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Japan issues guidelines on bitcoin taxation
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:00:50 GMT)
The Japanese government has issued a statement on how to regulate bitcoin, on the same day as 180,000 bitcoins linked to collapsed Tokyo-based exchange Mt Gox are transacted. By Alex Hern
Google's mystery barge ordered to leave San Francisco bay – video
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:25:51 GMT)
A four-storey barge owned by Google leaves its mooring in San Francisco after being told to leave for not having the proper permits
Which NAS should I buy to store files?
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:48:56 GMT)
Iain has filled his PC's hard drive and wants to move files to a storage system that the rest of the family can access from PCs and various mobile devices. By Jack Schofield
Photographers warn of 'cynical' move by Getty to provide free pictures
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:12:34 GMT)
Getty Images attempts to seize its place in the social web – to the chagrin of its photographers, writes Alex Hern
Has the NSA's mass spying made life easier for digital criminals?
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 12:37:29 GMT)
In flooding the internet with malware and attack code, and by increasing wariness of data sharing, the NSA's actions have had a negative impact on the fight against cybercrime. By Tom Brewster
Batman: Arkham Knight – trailer first glimpse
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 10:48:37 GMT)
We study the first glimpses of Rocksteady Studio's next Dark Knight adventure to discover what fans can expect from the team's final Batman game. By Nick Cowen and Keith Stuart
Bitcoin raises lots of questions. Satoshi Nakamoto doesn't have the answers
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 10:34:20 GMT)
The important answers about bitcoin won't come from chasing a man in a Prius around LA, writes James Ball
Chvrches give their verdict on the latest new-tech instruments
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 08:30:00 GMT)
The Glasgow-based electro-pop band, fifth in the BBC's Sound Of 2013 new music list, get their hands on a string of musical inventions
Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry have come to understand that new technology plays plural fundamental roles in a band like theirs. That said, there aren't all that many bands like Chvrches, whose three members quickly dispel the preconception that all songs begin with a thoughtful loner behind a pencil and a piano.
"Coming to practice with a song already written is banned," says Doherty. "The interesting thing about this band is that it's not one person's individual input that matters, it's what happens in the studio when everyone's together."
According to Cook, it is during this primary collaborative stage that technology plays its first part. "We're inspired by pieces of technology. If we get a new synthesiser or a new drum machine or a certain sound, it can trigger off the momentum for a whole stream of creative ideas that we might never have thought of if we were just sitting with an electric guitar. The more new stuff we have in the studio, the better, because we have a broader palette to start from."
Mayberry brings an open mind to the four potential additions to that palette: "Different things work for different people, and if this stuff helps more people to enjoy playing and writing music, that's great."
A spherical midi-controller covered with tensile, circular pads. Programmable to provide an infinite variety of loops, samples and software instruments in a single manual interface. alphasphere.com, from £678.90
Mayberry "It looks cool especially with the lights going, but it would be hard to find your way around it on stage because it looks and feels the same all the way round. It seems lovely but I'd rather use a keyboard."
Cook "The latex sensors remind me a bit of Videodrome, the scene where the face comes through the TV. There is a skinlike, organic feel to it which is oddly satisfying, but at the same time it looks really dated."
Doherty "I can see that, if I devoted the time to it, there could be some glory in the AlphaSphere; it could be useful as a control surface for clips, like a spherical Launchpad and the midi clock is pretty clever. Someone who spent the next two years mastering this could end up doing something really impressive. But it's not me. Having said that, give it six months and there'll be a band of four people who just play AlphaSpheres at the front of the stage."
Mayberry "And we'll be the old people who didn't understand."
Verdict Visually stimulating but possibly gimmicky.
A spongy cube aimed at newcomers to music and those less able to play traditional instruments. Five coloured pads control numerous software instruments, while an accompanying app teaches songs. skoogmusic.com, £499.95
Cook "This seems to work like a different-looking Guitar Hero controller..."
Mayberry "Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've been trying to teach myself guitar for the longest time and I can't get beyond a certain level of crapness. But I'm really good at Guitar Hero, so if there was a way to get Guitar Hero to actually teach you the guitar I would absolutely do that. It reminds me of the Jibber Jabber, that toy from the 90s with a big plastic head and the long neck which you shook to make a noise. I understand the importance of toys that make sounds and are tactile things as well, and in that context, or as an educational or therapeutic tool, I would vote for it. A way of understanding music that's based on colours and visual markers is often more approachable to people than a treble clef and a bass clef. Having that kind of visual reinforcement is useful in an educational context. Notation is pretty impenetrable and we know lots of great musicians who can't read traditional notation."
Verdict Effective as a learning tool, less so as an instrument.
A full-sized stage piano whose rubbery, pliable keys respond to minute variations in the fingertips, allowing advanced dynamic expression. roli.com, £1,200
Cook "Oh wow! It circumvents one of the major problems of the keyboard really, which is that you're playing on a grid. With this, you can play in between the notes. It's all black, which would make it hard to play if it was dark on stage – you'd have to put Tipp-Ex on all the sharps and flats – but some really nice thought has gone into it. I think there's room in the marketplace for things that are slightly changing the established hardware and things that are completely revolutionary. Maybe the key to an instrument like this is not to think of it as a piano at all, but even so it's an evolutionary instrument that I can see having real impact."
