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Friday, January 30, 2015

Tesla Model X Caught On Video At The Test Track

As reported by TechCrunch: A new model Tesla has been caught on camera at the Alameda Airport test track (via Electrek). The car looks pretty similar to a Prius, or perhaps a crossover utility vehicle, and could plausibly be either the Model X SUV Tesla has been working on for years, or, as others are arguing, a prototype of the mass-market Model 3 that the coming is planning to bring to market in the $35,000 price range.
The video doesn’t show much beyond a car driving around at a relatively high speeds both straight and through some wide loops, and the camouflaged body of the vehicle with a broad back end and what looks like a fairly high seating arrangement for the driver, which does suggest it’s a Model X test vehicle. It also has a lot in common in terms of design, body shape and apparent size with the original Tesla Model X design unveiled in 2013 by Elon Musk.

I think it’s most likely this is the Model X, because of the points raised above, and because Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month that the Model X is on track for release by the early part of the second half of 2015, meaning it should be about as road ready and design-final as the vehicle in this spy video is. That means it’s time for electric car fans who want a bit more cargo capacity to get excited.

An Uber for Truckers

As reported by TechCrunch: Every day I hear about a new ‘Uber for X’ startup and most of them are pretty crappy, but every now and then one comes across my desk that’s actually pretty cool.
Los Angeles-based Cargomatic, which hopes to become ‘Uber for truckers,’ is one of the cool ones. And it just raised $8 million to expand its platform for connecting shippers and truckers who are available to help move their cargo.

Launched in 2014, Cargomatic hopes to bring some technology to the local trucking industry by providing a platform enabling shippers to list available jobs that local truckers with excess capacity can complete. By making the connection, the company hopes to not only help truckers make more money, but also to route shipping more efficiently.

The company has a website where companies can enter the details of cargo they need to ship, and a mobile app that can be used by truckers to accept jobs and track their routes.

Like other on-demand services, Cargomatic vets drivers who sign up, reviewing their commercial licenses and insurance to ensure they have everything they need to transport another company’s goods. It also provides pricing transparency by determining how much a driver should make based on the weight and distance of goods that they move.

Finally, the platform enables truckers to get paid more quickly by facilitating the invoicing and payments portion of the transaction. Shippers are asked to enter their credit card or ACH information, which Cargomatic uses to pay out truckers shortly after a job is completed.

Before platforms like Cargomatic, most companies that needed to move cargo mostly relied on a few local truckers that they knew, according to Cargomatic CEO Jonathan Kessler. But those truckers weren’t always guaranteed to have excess capacity. Meanwhile, truckers had to deal with uneven work schedules and driving for a limited number of shippers.

The company hopes to reduce that friction in the market by giving shippers a way to quickly get their goods shipped while also increasing income for truckers by making them aware of jobs that are available. Because it knows where truckers and available jobs are, it can also do more efficient routing to reduce the cost of transporting goods.

Cargomatic has been operating in Southern California and in the New York metro area, but it’s looking to expand. To do that, the company has raised $8 million led by Canaan Partners with participation from Volvo Group Venture Capital, Rob Estes of Estes Express, Morado Venture Partners, SV Angel, Sherpa Ventures, Structure Capital, Nicolas Berggruen, Scott Banister, Fritz Lanman and Hank Vigil.

That funding will be used to aid the company as it rolls out to new markets and brings on new drivers. Having Canaan on board should help, as the firm has invested in a number of marketplace startups and generally understands the dynamics involved in making them successful.

Kessler believes having Volvo’s venture group invested could provide some side benefits in helping it market to truckers. Another notable investor is Estes, who is the owner of the largest private trucking company in the U.S.

