Category Archives: trade

Apple acquires Twitter analytics start-up Topsy for around $200 million

Apple has acquired Topsy which is a social media search and analytics company. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the deal was worth ‘more than $200M’.

Topsy has an expertise in gathering data from Twitter that allows customers to instant access to indexed information on trends. It has a database of over 425 billion tweets from 2006 onwards. Topsy is currently the most popular search analytics company due to its user friendly tools. Topsy’s software allows companies to analyze topics, terms or hashtags across millions of conversations on web sites.

It is not very clear why Apple acquired Topsy, a company that works on parsing data from Twitter. When contacted, a spokeswoman from Apple, Kristin Huguet said, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.“  That’s true. Apple often makes small acquisitions time to time to acquire technology which is generally aimed at improving hardware.

Apple 3

Although we are not sure about Apple’s interest in a social analytics firm, we guess Apple is looking at utilising Topsy’s search algorithms to sniff out popular topics to improve search results and collect them into categories according to popularity. Such improvised search results are likely to make Apple launch apps which are more appealing to the users.

The search results can also help Apple generate more revenue by displaying advertisements which are user relevant.

Digital-assistant Siri, in the latest iOS 7, can search Twitter and bring back tweets when specifically asked what certain individuals are talking about. Topsy can utilize its expertise to improve the search results from Twitter and offer greater insight.

Another speculation suggests that the Twitter data could be effectively channelled into the long awaited Apple TV making the streamed TV service attractive to both customers and advertisers.

Keeping revenue and speculations aside, the latest acquisition provides Apple with an immeasurable expertise of experienced computer engineers who are skilled at handling massive data sets. Now that is definitely a big gain for Apple.

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Rosatom Says It Remains Interested in Slovak Nuclear Project

Rosatom Corp. said it remains interested in a partnership with the Slovak state to build an atomic reactor if the government can guarantee profitability.

The Russian nuclear builder won’t insist on guarantees on the purchase price of power if the Slovak state comes up with an offer that ensures the Jaslovske Bohunice project is economically feasible, Rosatom overseas spokeswoman Andrea Krajniakova said by phone.

“Guarantee on the purchase price was never our sole condition,” Krajniakova said. “We are prepared to enter the project if a mutually satisfactory solution is found.”

Rosatom is in talks with CEZ AS to buy its 49 percent stake in the venture with Slovakia’s state nuclear decommissioning company JAVYS. CEZ, which paid 117 million euros ($159 million) for the stake in 2009, shelved the project last year to focus on expanding its own Temelin nuclear plant in the Czech Republic.

Slovak Premier Robert Fico has supported the construction of atomic plants to make the country self-sufficient in power. The Bohunice unit would be built at the site of an existing nuclear station, where Enel SpA’s local unit operates two reactors.

Enel is also building two 440-megawatt reactors at Mochovce, Slovakia’s other nuclear plant. The project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns as Enel and the Slovak government disagree about budget increases.

Samsung’s Market Cap Loses $8 Billion on Profit Growth Concerns

Samsung

Samsung is off to a rocky start this year.

Samsung Electronics’ stock declined by nearly 5% in trading Thursday on the Korea Stock Exchange, shaving off $8.8 billion from the company’s market cap, according to The Wall Street Journal. The drop comes amid growing concerns that Samsung’s profit growth is slowing.

The South Korean company is expected to report an operating profit of more than $9 billion for the fourth quarter, according to a survey of analysts. That’s more than the overall revenues of many tech companies, but it represents a 9.2% increase from the same quarter a year earlier. By comparison, Samsung’s profit in the third quarter was up 26% year-over-year.

Declining profit growth was a top concern for Samsung for much of 2013. Analysts are worried about Samsung’s mounting marketing expenses and slowing demand for high-end smartphones, among other factors.

Is the Comcast–Netflix deal the end of net neutrality?

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Netflix has come to a deal with Comcast, the nation’s largest Internet service provider, that will alleviate the buffering and stopping customers of the subscription video streaming service have reported in recent months. But it might not be a good thing for Internet users in the long run.

Over the weekend, news broke that Netflix had agreed to Comcast’s demands for payment in exchange for smoother distribution of its online content. And while this likely will lead to a better viewing experience, the long-term consequences on consumer prices and the broader doctrine of net neutrality could be seriously impacted.

For decades, the policy of net neutrality has reigned over the Web. In short, it prevents ISP’s from charging websites to deliver their content to Internet users faster. By the Internet’s own unique patchwork design, all backbone providers have been Interconnected and competing to deliver the same content without charging one another. Here’s a good diagram from The Washington Post showing exactly how that works.

