Author: Nick Farrell

Two violent game studies have been retracted

Two highly public scientific studies which claim that there is a link between violent computer games and real violence have been mysteriously pulled.

The first, entitled “Boom, Headshot!” published in the Journal of Communication Research in 2012 was retracted last January. That study looked at the “effect of video game play and controller type on firing aim and accuracy”, and found that playing first-person shooter games can train a player to become a better marksman in real life.

However Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, found some inconsistencies in the data published in the study. The lead author of the study, psychology professor Brad Bushman claimed the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him and his co-author

By the end of 2015, OSU launched a misconduct investigation into Whitaker, but hasn’t released any details about its findings.

“A Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State University recommended retracting this article after being alerted to irregularities in some variables of the data set by Drs. Markey and Elson in January 2015. Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable.”

Another paper published in Gifted Child Quarterly in 2016, authored by Bushman and three others, caught the attention of Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper had studied the “effects of violent media on verbal task performance in gifted and general cohort children”, and found that when children watched a violent cartoon for 12 minutes, their verbal skills dropped substantially for a temporary period.

Hilgard was surprised because there was such a huge effect which was unusual, considering the effect size that’s typical in this type of psychology research.

Hilgard said that OSU, Bushman, and others he spoke with about the study were helpful and forthcoming, but could not provide information on the study’s data collection process.

The author who collected the data, it turned out, lived in Turkey and fell out of contact following the recent coup attempt. Last week, Gifted Child Quarterly retracted the paper.

“As the integrity of the data could not be confirmed, the journal has determined, and the co-authors have agreed, to retract the study,” the retraction notice said.

 

LG does better than expected


LG
has estimated that its first-quarter operating profit rose 82 percent to its highest in nearly eight years.

The news surprised the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street who had expected things to be better for the troubled manufacturer but not that good.

LG said its January-March operating profit was $812.62 million and the highest since the second quarter of 2009.

Revenue for the quarter likely rose 9.7 percent, the firm said.

Earlier in the day, Samsung estimated the January-March period will produce its best quarterly profit in more than three years, beating expectations and putting it on track for record annual earnings on the back of a memory chip super-cycle.

Though LG did not elaborate on its forecasts, analysts say LG’s mobile business likely turned an operating loss for the eighth straight quarter. Sales of its new G6 flagship smartphone began in March and will not provide meaningful contributions until the second quarter.

Still, some analysts said losses likely were smaller in January-March as LG’s new lower-tier products fared better and the company reduced marketing spending.

 

Biggest Twit prepares to flog his stock

TwitterThe markets were all tutting over Twitter founder Ev Williams deciding to flog a third of his shares.

Apparently, Williams did not want to get rid of his shares because the company was suffering, he just wanted to buy something nice for himself.

In fact, his announcement make it clear that he was not selling because of Twitter performance reasons, just for personal reasons.

Of course, a cynic would suggest that those personal reasons could be that he does not want to lose more money on a company which could not successfully sell itself.

If he wants to buy anything more than a mars bar and a packet of crisps with his shares then he might have to do it now. Williams is the company’s largest individual shareholder, so his recent announcement may make some investors worried. However, Twitter stock was only down less than one percent Thursday following this news. Recode reports:

Twitter’s stock is down more than 15 percent over the past three months. Williams explained the sale in a blog post, and wrote that he has spent a lot of money investing through his venture fund, Obvious Ventures, and also donated a lot to charity and political campaigns over the past year.

“I’d like to continue,” he added. Williams sold about $4 million in stock this week, according to an SEC filing, and has set up a 10b5-1 trading plan, which means he will sell at pre-determined dates moving forward to avoid any concerns over insider trading.

Uber had software designed to diddle drivers and users

A class-action lawsuit against taxi outfit Uber claims that the taxi outfit is running a “clever and sophisticated” scheme in which it manipulates navigation data used to determine ‘upfront’ rider fare prices while secretly short-changing the driver.

According to court documents, when a rider uses Uber’s app to hail a ride, the fare the app immediately shows to the passenger is based on a slower and longer route compared to the one displayed to the driver.

