Episode 250

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GLENN’S NOTEBOOK

Skype you later: phone calls from Gmail finally rolled out to Australia and internationally

http://apcmag.com/skype-you-later-phone-calls-from-gmail-finally-rolled-out-to-australia-and-internationally.htm

Google enabled calling mobiles and landlines directly from within Gmail for US and Canadian users, and this week expanded this feature to Gmail users in Australia and internationally — as well as dropping the rates on calls to more than 150 destinations.

Calls within Australia are charged at US$0.02 per minute to landlines and US$0.14 per minute to mobiles. Calls to New Zealand are US$0.02/US$0.20 per minute, and to the UK cost US$0.02 / US$0.18 per minute, while calls to US and Canadian landlines and mobiles are charged at US$0.01 per minute. There are no flagfall fees.

These rates are not dissimilar to Skype’s pay-as-you go rates,

The end of optical: DVD-less Mac mini a sign of desktops to come?

http://apcmag.com/the-end-of-optical-dvd-less-mac-mini-a-sign-of-desktops-to-come.htm

For the first time since Apple introduced its small form factor range in 2005, the mini ships without an optical (CD/DVD) drive.




Apple has prior form for killing off disk formats. In the late nineties it stunned the industry by dropping support for floppies with the iMac G3

Comments:

Hacked firms could be held responsible for privacy breaches

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/your-right-to-privacy/hacked-firms-could-be-held-responsible-for-privacy-breaches/story-fn9i1a4o-1226106989072

THE federal government is considering changing the law so corporate victims of criminal computer hacking can be sued over privacy breaches.

The talks covered the possibility of using the government’s proposed privacy tort to sue companies when criminal computer hackers breach firewalls and other security measures to steal data.

Would it then be illegal if a person broke in to an office and stole paper records?

Content is king as one in four homes to own tablet

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/content-is-king-as-one-in-four-homes-to-own-tablet/story-e6frg996-1226105582068

MORE than 5.5 million Australians will own a tablet computer such as an iPad within four years, creating a massive shift in media consumption and even gaming habits

PricewaterhouseCoopers  said that by 2015 one in four Australian homes will have a tablet device and users will pay for a wide range of content that they would baulk at paying for on a PC or laptop.

With a range of devices entering the market and starting to try to tackle Apple’s dominance (there were more than 750,000 iPads in the Australian market before the launch of iPad 2 this year), the report predicts competitors will have to make the most of partnerships to gain market share.
“Competitors will need to match (Apple’s) ecosystem,” it said.


Skype now available for the iPad

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/08/02/skype.ipad/index.html?eref=edition_technology&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fedition_technology+%28RSS%3A+Technology%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

The app allows audio calls on the original iPad and video calls on the iPad 2, which has two cameras. iPad 2 users can conduct two-way video calls with other iPads and users of the iPhone app, phones with Skype for Android or Skype for Windows, and other devices with front-facing cameras

Users can also switch from the front camera to the rear to show their chat partner and their surroundings.
The app enables instant messaging during video calls, as well as voice calls, SMS messaging and other features familiar to Skype users. It’s also free.
The rollout on Tuesday was preceded with an accidental, and brief, rollout Monday night.
A few people were able to download the app and share images of their calls online before Skype pulled the app from the App Store.


Skyfire unveils app for Flash videos on iPhone

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/265162,skyfire-unveils-app-for-flash-videos-on-iphone.aspx

best known for its mobile browser, has unveiled an application for watching Flash videos on Apple’s iPhones.
Apple has been a strong opponent of Adobe’s Flash technology, criticising its power management, among other things, and it has embraced a newer set of tools for building web applications known as HTML 5.
Users of Skyfire’s new VideoQ application can send links to videos from their browsers to watch them in the app, which Skyfire hopes to build into a video entertainment hub.
VideoQ will at first be available in North America only, but Skyfire plans to expand its reach later.

Erik’s Notebook

Apple Lawsuit Puts Samsung Tablet Sales in Australia on Hold
Apple Inc. won an agreement from Samsung Electronics Co. that the South Korean company won’t sell the newest version of its tablet computer in Australia until a patent lawsuit in the country is resolved.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes 10 Apple patents, including the “look and feel,” and touchscreen technology of the iPad, Steven Burley, a lawyer for Apple, told Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett in Sydney yesterday. The Cupertino, California-based company sought an Australian injunction and also wants to stop Samsung from selling the tablet in other countries, Burley said without specifying where.
Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, agreed to stop advertising the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and not to sell the device until it wins court approval or the lawsuit is resolved, according to an accord reached by lawyers during a break in the hearing. Should Apple lose its patent infringement lawsuit, it agreed to pay Samsung damages, which weren’t specified.
The dispute between the companies began in April when Apple sued Samsung in the U.S., claiming the Galaxy products “slavishly” imitated the designs and technologies used for its iPad and iPhone. Samsung, which supplies memory chips for Apple, retaliated with lawsuits in South Korea, Japan, Germany and the U.S.
Imminent Launch
The Australian injunction is necessary because Samsung has had “announcements of an imminent launch of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 device ongoing since July 20,” Burley said before the agreement was announced.
Apple is basing yesterday’s claim on a U.S. version of the Galaxy tablet, which is different from the one that will be sold in Australia, Samsung’s lawyer Neil Murray said.
Samsung had no plans to sell the U.S. version of the Galaxy tablet in Australia, the company said in an e-mailed statement today.
The agreement to halt advertising and sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn’t affect any other Samsung tablet or smart phone available in Australia, or other countries, the company said.
Samsung agreed to provide Apple three samples of the Australian version of the computer tablet at least seven days before it planned to start distributing it so the U.S. company could review it, according to the agreement submitted in court.
Bennett scheduled a hearing for Aug. 29 to review the status of the case and set a trial date if necessary.
The case is: Apple Inc. (AAPL) v. Samsung Electronics Co. NSD1243/2011. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).
To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net; Robert Fenner in Melbourne at rfenner@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net; Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net