Of course, having money is good and having investor help is better, but Cargomatic hopes to succeed mainly because it’s solving a big problem. The local trucking industry is a $70 billion opportunity, after all. Cargomatic just wants a small piece of that.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

FCC Raises $44.9 Billion in U.S. LTE Advanced Wireless Spectrum Sale

As reported by The Wall Street Journal: The Federal Communications Commission’s biggest ever auction of wireless spectrum closed Thursday and raised a record $44.9 billion, a boon for taxpayers and a sign of the growing cost of supporting Americans’ smartphone habit.  The FCC said bidding in the AWS-3 spectrum auction had ended after 341 rounds.  Analysts had predicted that the auction would raise anywhere from $10 billion to $20 billion.

The haul is more than twice as much as the government brought in from its last major sale of spectrum in 2008, back when Apple Inc. ’s iPhone was only about a year old.

It isn’t yet clear which among the 70 participants who qualified may have won the licenses that were up for sale. Also unknown is how much big bidders like Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and Dish Network Corp. may have paid. Bidding is confidential, and the FCC says the results won’t be released right away.

Still, the auction’s aggressive bidding surprised analysts who thought it would be a quiet affair dominated by AT&T and Verizon. Anonymous results show multiple bidders fought hard for coveted licenses in markets like New York and Los Angeles, which commanded the largest sums. As of the auction close, the four main licenses for the New York region alone totaled about $6.2 billion.

Spectrum works like lanes on a highway, and carriers need more of it as their wireless traffic increases. The soaring prices in this latest auction reflect the pressure on carriers as their subscribers use their cellphones to watch more YouTube videos, stream music and share photos. Industry giants like AT&T and Verizon are encouraging that use, hoping to cash in as wireless data traffic grows.

The FCC started the latest auction on Nov. 13 without much fanfare and with a goal of raising at least $10.6 billion by selling about 1,600 licenses. That target was quickly surpassed, along with the previous auction record of $19.1 billion set in 2008.

Only 3% of investors surveyed by Morgan Stanley before the auction thought bids would top $35 billion.

The bidding highlights the enormous scale needed to compete in the U.S. wireless market, a reality that makes it hard for rivals to challenge the market’s leaders. AT&T and Verizon control most of the industry’s most lucrative customers and the bulk of its revenue and profits, which gives them enormous financial firepower in such auctions.

While big markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago drew the highest bids, smaller markets including Portland, Maine, and Louisville, Ky., received bids over $20 million. One license in American Samoa commanded the lowest bid, at $2,800.

In addition to the big wireless carriers, private-equity firms like Grain Management LLC and even some individuals took part in the auction. Satellite broadcaster Dish did as well. The company has amassed similar spectrum in recent years and says it wants to start offering cellphone service. Sprint Corp., which holds the industry’s largest stores of spectrum, even though much of it is of lower value, didn’t participate.

AT&T and Verizon have raised debt to help pay for the auction and are also selling assets. AT&T said that its recent spending—including corporate acquisitions-would leave it with a higher debt load than it had targeted and that it would make a priority of paying it down. The carrier is working to close a $49 billion acquisition of satellite broadcaster DirecTV and has cut two smaller deals for wireless carriers in Mexico.

The telecommunications industry had been more focused on an upcoming auction of spectrum held by television broadcasters. But that process was recently pushed back to early 2016, a delay that likely helped drive up prices in the current sale.

The airwaves in the just completed auction occupy spots around 1,700 MHz and 2,100 MHz (UMTS band IV and IMT-Advanced) are considered mid-band spectrum. Such frequencies aren’t typically as valuable as the low-band airwaves like those held by TV broadcasters that can carry signals deep into buildings and across the countryside. But the higher bands are useful in cities, because they can carry more data, albeit over shorter distances (i.e. multiple video streams).

Carriers are eager to put the airwaves to use, but what they’re buying won’t be available for some time. The Defense Department currently uses the frequencies for things like missile guidance systems and drone training programs. Some of the operations can be relocated in as soon as nine months, but others will take five to 10 years.

The government is likely to actually collect less than the headline number. Smaller bidders get a discount of up to 25%, which Nomura Securities estimates would bring total cash payments closer to $40 billion.

