петак, 04. октобар 2013.

Another Fukushima mishap leaks highly radioactive water into Pacific


Radioactive water leaked out of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant late Wednesday and has likely spilled into the Pacific Ocean, authorities announced today. As Reuters reports, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) discovered that contaminated water was overflowing from a storage tank yesterday, and officials estimate that more than 100 gallons may have leaked into the surrounding harbor. Today's announcement marks the second leak in less than two months at Fukushima, leading government officials to question whether TEPCO is capable of handling what has proven to be an extremely complex cleanup. The head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) lashed out at TEPCO after a leak was discovered in August, saying, "This is why you can't just leave it up to TEPCO alone." A massive tsunami and earthquake devastated the facility in 2011, unleashing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl accident in 1986. "we cannot deny the possibility of it having reached the ocean." Speaking to reporters Thursday, TEPCO official Masayuki Ono said the radioactive water "went into the drain and we cannot deny the possibility of it having reached the ocean." Ono acknowledged that TEPCO doesn't have the capacity to contain the excess water used to cool nuclear reactors that were damaged during the 2011 disaster, which is why storage tanks are overflowing. The water likely spread into a trench that leads to the Pacific Ocean, but TEPCO says the contamination is largely restricted to the harbor near Fukushima, and won't pose a threat to other nations. TEPCO says the water leaked Wednesday contained 200,000 becquerels of strontium 90 and other radioactive isotopes per liter. The exact composition of the water remains unclear, though the legal limit for strontium 90 is 30 becquerels per liter. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that he considers the situation to be under control, while saying the incident proves that TEPCO's efforts to contain the Fukushima fallout have fallen short. Suga said the government will intervene to secure the site, though it's not clear what steps it will take. "Let me assure you the situation is under control." The controversy comes nearly a month after Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. At the time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe sought to assure the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima disaster is under control. "Some may have concerns about Fukushima," Abe said. "Let me assure you the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."

Jukeboxing: Rdio fights Spotify with free mobile radio


Rdio is releasing a free version of its service today on iOS and Android, bringing personalized radio to non-paying users of its mobile apps for the first time. Free of advertising for now, Rdio’s unpaid offering represents a chance for the underdog streaming service to gain traction by adopting one of the most popular features of its competitors. But with personalized radio a standard feature on rivals like Pandora and Spotify, can even ad-free access make a difference? Starting today, Rdio’s radio feature, which it calls Stations, is free to non-subscribers on its mobile apps in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Previously, a user who reached the end of Rdio’s 14-day free trial and decided not to pay could no longer listen to music inside the app. Now that user can listen to an unlimited number of artist, album, genre, and track-based stations, in addition to "You FM," Rdio’s personalized take on a listener’s tastes. It comes two months after the company rolled out a similar offering on the web. "We don't need you to subscribe right away." To get the complete Rdio service, which includes on-demand listening of tracks and offline song storage, the user still has to pay $9.99 a month. But executives hope that if the people who complete the free trial continue listening to Stations, they’ll be more likely to subscribe in the long run. "We don’t need you to subscribe right away," says Chris Becherer, vice president for product, in an interview with The Verge. "You can live inside Stations for a long time. We think that over time, you’ll start building up your collection, building up your favorites. And whenever you do subscribe, all that stuff is ready to go." In its basic abilities, Rdio’s free radio service is similar to one offered by Spotify, which launched its own take on Pandora-style passive listening in June 2012. Since it launched a radio feature, Spotify’s number of users has grown by more than one-third — a good sign for Rdio, which has struggled to gain mindshare in a crowded market for music apps. Becherer says things are turning around for the three-year old company, which was created by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. For a time in June, it was the No. 1 music app in Apple’s App Store. "That was a big psychological thing for this company," says Becherer, who spent eight years at Apple before coming to Rdio. "People were really psyched about it. For the past couple years it felt like Rdio’s the coolest product, but no one’s talking about us. Now it feels like we’re in the mix." "Now it feels like we're in the mix." While he won’t say how many people use the service, the company says its monthly active users are up six times from January to August, and 16 times year over year. Data from Google Trends indicates that interest in the service has spiked this year. And earlier this month, terrestrial radio giant Cumulus took an equity stake in Rdio’s parent company, Pulser Media, and will promote it on its 525 stations. Cumulus will also eventually sell advertising on Rdio to support the free service. All streaming services seem to be converging on the same truth about online music: on-demand listening appeals to a subset of music fans, but most prefer to listen more passively. Like many of its peers, Rdio’s recommendations are licensed from the Echo Nest, which also powers applications for Spotify, Twitter, MTV, Vevo, and iHeartRadio, among others. On one hand, Rdio is offering unlimited free music in the hopes that it will serve as a kind of gateway drug that leads listeners to buy the full experience. But there’s another idea at work in the latest iteration of the product: that most music fans want both on-demand and radio services, delivered inside the same app. Pandora and iTunes Radio offer only the former, and Rdio thinks its product offers the best combination of the two. At work, you might use it to listen to a new album from a favorite band. But at the gym, or a house party, you might just want to turn on a radio station and let it play. "I think it’s one universe of music fans," Becherer says. "Everyone at some point in their musical journey has an appetite for both. Some people might skew one way or another, but it’s mostly your life situation that dictates what you want." (It’s not the first to try this approach; Slacker Radio revamped its service in a similar way in February.) It’s still an open question whether anyone can profit from streaming music If bringing free radio to its beautifully designed mobile apps draws users by the millions, Becherer would go a long way toward proving that thesis. In the meantime, it’s still an open question whether anyone can profit from streaming music. Rdio has raised $17.5 million and has 140 employees, and you don’t have to be a pessimist to wonder how long it will be able to offer its service if it fails to break out of the pack soon. Executives dismiss the thought out of hand. "Your Rdio is not going away," says Drew Larner, the company’s outgoing chief executive. Larner announced in June that he was stepping aside to search for an executive that can attract "an enormous user and subscription base." Rdio is getting close to announcing a new CEO, Larner told The Verge, and he will stay on as executive chairman while going to work with Friis on a new media venture in Los Angeles. Stations won’t attract that enormous user base by itself. But as free radio becomes a standard feature in every music app, it’s something that Rdio likely couldn’t live without.