Telstra provides split details to ACCC
AAP
Telstra has submitted the details of its structural separation with the competition watchdog for approval.
The separation of the telco’s retail and wholesale operations are a key part of the implementation of the national broadband network (NBN).
“The submission of these documents is another important step in finalising Telstra’s participation in the rollout of the NBN,” Telstra chief executive David Thodey said in a statement.

Telstra’s structural separation undertaking (SSU) and draft migration plan had been lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), he said.
“Along with seeking shareholder approval, ACCC acceptance of the SSU and approval of the migration plan are critical conditions precedent to the definitive agreements signed in June,” Mr Thodey said.
As part of the structural separation, Telstra must commit to not provide services to premises within the NBN footprint over its own copper or fibre networks, other than pay television.
This commitment will be fulfilled by the telco’s decommissioning of its copper and fibre broadband network as the NBN is rolled out.
Telstra said it was committed to being structurally separated by July 1, 2018.
The ACCC will be able to enforce the provisions of the structural separation undertaking through the Federal Court, Telstra said.
© 2011 AAP


Government to allow consumers to rip CDs and DVDs Posted on 3 Aug 2011 at 11:43
With the wide-spread use of smartphones, tablets and laptops, it seems only natural and fair that we should be allowed to rip our CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs for viewing on these devices. In the UK, this process is currently still illegal.
Under copyright reforms proposed by the government, this is set to be dramatically changed. Following a report by Professor Ian Hargreaves, it was estimated that the UK economy could get a boost of up to £7.9bn a year, as changes to our outdated copyright laws would drive growth.
One of the key recommendations, out of the 10 Hargreaves Review Recommendations was to update what is lawful to copy, including copying for private use and format shifting.
“In recent years, the UK has failed to make the changes needed to modernise copyright law, for which we will pay an increasing economic price as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial internet,” said professor Hargreaves.
Vince Vable, the business secretary has said that he’s backing the proposed changes as well.
“We are determined to explore how exceptions to copyright can benefit the UK economy and support growth. Private copying is carried out by millions of people, and many are astonished that it is illegal in this country,” said Cable.
As far as music is concerned, consumers have been able to format shift music for years without threat, as the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has stated that it would not prosecute anyone that has converted music they’ve bought to a digital format.
For films, it’s a bit different, as the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has never stated that it won’t prosecute people for format shifting. Then, there’s an added layer of complexity, as both DVD and Blu-ray discs have digital copy protection, which means that they’re protected by another law: the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003. This law makes criminal offences of “manufacturing for sale or hire, importation, advertising or marketing a service the purposes of which is to enable or facilitate the circumvention of technical measures” and “providing, promoting, advertising or marketing a service the purpose of which is to enable or facilitate the circumvention of technical measures”.
In other words, the software that lets you copy a protected disc is illegal to buy and for the media to even talk about. If the copyright on copying discs is to be relaxed, then the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 act also has to be relaxed in order to let people talk about and sell the necessary software legally.
This opens up a new can of worms, as the kinds of software that make copying discs possible can also remove region coding from discs, as well as stripping out High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) from HDMI cables, allowing HD content to be played on any display.
As well as relaxing copyright on format shifting, a new recommendations states that it should be legal to use cloud music and video services, where music and films are stored online and accessed from a range of devices anywhere in the world. Amazon, Google and Ubuntu have such services already, although their use could be illegal under current UK law.
Finally, the new laws will allow parodies of songs and films to be made without threat of legal action. Joke songs, such as Newport State of Mind, a cover-version of Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, would be safe from legal threats.
Author: David Ludlow


Work to begin on NBN second release sites later this month NBN Co has this morning released a schedule for the beginning of works on second release sites across New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

Since July last year, work has been underway on the first mainland NBN locations spread across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
However with the first five mainland NBN sites nearing completion, NBN Co have today revealed work will begin on the first of 14 second release sites — most of which are situated near the first release locations — later this month.
Work will start in Armidale and Coffs Harbour, New South Wales before the end of the month, before progressing to Townsville in Queensland and the New South Wales suburbs of Jamberoo and Kiama during September.
Toowoomba, Queensland and Gungahalin, Australian Capital Territory, will follow in October, while work in Riverstone, New South Wales and the Goodna and Springfield area in Queensland will start sometime in November.
Work will only begin in just one suburb in December, namely Aspley, which is situated in metropolitan Brisbane.


NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley says amongst other factors, the signing of the Definitive Agreement regarding long-term infrastructure leasing arrangements with Telstra last month has allowed the organisation to move forward and begin planning the second stage sites.
The signing of a new construction deal last month with Silcar covering New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory has also allowed the group to begin planning for work in the three states and is the reason why Victorian and Northern Territory sites aren’t included in the time schedule.
“The signing of the Definitive Agreement with Telstra… together with the finalisation of the construction contract with Silcar, has allowed us to finalise the proposed schedule for the next round of construction in mainland Australia,” Quigley said in a statement.
“The plan is to continue the rollout by extending from the places where we have started in the First and Second Release sites, as well as add other sites as planning progresses.”
NBN Co estimates suggest it’ll take around 12 months to go from the start of construction to connecting the first customers at each of the second release sites.


Also according to Quigley, NBN Co will “in the near future” release a roadmap detailing the roll-out schedule for the next 12 months including the addition of a number of new sites.
“The use of Telstra’s infrastructure, where it is available, should reduce the amount of disruption for the community and provide a smoother and more efficient rollout,” he said.
Negotiations are continuing for construction companies in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.





Apple iCloud: What it is, and What it Costs


With Apple revealing iCloud price details along with the beta version of iCloud.com, now seems like a good time to explain what the service is to anyone who missed Apple’s announcement in June.

iCloud basics

iCloud does not replace local storage on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. What it does is keep your data in sync between any Apple device or PC that you own. For example, if you’re writing a document in Pages on an iPad, that document will automatically be available for editing on your iPhone or a PC, with no need to transfer files by e-mail or USB.

iCloud also remembers your device’s settings, apps, home screen layouts, ring tones and text messages, so all of that information is available if you upgrade or replace your iPhone or iPad. Think of it like the backup function in iTunes, but through the Internet instead.

Which apps use iCloud?


Apple’s iWork productivity software — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — can sync documents through iCloud. Contacts, Calendar and Mail will also be updated automatically across multiple devices. A new service called Photo Stream allows you to download your 1,000 most recent photos to a computer or other iOS device for 30 days. You can also store a device’s entire camera roll in iCloud for longer.

Third-party apps will be able to use iCloud as well. Rovio, for instance, could make Angry Birds data available across devices so your iPhone and iPad will show the same progress through the game. It’s up to developers to implement these kinds of features.

What’s included for free, and what costs extra?

Apple will provide 5 GB of iCloud storage for free, but iTunes music, apps, books and Photo Stream don’t count against that total. iCloud storage is consumed by documents, mail, app data, your full camera roll, settings and other device information. Additional storage costs $20 per year for 10 GB, $40 per year for 20 GB and $100 per year for 50 GB.

Apple suggests that 5 GB of storage should suffice, but that depends largely on whether you’re storing lots of photos and videos on your Camera Roll, and how much app data you’re backing up. The former should be easy to determine — you can already see in iTunes how much data is used by photos and video — but the latter will be harder to pin down until we see how many developers adopt the service.

Who is this for?

People who own multiple iOS devices will get the most out of iCloud, because it saves the hassle of manually transferring data between iPhones, iPads and so on. Owners of a single Apple device may still appreciate iCloud’s automatic backup function, which makes replacing hardware easier.

iTunes is separate


One possible point of confusion with iCloud is how iTunes purchases factor into the service. When you buy music from iTunes, it can be automatically synced to all of your iOS devices, and it won’t count against your free storage. A paid service called iTunes Match is completely separate from iCloud, and syncs any music you haven’t purchased from iTunes for $25 per year.

When will this be available?

iCloud arrives this fall, alongside iOS 5.

WILL’S NOTEBOOK

25 million people in a month – Google Plus growing faster than MySpace, Facebook or Twitter did |
GOOGLE is a latecomer to social networking but its new site is growing much faster than MySpace, Facebook or Twitter did in their early days, according to technology experts.
However it still remains to be seen whether Google Plus can pose a serious threat to Facebook, which has more than 750 million members.
Andrew Lipsman, vice president for industry analysis at tracking firm comScore, said Google Plus, which was launched on June 28, had 25 million unique visitors as of July 24.
During a panel discussion hosted by Wedbush Securities, Mr Lipsman said it took other social networks much longer to reach 25 million users — 22 months for Myspace, 33 months for Twitter and 37 months for Facebook.
“Obviously, this is a very strong growth trajectory,” he said.
He cautioned, however, that Google “has a really large user base it can build off of” with its one billion users worldwide.
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And it still has a “really long way to go to be competitive with Facebook”, Mr Lipsman said.
“Google Plus is the fastest by a long shot but it’s important to realise that fastest may not always be best,” he said.
“Sometimes, that slow build can lead to a strong network effect that pays long-term dividends.”
Most Google Plus users — 6.4 million — are in the US, followed by India with 3.6 million, Canada with 1.1 million, Britain with 1.1 million and Germany with over 920,000, according to comScore.
Mr Lipsman said many Plus users appeared to also be users of Gmail and display a “very strong early adopter profile”.
He said the ratio of men to women was about two to one and that 60 per cent of users were between the ages of 18 and 34.
In the US, the highest numbers of Google Plus users are in the tech-savvy cities of San Francisco and Austin, he said.
Steve Rubel, executive vice president for global strategy and insights at public relations firm Edelman, said Facebook was not “vulnerable immediately” to Google.
“I don’t see (Google Plus) taking significant share from Facebook in the next 18 months,” he said.
At the same time, “what we have seen is that over the years there’s never been a social network or community that has had significant staying power,” he said.
“There’s always a shuffling every two or three years, a changing of the guard.
“We saw it with Myspace,” he said of the one-time social networking leader that has been losing users ever since it was eclipsed by Facebook.
Mr Rubel said Google was compelled to try its hand at social networking because Facebook was restricting the access of its search engine to Facebook content.
“What’s happening is more content is being created behind Facebook’s walls than ever before and a lot of that content is invisible to Google,” he said.
“Conceptually, at least, they’re building kind of an alternate web… There’s also an entire web that is app-based on mobile phones. That is also invisible to them.”
Mr Rubel said it was conceivable that more content would be invisible to Google in five or 10 years than what the search engine can see today.
“So they had to make a play to get more people to create content on their site,” he said.
“It’s to get more people to spend time on Google.”
In unveiling Plus, Google stressed its ability to let users separate online friends and family into different “Circles”, or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.
One of the criticisms of Facebook is that updates are shared with all of one’s friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate Facebook Groups.