The AWS-3 auction closed less than 24 hours after the FCC had said that bidding had ended on the 50 MHz of paired spectrum being auctioned off. The FCC was also auctioning 15 MHz of unpaired uplink spectrum, the 1695-1710 MHz band.

The paired spectrum in the auction includes the G Block (1755-1760/2155-2160 MHz), H Block (1760-1765/2160-2165 MHz), I Block (1765-1770/2165-2170 MHz), and J Block (1770-1780MHz /2170-2180 MHz). The G Block is licensed in 734 Cellular Market Area (CMA) geographies and the other paired spectrum blocks are licensed in 176 geographically larger Economic Areas (EAs).

The paired spectrum licenses drew by far the largest bids, especially for the 10x10 MHz J Block in major metropolitan areas. The unpaired spectrum is generally seen as less valuable than the paired spectrum, and it is also encumbered by government users that must be moved off the licenses before they can be used.

The Falcon Heavy: The Most Powerful Rocket Since the Apollo Moonshots (Video)

As reported by The Register: SpaceX has released a video animation of its Falcon Heavy, the mega-rocket of "scale and capability unequalled by any other currently flying".

Falcon Heavy is still to make its maiden voyage, but when it does the lift off thrust will total nearly four million pounds, equal to fifteen Boeing 747 jet liners at full power, said SpaceX.

The intention is to create a rocket that can lift large amounts of cargo into space at low cost.
In the video, all boosters return safely to Earth. Each of Falcon Heavy’s boosters is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket.

Earlier this month SpaceX failed to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating hovership in the Atlantic Ocean.

Once SpaceX is able to land the rockets, the potential costs of Falcon Heavy will be even cheaper.

The Falcon Heavy was originally scheduled for its first test flight in late 2013 or 2014. SpaceX intends to launch the mega-rockets later this year.

Nine SpaceX Merlin 1D engines sit at the bottom of each of the craft's three cores, or boosters. The engines are identical to those on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon Heavy's first stage consists of three cores. All three cores operate together at liftoff. About T+2:45 minutes into flight, the center core throttles down while the two side cores continue at full thrust until their fuel is nearly spent. At that point, pneumatic separators release the side cores, which plummet into the ocean, and the center core throttles up.

For payloads heavier than 100,000 pounds, Falcon Heavy uses a cross-feed system to run fuel from the side cores to the center core, leaving the center core almost fully fueled after the side boosters separate. What's left is the equivalent of a complete Falcon 9 rocket already high in space.

A liquid-oxygen tank at the top of each core feeds the engines through a center tube; the lower portion of the tank contains rocket-grade kerosene. The propellants are turbo-pumped into each Merlin engine's injector, where they are mixed and fed into the combustion chamber.

Powered by a single Merlin 1D engine modified to operate in the vacuum of space, the second stage delivers the final push that gets the payload into orbit. The engine can shut down and reignite as needed, enabling Falcon Heavy to deliver multiple payloads to different orbits.

Falcon Heavy can carry either a Dragon capsule—SpaceX's free-flying spacecraft, currently used to resupply the International Space Station—or up to 117,000 pounds of payload (think multiple military and commercial satellites) enclosed in a shell 45 feet long and 17 feet in diameter. The fairing consists of two clamshell-style halves made of an aluminum honeycomb core and carbon-fiber face sheets. When the second stage nears the desired orbit, pneumatic pushers split the halves apart, exposing the payload.

A single Merlin 1D generates 147,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, burning rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen fed by a turbo-pump into the combustion chamber. Falcon Heavy's liquid propellant has an advantage over solid fuel: Liquid-fueled engines can stop and restart in flight, whereas solid-fuel engines burn until they are spent. Through proprietary adjustments that SpaceX won't disclose, engineers recently lightened the engine to increase its efficiency, making it the most efficient rocket booster engine ever built.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tesla's New 'Insane Mode' Acceleration Button

As reported by the Inquisitr: The standard Model S by automaker Tesla Motors can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which Business Insider reports is “pretty fast,” but the new dual-motor Model S introduced late last year can do it in a mere 3.2 seconds when “Insane Mode” has been engaged.

