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Iain Thomson

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Graphic depicting Venus Express in orbit about the second planet. Credit: ESA

Venus Express to get final acid bath before crashing to surface

After eight years orbiting the second planet of our solar system, the Venus Express probe is going to die this year, but the European Space Agency has some interesting plans to get the most out of the pre-teen before it disintegrates. Venus Express left our planet in 2005 and began orbiting its namesake planet four months later …
Iain Thomson, 20 May 2014
James Bond in the Bahamas

Latest Snowden leak claims NSA bugged ALL mobile calls in the Bahamas

A fresh dossier of documents apparently from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden claims that the NSA is running a telephone-tapping system that records the metadata and content of all mobile phone calls of two countries, including the island paradise of the Bahamas. The documents, published in The Intercept, state that the system, …
Iain Thomson, 19 May 2014

US authorities name five Chinese military hackers wanted for espionage

The US Department of Justice has named five members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army that, it claims, carried out an eight-year hacking campaign against some American companies to steal commercially sensitive information. "These represent the first ever charges against known state actors for infiltrating U.S. commercial …
Iain Thomson, 19 May 2014

Apple, Google: WE SURRENDER ... to each other in patent war truce

Apple and Google have asked a US federal judge to dismiss all patent litigation between the two companies after four years of legal battles, we're told. Documents submitted on Friday to a Washington federal appeals court requested an end to the patent war, the pair revealed. Piles of allegations of infringement were consolidated …
Iain Thomson, 17 May 2014
Pinky and the Brain

Baidu poaches Google Brain inventor for Silicon Valley AI project

The creator of Google's massive machine learning system has been hired by the Chinese search-and-more company Baidu as its new chief scientist. Andrew Ng, who is also the director of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab, has been hired to set up an AI research project for the Chinese firm that will be carried out at …
Iain Thomson, 16 May 2014

Titsup Russian rocket EXPLODES, destroys $275m telly satellite

It's red faces all round at the Russian space agency after its latest Proton rocket launch failed midflight, destroying a very expensive satellite that was due to beam digital TV all over the former Soviet Union. The Proton-M rocket, carrying a European-built Express AM4R telecommunications satellite, launched from the …
Iain Thomson, 16 May 2014
Mi Pad

Xiaomi launches Mi Pad fondleslablette – your (legal) move, Apple

Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi, whose CEO models himself on Steve Jobs, has released a tablet the same size and shape as an iPad mini with the somewhat-derivative name Mi Pad. Mi Pad Look familiar? The Mi Pad has a 7.9-inch screen with a resolution of 2048-by-1536 – the same resolution as the iPad mini with Retina Display. It …
Iain Thomson, 15 May 2014
Mars

NASA agonizes over plan for Mars rock sample return mission

America's top rock hounds are gathering in Virginia to decide where on Mars they want NASA's next rover to land – not just so it can survey the Red Planet but also so that it can send back useful samples. NASA has already announced that it will send a newish rover to Mars in 2020. The probe will use the same body shell as the …
Iain Thomson, 15 May 2014
Sonic Screwdriver - Doctor Who

Scots team builds SONIC SCREWDRIVER to repair damaged nerves

A team of scientists and engineers at the University of Glasgow (who are presumably big fans of Dr. Who) are developing a "sonic screwdriver" to help build tissue samples for medicine with a tartan design. Cells that mimic Scotland's most famous designs Cells that mimic Scotland's most famous designs BBC references aside, the …
Iain Thomson, 15 May 2014
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Deflation hits Tim Cook – date with him now costs only half as much

The annual charity auction of executive meetings has seen Tim Cook's value cut by half, but he's still head-and-shoulders more popular than anyone else in the tech industry with buyers. The opportunity for lunch with the Apple boss at Cupertino, and a front seat at the next big Apple technology launch, was auctioned off for the …
Iain Thomson, 14 May 2014