Swedish man caught trying to split atoms in kitchen | Space, Military and Medicine | News.com.au
A SWEDISH man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen says he was only doing it as a hobby.
Richard Handl overnight said that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorised possession of nuclear material.
The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.
Only later did he realise it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.
“I have always been interested in physics and chemistry,” Handl said, adding he just wanted to “see if it’s possible to split atoms at home”.
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The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.
Although he says police didn’t detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn’t such a good idea.
“From now on, I will stick to the theory,” he said.


Norwegian stores take World of Warcraft and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare off shelves after massacre
TWO video games played by far-right extremist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik have been withdrawn from a number of stores across Norway.
Coop Norge, one of the country’s major grocery store chains and its main co-op, said it took the decision “out of respect” for the families of the 77 people slain in the twin attacks.
The move was launched on July 24 “to spare people who, in one way or another, were affected by the terrorist acts”, the chain’s director for non-food items Geir Inge Stokke said today.
“We don’t want them to stumble upon violent video games while buying milk and bread in our stores,” he said.
In a 1500-page manifesto posted online, Behring Breivik said he was a fan of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and that he had played the games while preparing his rampage.
Coop told its locations which carried video games — 50 of 900 stores — to remove about 50 products from its aisles, including the games cited by Behring Breivik.
Norwegian media reported Platekompaniet, one of the country’s leading movie, game and music retailers had also pulled some games from its stores. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Some Norwegian gamers blasted the move.
“This type of logic is problematic when we think of the number of people who play these games without committing crimes or assaults,” said gamer Audun Rodem in a July 29 post on his blog.
Violent games reduce aggression, says Doom creator
Mr Stokke said Coop did not intend to stigmatise players, and that the chain would evaluate later if and when to reintroduce the games.
Behring Breivik killed eight people with a bomb he set off in Oslo’s government quarter and he later gunned down 69 people, many of them teenagers, who were attending a retreat run by the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth wing on the island of Utoeya.
He confessed to the attacks, saying he was waging a war on the “Islamisation” of western Europe and on multiculturalism.


Doom creator dismisses video game violence debate | Online Video Games Reviews & News | News.com.au
THE creator of one of the most infamous video games in history says there is more evidence that violent games help than harm.
John Carmack, the lead programmer on Doom — which was linked to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre — spoke about the topic in an interview with Industry Gamers.
“I never took seriously the violence in video games debate. It was basically talking points for people to get on CNN and espouse their stuff on there,” he said.
Read the full Industry Gamers interview here
Doom was a favourite game of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, leading to widespread debate about the role games may have played in inspiring the massacre.
However Carmack said players of violent games were generally more peaceful than others.
“I really think, if anything, there is more evidence to show that the violent games reduce aggression and violence,” he told Industry Gamers.
“There have actually been some studies about that, that it’s cathartic.
“If you go to QuakeCon and you walk by and you see the people there (and compare that to) a random cross section of a college campus, you’re probably going to find a more peaceful crowd of people at the gaming convention.
“I think it’s at worst neutral and potentially positive.”
QuakeCon is a yearly gaming tournament held in Dallas, Texas, named after Quake, the successor to Doom. Last year more than 8500 people attended the event.
Norway shops ban games played by Breivik
The debate over video games and violence has been back in the headline in recent weeks after Norway killer Anders Behring Breivik wrote about playing World of Warcraft and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.


National Broadband Network coming soon to NSW, ACT and Qld areas listed below | Information,
THE company delivering the national broadband network (NBN) will start work on another nine new sites in Queensland, NSW and the ACT over the next six months.

NBN gains momentum with NSW trial


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NBN gains momentum with NSW trial

The Communications Minister has promised a ‘string of announcements’ in relation to the NBN in coming weeks.
Sky News29 July 2011

NBN gains momentum with NSW trial

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Springfield Lakes and Aspley in the Brisbane region, Toowoomba in Queensland, Riverstone in Western Sydney, Coffs Harbour, NSW, and Gungahlin, ACT, are next in line for the NBN.