In comparison, the new Model S accelerates 0.7 seconds faster than the McLaren F1, which has an officially recorded 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3.9 seconds.

Insane Mode can only be engaged once the vehicle has come to a complete stop. At which point, it can be toggled on and off with the press of a button located on the new digital console.

The “DragTimes” YouTube channel tests the acceleration and top speeds of some of the fastest cars in the world and they’ve created a compilation of people reacting to the acceleration unleashed by Tesla’s insane button on the Model S and as one woman exclaims, it’s “awesome!”

Tesla S is a full-sized, electric, five-door luxury vehicle produced by Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. The car, which is also known by its research and preliminary development code name WhiteStar, has been in production since 2012 and is assembled in the United States and the Netherlands. The U.S.-based Tesla Factory is located in Fremont, California, near San Jose.

The 5-door liftback, which scored a perfect 5.0 NHTSA safety rating, is powered by a 416 bhp three-phase AC induction motor and uses a 1-speed fixed gear transmission.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the energy consumption rate of the Model S Performance model equipped with an 85 kWh battery at 237.5 Wh per kilometer, which equates into a combined fuel economy of 89 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent. The EPA’s official range for the car is 265 miles with an 85 kWh battery pack equipped.

Model S has been the recipient of awards such as the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year, Time Magazine‘s Best 25 Inventions of the Year 2012 award, the highest scoring car Consumer Reports has ever covered, and the 2013 World Green Car of the Year.

All of the Model S cars are built and tested in Fremont, California. Those intended for the European market are disassembled and shipped to Tilburg, where they’re then reassembled.
The first ten Tesla customers to purchase the Model S received their cars at the Fremont factory during the official launch on June 22, 2012.

The Model S Autopilot feature includes 360 degree sonar sensors, radar, and a forward looking camera.

Russia's GLONASS System a Sticking Point in Deployment of New 911 Location Tech

As reported by FierceWireless: Some Washington security officials have voiced concerns over a plan to use Russia's satellite location system to augment an effort in the United States to improve U.S. wireless carriers' ability to find 911 callers. In response, U.S. wireless industry executives and others have argued that using Russia's GLONASS location system won't create security problems for Americans.

The debate stems from a November announcement among Tier 1 U.S. wireless operators and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association to improve carriers' ability to locate 911 callers, including those indoors.

The proposed solution from the carriers and APCO and NENA will use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other technologies supplement location data obtained directly from phones' GPS chips. One of the other technologies that could help improve location accuracy is Russia's GLONASS location system, which uses satellites and operates much like the United States' GPS system.
According to multiple reports, it's the reliance on technology from Russia--which has a rocky political relationship with the United States--that has caused some concerns. James Clapper, director of U.S. national intelligence, wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russian President Vladimir Putin might use GLONASS "as a weapon" against the United States, potentially holding the 911 system "hostage."

But NENA and others blasted that argument.

"The consensus plan discusses the GLONASS system as a new component of handset A-GNSS capabilities because it is the only globally-available GNSS (Assisted Global Navigation Satellite Systems), other than NavStar/GPS that is currently operating," NENA wrote in a statement. "The consensus plan does not restrict carriers' ability to add or substitute other GNSSs, such as the European Galileo and Chinese BeiDou constellations, as those systems come online over the next 5-7 years. However, neither of these systems is currently available."

Added NENA: "Because handset A-GNSS chips can operate with any combination of satellites from any supported constellation, adding GLONASS support to existing GPS capabilities will not provide the Russian Federation with any leverage over U.S. E9‑1‑1 capabilities: Even if the GLONASS system were shut-down completely, handsets in locations with clear views of the sky could still calculate location estimates based solely on measurements of U.S. GPS satellite signals."
When they announced the proposed solution in November, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile US said they hope to use it to obtain a location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 40 percent of all wireless 911 calls within in two years; 50 percent within three years; 75 percent within five years and 80 percent within six years. Those goals generally line up against milestones discussed by the FCC, which has been investigating ways to improve the technologies used to locate 911 callers. The FCC has said more accurate location technologies could save 10,000 lives every year--locating 911 callers who are in a building is particularly critical for emergency responders who might have to search dozens of floors for callers in skyscrapers.

