 5 percent or more.
The signs for positive recovery in 2010 employment are there, says CareerBuilder, but caution remains in the air.





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Time to shop for a smartphone

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, ...Image by jagelado via Flickr
If you're shopping for a smartphone, now is the time to look for price cuts and buy-one-get-one offers, according to consulting firm NPD Group.

The average price for smartphones dropped 3 percent in the third quarter of this year -- the latest data available -- because of special price reductions and offers, NPD Group reports. In all, the average price is down nearly 17 percent from a year ago, to $177.
The price reductions helped push smart phones like the BlackBerry Curve to the top of the sales rankings for mobile phones during the quarter.
The price reductions helped push the BlackBerry Curve, the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G to the top of the sales rankings for mobile phones during the quarter, the report said.
The next best sellers are RIM's BlackBerry Tour and BlackBerry Storm.
The popularity and competitiveness of smartphones is partly because of their increased availability.
"There was only one Android device available in the final quarter of 2008. "Now there are eight available from three major carriers," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y.


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America thought there would be more tech advances by 2010

* Mission: STS-41-B * Film Type: 70mm * Title:...Image via Wikipedia
Despite iPods, genetic sequencing, the Internet and Twitter, nearly a third of Americans said they thought there would be more technological advances by the year 2010.

Not everyone expected to be living like The Jetsons, the space age television cartoon series of the early 1960s, but the Zogby International survey of more than 3,000 adults in the United States showed many were less than enthusiastic about how far we have come by the dawn of a new decade.
"The age group most likely to be disappointed with the current level of technological advancement are 35 to 54-year-olds (36 percent)," Zogby, which conducted the survey commissioned by the website ScoopDaily, said in a statement.
About 21 percent of people believe we are more technologically advanced than they thought we would be by 2010, while 37 percent believed we are on target for their expectations.
About a third of people 70 years and older said they thought current technology was more advanced than they thought it would be.
"First Globals, those age 18-30, are much less likely than older generations to say the technological advancements up until now have exceeded their expectations," Zogby added.
Not surprisingly, men were more likely than women to say they thought there would have been greater advances by 2010 to the Jetson lifestyle with its flying saucer-like cars and robotic servants,



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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Electronic records released in hopes of cutting costs

Logo of the United States Department of Health...Image via Wikipedia
U.S. health officials released standards for electronic medical records on Wednesday, seeking to spur the technology in hopes of cutting health costs and reducing medical errors.

Barack Obama
Health
Technology
Congress required the standards, partly as a condition of about $19 billion in February's economic stimulus bill that is aimed at encouraging doctors and hospitals to convert paper records into digital files.
One set of proposals, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), defines "meaningful use" of electronic records, in order for health care providers to be eligible for incentive payments.
Proposed requirements include that at least 80 percent of all patients who request an electronic copy of their health records receive it within 48 hours.
Another set of standards, issued as an interim final rule by the Health and Human Services Department, aims to enhance the interoperability, functionality, utility, and security of health information technology.
Electronic health records have been available for years, but many doctors' offices remain mired in paper.
"Widespread adoption of electronic health records holds great promise for improving health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety," David Blumenthal, the health department's national coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in a statement.
Part of the problem is that despite dozens of available software choices, there has been no clear standard so that information is easily shared between different providers or hospitals.
With no clear choice, many have been reluctant to spend money on systems that could quickly become obsolete.
The standards, which are subject to a public comment period, could affect companies such as Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc, Cerner Corp and McKesson Corp.
Larger technology companies such as General Electric's GE Healthcare unit, Siemens, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc are also involved in the health information technology business.
A final rule on standards for electronic records technology will be issued sometime in 2010. The proposed CMS rules on the incentives program will be subject to 60 days of public comment



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Does anyone still use fax machines

By Eric Savitz

An interesting end-of-the-year piece from Computerworld proposes 10 technologies that are obsolete and ought to killed off in 2010.
None of them actually will disappear this year, but it is a thought provoking list, and basically proposes the shutdown of a couple of public companies in their current form. Here’s an annotated version of the Computerworld list of buggy whips-in-progress:
Fax machines. I’m totally with them on that one. Who still uses fax machines?

Cigarette lighter plugs in cars. Agreed. Let’s switch to standard power plugs and USB ports.

WWW: Good points. Why do we still need the trip-dub in URLs?