Iran's cyber warfare commander shot dead in possible assassination


The commander of Iran's cyber warfare unit was reportedly shot dead this week, fueling speculation that he may have been targeted by assassins. As the Telegraph reports, Mojtaba Ahmadi was found dead yesterday near the town of Karaj with two bullet wounds in his chest. Ahmadi was the head of Iran's Cyber Warfare Headquarters, and was last seen leaving his house on Saturday, according to a report from Alborz, a news website affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Local police told Alborz that two men on a motorbike are believed to be behind the attack, though officials say it's too soon to determine their identities or motives. "The matter is being investigated and the main reason of the event and the motive of the attacker have not been specified," the IRGC said in a statement published on the Sepah news site. "The matter is being investigated." Recent years have seen a spate of assassinations carried out against high-ranking Iranian officials and scientists. Since 2007, five nuclear scientists and the head of Iran's ballistic missile program have been killed. The most recent victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, worked in a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, and was killed by a car bomb in January 2012. The Iranian government has accused Israel's secret service, the Mossad, of orchestrating these attacks. Iran has been accused of orchestrating several cyberattacks against US banks, oil companies, and Navy computers. The country has also been targeted by cyberattacks, most notably in 2010, when the Stuxnet virus infiltrated its nuclear facilities and power plants. Stuxnet is believed to have been created by US, European, and Israeli intelligence as part of an operation known as "Olympic Games". Reports of Ahmadi's death come at a sensitive time for newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who spoke by telephone with President Barack Obama last week in what is believed to be the first top level conversation between the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Rouhani is widely seen as a more moderate leader than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his election has raised hopes for more constructive negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. Israel, however, remains wary of its regional adversary, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week describing Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Intel joins the maker movement with Arduino partnership


Brian Krzanich, the successor to Paul Otellini in the Intel CEO chair, describes himself as a passionate "maker." At the Rome Maker Faire today, Krzanich is announcing Intel's new Galileo development board, which is designed to be a cheap and accessible platform for homebrew computer enthusiasts to build upon. Powered by Intel's tiny Quark X1000 system-on-chip, Galileo is fully compatible with Arduino shields and, moreover, will form the basis for a future collaboration between Intel and Arduino. Intel's donating 50,000 dev boards to 1,000 universities The initial goal with Galileo is to get the hardware adopted by educational institutions for hands-on engineering teaching, and to that end, Intel is donating 50,000 development boards to a thousand universities across the globe. They'll be distributed over the next 18 months, while retail availability is planned for the end of November. The main attraction of the Galileo board looks to be its variety of interfaces, which includes PCI-Express and the ability to act as both a USB device and host. Tapping into the Arduino community is a major coup for Intel, who might have had a much harder time convincing people to use its dev platform when faced with the wildly popular Raspberry Pi alternative. That super-cheap ARM-based dev board has captured people's imaginations and helped them build all sorts of basic electronics. Now Intel's joining in on this burgeoning DIY movement with its own hardware contribution.

