Start up (2): LA schools iPad subpoena, Yandex wants Google antitrust, are you a codebreaker?, and more


An Enigma coding machine. By visualtheology on Flickr.

An afternoon selection of 6 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

This is the second of two posts of links today. (It’s an experiment.) Like? Don’t like? Let me know.

Gallery of Fluid Motion >> American Physical Society

The energy deposition in a liquid drop on a nanosecond time scale by impact of a laser pulse can induce various reactions, such as vaporization or plasma generation. The response of the drop can be extremely violent: The drop gets strongly deformed and propelled forward at several m/s, and subsequently breaks up or even explodes. These effects are used in a controlled manner during the generation of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light in nanolithography machines for the fabrication of leading-edge semiconductor microchips. Detailed understanding of the fundamentals of this process is of key importance in order to advance the latest lithography machines.

Yeah, whatever – the video of a LASER shooting an INK DROP at a bazillion frames per second is SUPER COOL.


Federal grand jury subpoenaed documents from L.A. Unified >> LA Times

LA school district officials turned over 20 boxes of documents Monday in response to a federal grand jury subpoena for documents related to its troubled iPad project, officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

The subpoena asked for documents related to the bidding process as well as to the winning bidders in the $1.3bn effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator.

The contract, approved in June 2013, was with Apple to supply iPads; Pearson provided the curriculum as a subcontractor.

The investigation is a broad one, seeking records related to Apple and Pearson that predate the bidding process or that involve other projects, according to the subpoena, which was provided to The [LA] Times.

A $500m contract that’s looking increasingly dodgy. The superintendent, John Deasy, is criticised for having (unspecified) “close ties” to “Apple executives” including Tim Cook – though you’d expect Cook might find some time for someone spending half a billion dollars.

Could make a fun trial, if it comes to anything.


Yandex CEO Backs Google Antitrust Probes as Search Share Drops – Bloomberg

Yandex chief executive officer Arkady Volozh said he supports antitrust investigations of Google, whose Android operating system is helping it gain market share against Russia’s biggest search engine.

Android’s default options push users to Google services including search and maps, limiting consumers’ ability to choose such services from Yandex or other vendors, Volozh said in an interview at the company’s Moscow offices. The operating system has 85% of Russia’s smartphone market, according to researcher IDC.

“This is very similar to what Microsoft was doing a decade ago,” Volozh said. “They were trying to use dominance in operating systems to promote their Internet Explorer browser and were finally banned from doing this. The same is now happening with Android – Google dominates in it and runs practices incompatible with fair competition…

“I fully agree with the investigation the EU began to change the situation,” Volozh said. “If we want to have different players in Internet services, if we want startups continuing to evolve in different spheres – search, commerce, maps, mail, etc. – and new apps emerging, there should be a possibility for these apps to be freely delivered to consumers.”

I understand that European Commission inquiries to Android handset makers have been extremely detailed – to the slight concern of the handset makers. Yandex would like a situation where it could bid to be the default search engine on an Android handset.

Question is, will the EC seek to force that?


Could you have been a codebreaker at Bletchley Park? >> Daily Telegraph

Tom Chivers:

In January 1942, a series of letters to The Daily Telegraph had claimed that the paper’s crossword wasn’t hard enough. It could be solved in a matter of minutes, they said; so a man called WAJ Gavin, the chairman of the Eccentric Club, suggested this be put to the test. He put up a £100 prize, to be donated to charity in the event that anyone could do it, and Arthur Watson, the paper’s then editor, arranged a competition in the newsroom on Fleet Street.

Five people beat the 12-minute deadline, although one, the fastest, had misspelled a word and was disqualified. The puzzle was printed in the next day’s edition, January 13 1942, so that everyone could try their hand (see the puzzle further down this article). And there the matter might have rested – but, unknown to the Telegraph and the contestants, the War Office was watching. Stanley Sedgewick, one of those who took part, said: “Several weeks later, I received a letter marked ‘Confidential’ inviting me, as a consequence of taking part in ‘The Daily Telegraph Crossword Time Test’, to make an appointment to see Col Nichols of the General Staff, who ‘would very much like to see you on a matter of national importance’.”

Bonus: that cryptic crossword for you to try to solve in less than 12 minutes. And then await a call.


Touchscreen clamshell notebooks to be phased out of the market >> Digitimes

Despite Microsoft and Intel aggressively promoting clamshell-type touchscreen notebooks, orders for such devices from vendors have already disappeared completely, and after existing inventories in the channel are cleared, this type of notebook will be phased out of the industry, according to sources from notebook makers.

In 2015, vendors will turn to focus on conventional non-touchscreen notebooks as well as 2-in-1 devices. Since touchscreen controls are not a necessary feature for notebooks, and increase costs, demand for touchscreen notebooks has been weak since their launch.

Unclear if this applies to Chromebooks too, but feels unsurprising.


Be wary of ‘order confirmation’ emails >> Krebs on Security

If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to “confirm” an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.

An “order confirmation” malware email blasted out by the Asprox spam botnet recently.
Seasonal scams like these are a perennial scourge of the holidays, mainly because the methods they employ are reliably successful. Crooks understand that it’s easier to catch would-be victims off-guard during the holidays. This goes even for people who generally know better than to click on links and attachments in emails that spoof trusted brands and retailers, because this is a time of year when many people are intensely focused on making sure their online orders arrive before Dec. 25.

This is the second post of the day. Let me know if you’d rather just have a single post.

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