Security-Focused Android BlackPhone Was Vulnerable To Simple Text Message Bug

As reported by The Register: The maker of BlackPhone – a mobile marketed as offering unusually high levels of security – has patched a critical vulnerability that allows hackers to run malicious code on the handsets.

Attackers need little more than a phone number to send a message that can compromise the devices via the Silent Text application.  

The impact of the flaw is troubling because BlackPhone attracts what hackers see as high-value victims: those willing to invest AU$765 (£415, $630) in a phone that claims to put security above form and features may well have valuable calls and texts to hide from eavesdroppers.

Mark Dowd (@mdowd), noted Sydney-based hacker and co-founder of security consultancy Azimuth Security, discovered the flaw during casual research in the latter months of 2014. He shared his findings with The Register while the fix – due to be disclosed today – was being developed.

"Successful exploitation can yield remote code execution with the privileges of the Silent Text application, which runs as a regular Android app, but with some additional system privileges required to perform its SMS-like functionality such as access to contacts, access to location information, the ability to write to external storage, and of course net access," Dowd said, noting the bug took him about a week to find.

The flaw could also be coupled with a privilege-escalation exploit to gain full control of the vulnerable device, but this was not required to run arbitrary code as an unprivileged user.

Dowd has, in the past, reported vulnerabilities he discovered in a ZRTP third-party library utilized by the Silent Phone app in 2013 prior to the July 2014 launch of BlackPhone.

It was the marketing of the Silent suite of apps that piqued Dowd's interest – which led him to report the security hole he uncovered.

"They aim to combat mass-surveillance by relying on encrypted phone calls and messages by default, which is an effective counter-measure, but I wanted to evaluate those solutions from an application security standpoint [and] by that I mean I wanted to see how robust their implementations were against targeted attacks, and evaluate any additional attack surface they might expose," he said.

The flaw discovered in Silent Text is really a programming blunder within the Silent Circle Instant Messaging Protocol (SCIMP) library, which is responsible for establishing encrypted communication channels between devices for secure transmissions of text messages and files.

"The SCIMP protocol encodes messages as JSON objects, which are then transmitted to the remote party over XMPP," Dowd explained to The Register.

"The flaw I discovered occurs during the deserialization of these JSON objects. It is a type confusion vulnerability, which when exploited allows an attacker to overwrite a pointer in memory, either partially or in full.

"This pointer is later manipulated by the program and also the system allocator, allowing you to do things such as pass arbitrary pointers to free()."

The expert went on to say:
"Specifically, libscimp expects JSON objects to contain a message type, and multiple fields that are relevant to that message type. By sending a JSON object that contains multiple message types, it is possible to have fields read in to memory from the JSON object for one message type misinterpreted as fields of another message type. This allows the attacker to engineer a situation whereby a pointer to user-controlled data may be overwritten (or partially overwritten) with a value of their choosing."
It is important to note that the implementation flaw does not imply any inherent weaknesses in the design of the SCIMP protocol nor the encryption mechanisms used by BlackPhone.

The device and its Silent Text app were the brain children of encryption gurus Phil Zimmermann, Jon Callas and Mike Janke who created the device in the wake of and in opposition to global spying revelations revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

They have not revealed how many BlackPhones are in operation, however the Android Silent Text app has clocked more than 50,000 downloads, according to Google, and is also available on Apple iOS.

Silent Circle was not available for immediate comment.

After publication of this article, once a patch was issued to BlackPhone owners, Dowd shared more technical details on the text-messaging flaw, here.