Microsoft is not 'returning' to CES 2014, it never left


Recent reports have suggested that Microsoft is planning to return to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in a big way in 2014, after it decided to pull out of the keynote and show floor in 2013. "Microsoft is officially back in the International CES," Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, told BBC News in an interview this week. "They are taking out significant space in meeting rooms - it's actually a larger presence than I believe they have ever had." However, Microsoft is downplaying its 2014 plans, noting that it will simply have rooms booked like it did last year. "We remain good partners with CEA, and as we did last year [January 2013] have reserved a substantial set of rooms for meetings with partners," says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. CES is typically used by companies to launch a range of new products and gadgets throughout the sprawling halls of the Las Vegas convention center. Microsoft announced its plans not to participate in the CES keynote or show floor space just before its final keynote in 2012. The company had no booth and a reduced presence the following year. Microsoft did show its presence during brief appearances at the Qualcomm keynote and Samsung's own event, but had no major announcements or events. Microsoft was at CES 2013 with the Surface Pro Microsoft appears to be booking more meeting rooms this time, but it still won't have show floor space or the lucrative opening keynote. It's possible the company may hold press events at CES 2014, but it's more likely to use the rooms for partner and business meetings. Earlier this year at CES 2013, Microsoft held private meetings with members of the press to demonstrate its Surface Pro tablet, but the company missed out on the opportunity for a more open event to showcase Windows 8 and the related hardware from PC makers. In an interview with The Verge earlier this year, Shapiro detailed some of the decisions around Microsoft pulling out of CES. "We didn't end the relationship, we have a great relationship with Microsoft," he said at the time. Shapiro expressed discontent with the way the software maker chose to announce its CES withdrawal, despite noting Microsoft is a great partner. "How they chose to release that to the public would not have been our first choice." Shapiro explained that the CEA wanted to mix up the keynote presenters. "The reason they didn't do the keynote is that we made a decision that we could not have the same keynoter every year. The thing was unique to Bill Gates. Gates to me is like Steve Jobs, a legendary guy, and we could not have him so we had to end it." Shapiro also said Microsoft "were there in force" at CES 2013, a contradiction to his statement that the company is "officially back" for CES 2014. So yes, Microsoft will be at CES in 2014. But it's not the giant return it's being made out to be.

Samsung looks to topple Sonos with launch of $399.99 Shape M7 wireless speaker


You're looking at Samsung's idea of a Sonos killer. The company today introduced what it's calling the Samsung Shape M7 wireless speaker. Priced at $399.99 (matching the flagship Sonos Play:5), at its core the M7 resembles many other speakers that have flooded the market in recent years. It wirelessly streams music from your smartphone or tablet, and Samsung says components like a foam core woofer, CNT pulp cone mid-range speakers, and silk dome tweeters result in superb audio output. But it also capitalizes on the formula that Sonos built a brand on: Samsung's speaker can be chained with other M7s to keep music flowing (in sync) across your home or office. You'll control what plays where with the help of a mobile app. A $49.99 "Samsung Hub" is necessary if you want to take full advantage of the M7's multi-room capabilities. Again, Samsung is going toe-to-toe with its newfound competitor here, mirroring the price of Sonos' Bridge. Amazon, Pandora, and Rhapsody among early supporters Aside from your own library of songs, Samsung has also managed to round up some major content partners for launch. Out of the gate, Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio, and other services will all be optimized for ideal playback with the Shape M7. But with its significant head start and fleshed out product portfolio, Sonos already has the same partnerships in place, and then some — including Spotify, Rdio, and Songza. Still, Samsung has the powerful advantage of its recognizable and established brand. It's a heavyweight in the minds of consumers, whereas Sonos is still introducing itself to many potential customers. The two companies will begin duking it out when the Samsung Shape M7 hits retail on October 13th.

Here's how you build a smart timepiece: attach an iPhone to it


Samsung's Galaxy Gear and Fitbit's upcoming Force wristband can both lay claim to being smarter than your average timepiece, but Bissol's Calibre 2000 outdoes them both. Featuring an automatic Swiss movement exposed by windows at its front and back, this mobile timepiece plugs into the bottom of an iPhone 5 or 5S. It comes in a variety of anodized aluminum hues, matched to Apple's latest iPhone color schemes, and aims to combine the sophistication of traditional watchmaking with the utility of modern technology. The price for one of Bissol's latest is a reported $1,500, though the company also has the earlier Calibre 788 model, which is somewhat more affordable.