Mozilla agrees to add DRM support to Firefox – under protest

Mozilla has announced that it will add Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) for digital rights management into a future build of Firefox, even if the organization disagrees with the technology on principle. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to add EME into the specifications for HTML5 at the behest of Microsoft, Google, and …
Iain Thomson, 14 May 2014
Iranian flag flying

Iranian hacktivists move into hardcore hacking against West, dissidents

Security firm FireEye has been tracking an Iranian hacking group that has moved from simple defacement of websites to actively targeting Western defense contractors and those within Iran's borders who are trying to circumvent the regime's censorship firewall. The hacking group, calling itself the Ajax Security Team, has been …
Iain Thomson, 14 May 2014
HR Giger

The weird and wonderful mind of H.R Giger is no more

Hans Rudolf Giger, the Swiss artist and designer who scared a generation of movie-goers witless with his Alien creations, has died at the age of 74 after a falling accident at his Swiss home. HR Giger on the set of Alien Giger on the set of Alien It's a fair bet that a sizable proportion of El Reg's readership have some of …
Iain Thomson, 13 May 2014
Kinect for Windows

Microsoft throws Kinect under a bus, slashes Xbox One to $399

On June 9, Microsoft will sell a cut-price Xbox One for $399 – without the Kinect voice and gesture controller. "We've heard from people that they just like to play games with a controller in their hand and what we wanted to do was make sure that for those people there's a version of Xbox that really meets the exact needs that …
Iain Thomson, 13 May 2014
malaria vaccine

Malarial vaccine firm seeks crowdfunding for robo-saliva surgeon

A team of scientists and engineers is asking for the public's help to fund a robot designed to dissect mosquitos and industrialize the production of the first vaccine for one of mankind's deadliest diseases. The robot prototype, dubbed SpoRobot, is designed to cut the saliva glands out of mosquitos that are infected with the …
Iain Thomson, 12 May 2014
hands waving dollar bills in the air

$180,000 buys you lunch with Tim Cook as charity auction ending

The 8th annual charity auction to meet the executive of your dreams (or nightmares) is showing that lunch with Apple's big boss Tim Cook will set you back over $180,000 – other tech leaders, however, are proving less popular. The auction, run by Charitybuzz, raises money for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human …
Iain Thomson, 12 May 2014

Scientists warn of FOUR-FOOT sea level rise from GLACIER melt

Scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine have concluded that the glaciers of West Antarctica are now in terminal decline and the resultant ice loss could raise global sea levels by up to four feet over the next few centuries. "The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable," said UC …
Iain Thomson, 12 May 2014
The SDO captured the flare

Earthly astronomers catch best-ever image of MASSIVE solar flare

A combined effort by four space telescopes and one Earth-bound observatory has successfully snapped the best images yet of a huge solar flare that erupted from the Sun's surface. The solar explosion occurred at 1:48pm EDT (5:48pm GMT) on March 29 and was an X-class flare, the largest type yet recorded by astronomers. The …
Iain Thomson, 09 May 2014
Ari Partinen

Nokia Camera guru: I'm finished being Finnish, and off to 'the company you're thinking of'

Microsoft's Stephen Elop is no doubt busy digesting the mobile remains of Nokia, but he has lost a key engineer – Lumia photography lead Ari Partinen – to the clutches of Cupertino – Apple, in other words. Today will be my last day working for the amazing #Lumia family. In June I will start a new chapter in Cupertino, …
Iain Thomson, 09 May 2014

Amazon granted patent for taking photos against a white background – seriously

You sometimes have to wonder if the US Patent and Trademark Office is augmenting its staff with a few barely trained gibbons – and its latest patent does nothing to ameliorate that view. On March 18, the USPTO granted a patent to Amazon for photographing people and products against a white background. To answer your next …
Iain Thomson, 09 May 2014

Apple: We'll tell users when the Feds come looking for their data

Apple has updated its procedures for dealing with police investigations into its users' data, and has promised to let individuals know when they are being probed – most of the time, that is. The new guidelines state that customers will not be notified if there is a non-disclosure order with the search warrant or if "we believe …
Iain Thomson, 08 May 2014
Plastic Japanese gun arsenal