The software displays a quicker, shorter route for the driver. But the rider pays the higher fee, and the driver’s commission is paid from the cheaper, faster route, according to the lawsuit.

Uber implemented the so-called “upfront” pricing scheme in September and informed drivers that fares are calculated on a per-mile and per-minute charge for the estimated distance and time of a ride.

“However, the software that calculates the upfront price that is displayed and charged to the Users calculates the expected distance and time using a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one displayed in the driver’s application,” according to the suit.

The rider pays a higher fee because the software calculates a longer route and displays that to the passenger. The driver does not even get any benefit because they are paid a lower rate based on a quicker route.

Uber trousers the difference charged to the User and the fare reported to the driver, in addition to the service fee and booking fee disclosed to drivers.

Samsung has a little trouble in Big China

A Chinese court has ordered Samsung’s  mainland subsidiaries to pay $11.60 million to Huawei Technologies for nicking its ideas.

The patent infringement case is Huawei’s first victory against Samsung. Three units of Samsung were ordered by the Quanzhou Intermediary Court to pay the sum for infringing a patent held by Huawei Device Co Limited, the handset unit of Huawei, the Quanzhou Evening News reported.

The verdict is the first of several Huawei lawsuits against the South Korean technology giant. Huawei filed lawsuits against Samsung in May in courts in China and the United States – the first by it against Samsung – claiming infringements of smartphone patents. Samsung subsequently counter sued Huawei in China for IP infringement.

Huawei sued Samsung China Investment, as well as a unit in Huizhou, a unit in Tianjin and two Chinese electronics companies for making and selling more than 20 kinds of Samsung smartphone and tablet products that it said infringed the patent.

It sought compensation for the more than 30 million products that sold for $12.7 billion, including the Galaxy S7, according to the media report.

The court ordered the five firms to stop infringing Huawei’s copyrights and ordered the three Samsung units to pay the damages.

Android phones vulnerable to booby trapped wi-fi signals

 Android phones are vulnerable to attacks that use booby trapped wi-fi signals to achieve full device takeover, a researcher has demonstrated.

The vulnerability resides in a widely used wi-fi chipset manufactured by Broadcom and used in both iOS and Android devices. Before anyone claims it was poor Android programming, the Fruity Cargo-Cult Apple was also vulnerable to the hack but patched the vulnerability with Monday’s release of iOS 10.3.1.

The Google Project Zero researcher Gal Beniamini who discovered the flaw said that an attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the wi-fi chip.

In a highly detailed blog post Apple said that the flaw  allowed the execution of malicious code on a fully updated 6P “by wi-fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction”.

Google is in the process of releasing an update in its April security bulletin. The fix is available only to a select number of device models, and even then it can take two weeks or more to be available as an over the air update to those who are eligible.

Company representatives didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this post. The proof-of-concept exploit uses wi-fi frames that contain irregular values.

The values, in turn, cause the firmware running on Broadcom’s wireless system-on-a=chip to overflow its stack. By using the frames to target timers responsible for carrying out regularly occurring events such as performing scans for adjacent networks, Beniamini managed to overwrite specific regions of device memory with arbitrary shellcode.

Beniamini’s code does nothing more than write a benign value to a specific memory address. Attackers could obviously exploit the same series of flaws to surreptitiously execute malicious code on vulnerable devices within range of a rogue access point.

Mounties always get their LAN

Canadian coppers have admitted that they is spying on mobile phones throughout Canada because they are worried about illegal monitoring by criminals and foreign spies.

The RCMP held the briefing in the wake of a CBC News investigation that found evidence that devices known as IMSI catchers may be in use near government buildings in Ottawa for the purpose of illegal spying.

After hiding their own use of the technology in secrecy for years, the RCMP spoke out about the devices — also known as Stingrays or Mobile Device Identifiers (MDIs).

The RCMP says that MDIs – of which it owns 10 – have become “vital tools” deployed scores of times to identify and track mobile devices in 19 criminal investigations last year and another 24 in 2015.

RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam said that in all cases but one in 2016, police got warrants. The one exception was an exigent circumstance — in other words, an emergency scenario “such as a kidnapping”.

Adam’s office tracks every instance where an MDI has been used by the RCMP. He says using an MDI requires senior police approval as well as getting a judge’s order.

And he says the technology provides only a first step in an investigation allowing officers to identify a device. He says only then can police apply for additional warrants to obtain a user’s “basic subscriber information” such as name and address connected to the phone.

Then, he says, only if the phone and suspect are targets of the investigation can police seek additional warrants to track the device or conduct a wiretap to capture communications. Adam says the RCMP currently has 24 technicians trained and authorized to deploy the devices across Canada. He knows other police forces own and use them too, but declined to name them.

Bezos flogs Amazon stock to become rocket man

Online bookseller Jeff Bezos said he will flog $1 billion worth of his Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11 minute space rides starting next year.

Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year.

Bezos told hacks  at the annual US Space Symposium in Colorado Springs that the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.

Bezos is Amazon’s largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos’ total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday’s closing price.

Initially Blue Origin will work for  11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six passenger, gumdrop shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.

The reusable rocket and capsule is designed to carry passengers to an altitude of more than 100 miles (62 km) above the planet so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of Earth set against the blackness of space. Unmanned test flights have been underway since 2015.

At the symposium, Bezos showed off a mockup of the passenger capsule, which sports six reclined seats, each with its own large window. Also on display was a scorched New Shepard booster rocket that was retired in October after five flights.

Blue Origin is developing a second launch system to carry satellites, and eventually people, into orbit, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule.

 

Samsung makes record earnings from chips

Never mind the fact that one of your flagship products caught fire and your Vice Chairman is in jail, Samsung is still winning.

Record earnings at Samsung Electronics chip division are set to propel the tech giant’s first-quarter profit to a three and a half year high, and the quarters ahead could be even better if its newest smartphone, Galaxy S8, is a success.

A boom in memory chips spurred by demand from smartphones and servers has helped Samsung tide over the costly failure last year of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and management turmoil.

Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee is on trial for bribery and other charges linked to a corruption scandal that led to the ouster and arrest of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung, Asia’s biggest company by market capitalization and the world’s largest memory chip maker, are near record highs after gaining nearly 17 percent so far this year, on top of the 43 percent surge in 2016.

Wall Street has on average estimated Samsung’s January to March operating profit to have risen 41 percent from a year earlier to $8.44 billion.  This is the highest profit since the best ever profit clocked in the third quarter of 2013.

And as Samsung prepares to start selling its revamped Galaxy S8 from April 21, the average forecast from the same survey tips Samsung to report a record 11.9 trillion won profit in the second quarter.

Analysts expect tight supply conditions for memory chips to continue this year, particularly in NAND flash chips used for long-term data storage, keeping Samsung’s margins padded. That leaves the mobile division as the key earnings variable, they said.

Some analysts and Samsung’s head of smartphone business expect the phone’s first year sales to beat that of predecessor S7, setting a new record for the South Korean company.

 

General Motors connects its robots to StarNet

In living proof that not enough people go to sci-fi movies, General Moters connected a quarter of its 30,000 factory robots to the internet.

The largest US  automaker already is reaping the benefits of less down time by analyzing data they sent to external servers in the cloud.

Mark Franks, director of global automation, said connectivity is preventing assembly line interruptions and robot replacements that can take as long as eight hours. Internet monitoring allows GM to order parts when it detects they’re wearing out instead of having to store them at the factory.

He said that reduces inventory and saves cash.

Hooking robots to the internet for preventive maintenance is just the start of a spurt of new robotics technology, Franks said.

GM is using robots that can work safely alongside humans in the factory that produces the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, he said.

Of course putting stuff on the internet makes it less secure and if an AI collective consciousness develops among internet connected devices, then it could use all these robots to take over the world.

You will know this has happened when a GM robot starts to assemble a robot to look for Sara Conner. But in the meantime, GM will be saving a bob or two before that, so that is ok.