Cellphones are dangerous / not dangerous: Danish study tilts toward the latter

Chalk one up for the chatterboxes. In a study spanning 18 years and more than 350,000 test subjects, researchers in Denmark have found no connection between cellphone usage and brain cancer. The landmark project, carried out by Denmark’s Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, was published online last week in the British Medical Journal, and is just the latest in a series of similarly optimistic studies. Of the 358,403 cellphone owners examined, only 356 were found to have a brain tumor, while 856 were diagnosed with cancer of the central nervous system — percentages that are comparable to those seen among non-mobile users. Even among long-term cellphone owners (13 years or more), incidence rates were not significantly higher than those observed among the general population. Hazel Nunn, head of evidence and health information at Cancer Research UK, described the study as “the strongest evidence yet that using a mobile phone does not seem to increase the risk of cancers of the brain or central nervous system in adults.” The study’s authors, however, acknowledge some shortcomings in their work, including the exclusion of “corporate subscriptions” — people who use their mobile devices for work, and who probably use them more heavily than the average consumer. They also recognized the need for longer-term research and for more child-specific studies. You can check out the article in full, at the coverage link below.

Cellphones are dangerous / not dangerous: Danish study tilts toward the latter originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 25 Oct 2011 06:20:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ditching DRM could reduce piracy, prices, inconvenience

Down with DRMThis may run counter to what your common sense tells you but, a new paper out of Duke and Rice University says that ditching DRM could actually reduce piracy. The study, which relied on analytical modeling, showed that while copy protection made illegally sharing content more difficult it had a significantly negative impact on legal users. In fact, the researchers say, “only the legal users pay the price and suffer from the restrictions [of DRM].” Many consumers simply choose to pirate music and movies because doing simple things, like backing up a media collection, is difficult with DRMed content. Even the most effective DRM is eventually broken, and fails to deter those already determined to steal. Meanwhile, abandoning these restrictions could increase competition and drive down prices (as well as remove a serious inconvenience), encouraging more people to legitimately purchase content. You can check out the November-December issue of Marketing Science for more details.

Ditching DRM could reduce piracy, prices, inconvenience originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 09 Oct 2011 20:22:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink TorrentFreak, Digg  |  sourceRice University  | Email this | Comments

Digital video game distribution finds brick and mortar camping, moves in for win

Blame it on the economy, or simply chalk it up to a better way of earning revenue, but physical distributors of new video games are beginning to feel some major heat from the scrappy competition. While this mainstay segment still comprises the bulk of sales with $1.44 billion earned in the previous quarter, the combination of digital purchases, subscriptions, downloadable content, social network and mobile games — along with help from rentals and used purchases — now tops $1.74 billion dollars. This news comes from the NPD Group, and while we’re still scratching our heads at the logic of combining second-hand purchases with electronic distribution, it provides a strong indicator of consumers’ changing tastes and preferences (along with their willingness to spend). Does this industry titan simply need a new console or another Call of Duty to maintain supremacy? Perhaps a modest uptick in GDP? Or does this signal the changing of the guard for our favorite electronic pastime? There’s a full PR after the break, where you’re welcome to fire one off in the comments and let us know your take.

[Image courtesy bradleyolin / flickr]

Continue reading Digital video game distribution finds brick and mortar camping, moves in for win

Digital video game distribution finds brick and mortar camping, moves in for win originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 06 Oct 2011 14:32:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink AllThingsD  |  sourceNPD Group  | Email this | Comments

Microbial fuel cell produces hydrogen from wastewater without wasting energy

Back in 2005, Bruce Logan and his team of Penn State researchers developed a microbial fuel cell capable of converting poop into power. Now, Logan has refined his system to the point where it can produce hydrogen from wastewater or biodegradable organic materials without using a drop of grid electricity, and without emitting even a hint of carbon dioxide. His approach, outlined in the September 19th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involves something known as reverse-electrodialysis (RED) — a process that harvests energy from the ionic discrepancy between fresh and salt water. Logan’s bacterial hydrolysis cell (pictured left) features a so-called RED stack that’s comprised of alternating positive and negative ion exchange membranes, which it uses to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Normally, this process would involve about 25 pairs of membranes, but by using RED technology in conjunction with electricity-producing exoelectrogenic bacteria, Penn State’s team was able to extract hydrogen with just five membrane pairs. All told, Logan’s cells proved to be about 58 to 64 percent energy efficient, while producing between 0.8 to 1.6 cubic meters of hydrogen for every cubic meter of liquid that passed through the system. The researchers’ results show that only one percent of that energy was used to pump water through the cells, which are completely carbon neutral, as well. According to Logan, this breakthrough demonstrates that “pure hydrogen gas can efficiently be produced from virtually limitless supplies of seawater and river water and biodegradable organic matter.” Somewhere, the US Navy is taking scrupulous notes. Full PR after the break.

