Ex-Microsoft employee charged with insider trading

The Microsoft logo is seen at their offices in BucharestThe U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two Seattle men on Thursday with 35 counts of illegally trading on private Microsoft Corp information, which prosecutors said netted the pair more than $390,000 in illicit profits over an 18-month period.

Brian Jorgenson, a senior portfolio manager at Microsoft, passed information to a former colleague, online day trader Sean Stokke, who executed the trades, according to prosecutors.

The two men are due to appear in federal court in Seattle on Thursday.

According to the DoJ and the SEC, the scheme began in April 2012 when Jorgenson, who is 32, found out through his job in Microsoft’s treasury department that the software company was planning an investment in the digital business of bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc.

He passed that information to Stokke, now 28, who bought options betting that Barnes & Noble stock would rise. It jumped 49 percent when the investment was announced in late April, reaping Stokke profit of more than $184,000, prosecutors said.

The pair repeated the process twice more in the following 18 months, prosecutors said, by buying Microsoft and index options prior to earnings that Jorgenson knew would surprise Wall Street. Together, the two men took in another $208,000 or so in profit from the trades, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors.

“For every stock market winner, there is a loser, and trading on confidential inside information is a cheater’s way of gaining at the expense of others,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.

Microsoft said it had already fired Jorgenson.

“Our company has zero tolerance for insider trading. We helped the government with its investigation and terminated the employee,” a Microsoft representative said in an emailed statement.

France: It’s not sexting, it’s textopornographie

It's not sexting, it's textopornographieFrance, a nation with a centuries-old reputation for seduction, now has a word for sexting.

If you want to send sexually explicit photos or text messages to your lover in France, it’s called “textopornographie.” That’s the term recently chosen by the Academie Francaise, the respected institution that watches over the French language and regularly invents French terms for English or other expressions that have gone global.

The academy’s Sophie Tonolo, a dictionary editor, says it was approached by the Justice Ministry for a proper term for sexting because the phenomenon often comes up in legal cases.

It was one of many words published this month in a government legal database. It may not end up in the dictionary however, Tonolo said, if the phenomenon fades.

Amazon workers to continue strikes in 2014 as pay dispute continues

Amazon workers to continue strikes in 2014 as pay dispute continuesWorkers at Amazon.com Inc’s German operations plan to continue industrial action next year, the Verdi labour union said on Friday, in a pay dispute that has been dragging on for several months.

“We will continue to strike, also next year,” Verdi representative Joerg Lauenroth-Mago said. “But I won’t say when and where exactly that will happen.”

Hundreds of workers at Amazon’s logistic centres in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig have been on strike since Monday, in actions due to end on Saturday, December 21, threatening to disrupt shipments in the Christmas shopping season. Some staff at the company’s Graben site have also stopped work.

(Also see: Amazon German workers strike again ahead of pre-Christmas sales peak)

Amazon said that, on average, only 900 staff joined the strike and that pre-Christmas deliveries had not been affected. The company employs a total of 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centres.

“The overwhelming majority of our workers are fully committed, so all packages are making it in time for the holiday,” Amazon’s Steven Harman, who is responsible for the German logistics centres, said in a statement.

Union Verdi has organised short strikes this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective bargaining agreements, which are used elsewhere in the mail order and retail industry, as benchmarks for pay at Amazon’s German distribution centres.

However, Amazon has maintained that it regards staff at its centres in the cities of Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig as logistics workers and that they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

Verdi members called their latest stoppages this week in the busy days before Christmas, when it would hurt the online retailer the most.

Amazon said orders in Germany peaked on December 15, with 4.6 million products ordered in one day – 53 per second. It said that was 15 percent above order levels a year earlier.

Winter solstice marked by an animated Google doodle

Winter solstice marked by an animated Google doodleWinter solstice is the subject of Saturday’s animated Google doodle. Winter solstice is the day that the maximum elevation of the sun, which gets lower as the winter arrives, reaches its lowest value. After this day, the maximum elevation of the sun starts to increase.