Japanese cops arrest man with five 3D printed guns at home

Japanese police have arrested a 27-year-old man after finding he had manufactured five handguns using a commercial 3D printer, two of which they say were capable of firing. Plastic Japanese gun arsenal Guns they may be, but dangerous they aren't Yoshitomo Imura, an employee of Shonan Institute of Technology in Fujisawa, made …
Iain Thomson, 08 May 2014
Galaxy simulation

ENTIRE UNIVERSE created in supercomputer. Not THIS universe (probably)

Researchers at MIT and Harvard have created a a giant virtual universe – 350 million light-years squared – which can be used to simulate the real universe's development from 12 million years after the Big Bang to the present day, or around 13 billion years' worth of expansion. Dubbed Illustris, the pocket universe uses over 12 …
Iain Thomson, 08 May 2014
Protesters outside FCC headquarters

Net neutrality protesters set up camp outside FCC headquarters

A posse of net neutrality activists has set up a camp outside the Washington, DC headquarters of the Federal Communication Commission to protest the agency's plans to allow a pay-for-play internet. Protesters outside FCC headquarters Not exactly Tahrir Square "We don't have armies of paid lobbyists at our disposal but we …
Iain Thomson, 07 May 2014
Google sign outside Mountain View headquarters

Google updates Maps app for iOS, Android, adds Uber support

Google has issued a major update to its Maps app for iOS and Android, including integration with the Uber private taxi app and an improved local business search that spells bad news for Yelp. The Chocolate Factory has put a lot of work into using Maps offline. You've been able to save maps for offline use for a while, but it's …
Iain Thomson, 07 May 2014
Oculus Rift being tested by the Norwegian army

Norwegians trial Oculus Rift in tanks: The ultimate battlefield simulator

Gamers might be excited about using Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles for simulated combat, but the Norwegian army is trying it out for real as a way to maneuver its tanks without exposing the crew. Oculus Rift being tested by the Norwegian army 'Hold on, just checking Facebook.' The system uses four cameras on the sides of …
Iain Thomson, 06 May 2014
Epson Moverio

Epson takes on Google Glass with wired 'augmented reality' glasses

Think Epson and you've probably got printers on your mind, but the firm also makes wearable computing devices, and has released its latest effort in the area for less than half the current price of Google's forthcoming Glass headware. The Epson Moverio BT-200 is a pair of high-tech specs that uses twin microprojectors to display …
Iain Thomson, 06 May 2014

Symantec: Antivirus is 'DEAD' – no longer 'a moneymaker'

Symantec, a company that has made huge amounts of cash as the largest antivirus software vendor for the last quarter of a century, looks to be getting out of that business and into fixing hacking problems rather than stopping them. "We don't think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way," Brian Dye, Symantec's senior vice …
Iain Thomson, 06 May 2014
Dawn's image of Vesta. Pic: NASA

Truck-sized asteroid slips silently between Moon and Earth

In the early hours of Saturday morning an asteroid whizzed past Earth at what in astronomical terms a very close shave, skimming just 186,000 miles over our planet's surface. Asteroid 2014 HL129 squeaks past Asteroid 2014 HL129 squeaks past The asteroid, dubbed 2014 HL129, a 4-to-15 meter-wide chunk of space debris, flashed …
Iain Thomson, 05 May 2014

Mozilla asks FCC to unleash the nuclear option on net neutrality

Mozilla has filed a formal request to the US Federal Communications Commission asking it to reclassify internet-provision and content-provider's traffic under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which would ensure the net remains neutral. The Firefox firm's proposal is twofold. First, it petitions the FCC to reclassify …
Iain Thomson, 05 May 2014
management regulation1

