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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Google unveils Nexus 5, a new smartphone in Nexus line

 Google on Thursday unveiled its Nexus 5 smartphone, the newest of own branded devices in the space and a champion for the latest version of its Android operating system.

The hotly anticipated addition to Google's Nexus line is powered by a new "KitKat" version of Android, which was redesigned to work across the wide range of handsets built with the Internet titan's free software inside.

"Now you have one version of the Android operating system that can ship across all versions of smartphones in 2014," Sundar Pichai, head of the Android and Chrome teams, said while providing a look at the new software and Nexus 5.

"As we get on our way to reach the next billion people, we want to do it with the latest version of Android."

The move sets out to address the problem that the wide variety of Android systems being used around the world make it challenging for makers of fun, functional or hip smarpthone or tablet apps to design programs that work on all devices.

Being stuck with old versions of Android also means that users don't get access to upgrades or improvements cranked out by Google.

Apple executives routinely boast about how most users of its iPhones, iPads and iPod  touches are on the latest version of the iOS operating system while many Android users are stuck with old versions.


Changes in KitKat included fine tuning it to work with the limited memory capacities of Android smartphones priced for markets in developing countries or other places where buyers are on tight budgets.

"It is important to us to get the same version of Android to scale across all versions of devices," Pichai said.

Google partnered with South Korean consumer electronics giant LG to make the Nexus 5 smartphone to showcase the prowess of KitKat.

The Nexus 5 was available for purchase in 10 countries through Google's online Play shop, priced at $349 for a 16-gigabyte model and $399 for a version with 32 gigabytes of memory.

KitKat was released to handset makers to begin building their own smartphones using the software, according to Pichai.

"It is a cutting-edge operating system meant to run on cutting-edge phones, but it can run on older phones as well," Pichai said.

Will start work on 'Mr.India' sequel soon: Anil Kapoor

Best known for the 1987 pathbreaking sci-fi superhero film "Mr. India", actor-producer Anil Kapoor Wednesday confirmed his presence in the cult movie's sequel.

"How can there be a 'Mr. India' sequel without me? Of course, I will be in it and will start work on it very soon," Anil told mediapersons while speaking about his debut television production "24".

"Even after 25 years, the movie has great recall value. I am always asked about the film," he added.

The seasoned actor will be next seen in the sequel to the hit comedy "Welcome" titled "Welcome Back" and the next part of "No Entry" as well.

Currently Anil is on a roll, thanks to "24". It has garnered widespread appreciation for the concept, performance and technical superiority.

Directed by Abhinay Deo, "24" airs on Colors channel. In the show, Anil plays the lead role of Jai Singh Rathod, the chief of an anti-terrorist unit. The actor will start shooting the last three episodes of the 24-episode series Nov 2.

Inquiry of Indian firm Infosys puts light on visa abuses, allege US federal officials

Inquiry of Indian firm Infosys puts light on visa abuses, allege US federal officials
A federal investigation into visa use by Infosys, the Indian technology outsourcing giant, has brought to light widespread abuses in the industry and prompted investigations into other foreign outsourcing firms, federal officials said Wednesday.

In the largest settlement ever in an immigration case, Infosys admitted no visa violations but agreed Wednesday to pay $34 million to resolve claims made by federal prosecutors in Texas.

The amount of the settlement was relatively small for Infosys, a Bangalore-based global enterprise with 160,000 employees worldwide and reported revenues of $7.9 billion, 70 per cent of it from consulting in the United States.But the case added to intensifying legal scrutiny and political skepticism in the United States facing Indian companies that use temporary visas to bring in thousands of guest workers each year for technology and software jobs in U.S. companies.

As part of the settlement, Infosys acknowledged major errors and omissions in records it kept on its employees in the United States, including Indian temporary technology workers brought in for contract work with U.S. companies. But it did not admit to systematic fraud, and the agreement includes a point-by-point rebuttal of prosecutors' accusations that it tried to increase profits by illegally using short-term business visitors' visas to bring workers from India instead of a more expensive and less accessible temporary employment visa, known as H-1B.

"This is not a settlement about systemic visa fraud," Stephen A. Jonas of WilmerHale, the lead lawyer representing Infosys, said Wednesday after the settlement was made public by prosecutors in Plano, Texas, where Infosys has offices. "The company adamantly denies the visa abuse allegations. They are not true."