[Image courtesy of Penn State / Bruce Logan]

Continue reading Microbial fuel cell produces hydrogen from wastewater without wasting energy

Microbial fuel cell produces hydrogen from wastewater without wasting energy originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 22 Sep 2011 07:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Apple tops J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, grim reading for RIM and Nokia

Not only is Apple shipping the most smartphones, it’s also shipping the best smartphones — if you believe the stats in J.D. Power and Associates’ latest US customer satisfaction survey. It gave the iPhone a score of 838, versus HTC’s handsets in second place with 801 and an industry average of 788. Sammy got a disappointing 777, but we guess it might have fared better if the Galaxy S II had been quicker to cross the Atlantic. Hapless RIM got shunted into fifth place, having come second in 2010. You’ll find plenty more factoids in the PR after the break, including evidence that people just love 4G. Well, we could have told you that.

Continue reading Apple tops J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, grim reading for RIM and Nokia

Apple tops J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, grim reading for RIM and Nokia originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 09 Sep 2011 09:22:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Seniors, Women Embracing Tablets, E-Readers

Mobile devices aren’t just catering to the under-35 set now. Image: Nielsen

If you thought tablets were being used only by Angry Birds-flinging youngsters or guys between 25 and 34, think again. Turns out tablets are all the rage with women and seniors.

There hasn’t been much change in who’s using smartphones — they’re still most popular among the 20- and 30-something set — tablet and ereader ownership shows tablet ownership among those older than 55 climbed from 10 to 19 percent between last fall and this summer. As for e-readers, the number of women buying them climbed from 47 percent to 61 in the second quarter of this year.

“Early adopters tend to be younger and male. As consumer technology products gain wider acceptance, more women and more older consumers join the mix,” says Don Kellogg, director of telecom research & insights at Nielsen.

Although e-readers have been around for a while, tablets are a relatively new phenomenon marked by the arrival of the Apple iPad in 2010.

The tablet has followed a similar trajectory as the microwave oven, creating a new niche in the market based on its convenient, portable form factor — despite the fact it has less computing power than its PC counterparts. Depending upon which study you’re looking at, some reports show tablet ownership is eating into the e-reader market, while others disagree. Regardless, both devices appear to be permeating all age groups.

So what’s making tablets and e-readers so successful with the older crowd?

“Tablets and e-readers are relatively easy to use. Couple that with light weight and the ability to increase the text size (not to be underestimated with older owners), and you have a very appealing product for older demographics,” Kellogg said.

Not to mention, Apple products, like the iPad, are beginning to permeate the enterprise business environment, so many users who may not have seen value in the tablet before can use it for meetings and presentations.

As you might expect, e-readers continue to be popular with those who read a lot. Although tablet apps like Kindle and Instapaper make tablet reading easy as pie, e-readers’ black and white E-Ink or electronic paper displays make the activity easier on the eyes. And when you’re traveling, bringing a 1 to 2-pound e-reader is a whole lot easier than lugging around a couple of novels.

Nielsen is still studying if these trends apply outside the United States, and how mobile device usage differs among the different age groups they surveyed.

Have your parents or grandparents adopted mobile devices? Did they do it willingly, or was it originally a gift that you lovingly thrust upon them? Share your experiences in the comments.

Oh nuts! Now I need to find a new pocket for my phone

Gentlemen? Read the title and take note. According to a report published in the Journal of Andrology, a number of studies show that the radio frequency electromagnetic radiation that’s emitted from cell phones may actually decrease your sperm count. Not only that, but it will cause a decline in quality, as well as a decrease […]

Researchers use children’s toy to exploit security hole in feds’ radios, eavesdrop on conversations

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered a potentially major security flaw in the radios used by federal agents, as part of a new study that’s sure to raise some eyebrows within the intelligence community. Computer science professor Matt Blaze and his team uncovered the vulnerability after examining a set of handheld and in-car radios used by law enforcement officials in two, undisclosed metropolitan areas. The devices, which operate on a wireless standard known as Project 25 (P25), suffer from a relatively simple design flaw, with indicators and switches that don’t always make it clear whether transmissions are encrypted. And, because these missives are sent in segments, a hacker could jam an entire message by blocking just one of its pieces, without expending too much power. What’s really shocking, however, is that the researchers were able to jam messages and track the location of agents using only a $30 IM Me texting device, designed for kids (pictured above). After listening in on sensitive conversations from officials at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, Barnes and his team have called for a “substantial top-to-bottom redesign” of the P25 system and have notified the agencies in question. The FBI has yet to comment on the study, but you can read the whole thing for yourself, at the link below.

Researchers use children’s toy to exploit security hole in feds’ radios, eavesdrop on conversations originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 11 Aug 2011 11:40:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink   |  sourceThe Wall Street Journal  | Email this | Comments

Study: Android Is Least Open of Open Source Mobile Platforms

A recent study found that out of eight open source mobile platforms, Android ranks at the bottom in terms of openness. Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com

By Ryan Paul, Ars Technica

Market research firm VisionMobile has published a report that evaluates the openness of eight major open source software projects. The study — which was partly funded by the European Union — focuses largely on open governance, inclusiveness, transparency, and ease of access to source code. To quantify relative openness, the researchers established criteria and a numerical rating system with points.