Business cards: Oh, I dunno. I still think they come in handy. Though it would be nice if there were a simple, reliable way to scan them into Outlook.

Movie rental stores: Not many left, aside from Blockbuster. And even they are making the move into kiosks and streaming video. Already on the way out.

Home entertainment remotes: Computerworld proposes smart phones take command. Certainly, the multiple remote problem is ridiculous.

Landline phones: Already shrinking rapidly, with a quarter of U.S. households now land-line free.

Music CDs: Already in decline; the switch to digital is in full force.

Satellite radio: Hoo-boy, can’t imagine Sirius XM holders will want to hear that idea. The point is that there are better ways to receive audio content, and if you can get reliable mobile broadband in cars, then Internet radio can win the day. (Wouldn’t it be cool to get Pandora in the car?) Computworld proposes that “Sirius XM should keep the programming and the content, but drop the satellite delivery and the subscription price, and continue to serve their audience via the Internet.”

Redundant registration: Hard to argue with that one; as Computerworld points out, for instance, why enter city and state and zip code; you can get the rest with zip alone? The Web site name/password situation is terrible, and leads people to choose passwords that are too easy, or to write them down on sticky notes attached to the PC. What kind of security scheme is that?

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section below.



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Palm upgrades OS for Palm Pre and Palm Pixi

Palm Announces WebOS Upgrades for Palm Pre, Pixi


Earlier this week Palm announced version 1.3.5 of WebOS, the operating system on the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi smartphones. The update doesn't include any new applications or utilities, but it does make some significant changes to the operating system that users have been clamoring for, including the ability to use all of the storage capacity of the phone for app downloads, improved battery life, and changes to the Palm App Catalog that make it easier for users to download new apps and updates.



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Symantec's acquisition of MessageLabs

Symantec's acquisition of MessageLabs. In an interview with eWEEK, former MessageLabs CEO Andrian Chamberlain, now head of Symantec's software-as-a-service business, discussed the company's plans for the space in the coming year and dropped some hints on where Symantec may be headed.

One of the underlying trends in security of late has been the adoption of cloud-based services. On the acquisition front, the past few years have seen several independent software-as-a-service (SaaS) security vendors get gobbled up.
Among those acquisitions is Symantec’s purchase of MessageLabs. After more than a year under Symantec’s wing, former MessageLabs CEO Adrian Chamberlain - now senior vice president of Symantec’s Software-as-a-Service group – sees a future with even more security technologies in the cloud.
“The world is moving towards security based services,” he said in an interview with eWEEK earlier this month. “You can see the penetration in the developed countries of hosted security displacing licensed software and appliances.”
For Symantec, taking advantage of that means not only blending hosted and on-site technologies but also their respective sales forces and channels. In the year since the acquisition, Symantec recognized the inherent differences between customer operations and research and development in its services and licensed software businesses as well as the relationship between those units and marketing, Chamberlain said. Looking ahead, the company will stress what it feels is appropriate bundling of services and software businesses, he said.


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Women will become the majority workforce in the US.

The logo of the Organisation for Economic Co-o...Image via Wikipedia
Within the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce. Women already make up most of the university graduates in OECD countries and most professional workers in several rich countries. And they are gaining ground quickly as companies adapt.
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Spring Design will roll out Alex e-reader at CES in Vegas

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Spring Design plans on rolling out its Alex e-reader during the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Although many small companies are producing e-readers in order to capitalize on a growing market, and perhaps take some percentage points from Amazon.com, Sony, and Barnes & Noble, Spring Design is a unique case in that it is suing Barnes & Noble, alleging that the retailer plagiarized the design of the Alex in order to create its own Nook e-reader. The court recently turned down Spring Design’s injunction to halt sales of the Nook.

Spring Design will debut the Alex, its e-reader, in a two-day rollout during the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. While a wide variety of electronics will also make their debut during the convention, Spring Design’s Alex may attract a good deal of media attention due to its somewhat controversial nature: Spring Design is alleging in court that Barnes & Noble stole the Alex's design to create their own e-reader, the Nook.
While that case has yet to be settled in court, the attendant publicity will likely benefit Spring Design when it hosts media lunches on Jan. 7 and 8.

On Oct. 19, a day before Barnes & Noble’s Nook made its debut in a high-profile event on New York City’s West Side, Spring Design announced the Alex. Both companies' e-readers feature a 6-inch monochrome e-ink display, paired to an iPhone-like touch screen capable of displaying multimedia content, and run on the Google Android operating system.