The verdict is in: Samsung to pay Apple $120m chump change, but gets tiny rebate

The jury in the latest case of Apple verses Samsung patent infringement has reached a verdict just in time for a balmy California weekend, fining the Korean firm $119.6 million for infringing on two of Cupertino's patents. "We are grateful to the jury and the court for their service," an Apple spokeswoman told The Register. " …
Iain Thomson, 03 May 2014
Luke Skywalker

Laser deflector shields possible with today's tech – but there's one small problem

A new paper from the University of Leicester claims that it's technically possible to build shields around a spacecraft to protect it from laser fire using available technology, but with the somewhat troubling side effect of leaving the pilot unable to see where he or she is going. The research, published [PDF] in the peer- …
Iain Thomson, 03 May 2014
The Mondoshawn, genetically perfect beings in <i>The Fifth Element</i>

Super-heavy element 117 DOES exist – albeit briefly. Got any berkelium handy?

Scientists at Germany's GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research have successfully recreated a new type of element, paving the way for its admission into the periodic table. "This is an important scientific result and a compelling example of international cooperation in science, advancing superheavy element research by …
Iain Thomson, 02 May 2014

ZeniMax lobs sueball at Oculus, says space cowboy Carmack rustled its code

ZeniMax Media is suing virty headgear maker Oculus, claiming the start-up's CTO John Carmack is using intellectual property he developed for the games manufacturer in his new company's fancy glasses. Zenimax owns id Software, where Carmack spent years developing such classics as Doom and Quake before starting failed rocketry …
Iain Thomson, 02 May 2014

SpaceX wins court injunction to block US Air Force buying Russian rockets

SpaceX has won an injunction blocking the United Launch Alliance (ULA) from buying rocket equipment from Russia to service its contract with the US Air Force for orbital launches. Judge Susan Braden ruled on Wednesday that the ULA - a 50/50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that has an exclusive, non-compete …
Iain Thomson, 02 May 2014
John Legere

T-Mobile US added more subscribers in last quarter than top three competitors combined

Shares in US mobile operator T-Mobile rose by more than 7 per cent on news that the firm added 2.4 million customers to its books and increased its revenues by 47 per cent in the last quarter. The news moved its outspoken CEO John Legere to profanity. We have outpaced the competition AGAIN – 12 times over! I shit you not! http …
Iain Thomson, 01 May 2014
Denmark Minecraft map vandalised

Denmark dynamited by cunning American Minecraft vandals

Last week, the Danish government put a 1:1 scale replica of its country online at Minecraft and invited players to politely explore the land of Lego and Carlsberg. Gamers being what they are, you can guess what happened next. "Several large Danish towns have been leveled to the ground and a lot of new things have been built all …
Iain Thomson, 01 May 2014
NASA's new Z-2 spacesuit

Voters pick luminous tech spacesuit as NASA's off-world fashion statement

NASA has announced the winning design to its new line of spacesuits after a public vote on competing style tips. NASA's new Z-2 spacesuit "Why's that little green man laughing at me?" The spacesuit is the second of NASA's Z-Series designs that will one day replace the more traditional suits used in space today. NASA wanted a …
Iain Thomson, 01 May 2014
Fritz Pfleumer with his magnetic tape recorder

Sony nanotechnicians invent magnetic tape that stores 148 Gb per square inch

Researchers at Sony have developed a new kind of magnetic tape that can store 74 times the data of current designs, dramatically cutting the amount of room needed for backup libraries. The tape is manufactured using a new vacuum thin-film forming system that deposits a string of uniformly orientated nanocrystals in a layer less …
Iain Thomson, 30 Apr 2014
Jeffrey Katzenberg

DreamWorks CEO: Movie downloaders should pay by screen size

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of film studio DreamWorks, has suggested that Hollywood should move to a new pay-per-screen-inch pricing model as movie downloads become more popular. Speaking at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, Katzenberg said that in the next ten years he would like to see the movie industry move to the new …
Iain Thomson, 30 Apr 2014
Bohr atomic model