The federal government-owned NBN Co will also extend its current network in Armidale, Kiama and Jamberoo in NSW as well as Townsville in Queensland, he said.
“These nine sites represent more than 50,000 premises that will be connected with fibre optic cable that will deliver high speed broadband to every home, business and institution that wants it,” Senator Conroy said in a statement.
Communities can expect broadband service about 12 months after work begins on a site.
“Already communities in first release sites of Armidale and Minnamurra/Kiama Downs have been connected to the NBN. Soon the communities of Brunswick, Townsville and Willunga will also be connected,” Senator Conroy said.
It comes after after a deal was struck with Australian construction company Silcar in June.
The contract covers Queensland, NSW and the ACT, representing almost 40 per cent of national construction activity planned over the next two years.
Negotiations are progressing with construction companies to undertake work in the other states and the Northern Territory, NBN Co said.
NBN Co plans to provide a fibre-optic cable network to 93 per cent of the population while the remaining seven per cent will have either fixed wireless or satellite broadband over the next decade.
NSW
Armidale – August
Coffs Harbour – August
Kiama / Jamberoo – September
Riverstone – November
Queensland
Aspley – December
Goodna / Springfield Lakes – November
Toowoomba – October
Townsville – September
ACT
Gungahlin – October


Optus challenges Telstra with $5 telephony deal | The Australian
OPTUS has launched a new telephony device it says will cut the “umbilical cord” of Telstra’s monopoly on fixed-line home phones by offering unlimited national phone calls on a mobile from $5 a month.
The new product — a femtocell — acts as a miniature mobile base station that piggybacks on a customer’s internet connection to greatly improve and extend mobile coverage in homes.
While some analysts have panned the technology, claiming the device is only used by telcos that need to plug holes in overloaded mobile networks, Optus Consumer chief Mike Smith said the new device would allow the nation’s No 2 telco to eat into Telstra’s domination of the fixed-line telephony market.
“This is, in effect, cutting the umbilical cord of the home phone,” Mr Smith said.
“We think there’s an enormous opportunity to make the mobile phone your home phone and to cut the shackles on what has been a monopoly business in Australia for a very long time.”
But Telstra countered the threats from Optus by claiming its rival was using the new device to bandaid deficiencies in its mobile network.
Optus’s Mr Smith said future plans to bundle the service with broadband deals and IPTV offerings would provide customers with a compelling reason to dump their Telstra landlines.
The femtocell works by plugging into a customer’s compatible fixed broadband service to deliver better mobile phone coverage within a 30m radius of the unit.
Optus claims that customers will receive up to five bars of dedicated mobile coverage for up to four simultaneous users. Optus mobile customers on plans of $59 a month or more will be able to purchase the service for $5 a month over 24 months, while customers on mobile plans of $49 a month, or less, will pay $15 a month for the service.


Google struggles in TV world as sales of Logitech device flounder | The Australian
GOOGLE’S efforts to become a bigger player in traditional media were dealt a setback when partner Logitech International said sales of a television remote control device built on the search giant’s technology fell far short of expectations.
In its first-quarter earnings release, Logitech said demand for the Revue, which works with special Google TV software to allow viewers to navigate internet content, had been disappointing.
The Swiss firm said customer returns of the Revue have outpaced the device’s “very modest sales”.
Logitech said it would cut the price of the Revue to $US99 from $US249. The company had earlier cut the price from $US299 to spur sales.
The lacklustre performance of the Revue marks a setback for Google’s television ambitions.
The company unveiled Google TV, a software package that blends traditional programming with internet media, to much fanfare at its developers conference last year.
The product was part of the company’s broader push to become a force in the distribution of TV shows, movies and other media content.
However, Google faced resistance from major networks, which worried their businesses would be undermined if their programming was made available via Google TV. The device was also dogged by complaints that Google TV was complicated to use.
“It’s really a lack of content that’s resulted in what I’d call a mediocre reception of the product,” said Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson, who added that Google TV has also suffered from software glitches in the past.
The product is not yet “a meaningful source of revenue” for Google, Mr Olson said.
A Google spokeswoman said Logitech’s move wouldn’t deter the internet giant from pursuing its TV projects.
“It’s still early days for smart TVs and we’re investing to continue to bring innovation and progress for our partners and users,” she said. The company will provide new and existing users with an updated version of Google TV later this year, she said.
During a conference call with analysts, Logitech chairman Guerrino De Luca stood by his company’s partnership with Google.
“It allowed us to build a strong relationship with the technology leader which promises to bear more fruit down the road,” Mr De Luca said.
Still, the poor results for the Revue are “partly due to the fact that Google TV has not yet fully delivered to its own promises,” he said.
Separately, Logitech said that Mr De Luca will assume the CEO role after Gerald Quindlen steps aside.
Other Google TV partners include Intel and Sony, which builds compatible TV sets.


