Moon to become next hot vacation destination

Golden Spike, a company full of ex-NASA people, announces ambitious plans to launch commercial spaceflights to the moon by 2020

I feel sorry for all those suckers who blew $20 million and only got a lousy trip to the International Space Station. If they had held out, they might have had an opportunity to invest many more millions on a trip to the moon.

Golden Spike Company announced yesterday a venture to launch commercial voyages to the moon by 2020. Of course, this sort of experience doesn’t come cheap. Golden Spike is expecting a trip to cost $1.5 billion per flight.

At that price, most private clients would be left out in the cold. As awesome as moon tourism sounds, Golden Spike is mainly focused

on offering its services to governments that would like a lunar lift, much like Russia helped other countries get to the space station. Still, I’m guessing Golden Spike would think twice about turning down a multi-billionaire with the dough and desire to buy a ride.

For those of us who don’t bathe in tubs full of hundred dollar bills, Golden Spike has announced its intention to make moon visits frequent and affordable. The definition of affordable is up for debate.

If you’re going to take a chance on a private moon transportation company, you could do worse than Golden Spike. The chairman of the board is Gerry Griffin, Apollo flight director and former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The president and CEO is planetary scientist Alan Stern, former head of all NASA science missions. NASA resumes are all over the Golden Spike team listings.

On the front page of its site, Golden Spike says, “Private sector human expeditions to the moon are now feasible and profitable without

government funding.” That’s a bold statement. Let’s keep an eye on Golden Spike and see if it can deliver.

A rendering of a Golden Spike vehicle on the moon.

Apollo 17 moon mission

(Credit: Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET)

Another Apple touch-screen patent in trouble

Smack that screen.One of Apple’s broad patents covering touch-screen technology is under fire by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, following a re-examination.

The USPTO ruled this week that all 20 claims included in the patent are invalid, according to a filing spotted by blog Foss Patents.

The decision, which was handed down Monday, is not final.

It’s the second such Apple patent to be deemed completely invalid following a re-examination by the USPTO. A similar decision for an Apple patent covering the company’s rubber-banding bounce effect came in late October, and is also subject to an appeal.

Of note, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is listed as the chief inventor, along with 24 others, of the touch-related technology listed in U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949. The company filed for the patent in April 2008, and was granted it just nine months later. It was one of three used against Motorola in a recent patent suit, which was tossed out of court last month. Source: CNET.COM

Illegal file-sharer gets slapped with $1.5 million in damages

The damages award against illegal file-sharer Kywan Fisher will most likely send him to the poor house. Illinois federal court Judge John Lee ordered Fisher to fork out $1.5 million to adult entertainment company Flava Works this week, according to TorrentFreak.

Flava Works sued Fisher for sharing 10 movies he’d previously paid for via BitTorrent. The damages award amount was reached by fining Fisher $150,000 per movie. This is the largest damages award ever ordered in a BitTorrent case.

Flava Works caught Fisher sharing its movies by tracing the illegal copies he was accused of sharing back to him using an encryption code inserted in the films he originally bought.

“Defendant’s conduct was willful to the extent that he copied or distributed Flava Works, Inc.’ intellectual property at least 10 times and caused the videos to be infringed or downloaded at least 3,449 times,” Flava Works wrote in a legal memo in support of damages.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against users who have illegally shared copyrighted material on BitTorrent. One of the most well known instances is when movie studio Voltage Pictures sued more than 27,000 individuals who allegedly downloaded the Oscar-winning film “The Hurt Locker.”

Many of these lawsuits have been dropped or settled because finding hard evidence against alleged file-sharers is typically difficult. Many cases relied on evidence based on users’ IP addresses. But, in May, a U.S. federal judge ruled that an IP address alone was not enough to accuse a specific individual of illegal downloads.

The difference in Fisher’s case is that Flava Works had the additional encryption code evidence against him.

 

According to TorrentFreak, one of the reasons that Fisher was slapped with such exorbitant damages is because he didn’t show up in court and therefore didn’t have any defense.