Commercial Space Rides for U.S. Astronauts to Save Millions: NASA

As reported by Reuters: The U.S. space program should save more than $12 million a seat flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station on commercial space taxis rather than aboard Russian capsules, the NASA program manager said on Monday.

In September, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded contracts worth up to a combined $6.8 billion to Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to fly crew to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory about 260 miles above Earth.

Since retiring the space shuttles in 2011, the United States has depended on Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, to ferry astronauts to the orbital outpost. The service costs more than $70 million per person.

NASA expects to pay an average of $58 million a seat when its astronauts begin flying on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon capsules in 2017, Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, told reporters during a news conference in Houston and via conference call.

“I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017, hopefully,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Both SpaceX and Boeing plan two test flights to the station, the first without a crew and the second with a combination of company test pilots and NASA astronauts aboard.

SpaceX is targeting its unmanned test flight in 2016 and its piloted flight in early 2017, said company president Gwynne Shotwell. Boeing’s test flights are targeted for April and July 2017, vice president and program manager John Elbon said.

For its manned test flight, Boeing plans to fly one as-yet-unnamed company astronaut and one NASA astronaut. SpaceX said it is still deciding on a test flight crew.

Though schedules show SpaceX being ready ahead of Boeing to fly operational missions, NASA currently expects Boeing to begin flight services first in December 2017, Lueders said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why the Time Seems Right for a Space-Based Internet Service

As reported by MIT Technology Review: Providing Internet access from orbiting satellites—a concept that seemed to have died with the excesses of the dot-com boom—has returned thanks to SpaceX founder (and dot-com billionaire) Elon Musk. And while such a service would be expensive and risky to deploy, recent technological trends mean it’s no longer so out-of-this-world.

Musk has proposed a network of some 4,000 micro-satellites to provide broadband Internet services around the globe. SpaceX is partnering with Google and Fidelity Investments, which are investing $1 billion for a 10 percent stake in the endeavor. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm, meanwhile, are investing in a competing venture called OneWeb, which aims to build a similar network of micro-satellites.

In the late 1990s there were plans to deliver similar space services. “The dot-com bust dried up their financing and it never really got off the ground,” says Forecast International analyst Bill Ostrove. Those projects might have failed anyway, though, because it costs $60 million and $70 million to launch a satellite, and there’s always a decent chance that the payload will be lost to an accident.

Fiber-optic cables, in contrast, are easy and cheap to install, even in harsh environments like the ocean floor, and they can transmit huge amounts of data.  Beaming data from a satellite is done by radio, and is limited by the available spectrum, as well as the amount of power a satellite can get from its solar panels. Most communications satellites have data-transfer speeds of around a gigabit per second, compared to several terabits per second for the fastest fiber.

But some things have changed since the late 1990s. For one thing, satellite technology has advanced, bringing the cost of deployment down significantly. Toaster-sized micro-satellites can be launched dozens at a time, and don’t have to operate at very high orbits, reducing launch costs, but they can deliver performance comparable to larger, older satellites at higher altitudes.

SpaceX and Virgin Galactic also hope to ride a different boom by targeting parts of the world where there is little infrastructure and a huge opportunity for Internet growth. Satellite services remain less economical in areas where fiber-optic networks are in place, but Musk has stated that his Internet service would be aimed primarily at providing service to remote areas of the globe.

“You’ve got large swaths of land where there is a relatively low density of users,” Musk told an audience at the opening of SpaceX’s new satellite development center in Seattle last week. “Space is actually ideal for that.”

Musk and Branson are not alone in recognizing the market potential. Besides investing in Musk’s project, Google is working on a high-altitude balloon-based Internet delivery system called Loon. And Facebook is developing high-altitude, high-endurance drones to deliver Internet capability to remote areas. The Google and Facebook projects would be similar in concept to the space-based systems, while operating within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Whether, as Musk has suggested, SpaceX’s service could also be a viable alternative for customers in the developed world is less certain. Ostrove says satellites simply cannot compete with the bandwidth and low cost of fiber-optic cables.