Broadband network has 41 only customers at test sites | The Australian
THE National Broadband Network has just 41 active customers at its two operating mainland test sites, despite more than 6000 homes having been connected to the grid.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday switched on the NBN at the NSW south coast community of Kiama, following connection in the northeast NSW town of Armidale two months ago.
In Kiama, 2350 premises have been passed by the network, with 88 per cent of households opting to get wired up at no cost.
But yesterday just 10 customers had approached NBN service providers and been connected to the network, and that included the local council and library.
In Armidale, the NBN has just 31 active customers of 4200 homes connected to the network, only a modest improvement on the seven customers connected to the grid when it went live in May.
NBN Co spokesman Andrew Scholl said the slow take-up rate was a result of households being locked in to existing non-NBN internet plans.
“The vast majority of households are already on a pre-existing contract with a telecommunications provider, generally one of the big two providers,” he said.
“It’s only when people start coming off those contracts that we will see a flourishing competition in the retail telco sector.”
Under the NBN model, connected households that wish to subscribe to the service are required to contact private service providers, who pay NBN Co for access to the grid.
NBN Co chief executive Michael Quigley said the number of customers who had contacted service providers for subscription was higher than the number of active customers shown in the data, because many were in the process of being connected.
Between 30 and 50 households in Kiama had contacted service providers seeking access to the grid, Mr Quigley said.
In Tasmania, where the first NBN trial began, take-up rates have been far stronger.
In three small towns, 2000 households have agreed to be connected to the NBN grid, with 624 of those now connected.
Kiama resident Tanya Kennedy said she decided to have her home connected to the NBN because connections were now being offered for free, and she would have to pay to connect later.
Ms Kennedy said she expected to subscribe for NBN access later, but was now locked in to an existing contract.
“I don’t really know what it’s all about,” she said. “They haven’t been very good at explaining the benefits of the whole thing.”
The federal government pointed to the benefits of the superfast network, such as patients in remote locations being able to be seen by doctors via webcam link-ups. The network also allows for businesses to move outside the major cities.
A spokesman for Senator Conroy said it would be misleading to portray Kiama’s 10 current customers as representing take-up rates for the system.


Pay-TV picture gloomy, says Austar chief | The Australian
AUSTAR chief executive John Porter has delivered a bleak assessment of the pay-TV market, but remains confident the company can overcome the regulator’s concerns about a $1.9 billion takeover bid from Foxtel.
Austar delivered a solid second-quarter result yesterday, but Mr Porter warned that weak consumer confidence meant “sales have essentially fallen off the table” in the past two months.
“This is probably the most negative consumer environment we’ve ever seen,” Mr Porter said. “It seems that no matter what we throw at the customer to try to get them to act, they are still reticent, they are sitting on their hands.”
Mr Porter said the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in September and October could help reduce customer churn. But he predicted next year’s AFL season — where Austar and Foxtel have live rights to every regular season game — would be the most likely catalyst for growth.
“We will be lucky to keep our nose above water at this point,” he said. “Hopefully, things will start to sort themselves out, but right now it is hard to see where the stimulus is going to come from.”
Foxtel added 8609 subscribers for the three months to June 30. Its first-quarter result was affected by floods in Queensland and Victoria. Its total of 764,250 subscribers has remained relatively static over the past 18 months amid weak retail conditions and increased competition from the free-to-air networks’ digital channels.
Revenue for the first six months of 2011 was flat at $352 million while operating income rose 3 per cent to $124m compared with the previous first half. Average revenue per residential user was up 4 per cent to $86.30.
Net profit was $88.7m compared with $20.7m for the previous first half. The current figure includes a $95.8m gain from the sale of wireless spectrum licences to the National Broadband Network.
The weak outlook emphasises why Foxtel and Austar are keen on the proposed merger.The deal suffered a blow last week when the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said a combined Foxtel-Austar could substantially lessen competition for content and pay-TV services.
The paper is a preliminary view, but it means the deal will be blocked unless the two companies change the regulator’s mind with further evidence or successfully challenge a negative ruling in court.
“I am confident that once the ACCC reviews our submissions, there will be a reasonable result,” Mr Porter said. Austar shares are now trading well below Foxtel’s $1.52 a share offer price. Some observers believe the deal could still be passed if Foxtel makes undertakings to share its content with other broadcasters.
But others remain sceptical. JPMorgan’s Laurent Horrut, who raised the prospect of ACCC concerns early on, gives the deal a 75 per cent chance of being blocked.
The ACCC’s final decision is due on September 8.


Content is king as one in four homes to own tablet | The Australian
MORE than 5.5 million Australians will own a tablet computer such as an iPad within four years, creating a massive shift in media consumption and even gaming habits.
PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts Nick Bailey and Jeremy Thorpe said that by 2015 one in four Australian homes will have a tablet device and users will pay for a wide range of content that they would baulk at paying for on a PC or laptop.
Success has potentially significant rewards based even on PwC’s short-term predictions.
Ownership will rise to 2.75 million by March in a period of explosive growth.
“While tablets may initially be adopted at the rate of one per household, we expect that at some time before 2015 it will be common for each household to have a couple or several,” an online survey of tablet users by PwC in March said.
Media companies would be crucial to the success of tablets in Australia, the analysts said.

The online survey showed 52 per cent of people paid for films, 50 per cent paid for games, 48 per cent paid for TV shows, 45 per cent paid for books and 38 per cent paid for news.
“An interesting observation from the PwC tablet survey is that consumers are willing to pay for the entertainment and media they consume,” the report said.
“Media and entertainment capabilities are vital to the tablet’s success — content remains king.”
Email, web browsing and social networking are the most popular uses for tablets but playing games is an emerging area that could create major opportunities for media and entertainment companies.
With a range of devices entering the market and starting to try to tackle Apple’s dominance (there were more than 750,000 iPads in the Australian market before the launch of iPad 2 this year), the report predicts competitors will have to make the most of partnerships to gain market share.
“Competitors will need to match (Apple’s) ecosystem,” it said.
“The tablet revolution therefore offers significant opportunities for media content providers but also significant challenges.
“Primarily (it will be) in monetising mobile content without cannibalising traditional revenue streams and factoring in high royalties of 10 to 30 per cent.”