This policy of neutrality, informal at first, was enshrined into regulation by the Federal Communications Commission back in 2010.

But Internet distribution has been evolving recently, and a lot of that change is centered around Netflix. The video streaming service now accounts for nearly a third of all Internet traffic. And that’s only bound to increase in coming years as Netflix continues to add new subscribers and push Super HD and 3D streaming service.

The increased traffic demands Netflix has place on ISPs has been a cause for some serious friction. This conflict has put significant strains on the relationship between Verizon and Netflix. It was recently reported that Verizon has been putting pressure on Cogent, the company that provides Netflix’s bandwidth, by refusing to make network upgrades that would allow more efficient streaming of Netflix content.

The dynamic was further thrown for a loop when a federal appeals court recently decided to partially overturn FCC neutrality regulations, which opened the door for ISPs to start charging fees for delivering certain Internet content.

That’s apparently what is now happening between Netflix and Comcast. The details of the arrangement have not been publicly disclosed, but it is clear that Netflix has made the game-changing decision to pay an ISP for better distribution of its Web traffic.

Doing so undermines the position of independent backbone providers like Cogent, according to the Washington Post’s Timothy B. Lee. The competition between these backbone providers is what fostered net neutrality in the first place. But if Netflix and other big-time web traffic providers begin cutting deals with ISPs, the backbone providers are left out of the picture and the competitive environment of the Internet is undermined. Lee says that instead of sharing the same, big metaphorical pipe, deals between content providers and ISPs create multiple, closed-off pathways that are harder for the FCC to regulate:

“[I]n a world where Netflix and Yahoo connect directly to residential ISPs, every Internet company will have its own separate pipe. And policing whether different pipes are equally good is a much harder problem than requiring that all of the traffic in a single pipe be treated the same. If it wanted to ensure a level playing field, the FCC would be forced to become intimately involved in interconnection disputes, overseeing who Verizon interconnects with, how fast the connections are and how much they can charge to do it.”

Net neutrality advocates fear this development for several reasons. If ISPs are able to create tiered levels of access, they will have more control over the Internet. Monopolistic control will ultimately lead to higher costs for consumers with less competition to drive down prices. Comcast has already faced scrutiny from consumers for it’s recently announce plan to purchase Time Warner Cable (this proposed merger would combine the nation’s largest and second-largest broadband providers).

There is also the fear that, as such deals become more common, wealthier Internet companies like Netflix and Yahoo will be able to keep scrappier upstarts, without the ability to pay for premium delivery, out of the game.

“This is the water in the basement for the Internet industry,” Columbia Law School professor and net neutrality advocate Tim Wu told the New York Times in response to the Netflix–Comcast deal. “I think it is going to be bad for consumers.”

Silk Road 2.0 ‘Hack’ Blamed On Bitcoin Bug, All Funds Stolen

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.56.45 PMThe same bug that has plagued several of the biggest players in the Bitcoin economy may have just bitten the Silk Road.

On Thursday, one of the recently-reincarnated drug-selling black market site’s administrators posted a long announcement to the Silk Road 2.0 forums admitting that the site had been hacked by one of its sellers, and its reserve of Bitcoins belonging to both the users and the site itself stolen. The admin, who goes by the name “Defcon,” blamed the same “transaction malleability” bug in the Bitcoin protocol that led to several of the cryptocurrency’s exchanges halting withdrawals in the previous week.

“I am sweating as I write this… I must utter words all too familiar to this scarred community: We have been hacked,” Defcon wrote. “Our initial investigations indicate that a vendor exploited a recently discovered vulnerability in the Bitcoin protocol known as “transaction malleability” to repeatedly withdraw coins from our system until it was completely empty.”

A message on the Silk Road homepage linking to Defcon’s “hacking” announcement.

Just how many bitcoins were stolen wasn’t said in the post, although it listed a series of Bitcoin addresses that the Silk Road administrators believe to have been involved in the heist. Those transactions seem to point to a single Bitcoin address that contains 58,800 coins, worth more than $36.1 million at current exchange rates. But tracing Bitcoin’s pseudonymous transactions is always tricky–other estimates range from 41,200 by a Silk Road user and 88,000 by the Bitcoin news site.

Update: Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, estimates the total theft of Silk Road’s bitcoins at a much lower number: just 4,400 or so coins, worth around $2.6 million.

Based on the Silk Road’s data about the attack, the site’s staff point to three possible attackers, two in Australia and one in France. “Stop at nothing to bring this person to your own definition of justice,” Defcon writes.