But federal prosecutors and investigators insisted Wednesday that they had uncovered extensive misuse of visas at Infosys. They said they had agreed to the settlement because Infosys had cooperated with the investigation and moved speedily to overhaul its record-keeping and improve its visa procedures.

"While Infosys is not admitting any wrongdoing, its leadership did appreciate there were substantial problems in the way they were conducting business in this country," said John Malcolm Bales, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, in Plano. "We think they've cleaned up their act."

Each year there is a scramble among technology companies for H-1B employment visas, because there is a basic annual cap of 65,000 visas. In the past three years, Infosys and two other Indian companies - Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services - were among the top five recipients of those visas, according to Ron Hira, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology who studies the visa system.

The largest user, Cognizant, is a U.S. company that brought in nearly 18,000 foreign workers, almost all from India, Hira said.

U.S. technology companies have been clamoring for an increase in H-1B visas, saying they face shortages of Americans with advanced skills. A large increase was part of broad immigration legislation that passed the Senate in June, and there is also a measure to raise the limits before the House of Representatives.But the Senate bill also included new protections for Americans that would make it more difficult for foreign outsourcing companies to bring in temporary workers.

It is not clear whether Congress will take further action on those bills this year.

In recent years Congress has sharply raised visa fees for foreign outsourcing companies while immigration authorities imposed new regulations to limit the movement of foreign technology workers in the United States.

"In the past few years, there has been a real assault by the federal government on the information technology consulting industry, and it has hit the Indian companies particularly hard," said Avram Morell, an immigration lawyer in New York.

Infosys has disputed the government's accusations. Jonas, the company's lawyer, said the government had failed to prove that foreign workers on business visitor visas, known as B-1, were doing any work that was not authorized under their visas. He said no evidence had emerged that any foreign workers ever remained in the United States after their visas had expired.

Since 2011, Infosys put in place new record-keeping and visa procedures and later placed new limitations on the activities in the United States of B-1 visitor visa holders, improvements that were acknowledged in the settlement.

But federal investigators said Wednesday that they had uncovered numerous cases in which Infosys had brought in Indian workers on B-1 visas, to do work not allowed under that visa. Investigators from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security examined 6,500 B-1 visas Infosys had used to bring in Indian workers over five years.

"The vast majority were illegitimate," said George M. Nutwell, a special agent in charge of the State Department Diplomatic Security Service in Houston.Investigators went to the U.S. companies where the B-1 workers were placed and discovered that they were doing programming and technology engineering work similar to H-1B workers. The business visitor visa is primarily for attending training sessions and meetings, not for work.

"Infosys cheated, plain and simple," Nutwell said.

Finance Minester won't buy Parikh's oil maths



The finance ministry has rejected the Kirit Parikh panel report on the pricing of diesel, kerosene and LPG to rationalise fuel subsidy outgo. The panel submitted its report to the government on Wednesday.

If the government eventually accepts the 108-page report, it will end up paying Rs 13,500 crore more to refiners like IndianOil, Reliance Industries (RIL) and Essar Oil, the finance ministry said in a dissent note to the panel’s report.

As such the ministry is not opposed to phased decontrol and market-linked retail pricing of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas.

The panel has suggested an immediate increase of Rs 5 a litre in diesel price to offset the losses suffered by state-run oil marketing companies, which have to sell the fuel below cost. It has recommended that the subsidy on diesel be capped at Rs 6 a litre.

The panel has suggested raising kerosene price by Rs 4 a litre and capping the supply of subsidised LPG to six cylinders a year to each household. It has suggested raising subsidised LPG price by Rs 250 a cylinder.

While the finance ministry wants the subsidy to be benchmarked to the export parity price (EPP) of diesel, the panel wants the import parity price (IPP) to be used to decide compensation to oil refiners.

There is a difference of 3 per cent between IPP and EPP – the reason why the finance ministry is opposed to IPP.

Saurab Garg, joint secretary in the finance ministry and a member on the panel, has pointed to “overcompensation,” a euphemism for additional subsidy payment, to oil marketing companies and private refiners.