Tax office recoups millions through data modelling | The Australian
THE Australian Taxation Office is honing a set of sophisticated computer models it hopes will help claw back millions of dollars lost through fraudulent individual tax returns.
The models will be used to scan tax returns and spot anything from identity fraud to lodgment of multiple fictitious returns by criminal syndicates.
Each year, the tax office pays out millions of dollars on fraudulent claims because they can be difficult to spot. However, through the extensive use of automated models, the department believes it can pluck out false claims while allowing legitimate ones to continue through the processing system.
ATO director of risk and information management services, Ross Barns, says the models are the result of a project begun in 2009. At that time it was recognised that the procedures in place could not cope with the growing level of sophistication being used by fraudsters.

Each year the ATO returns about $22 billion of taxes collected from individuals in the form of refunds, based on information received in their personal tax returns.
“This is a temptation for anyone choosing to engage in fraudulent activities who wants a share of that money,” he says. “Our driver is to make sure that people get their fair share, but also that the guy down the road only gets what he is entitled to.”
For the ATO, one of the biggest challenges is volume. Each year more than 12 million individual returns are submitted, either on paper, via the Etax system or through tax professionals.
The computer models were initially used to examine about 2.36 million Etax returns from the 2009-10 financial year.
Of these, 26,000 were flagged for closer examination, resulting in the protection of $74 million in revenue.
Mr Barns says the analysis system had to be designed in a way that would not slow the processing of legitimate claims. The ATO has a stated policy of processing all claims within 14 days.
To achieve this, a Teradata data warehouse was established into which the details of all received claims are copied at the end of each business day.
Before 7am the following morning, a series of more than 20 computer models is run on the data which flag returns that appear suspicious. Flags can be triggered by a range of factors including addresses that don’t make sense, fraudulent identities, and claim amounts that don’t correspond with particular professions or business types.
Models can also scan for returns submitted on different days, identifying syndicates that lodge multiple fraudulent returns via different channels over an extended period. Such analysis would be impossible if using manual processes.
“Having the data in the Teradata warehouse means the existing processing flow can continue unaffected,” says Mr Barns. “We can do this analysis outside the normal systems and only stop claims where there is a high suspicion that something is wrong.”
Following the success of the project within the Etax channel, it has now been extended to allow examination of returns submitted via agents, telephone or paper forms.
Mr Barns says that, during the past financial year, the models have reviewed and assessed more than 11 million returns and put stops on 29,526 of them.
As a result, a total of $132m that would have been wrongly paid was halted.
“We have a 93 per cent success rate using the models,” he says. “They are continually being tweaked to make them more accurate as time goes on.”
The ATO is also making use of a growing number of data sources that can be matched against information received in individual returns. These sources include everything from bank and financial statements to housing sales and employment records.


Vodafone Hutchison revenues, margins decline in first-half | The Australian
REVENUES and margins at Australia’s third largest mobile carrier, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, have declined in the half ended June after it confirmed it lost 375,000 customers in the period.
With negative publicity from network issues and increased competition from carriers such as Telstra significantly hurting the group’s performance, the outlook is for VHA to post a loss for the full-year ended December.

Hutchison Telecommunications Australia, the listed 50 per cent joint venture partner within VHA, confirmed it had slid back into the red in the half, reporting a loss of $78.2 million compared with profit of $17.9m for the same period a year ago.

Revenue also fell significantly in the period, dropping 82.1 per cent to $3.4m.

“The network and customer service issues that affected some customers in late 2010 and the early part of 2011, combined with a highly competitive mobile market, has had an impact on Vodafone’s sales and retention, flowing through to VHA’s financial performance and customer growth in the first half of 2011,” the company said in a statement this afternoon.


While the customer exodus was high, it was largely confined to the prepaid segment and mobile broadband customers which accounted for 347,000 of the decline in customers.

The group lost 28,000 postpaid customers in the period which was lower than expected.

Air safety warning on lithium ion batteries in checked luggage | The Australian
THE Civil Aviation Safety Authority has warned passengers not to put spare lithium ion batteries in their checked luggage because of the danger of fire.
The warning echoes those issued by other regulators after an increase in the number of incidents involving lithium batteries on aircraft and the crash of a UPS Freighter last Sepetember.
Airlines are also introducing additional dangerous goods questions to prompt people about the batteries.
CASA says the batteries used extensively in laptops, mobile phones, cameras and music players have the potential to short circuit and burn under certain conditions and the preference is to have them carried in the cabin.
“Cabin crew and flight crew are specifically trained in the management and handling of dangerous goods incidents in the aircraft cabin, including those caused by lithium battery fires and can respond quickly if an incident arises,” CASA aviation safety director John McCormick said.


Apple and Samsung keep Tabs on Australian court battle | The Australian
AUSTRALIA is at the centre of an international court battle between computing giants Apple and Samsung after a local court banned the distribution of a tablet computer.
Apple got a Federal Court order on Monday stopping Samsung from importing, promoting or selling its latest tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
But Samsung said it would launch an Australian model of the Tab anyway, as the one banned by the court was a different version.
Apple, maker of the acclaimed iPad tablet, and Samsung, a leader in the competing Android tablet market, are bitter rivals, although Samsung produces computer chips for Apple mobile devices.
Apple Australia this morning would not comment on Samsung’s decision to proceed with selling an Australian version of the Tab.
A Samsung spokesman today said the Australian Tab was still in production and no Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices were available in Australia from Samsung.