Silk Road’s users, predictably, didn’t take the announcement at face value, and many instead suspect that the site’s staff have used the “transaction malleability” bug as a scapegoat to cover their own incompetence–the site has been plagued with more pedestrian bugs since launching in November–or even that they’ve run off with the users’ bitcoins themselves. “Transaction malleability,” after all, has been a known issue with Bitcoin for two years, and is described by most Bitcoin security experts as more of a major nuisance than a real threat that would allow funds to be stolen.

“Something’s not correct: The bug…can’t be made responsable if bitcoins are missing now!” writes a user named pathfinder.

“Oh, this is rich. How many users called for the shutdown of SR2 to fix the problems? They were ignored,” writes a user named aqualung on the site’s forums. “Admins did this. Not some vendor.”

Defcon denied those accusations, but took full responsibility for allowing the theft. “I didn’t run with the gold,” he writes. “I have failed you as a leader, and am completely devastated by today’s discoveries…It is a crushing blow. I cannot find the words to express how deeply I want this movement to be safe from the very threats I just watched materialize during my watch.”

The hack is just latest in a series of mishaps, crackdowns and scams that have roiled the “dark web” drug market since the shutdown of the original Silk Road anonymous drug site in October by the FBI. Among the more than half dozen sites that have sprouted to pick up Silk Road’s lucrative stream of Bitcoin-based drug transactions, at least three have run off with the users’ funds and two have shut down after being hacked. Several drug site administrators have also been arrested, including three former Silk Road staffers and five men in the Netherlands and Germany who launched their Silk Road copycat, Utopia, earlier this month.

Amidst that chaos, the relaunched Silk Road has been perhaps the most stable and popular marketplace for drugs and other contraband, with over 13,000 product listings at last count. And its hacking and sudden bankruptcy shakes the anonymous ecommerce community more than any of those other dark web eruptions.

While some Silk Road users wrote on the site’s forums that they planned to take their business to other marketplaces like Pandora and Agora, others declared the Silk Road model altogether dead. All the sites currently keep users’ bitcoins in “escrow” before a transaction is complete to prevent fraud, a model that often allows the funds to be stolen, seized.

Defcon ended his message to the site’s users by announcing that the Silk Road will no longer use an escrow, and will instead ask users to send money directly between buyers and sellers, a model that will no doubt lead to many more scams on the site. But he said that the site will move to so-called “multi-signature” transactions, a largely experimental use of Bitcoin that would require multiple users to “sign off” on a transaction before it’s made. That means a third party could serve as a trusted escrow with no way to steal a user’s funds. He promised a “generous bounty” to anyone who could help Silk Road to implement the change.

“Silk Road will never again be a centralized escrow storage,” Defcon writes. “Hindsight is already suggesting dozens of ways this could have been prevented, but we must march onward.”

Uruguay Just Became The First Country To Legalize The Marijuana Trade

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

Uruguay Marijuana

A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate provides for regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

Backers of the law, some smoking joints, gathered near Congress holding green balloons, Jamaican flags in homage to Bob Marley and a sign saying: “Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows.”

Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.

When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.

Registered drug users should be able to start buying marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April.

“We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking,” Uruguay’s first lady, Senator Lucía Topolansky, told Reuters.

Uruguay’s attempt to quell drug trafficking is being followed closely in Latin America where the legalization of some narcotics is being increasingly seen by regional leaders as a possible way to end the violence spawned by the cocaine trade.

Rich countries debating legalization of pot are also watching the bill, which philanthropist George Soros has supported as an “experiment” that could provide an alternative to the failed U.S.-led policies of the long “war on drugs.”

The bill gives authorities 120 days to set up a drug control board that will regulate cultivation standards, fix the price and monitor consumption.

The use of marijuana is legal in Uruguay, a country of 3.3 million that is one of the most liberal in Latin America, but cultivation and sale of the drug are not.

Other countries have decriminalized marijuana possession and the Netherlands allows its sale in coffee shops, but Uruguay will be the first nation to legalize the whole chain from growing the plant to buying and selling its leaves.

Several countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and Israel have legal programs for growing medical cannabis but do not allow cultivation of marijuana for recreational use.

Last year, the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives that legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.

Uruguay’s leftist president, Jose Mujica, defends his initiative as a bid to regulate and tax a market that already exists but is run by criminals.

“We’ve given this market as a gift to the drug traffickers and that is more destructive socially than the drug itself, because it rots the whole of society,” the 78-year-old former guerrilla fighter told Argentine news agency Telam.

NOT ALL CONVINCED

Uruguay is one of the safest Latin American countries with little of the drug violence or other violence seen in countries such as Colombia and Mexico.

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