“There is no reason that for domestic sales (diesel and kerosene), the realisation (price) should be higher than what is being realised due to export of diesel by the same manufacturers,” the finance ministry note has said.

The additional subsidy payment in case the domestic prices are benchmarked to IPP on 80 billion litres of diesel and 9.9 billion litres of kerosene sold annually will be Rs 13,500 crore.

Garg argued that due to assured sale of both diesel and kerosene in the domestic market, the refiners would have to lower retail prices. The ministry has also pointed out that even if a minor difference of Rs 108 per kilolitre of kerosene is taken into consideration, a conservative estimate puts the extra subsidy payable to these companies at Rs 1,000 crore.

In this context, the ministry has pointed out that RIL exported diesel at $126.78 per barrel while Essar Oil was doing it at $125.60.

Kirit Parikh himself and S K Barua, former director of IIM Ahmedabad who is also on the panel, have countered the ministry arguments. In a rejoinder to the finance ministry’s dissent note, Parikh cited the Rangarajan committee recommendation to provide “protection to domestic refineries.

The ministry also wants upstream oil companies like ONGC and OIL to share a larger burden of subsidy. But the Parikh panel wants to limit it to 40 per cent of the crude price if it is below $80 a barrel.

The panel wants state-run upstream oil companies to bear an additional 0.25 per cent for every $1 per barrel when the crude price ranges between $ 80 and $120. If the price moves beyond $120, the oil companies could bear 50 per cent of the subsidy burden, the panel has suggested.

On the other hand, the ministry wants 40 per cent of the under-recoveries on a crude price up to $80 a barrel to be on government account, this going up to 60 per cent at $120 per barrel. It insists that the government cannot sustain the high subsidy outgo, especially in a grim economic situation.

The ministry has also joined issue with the panel on the method used for the calculation of the subsidy burden on public sector upstream companies. The panel has said, “…there is no single or unique formula which can be said to represent the correct method for fixing domestic refinery gate prices in India.

Therefore, instead of replacing the existing well-established IPP/TPP pricing mechanism by some other arbitrary and ad hoc mechanism, the panel recommends that the best course would be to free the market from price controls at the earliest.

The panel’s recommendations are not binding and need cabinet approval to be implemented. After submitting the report, Parikh said, “Now, the ball is in government’s court.” Even if the government accepts the report, it is unlikely to implement it immediately or anytime soon in view of the looming elections.

For the current year the total subsidy on diesel, kerosene and LPG was estimated in April at Rs 80,000 crore. But this will have risen to Rs 130,000 crore by the time the financial year ends, primarily because the dollar has become harder against the rupee.