Winter solstice also marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. While the winter solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere in December, the southern hemisphere marks summer solstice on the same day. For regions in the southern hemisphere, the day means the maximum elevation of the sun is at its peak as is the length of the day. The day is also called “December solstice” as a common term for winter and summer solstices across both hemispheres.

Though Winter solstice is often called “the first day of the winter”, it is not the case – other terms used for the day like “mid-winter” or “the shortest day” are in fact correct. The day does mark a seasonal shift in the sense that after Winter solstice, days start to get longer. The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates, however, differ from winter solstice as these depend on latitude of the place in question, in addition of course to the time of the year.

Depending on one’s position on the globe, the December solstice (summer or winter, as the case may be) usually occurs on the 21st and the 22nd. However, it is sometimes possible for a solstice to coincide with three different dates. Thus, the December 2016 solstice coincides with 20th of the month in American Samoa, with the 21st in London and with the 22nd at Kirtimati.

Google Glass software update brings wink to snap, YouTube uploads and more

Google Glass software update brings wink to snap, YouTube uploads and moreGoogle Glass on Tuesday announced updates to the software in its Internet-linked eyewear to allow users to snap pictures by winking.

The new feature, which promises to escalate privacy concerns already being voiced about the high-tech gadget, came as one of an array of improvements.

“We’ve got a new setting that lets you quickly and easily capture the moments you care about with a simple wink of the eye,” Google Glass posted on its Google+ social network page.

“We’re starting with pictures, but just think about what else is possible,” the message continued.

Notions put forth included Glass wearers someday paying for cab rides by winking at meters or buying something in a shop with a blink.

Updates included letting owners lock eyewear so it can’t be used unless a person knows the right “handshake” of swipes and taps.

The “Glassware” code powering the eyewear was also modified to upload video directly to Google-owned video-sharing venue YouTube.

“Glass is about helping you look up and experience the world around you without getting bogged down by technology,” Google said.

The high-tech accouterment lets wearers take pictures, record video, send messages or perform other tasks with touch controls or by speaking commands. It connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi hot spots or being wirelessly tethered to mobile phones.

Facebook, Twitter and major news organizations have already tailored applications for Google Glass, which has only been made available to developers and a limited selection of “explorers” who paid $1,500 each for the eyewear.

(Also see: Google contest winners start getting their $1,500 Glass)

Envisioned uses range from practical tasks such as shopping or delivering local weather reports to sharing real time video streams or playing augmented reality games in which the world is the board.

Google has not announced a public release date for Google Glass but speculation centers around early 2014.

Logitech India unveils accessories for iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display

Logitech India unveils accessories for iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina displayLogitech has announced its first set of accessories in India for the recently unveiled Apple tablets, the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. The new devices include Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, Ultrathin Keyboard Folio and Folio Protective Case for iPad Air. For iPad mini with Retina display, the company has announced Ultrathin Keyboard Folio and Folio Protective Case.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Subrotah Biswas, Country Director of Logitech India and South West Asia, said, “We feel proud to announce the launch of new range of products to perfectly complement the aesthetics of iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. With perfect blend of colourful skins, Logitech is living up to our legacy of stylish and productive designs.”

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air provides an aluminium screen cover and doubles as a wireless keyboard. The built-in Bluetooth keyboard comes with dedicated iOS shortcut keys such as Cut, Copy and Paste and a magnetic clip that secures your tablet, as well as a magnetic groove located behind the keyboard that can hold your iPad upright. The keyboard is rechargeable via a Micro-USB port and can last up to three months on a complete charge, as per Logitech’s claim. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air is available at Rs. 6,995.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for the iPad Air (Rs. 6,495) and the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad mini (Rs. 5,795) come with an integrated Bluetooth keyboard and a dual-view stand that can hold your iPad upright or flat, while the SecureLock system helps ensure your iPad stays fastened to the frame. The keyboard is also rechargeable through Micro-USB and comes with a backup similar to the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

The Folio Protective Case for iPad Air and Folio Protective Case for iPad mini are Logitech’s thinnest and lightest folios that come with a water-repellant skin for two-sided protection against bumps, scratches and spills. They also use the SecureLock system and the folios double up as an adjustable stand that can hold your iPad in several positions, from nearly flat to fully upright and many angles in between. Cases for both iPad models are priced at an identical Rs. 2,495.