The Korean manufacturer also dismissed a claim of “blatant copying” made by Apple Australia yesterday.
“It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,” an Apple Australia spokeswoman said yesterday.
“This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”
Samsung however said the company was confident the Tab did not violate any of Apple’s patents.
“Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communication business,” the spokesman said.
The two companies have filed claims of patent breaches against each other in the US, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Germany since April, but it is understood this is the first time a device has been ordered to be withdrawn.
In its Australian Federal Court application, Apple listed 10 patents it said Samsung breached in producing the Tab.
The interim order prohibits the Tab’s sale until a directions hearing set for August 29, and Samsung has been ordered to supply Apple with three samples of the Tab it wants to sell in Australia.
In a new twist yesterday, Samsung said it would press ahead with launching an Australian version of the Tab “in the near future”.
It said the model subject to the court decision was not the version it would market in Australia.
“Apple Inc filed a complaint with the Federal Court of Australia involving a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 variant that Samsung Electronics had no plans of selling in Australia,” Samsung said.
“No injunction was issued by the court and the parties reached a mutual agreement which stipulates that the variant in question will not be sold in Australia.
“This undertaking does not affect any other Samsung smartphone or tablet available in Australia or other countries.”
Samsung had circulated plans to the Australian media to launch the Tab on August 11, but this date had been pushed back, a Samsung spokeswoman said.
Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief Nigel Dews said the company was waiting to see if there would be a change to a court injunction preventing the product’s sale and distribution.
A VHA spokesman said a previous version of the Tab called the 10.1V was no longer on sale in Australia, having sold out by the end of May.
The court order that Samsung supply Apple with three samples of the Australian Tab could give the Californian manufacturer fresh ammunition should its examination suggest the Australian version of the device breached its patents.
It was revealed last week that Apple had amassed a cash hoard of $US75.9 billion ($70bn) that surpassed even the US Treasury Department’s operating cash balance of $US73.8 bn.
Apple has now unleashed some of these funds to take on rival manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and Nokia.


Turnbull offers credible alternative to Conroy’s NBN strategy | The Australian
STEPHEN Conroy says sarcastically that he looks forward to seeing Malcolm Turnbull trying to negotiate with Telstra over broadband with “an empty hand”.
It was hard enough for Labor to get a deal with Telstra, the minister argues, despite $11 billion and the willingness to use what he politely called yesterday “potential downsides” as threats. He is effectively saying Telstra will run rings around the Coalition’s broadband plans with demands for compensation and willingness to co-operate.
Worse, he says, Australia will lose the chance to be a leading digital economy with a first-class national fibre network and thus boost national productivity.
But the minister knows that the opposition has belatedly come up with a plan that at least sounds more sophisticated and persuasive than the original Liberal mantra of simply destroying the NBN as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The focus will instead be on Malcolm Turnbull arguing that the Coalition can deliver high-speed broadband more efficiently and cheaply with a patchwork of technologies that doesn’t “waste” what is already in place. That includes upgrading the copper and the HFC cable network that runs past two million homes rather than paying Telstra and Optus to decommission their networks.
The opposition plan is still unlikely to derail a long-awaited Telstra shareholder vote in October in support of the deal with the government. For Telstra shareholders, a signed deal would ensure that any Coalition government in 2013 would have to pay out at least some of the billions of dollars promised. What’s to lose?
But Turnbull is suggesting that Telstra will see it is in its own interests to willingly separate itself and perhaps form a Network Co itself as a regulated wholesale common carrier network. Network Co’s assets would consist of the Telstra exchanges, the copper access network and the HFC cable. He even raises the prospect of NBN Co taking a stake in such a Network Co in exchange for its fibre assets.
That is all extremely complicated and much easier to promise than to implement. Telecommunications lawyers would be even more well represented. Good luck.
But the political point is that Turnbull can insist he can incorporate what is already under way with the NBN and produce a mix of various technologies giving households the speeds they are willing to pay for. And far more cheaply minus the huge capital expenditure of an NBN project.
That doesn’t mean ubiquitous access to the 100 megabits-per-second guaranteed to every household under the NBN. Turnbull argues that there are no applications of value to residential users today that require the very high speeds available with fibre to the home and so most consumers won’t be willing to pay extra for them.
If those applications develop over time, he says, this will provide the commercial incentive to upgrade networks. In the meantime, he says, some people would have access to the highest speeds through fibre to test this while Network Co would be required to ensure that the rest would have access to 12mbps within a year and 24mbps within four years.
Senator Conroy concedes that even the NBN Co business plan finds most households won’t be willing to pay for more than the entry package of 25mbps for the foreseeable future. Neither Telstra nor Optus has revealed its retail pricing so far, but there is little doubt that 100mbps prices will be beyond most household budgets.
But the minister says such demand will inevitably develop and that fibre to the home is the way of the future and is complementary with wireless, rather than competing with it.
Another key difference is that the opposition is promising direct and transparent subsidies to rural and regional Australia where it is not competitive to provide the broadband speeds. The government’s view is that cross-subsidisation from urban areas is the only way the model can work to be fair to rural Australia.
Senator Conroy says the NBN is popular with the public, but has yet to reach critical mass. He maintains that point — and 500,000 homes — will have been reached by the time of the next election. Confused consumers will just wait to see the bills.

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