China state Media calls for Strong Action after Tiananmen Attack


A policeman of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team stands guard on a main street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing October 31, 2013. Chinese state media demanded severe punishment on Thursday after the government blamed militants from restive Xinjiang for an attack in Tiananmen Square, as the exiled leader of the region's Uighur minority called for an independent probe. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Chinese state media demanded severe punishment on Thursday for those behind what China has said is a holy war aimed at Beijing, which it has blamed on Islamist militants from the restive Xinjiang region.
The exiled leader of Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur minority called for an independent probe into a crash on Monday when an SUV burst into flames after being driven into a crowd in Tiananmen Square, one of China's most closely guarded areas. The three occupants of the vehicle and two bystanders were killed, and dozens were injured.
U.S.-based Rebiya Kadeer said she did not believe any kind of organized extremist Islamic movement was operating in Xinjiang, a view shared by rights groups and some experts.
"It is almost impossible for Uighurs to organize because of China's stringent controls and attacks," she said in an interview.
But police said Monday's incident was a carefully planned and organized "terrorist attack" carried out by people from Xinjiang. They announced they had apprehended five accomplices in Beijing who they said were Islamist militants planning a holy war. Their names suggest they are Uighurs.
Such an attack is a crime against humanity, the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily said. The government should spare no effort to ensure Beijing's safety, it added.
"Violent terrorist crime is the shared enemy of all humanity, the shared enemy of all ethnic groups in the country, and it must be severely punished under the law," it said in an opinion piece on its website.
"Maintaining the capital's security and stability is a responsibility of utmost importance."
The English-language China Daily said the perpetrators will "go down in history as murderers not heroes".
Xinjiang, in China's west, has been beset by violence, blamed by China on Uighur separatists and extremists. Many Uighurs in the region, which borders Central Asian nations that were part of the former Soviet Union as well asAfghanistan and Pakistan, chaff at Chinese controls on their religion, culture and language, although the government says they enjoy widespread freedoms.
"SPLITTIST"
Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, the main exiled Uighur organization, cautioned against believing China's account of the incident.
"Chinese claims simply cannot be accepted as facts without an independent and international investigation of what took place in Beijing on Monday," Kadeer said.
China, which calls Kadeer an "anti-Chinese splittist", will almost certainly ignore her call for an international investigation.
Authorities have tightened security in energy-rich Xinjiang, with added police presence on the streets. Armed police prevented Reuters reporters from entering Lukqun town, where one of the detained suspects is from, sending them back to the nearby city of Turpan.
Security has also been tightened in Beijing with extra police at the airport and on the streets. Some residents expressed fear about how unrest in Xinjiang had apparently made its way to the capital.
"Actually I feel very afraid because ... I often go over to Tiananmen. I thought something like this would be so far off from happening to us here, but for this to suddenly happen so close to me ... I just feel worried and scared," said Zhang Xiaoyan, 26, who works in financial services.
Kadeer said Uighurs may or may not have been responsible for the attack on Monday.
"It is difficult to tell at the moment, given the strict control of information by the Chinese government on this tragic incident," she said.
"If the Uighurs did it, I believe they did it out of desperation because there is no channel for the Uighur people to seek redress for any kind of injustice they had suffered under Chinese rule."
Her comments were made in written replies to Reuters questions, translated from the Uighur language by an aide.
Kadeer is a former Chinese political prisoner who was accused of leaking state secrets in 1999. She left China on medical parole and settled near Washington with her husband and part of her family in 2005. The 66-year-old mother of 11 was previously a celebrated millionaire who advised China's parliament.

Kadeer said she feared the Tiananmen Square attack would join a long list of incidents that China uses "to justify its heavy-handed repression" in her native region.

ISRO's Mars Mission, Launching Next Week, is the Cheapest

The Indian space agency’s Mars Mission, launching next week, is the cheapest by any nation to the red planet.
The Indian space agency’s Mars Mission, launching next week, is the cheapest by any nation to the red planet.
The Indian space agency's Mars Mission, launching next week, is the cheapest by any nation to the red planet. And there are attributes unique to ISRO that enable it to practise frugal engineering at the cutting edge time and again.

To understand the spirit of India's Mars mission, it is useful to look first at the country's moon mission in 2008.

The Chandrayaan-I project, as it is known, was announced in 2003, by the then-prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee , in 2003. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had partners, the Europeans and Americans, who had their own experiments to f ly in Chandrayaan. Some of them were puzzled by ISRO's style of working. They were just 18 months away from the launch date, and ISRO was only beginning to cut metal. One of the foreign partners had then asked ISRO managers: "Are you serious?"

The spacecraft f lew as planned in November 2008, operated for 312 days, and achieved most of its objectives. ISRO's partners, pleased that their instruments were working fine, tacitly acknowledged the value of the organisation's minimalist approach. "The told us after the launch," says M Annadurai, project manager of Chandrayaan, "that this was the Indian style of working". It was a tested method in ISRO, perfected over decades, and it is now being used to maximum effect in Mangalyaan: save time, money and human efforts throughcareful planning.

You could call it frugal engineering applied to space. Mangalyaan was formally approved only in August 2012, and ISRO had started work on the structure three months before the formal approval. The satellite was finished this August.

NASA's MAVEN, a Mars mission nearly identical to Mangalyaan and to be flown on November 18, had taken at least five years of work and $679 million in costs.If the Mangalyaan launch is successful, ISRO would have done it in 18 months, with $69 million. "Our speed of execution and low costs are the result of careful planning," says Annadurai.
The Indian space agency’s Mars Mission, launching next week, is the cheapest by any nation to the red planet.
Small Resources, Big Ambitions

When ISRO was set up in the 1960s, moon and Mars missions were not on the agenda, even in the faraway future. "We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight," its founder Vikram Sarabhai had famously said. Space technology was purely for the benefit of the society.