The projects that VisionMobile analyzed include Android, Eclipse, the Linux kernel, MeeGo, Firefox, Qt, Symbian (based on the governance model of the Symbian Foundation prior to the the platform’s transition back to a closed model), and WebKit. They ranked these projects in an “open governance index” based on the percentage of points that they received. Google’s Android mobile operating system ranked the lowest, with only 23 percent. The Eclipse integrated development environment ranked the highest, with 84 percent. Android was the only project in the study that scored less than 58 percent.

Android’s low ranking in the index came as no surprise to us. As we have written on several occasions in the past, Google’s mobile platform falls far below the standard of openness that the search giant promised when Android initially launched. The VisionMobile report identifies some of the key problems with Android’s governance model, including Google’s “unilateral Android project decision-making processes” and “closed contributions process model.”

“Visibility to the roadmap is limited, as there is no Android roadmap publicly available. In fact, development of the Android private branch and the roadmap is controlled by Google, with little input from external parties or the Open Handset Alliance members,” the report says. “When launched, the Open Handset Alliance served the purpose of a public industry endorsement for Android. Today, however, the OHA serves little purpose besides a stamp of approval for OHA members; there is no formal legal entity, no communication processes for members nor frequent member meetings.”

The lack of transparency in the Android compliance program is also identified as one of the weak areas in Android governance. The report says that “Google tightly controls the Android platform and its derivatives” by using its unilateral control over the full Android compliance criteria, which are “undocumented and somewhat capricious.”

Although the actual Android compatibility definition is public, the specific parameters of the compliance testing are a closely guarded secret. Skyhook is currently pursuing litigation against Google for allegedly doctoring the compatibility testing parameters for anticompetitive purposes.

The report quotes an internal Google e-mail (made public as a result of the ongoing Skyhook litigation) in which Google’s Android compatibility chief Dan Morrill described the company’s compliance testing practices as “using compatibility as a club to make [OEMs] do things we want.”

Browser openness

Android was, of course, just one of the eight projects discussed in the report. The study’s scores for Firefox and WebKit are also intriguing. WebKit had a slightly higher score (68 percent) than Firefox (65 percent).

The main areas where Mozilla lost points related to the lack of public data about project contributors, the size of the developer base, and the number of commits from community members. Mozilla’s impressive new contributor metrics dashboard, which was announced in April but is currently undergoing a security audit prior to public launch, will likely address those shortcomings.

Eclipse was identified as the most open project in the study. In particular, VisionMobile lauds Eclipse’s Project Dash and general commitment to transparency. The organization’s vendor neutrality and well-defined governance structure are highlighted as positive governance attributes.

A look at the criteria

The full score tables and numerical criteria are included in the report. A close look at the scoring turned up some interesting discoveries. The criteria is a bit subjective in places, but generally looks good. There were, however, a few aspects that might be debatable.

Oddly, VisionMobile’s criteria assigns a one point bonus for mandatory copyright assignment, a practice that is not generally regarded as a hallmark of good open governance (for some good background on the issues with copyright assignment, see the commentary by Dave Neary and Michael Meeks).

The VisionMobile report itself acknowledges that none of the projects included in the study require copyright assignment and that copyright assignment is probably unnecessary. (It’s more common for contributor agreements to stipulate a perpetual copyright license rather than outright assignment.)

Another aspect of the criteria that might be controversial is the scoring for licenses. The study awards a higher score for using a permissive license than using a copyleft license. Although permissive licenses increase the flexibility of downstream code use, they aren’t necessarily conducive to more open governance.

Money matters

The report contends that greater openness generally leads to greater success among open source software projects. At the same time, it acknowledges that Android’s popularity contradicts that conclusion. The Android “paradox” is discussed at length in the report; it suggests that “Google’s financial muscle” and engineering resources, rather than openness, have driven Android’s success.

The full text of the VisionMobile report is available under a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded from the firm’s website.

FCC measures US wireline advertised broadband speeds, fiber dominates cable and DSL

Ever wonder if the speeds your ISP advertises are actually what you’re getting while reloading Engadget all day? The FCC did, and decided to team up with 13 major broadband providers in the US to test how they performed from February to June of this year. Notably, during peak hours the average continuous download speeds of fiber connections were 14 percent faster than advertised, while cable and DSL were slower than claimed by 8 and 18 percent, respectively. Upload speeds also varied, with DSL again dipping the lowest at 95-percent of what’s advertised — might be time to ask your phone-based ISP for a partial refund, no? In addition to sustained speeds, the FCC analyzed consumer connections’ latency and the effect of ISP speed boost tech on activities like VoIP, gaming, and video streaming.

In concluding its research, the Commission noted that it should be easy to get tools in users’ hands for keeping better tabs on ISP-provided services, without needing to contact customer frustrations relations. The study is chock full of even more graphs and stats, which you’ll find by hitting that source link below. Now, if only we could get those speeds on par with our friends across the Atlantic.

Continue reading FCC measures US wireline advertised broadband speeds, fiber dominates cable and DSL

FCC measures US wireline advertised broadband speeds, fiber dominates cable and DSL originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 03 Aug 2011 07:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Electronista, Gigaom  |  sourceFCC  | Email this | Comments