Grad student creates world's thinnest wires – just three atoms wide

A Vanderbilt University graduate student has created the world's thinnest wires using a beam of electrons, a technique that could usher in new ultra-slim form factors for electronics and possibly help the chip industry build smaller, faster processors. Ph.D candidate Junhao Lin used a scanning transmission electron microscope …
Iain Thomson, 30 Apr 2014
Electronic devices dangerous to flight safety

AT&T plans in-flight internet move using its US 4G network

AT&T has one of the largest LTE networks in the US, and it has now signed an agreement with Honeywell to use the cellular grid to bring faster in-flight internet to air passengers. "Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet," said John Stankey, chief strategy …
Iain Thomson, 29 Apr 2014
Nod Labs Bluetooth ring

Nod Labs forges one (Bluetooth) ring to rule them all

A team of engineers formerly from Google and Jawbone thinks it has cracked gesture recognition for electronics with a Bluetooth-equipped ring that can control cursor movements and manipulate household devices. Nod Labs Bluetooth ring The Nod sans cover The Nod is a somewhat bulky black ring of surgical steel with a touchpad …
Iain Thomson, 29 Apr 2014

AMD adds ARM security core to new, low-cost x86 mobile processors

AMD has two new, low-power system-on-chip (SoC) designs for laptops and tablets ready to roll that include an ARM processor core built into the die to handle security and virtualized Android support for Windows systems. "This category of products is AMD's; we own it, we created it, every year we build upon it to deliver even …
Iain Thomson, 29 Apr 2014
Windjana

Curiosity considers first dig into Windjana, the sands(tone) of Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover has been doing some Martian house cleaning, brushing down a potential new target for its drilling tools. Windjana Curiosity gets sweeping ahead of a possible drill-down The rock formation, dubbed Windjana, is a sandstone formation about two feet across that the rover has trundled up to on its way to …
Iain Thomson, 28 Apr 2014
Supreme Court Building

Victory for Microsoft as Supremes decline to hear Novell's WordPerfect whine

The decade-long legal fight over the reasons WordPerfect failed has ended in victory for Microsoft after the US Supreme Court declined to hear Novell's appeal and shut the door on a potential billion-dollar settlement for the company. "We're happy this case is now over for good and think it shows we'll persistently defend …
Iain Thomson, 28 Apr 2014
Farquhar, his family, and ISEE-3

Privateers race to capture forgotten NASA space probe using crowdsourced cash

A team of engineers who helped decode archaic NASA data has moved onto hardware, and is trying to find the cash to recapture the International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) probe – the first spacecraft to pass through the tail of a comet – as it swings by Earth. isee3 ISEE-3 under construction at NASA, back when disco was born …
Iain Thomson, 25 Apr 2014
Al Pacino as Scarface

Silk Road dealer 'SuperTrips' faces 40 years for DVD drug imports

US law enforcement is claiming a victory in its 43-year War on Drugs™ after a Dutch man accused of being one of the largest drug dealers on the now-defunct Silk Road online bazaar agreed to plead guilty to a single drug conspiracy charge. Over an 18-month period, the Feds allege, Cornelis Jan Slomp sent 104 kilograms of MDMA, …
Iain Thomson, 25 Apr 2014

Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, settle employee-fiddling class action suit

A series of secret pacts among some of the biggest employers in Silicon Valley to cheat their staffers could turn out to be a rather expensive mistake, with Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe now agreeing to settle the antitrust class-action lawsuit out of court. "This is an excellent resolution of the case that will benefit class …
Iain Thomson, 25 Apr 2014
Denmark Minecraft map

Minecraft players can now download Denmark – all of it – in 1:1 scale

Players of the popular sandbox world Minecraft have a new landscape to roam over, as the Danish government put a representation of the entire country in 1:1 scale online for download. Denmark Minecraft map The Nyhavn district of Copenhagen in Minecraft mode "All of Denmark is now a virtual world in the ratio 1:1 inside the …
Iain Thomson, 24 Apr 2014