The technology could also prove tricky for these newcomers to master. SpaceX, after all, has built rockets—but no satellites yet.

US Police Organization Wants Cop-Spotting Dropped From Waze App

As reported by The RegisterThe US National Sheriffs' Association wants Google to block its crowd-sourced traffic app Waze from being able to report the position of police officers, saying the information is putting officer's lives at risk.

"The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action," AP reports Sheriff Mike Brown, the chairman of the NSA's technology committee, told the association's winter conference in Washington.

Waze, founded in 2008 and purchased 18 months ago by Google for $1.1bn, has about 50 million users who anonymously share their locations to help gauge road traffic flows. The app also allows police reports and road closures to be added to maps and shared with other users.

Brown called the app a "police stalker," and said being able to identify where officers were located could put them at personal risk. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his members had concerns as well.

"I can think of 100 ways that it could present an officer-safety issue," Pasco said. "There's no control over who uses it. So, if you're a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze."

Brown said he had been alerted to the dangers of Waze by Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in Southern California, and invited Kopelev to brief the conference on the potentially dangerous code.

Kopelev said he first heard of the app in November, when he noticed his wife using it. He said that it was only a matter of time before officers are attacked because of the app, and said that after the murder of two NYPD officers in November the issue had become a "personal jihad" for him.

Both Brown and Kopolev pointed out that in the New York case the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had posted a screenshot from Waze on his Instagram account. Given that Brinsley threw away his phone two miles from the scene of the crime, however, it would be a stretch to pin his shootings on Waze, but the sheriffs are calling for Google to enable stealth mode for police sightings.

Google is already having a fair amount of trouble with law enforcement after both it and Apple began offering full-device encryption to mobile users. Now police have another reason to moan – although if officers are out and about in public spaces, Waze would appear to be doing nothing wrong.

"We think very deeply about safety and security and work in partnership with the NYPD and other Police and Departments of Transportation all over the world, sharing information on road incidents and closures to help municipalities better understand what's happening in their cities in real time," Julie Mossler, head of global communications at Waze, told El Reg.

"These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion. Police partners support Waze and its features, including reports of police presence, because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby."

AT&T to Buy Nextel de México, Continuing It's Expansion into Latin America

As reported by GigaOM: AT&T’s plans to tackle the Mexico market aren’t just limited to buying a single mobile operator Iusacell. It announced Monday it is buying Lusacell’s competitor Nextel de México for $1.875 billion from NII Holdings and will merge its operations into its growing pan-American network.

AT&T closed its $2.5B deal for Lusacell earlier this month, making it the third largest mobile carrier in Mexico. Adding Nextel’s 3 million subscribers will give AT&T about 12.2 million customers in Mexico, but it will remain a distant third place to Mexican giant América Móvil.  

Nextel de México is one of the many companies to carry the Nextel brand throughout North and South America. The most famous Nextel Communications group was acquired by Sprint a decade ago, and its brand was only recently retired. But several other Nextel’s continued operating in different countries under the NII Holdings umbrella. NII filed for bankruptcy last year, so the AT&T offer has to go through the bankruptcy court. That means it could trigger a potential auction for Nextel de México’s assets.

Like the other Nextels, Nextel de México runs iDEN Networks, which were once celebrated for their walkie-talkie-like push-to-talk capabilities but fell out of use during the mobile data revolution. Nextel Mexico, however, has since launched a 3G network based on HSPA technology that lines up with AT&T’s technology. It’s also launched LTE in three major cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

Monday, January 26, 2015

SpaceX, US Air Force Settle Spy Satellite Dispute

As reported by TechieNews: The US Air Force and private space flight company SpaceX have settled their dispute involving military’s expendable rocket program thereby paving way for the latter to join the spy satellite launch programme under Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV).

The settlement opens doors for SpaceX to compete with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for launch of spy satellites. ULA is a joint Boeing-Lockheed venture – the only private player to have received clearance for launching black ops satellites.