Samsung Galaxy S5 to come with 2K display, eye-scanning sensor: Report

Samsung Galaxy S5 to come with 2K displaySamsung at its Analyst Day event in Korea had revealed plans for launching devices with a screen resolution of 1440×2560 pixels (2K) next year.

Now, a new report emerging from Korea suggests such a device is already in development, and that the company will announce the alleged smartphone at MWC in February 2014. However, the report does not confirm whether the alleged smartphone with a screen resolution of 1440×2560 pixels (2K) will be the rumoured, and anticipated Galaxy S5.

Earlier this month, a GFXBench listing had revealed a device codenamed Samsung SM-G900S sporting a screen resolution of 1440×2560 pixels (2K). The device was believed to be the Samsung Galaxy S5, which is expected to come with a 5.0- or 5.2-inch display, making the pixel density an incredible 560ppi at the said resolution.

In addition, the report also reveals that the South Korean giant is working on its next line of smartphones that will equip iris recognition or eye-scanning technology for unlocking the phone, authentication etc. Samsung’s expected next flagship smartphone (the Galaxy S5) will probably be the first device to pack such a feature. Unfortunately, the report does not reveal many details of the alleged eye-scanning unlock feature.

The eye-scanning/iris-recognition feature has not been introduced on any smartphone (from a major manufacturer) as an unlocking method, and if the rumour is true, Samsung would become the first handset maker to debut the feature on a smartphone. However, there is no official word from Samsung on the alleged eye-scanning feature.

Previously, Apple and HTC have introduced the fingerprint scanner features to the iPhone 5s and One Max respectively. The fingerprint scanner feature lets users log-in (and authorise payments, etc., on the iPhone 5s) with a swipe of the fingertip.

Some reports have indicated that Samsung may announce the Galaxy S5 as early as January, in a bid to overcome ‘disappointing’ Galaxy S4 sales.

Windows Phone 8.1’s rumoured notification customisation settings leaked in image

Windows Phone 8.1's rumoured notification customisation settings leaked in imageWindows Phone users, who have been missing a notification centre, might soon be relieved, if an image of the incoming Windows Phone 8.1 is true.

WMPoweruser has posted an image showing the purported lockscreen settings of the upcoming revamped version of the Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8.1.

The purported image of the Windows Phone 8.1 shows notification customisation settings that include up to four quick access settings. The leaked image also reveals a new turn on/off notification feature for apps, which will reportedly not disable the Live Tiles functionality of the app on the device. In addition, the leaked image also shows a banner notification for the Windows Phone, although it does not detail the functionality. The leaked image also includes icons for Wi-Fi Hot spot, brightness, Wi-Fi and airplane mode.

Unfortunately, the purportedly leaked image of the Windows Phone 8.1 notification customisation settings is blurred and not all features are visible.

On Tuesday, a report revealed that Microsoft would ship its upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 with two new features – a notification centre that can be accessed by swiping down from top of the screen, just like Android and iOS, apart from a voice-based assistant believed to be codenamed ‘Cortana’.

The report suggested that Microsoft intends to replace the existing Bing Search on Windows Phone devices to offer voice or text input interactions. The Verge claims that the rumoured voice-based assistant ‘Cortana’ will be similar to Apple Siri technology and Google Now, and can learn location context from the Windows Phone device.