With such clear objectives, and working in a period when India was very poor, ISRO's leaders developed a style that produced maximum benefits with the minimum of effort.

"Frugal engineering comes naturally to Indians," says National Research Professor RA Mashelkar, "which is why India delivers more than any other country per dollar of R&D investment." Mashelkar, along with management theorist CK Prahlad, wrote a landmark paper on frugal engineering in theHarvard Business Review three years ago.

According to Mashelkar, Indians learned this technique because of the environment. "Indians grow up in scarcity, but also have high aspirations. These two conditions create a powerful combination," he says. ISRO's ambitions were high, but money was scarce.

So, for two decades, ISRO created some of the best examples of frugal engineering in India.
In the 21st century, when the world tries hard for low-cost access to space, other nations are looking at ISRO with interest and trying to use some of the principles it had perfected. ISRO is also becoming an important collaborator forNASA and Europe.

Build On Older Work

ISRO's engineering now revolves around a few core principles: adapt technology as much as possible, minimise the number of physical models, optimise on testing, and work round the clock. Adaptation is an old method that has now been perfected to an art in ISRO. As in many Indian products, ISRO uses technology in unusual ways not always directly evident to developed country engineers. 

National Security Agency broke into Yahoo, Google, Facebook, MS Hotmail

NSA broke into Yahoo, Google data centers: Report

 The National Security Agency and its British counterpart have apparently tapped the fiber-optic cables connecting Google's and Yahoo's overseas servers and are copying vast amounts of email and other information, according to accounts of documents leaked by former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden . 

In partnership with the British agency known as Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the NSA has apparently taken advantage of the vast amounts of data stored in and traveling among global data centers, which run all modern online computing, according to a report Wednesday by The Washington Post . NSA collection activities abroad face fewer legal restrictions and less oversight than its actions in the United States. 

Google and Yahoo said Wednesday that they were unaware of government accessing of their data links. Sarah Meron, a Yahoo spokeswoman , said that the company had not cooperated with any government agency for such interception, and David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, expressed outrage. 

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links," Drummond said in a statement. "We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks , and it underscores the need for urgent reform.

In a statement, the NSA did not directly address the claim that it had penetrated the companies' overseas data links. But it emphasized that it was focused on "foreign" intelligence collection - not domestic - and pushed back against the notion that it was collecting abroad to "get around" legal limits imposed by domestic surveillance laws. It also said it was "not true" that it collects "vast quantities" of Americans' data using that method. 

Companies like Google that operate Internet services - including email, online document and photo storage and search queries - send huge amounts of data through fiber-optic lines between their data centers around the world. Those data centers are kept highly secure using heat-sensitive cameras and biometric authentication, and companies believed the data flowing among centers was secure.

But Google said last month that it began the process of encrypting this internal traffic before reports of NSA spying leaked during the summer and accelerated the effort since then. Google security executives were suspicious that outside parties, like governments, could tap into the cables but did not have hard evidence that the spying was occurring, according to three people briefed on Google's security efforts who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The NSA could physically install a device that clips on the cable and listens to electric signals or insert a splitter in the cable through which data would travel, said Nicholas McKeown, an expert in computer networking and a professor at Stanford. Or, he said, someone with remote login access to the cable's switch or router could also redirect data flowing through the cables. 

Level 3 is a company that provides these cables for Google, according to a person briefed on Google's infrastructure who was not authorized to speak publicly. 

In a statement, Level 3 said: "We comply with the laws in each country where we operate. In general, governments that seek assistance in law enforcement or security investigations prohibit disclosure of the assistance provided.

In July, the company denied a German television report that it had cooperated with US intelligence agencies to spy on German citizens using its network. 

The New York Times reported in September that for at least three years, GCHQhad been working to gain access to traffic in and out of data centers operated by Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft's Hotmail. The program, described as having been developed in close collaboration with the NSA, was said to have achieved "new access opportunities" into Google's systems by 2012, according to GCHQ documents provided by Snowden. But it was not clear what that meant. 

Under a system code-named MUSCULAR, GCHQ was storing data taken in from the interception in a rolling three- to five-day "buffer," during which the two agencies decoded it and filtered out information they wanted to keep.

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