According to Spring Design, the similarities were not purely coincidental; on Nov. 2, the company announced that it would sue Barnes & Noble over the alleged misappropriation of the Alex design for the latter’s Nook. A few days later, on Nov. 11, Spring Design filed its first amended complaint over the issue.





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AT&T Begs FCC to Phase Out Landlines Completely

AT&T Begs FCC to Phase Out Landlines Completely


In a 32-page filing with the FCC last week, AT&T asked that the requirement that it support a landline network be repealed. It's an aggressive bid to get rid of the cumbersome wall jack and move entirely to VoIP.

An all-IP phone network may be inevitable someday, but AT&T is clearly hoping for that day to be as soon as possible. Landlines are less efficient and more expensive to maintain for the carrier, and don't add much consumer benefit either. Unfortunately, AT&T's filing doesn't account for the 20% of Americans who currently use only landline connections, and there's no way the FCC is going to leave one in five taxpayers twisting in the wind. The migration seems to be happening naturally anyway: according to GigaOM, total interstate and intrastate switched access minutes have fallen 42% from 2000 to 2008.

A National Broadband Plan has been a long time in the works, but we're almost there. It'll be interesting to see how much influence Ma Bell can peddle.


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Google voice

Google's Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management at Google, said Google Voice and cloud computing will be huge plays for the search engine giant in 2010. Expect the Gizmo5 assets to bolster the Google Voice phone management application. Google has been toiling in the cloud computing market for a few years now, hosting its Google Apps collaboration programs for consumers and businesses. Google will be fending off rivals Microsoft, IBM and Cisco Systems for market share in hosted applications in 2010.

A Google executive said the company has only scratched the surface of what it plans to do with Google Voice, the phone management application that lets users route calls to all of their phones from one unique number.
Google Voice, which includes such tools as automatic voicemail transcription, SMS support, conference calling, and low-cost international calling, is free and has more than 1.4 million users.
That pales in comparison to the nearly 500 million users Skype enjoys worldwide, but unlike that popular VOIP app, Google Voice users must have a phone carrier to use the service. However, that will change in 2010.
Google in November acquired Gizmo5, a maker of so-called softphone software that will enable Google Voice to operate like Skype by letting users place calls via the Web from one PC to another or from a PC to a landline or mobile phone.


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Canada OKs major PetroChina oil sands investment

Bridge over the Athabasca River in Fort McMurr...Image by Gord McKenna via Flickr
Canada OKs major PetroChina oil sands investment


AFP Global Edition
6 hours ago Canada's Industry Minister Tony Clement said he had approved a 1.7 billion dollar acquisition by PetroChina of two Athabasca Oil Sands Corporation projects in northeastern Alberta province.
The deal gives PetroChina International 60 percent control of the Athabasca's MacKay and Dover oil sands deposits.
"I am satisfied that the investment is likely to be of net benefit to Canada," Clement said in a statement.
The minister said the Chinese company made a commitment to contribute more than 250 million dollars to cover its share of developing the oil sand projects over the next three years, as well as boosting employment and managing a regional office in the area for a period of five years.
The oil sand deposits of MacKay and Dover are projected to yield five million barrels of oil, according to Athabasca.
The October 31 PetroChina-Athabasca agreement is one of the top oil sand deals reached in Canada since it slumped into economic recession in late 2008.
At an estimated 175 billion barrels, the oil sands in western Canada are the second largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia, but they were long neglected, except by local companies, because of high extraction costs.
Since 2000, skyrocketing crude oil prices and improved extraction methods have made exploitation more economical, and have lured several multinational oil companies to mine the sands, but foreign investments remained cyclical.
To date, the United States remains the largest consumer of bitumen from the oil sands.