The report noted that the Redmond giant has been testing copies of Windows Phone 8.1 internally and plans to unveil the rumoured Windows Phone upgrade at Build Developer Conference in April next year.

iBall Slide 3G Q1035 tablet with voice calling, dual-SIM support launched

iBall Slide 3G Q1035 tablet with voice calling, dual-SIM support launchediBall has expanded its Slide tablet portfolio with the launch of the Slide 3G Q1035 for the Indian market. The tablet is now listed at Rs. 17,999 on company’s website.

The iBall Slide 3G Q1035 tablet comes with dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) support with voice-calling and dual standby. It runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and comes with a 10.1-inch IPS HD display with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels. It is powered by 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex A7 processor (unspecified chipset) alongside 1GB of RAM.

The new Slide tablet sports an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, while there is a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. It includes 8GB of inbuilt storage which is further expandable up to 32GB with microSD card. The tablet packs a 6000mAh battery. Connectivity options on the tablet include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro-USB and 3G.

Notably, iBall launched the Slide 3G Q1035 tablet under its Edu Slide portfolio in September this year.

Earlier in October, iBall launched the Slide 3G 8072 voice-calling tablet with dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) support at Rs. 11,999. It features an 8-inch display with 1024×768 pixels resolution, and is powered by 1GHz dual core Cortex A9 processor (unspecified chipset). The tablet runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out-of-the-box. It comes with 1GB of RAM and includes 4GB inbuilt storage which is further expandable up to 32GB via microSD card. The tablet packs a 4000mAh battery. Connectivity options on the tablet include Wi-Fi and 3G.

iBall Slide 3G Q1035 key specifications

10.1-inch IPS HD display with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels
1.2GHz quad-core Cortex A7 processor
1GB of RAM
8GB of built-in storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD
8-megapixel rear camera
2-megapixel front camera
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) support

Sony PlayStation 4 launched in India at Rs. 39,990, available January 6

Sony PlayStation 4 launched in India at Rs. 39,990, available January 6Sony has launched its next-generation game console in India, the PlayStation 4, which it has priced at Rs. 39,990. The PS4 will be available on shelves in the country starting 6 January 2014.

Additional controller and the PlayStation Camera have been priced at an identical Rs 4,990. First-party gaming titles have been priced at Rs. 3,999 while third-party titles will range between Rs. 2,499 and Rs. 4,499.

Notably, the PlayStation 4 was launched in the US on November 15. Earlier this month, Sony revealed it had sold more than 2.1 million PlayStation 4 consoles after less than three weeks on the market. This follows Sony’s statistic that it had sold 1 million consoles on launch day.

(Also see: PlayStation 4 sales top 1 million units in first 24 hours: Sony)

The latest PlayStation will be released in its home market Japan in February. Sony also announced that looking at the current PlayStation 4 sales figures, it was on track to hit its worldwide target of 5 million units by March 2014.

(Also see: PlayStation 4 set for February 22 launch in Japan, three months after US)

The Sony PS4 is powered by an integrated CPU-GPU design, featuring a 8-core low power x86-64 AMD “Jaguar” CPU, coupled with a 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon GPU. It also features a secondary processor that does the network processing tasks in standby mode, in order to optimise power consumption.

The PS4 features 8GB of GDDR5 RAM for memory, coupled with a 500GB hard disk drive. Also onboard is a Blu-ray disc and DVD drive. Connectivity options include 2 USB 3.0 ports, one AUX port, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR), an HDMI out port, and an optical-out port.

(Also see: 6 must have games for Sony’s new PlayStation 4)

Interestingly, both Microsoft and Sony have opted for an x86-based CPU-GPU SoC architecture for their consoles, powered by AMD. This also signals a convergence of game development and releases for the console and PC platforms, making it easier for developers to harness the potential of the hardware across platforms.

Microsoft’s next-generation console, the Xbox One (Review), is the only real competition for the Sony PS4, especially in India, where the Nintendo Wii U has yet to make an appearance. For now, Microsoft only gave a tentative launch date for the Xbox One in India during the E3 2013 event, saying it would arrive by late 2014. Since then of course, reports have indicated a slightly earlier launch, by mid-2014.