“Given the materials submitted by Plaintiff in support of its motion and in light of the absence of any objection by Defendant, Plaintiff’s motion for entry of default against defendant 11 is granted. Judgment is entered in favor of the Plaintiff Flava Works, Inc., and against the Defendant Kywan Fisher in the amount of One Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($1,500,000.00),” Judge Lee’s judgement reads, according to TorrentFreak. Source: CNET

Microsoft Surface tablet back-ordered

microsoft surface
microsoft surface

Call it round one of a Microsoft-Apple hardware heavyweight bout.

A few days before the expected rollout of Apple’s new tablets, all Microsoft Surface tablets are now officially back-ordered in the U.S.

A Microsoft representative confirmed with CNET today that delivery of three Surface RT modelshas been pushed back.

On Tuesday, the same day that sales were launched, the order status of the $499 model (32GB) quickly slipped to three weeks.

Now the $599 Surface with the black Touch Cover (keyboard/cover, 32GB) and the $699 Surface with the black Touch Cover (64GB) are back-ordered “one to two weeks.”

Microsoft also offered this statement.

Surface is available online in eight markets across the world: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Online availability adjusts based on orders and inventory. Regardless of online availability, beginning Oct. 26, 2012, all three Surface SKUs will be available for purchase at all Microsoft Store locations in the United States and Canada, including in all 34 new holiday stores. Customers can go [here] to find the Microsoft Store nearest them.

Surface is the first Microsoft-branded PC, making it the first Microsoft computer to go head-to-head with Apple.

And Microsoft is injecting fresh competition into the PC market, too. Surface will compete with Windows 8 and Windows RT products from Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo, Asus, and others.

Apple may phase out iPad 2

apple ipad min

Tablet buyers may see the iPad 2 sink away as the iPad Mini prepares to surface, says Evercore Partners analyst Rob Cihra.

Chira said he thinks Apple could phase out the iPad 2 because the company’s vision leads toward “clearer product tiers,” according to AppleInsider. Apple is expected to unveil the iPad Mini at a launch event on October 23.

Launched in March 2011, the 16GB iPad 2 is currently available through Apple at a price of $399 for the Wi-Fi only version and $529 for the Wi-Fi + 3G edition. In contrast, the new iPad starts at a price of $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version and shoots up to $829 for the 64GB model with Wi-Fi and 4G.

Apple has teased at a smaller iPad, using the term “we’ve got a little more to show you” on the invites for the October 23 event. But the company hasn’t yet officially announced any such device, so there’s been only speculation about it. Some reports say the smaller tablet will sport a 7.85-inch screen with the entry-level model offering 8GB of storage and Wi-Fi only access and a price tag of $249.

A few rumors have pinned November 2 as the date the new tablet will go on sale. A “source close to Apple’s supply chain” reportedly confirmed that date to TechCrunch as well.

Apple releases iOS 6.0.1 with over-the-air update tool

Apple has rolled out the first bug fix update to iOS 6 since the software’s release in mid-September.

Version 6.0.1, which went out as a free update this morning, fixes a handful of bugs, including one that Apple says kept iPhone 5 users from installing over-the-air software updates. Apple’s fix includes installing a special “iOS updater” app to help the process along, which is removed from the device after 6.0.1 is installed.

Also included in the update is a fix for a nasty Exchange bug that could delete a meeting for all invited attendees if one user declined an invitation. The issue could be so bad that some companies put into place specific workarounds, warning those with iOS 6 devices to keep from declining invites and use a computer instead.

Here’s the full change log:

 

  • Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air
  • Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard
  • Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off
  • Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod Touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks
  • Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances
  • Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match
  • Fixes a Passcode Lock bug that sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen
  • Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings

 

Here’s an image of the special installer for iPhone 5 users:


(Credit: CNET)

A report from Boy Genius Report late last month suggested Apple had iOS 6.0.1 in testing phases with all of the above fixes, with mention that the company was also at work on a more full-featured release of 6.1 for after the holidays.

As a frame of reference, it took Apple a little under a month to release iOS 5.0.1 following the release of iOS 5 last October. The release brought mostly bug and security fixes, though also added multitasking gestures for original iPad users. The jump to iOS 5.1, which reworked the camera application on the iPad, and increased the size limit for over-the-air app downloads, came about four months later.

According to Apple, iOS 6 adds “over 200 new features” to iOS 5. Chief among them is Apple’s own maps application, changes to Siri that add more information about movies, restaurants, and sports scores, as well as deep integration with Facebook.