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Broadcom settles 160m class action

Broadcom settles for $160M securities class action lawsuit related to option backdating

Broadcom Corp. said Tuesday it will pay more than $160 million in cash to settle a class action investor lawsuit related to stock option backdating, but did not admit wrongdoing.
The Irvine-based chipmaker said in a statement that it would take the settlement, which still needs a judge's approval, as a one-time charge in the fourth quarter.
The deal would represent the second-largest up-front cash recovery from a company accused of stock option backdating, said Thomas A. Dubbs, attorney for the lead plaintiff, the New Mexico State Investment Council.
Managed care company UnitedHealth Group Inc. paid $895 million in 2008 to settle investor claims related to backdating.
The current Broadcom lawsuit was filed by investors who bought or acquired shares of the company's common stock between July 21, 2005 and July 13, 2006 and includes several million shareholders.
Former Broadcom Chief Financial Officer Bill Ruehle and co-founder Henry Samueli were named as defendants, as well as former general counsel David Dull and several other former and current executives and directors.
Broadcom said in its statement that it "steadfastly maintained" the claims weren't true, but added that settling the civil case will allow the chipmaker to move forward.
Earlier this month, a federal judge dimissed criminal charges against Ruehle and co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III and vacated Samueli's guilty plea to a single count of lying to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators.
U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney also dismissed an SEC civil action against Nicholas, Samueli, Ruehle and another former executive.
Also earlier this month, another federal judge granted final approval to a $118 million partial settlement in a separate shareholder derivative case. Ruehle, Nicholas and Samueli remain as defendants in that case.
Backdating involves retroactively setting a stock option's exercise price to a low point in the stock's value, boosting profits when the shares are sold. It is legal when properly accounted for, but if not properly disclosed it can allow companies to overstate profits and underpay taxes.
Broadcom was ultimately forced to write down $2.2 billion in profits after its actions were uncovered.


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Egypt extends telecom licences

Egypt has extended to 15 years the length of telecom licences it is tendering for use in gated communities, and raised the number of units that can be connected, the telecom regulator said on Tuesday.

In September the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) said it was offering two "triple play" licences for cable, telephone and internet services in Egypt's rapidly growing residential compounds in suburbs and satellite cities.
The addition of triple-play operators could increase competition in Egypt's telecoms industry and reduce state-owned Telecom Egypt's (ETEL.CA) (ETELq.L) fixed-line monopoly in the most populous Arab country.
"The board of directors discussed the requests of the companies that have purchased tender documents for the two gated urban community licences," the NTRA said in a statement.
"The most important decisions are the increase in the number of units in the gated community from 5,000 to 10,000 units and the extension of the term of the contract from 10 years to 15 years," it said.
Communications Minister Tarek Kamel has said he expected the triple-play licences to bring in $1 billion in investments within five years.
The bids will be due in January and operators will start work in the second half of 2010, Kamel said in September. (Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Rupert Winchester)



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Gonzalez adds guilty plea to hacking networks

Mug shot of Albert Gonzalez taken by the U.S. ...Image via Wikipedia
In one of the largest data breaches ever investigated and prosecuted in the U.S., notorious hacker Albert Gonzalez adds guilty pleas for cracking the networks of Heartland Payment Systems, 7-11 and Hannaford Brothers. Gonzalez previously pleaded guilty to hacking TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority.

Notorious hacker Albert Gonzalez pleaded guilty Dec. 29 to conspiracy to hack into the computer networks of New Jersey-based card processor Heartland Payment Systems, nationwide convenience store chain 7-11 and the supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers Co. The hacks netted Gonzalez access to tens of millions of credit and debit cards.
Gonzalez prevoiusly pleaded guilty Sept. 11 to hacking into the systems of major U.S. retailers including TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority and the Dave & Buster's reataurant chain. More than 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen as a result of the hacking activity.
Based on the terms of the Dec. 29 plea agreement, Gonzalez will not seek a prison term under 17 years and the government will not seek a prison term of more than 25 years. In his previous convictions, Gonzalez faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison. The sentences will run concurrently.




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Nokia files infringement complaint against Apple

Image representing Nokia as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
Infringement lawsuits and countersuits filed by Nokia and Apple, Nokia takes its case to the International Trade Commission. Nokia claims Apple is infringing on seven of its patents involving virtually all Apple iPhones, computers and iPods.

Nokia escalated its legal battle with Apple Dec. 29, filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission claiming Apple's mobile phones, computers and portable music players all infringe on Nokia patents. The ITC complaint follows a Nokia patent infringement lawsuit against Apple earlier this year and Apple's counter-lawsuit claiming Nokia is infringing on its patents.
In the ITC complaint, Nokia cites seven of its patents that are now being used by Apple to create key features in Apple products in the area of user interface, as well as camera, antenna and power management technologies.


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