SpaceX has claimed in its lawsuit filed last year that the bidding system was unfair and rigged in favour of ULA. SpaceX went onto claim that the contract “was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers.”

Both the company and its founder Elon Musk have been quite vocal about Air Force’s deal with ULA and have been openly criticising the process questioning whether the allotment of contract was driven in large part by hiring favors between ULA and the government.

“Under the agreement, the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner”, announced SpaceX in a press release.

“Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers. Per the settlement, SpaceX will dismiss its claims relating to the EELV block buy contract pending in the United States Court of Federal Claims.”

The settlement means that SpaceX will see an expansion of its private spaceflight program. The company has already managed to bag a contract from NASA for trips to International Space Station and the settlement means that it will now have the ability to launch surveillance satellites for the US.

With an investment of $1 billion by Google and Fidelity earlier this week and the deal with US Air Force, SpaceX will surely be highly motivated to ensure that its soft landing of Falcon 9 rocket succeeds enabling it to reduce cost and turnaround times giving it an edge over ULA.

Tesla Motors, Inc. Has a New $9 Billion Ally

As reported by The Motley FoolTesla Motors is roaring ahead with electric vehicle innovation -- but it's not the only one. EV's need infrastructure, and Tesla Motors has found an unlikely new ally with the power to push electric vehicle feasibility to the next frontier. Here's what you need to know.
Recharge RevolutionNRG Energy isn't an auto manufacturer. Not even close. With close to a $9 billion market cap and 53,000 MW of nuclear, fossil, wind, and solar generating facilities spread across 3 million customers in 47 states, NRG Energy, is an electric utility through and through.
But utilities aren't the power-producing stalwarts they used to be. With decentralizing grids, smart meters, and increasingly volatile power portfolios, electric companies are looking for ways to stabilize and diversify their earnings. For NRG Energy that means taking a page out of Tesla Motors' book and building out an enviable electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Dubbed "eVgo," NRG Energy, currently has charger stations in 10 national markets, with plans to expand to more than 25 markets in the next two years. From San Francisco to Houston to Atlanta, NRG Energy's already entrenched national presence gives it an advantage over Tesla Motors' start-from-scratch expansion. But it doesn't take more than a glance to realize NRG Energy is employing a different growth model:
The eVgo charging stations provide approximately 40 miles of range in just 15 minutes of charging. Source: NRG Energy, Inc.
Source: Tesla Motors, red = open now, grey = opening soon. 
While Tesla Motors' 171 current stations in North America have a significantly wider spread, NRG Energy's 150 stations provide easy electric accessibility within its municipal markets. And more importantly for NRG Energy, its stations aren't an amenity -- they're profit-pulling investments. Owners can pay for individual plans, or hop in on pre-arranged partnerships NRG has with several of America's 13 electric vehicle manufacturers. NRG's "Recharge for No Charge" special offers are available to Ford Motor Co.General Motors Company , Porsche, Nissan, and BMW electric vehicle owners in select markets. In their latest quarterly statement, NRG Energy noted that these and other partnerships "have resulted in significant increases in customer count."

Small Drone Found on White House Grounds: Law Enforcement Sources

As reported by ABC News: A small drone was found on the White House grounds overnight, the United States Secret Service confirmed on Monday, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the situation “does not pose any sort of ongoing threat.”

Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary issued the following statement Monday morning:
"On 1/26/15, at approximately 3:08 a.m., a Secret Service Uniformed Division officer posted on the South Grounds of the White House complex heard and observed a 'quad copter' device, approximately two feet in diameter, flying at a very low altitude and ultimately crashing on the southeast side of the complex. There was an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared.

"An investigation is underway to determine the origin of this commercially available device, motive, and to identify suspects. As additional information becomes available we will update our statement." 

President and Michelle Obama are currently in India, with a stop planned in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. It was unclear whether or not the president's daughters were at home at the time of the incident.

Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House in the pre-dawn hours, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the mansion. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when pass holders who work in the complex were allowed inside.