Doherty "The aftertouch doesn't really blow me away – assignable aftertouch has been going on in synthesisers for a long time. But if there are infinite parameters that can be assigned to this controller, then we might be going somewhere much more interesting. This has by far the most real-world potential. It could be really amazing."
Verdict A possibly much-needed evolution of the traditional keyboard.
A 12-stringed acoustic instrument in the shape of an irregular triangle-based pyramid. Supposed by its inventor to be acoustically superior to ordinary, pear-shaped stringed instruments. suzukimusic.co.uk/deltar, £1,499
Mayberry "I'm not sure it would fit into a conventional band setting, but the resonance on it is really nice. The top end actually sounds less shrill than some guitars; it's quite warm. There's a Scottish guitar player guy who makes a lot of rhythm loops by banging on his guitar. Maybe he could use this, or Bon Iver on his next record? Or maybe it would be perfect for us, if only we understood it a bit more. Sound guys would hate us though."
Cook "The Deltar looks like the kind of thing you'd see in a Bill and Ted movie where they travel back in time but still have to play heavy metal. Maybe it's brilliant; there was a man called Harry Partch who built a whole suite of strange musical instruments. They didn't really catch on but he was a genius. It does sound nice, don't get me wrong. I just don't really see the market for it."
Martin "I really disagree with what Iain's saying. I mean, it looks terrible – worse than a keytar – but it gets really interesting when you let it ring out: it sustains way longer than a guitar. I think maybe it's a studio instrument, something you could use in a single context, maybe a folk album. Or Natasha Khan could get away with this. But I think if you used it on stage you'd have to hide it so you looked like less of a beamer.
Verdict Lute-meets- Flying V. Strangely ornamental, sounds good.
Boot up: iPhone blood pressure, new sucking bots, bitcoin implosion, and more
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 07:30:35 GMT)
Plus Apple buys something, Samsung fined, comic hacking, fake banks, and more. By Samuel Gibbs
Satoshi Nakamoto: man denies being bitcoin inventor amid media frenzy
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 07:07:11 GMT)
'I got nothing to do with it,' says California man as he gives interview for a free lunch but Newsweek reporter stands by story
South Park, satire and us – by Matt Stone
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 07:06:00 GMT)
Matt Stone and his creative partner Trey Parker have spent years perfecting The Stick of Truth – the video game version of their hit adult cartoon. In an interview, Stone talks about moral choices, comic timing and censorship
• South Park: The Stick of Truth – review
• Why has the South Park game been censored in Europe?
Pairing boyish, gross-out comedy with biting parody, they are two of the darkest satirists in US media.
Working with video-game developer Obsidian Entertainment, Stone has spent the last few years both writing and overseeing South Park: The Stick of Truth, a game that's far from the usual throwaway licensed cash-in. Instead it's an interactive extension of the South Park universe, with the same shocking and irresistible sense of humour.
Here he talks about comedy's ever-expanding boundaries and the challenges of writing for interactive rather than passive comedy.
Most licensed video games are farmed out and there is precious little involvement from the people who created the brand. Why did you and Trey involve yourself so closely with the South Park video game?
We did do some cheap licensed games when the show first came out 15 years ago. I think they were on the N64 [Nintendo console] and they stank. We didn't like them. That's why we haven't done one since.
We like video games and it's one of those things that matters to us. Doing a big show there are a lot of licensed products that you have to live with that aren't your favourites, like T-shirts and stuff; that's the deal with the devil.
But when it's a real thing like a video game, it's different. It was the disappointment with the older ones that made us think, OK, if we ever do it again, we have to do it right, or at least intend to do it right, and when the PS3 and Xbox 360 came out we started talking about it.
We could finally do the graphics in a way where it looked like you were in the show.
Why do you think people are more discerning about games now than they used to be?
It was a real learning process doing this, because when you put South Park on TV, it's basically free. You're watching commercials, but you turn it on and there it is. For a video game it's very different. People are spending $60 – or, in the future, when it's in the bargain bin, more like $10 – but for most people it's a big purchase that you might forgo something else to afford.
And even apart from money, it's also a time investment. I don't start a video game until like three people have told me it's amazing, because I don't want to get three hours into a game and have it stink.
I think the way people consume video games and how expensive they are makes it a different contract with the audience. It was the same with Book of Mormon - people are coming to the theatre, they're driving there, they're dressing up sometimes.
It's a lot of money – it has to be on a different level because people consume it differently.
When South Park first hit TV there was a huge moral panic around the show - 17 years later, how has the American public's conservatism changed? Are there things you could make jokes about then that you can't now?
No, it's all the other way. It's crazily more permissive than when we started. The standards were much, much higher when we started out.
You go back and watch the first season of South Park and it's pretty slow and not the best written and junky-looking, but it would almost play on Nickelodeon at this point.
There are dirty words but, conceptually, we couldn't have covered the material that we do now. And yet, in the first year, that's when we were getting all the calls from the network and we had to fight for it, and that's when we were on the cover of magazines that said: "Don't let your children watch".
It's hilarious, people would probably show it to younger kids now. I think things have loosened up and, generally, I think that's pretty good. It's a lot of the reason why television has become so dominant right now.
Part of it is proliferation of channels and being able to do more shit on American TV. Look where the Breaking Bads of the world go now.
That would not have been a mass-marketed thing back in the 90s.
In Europe and Australia, some scenes in the video game have been censored.
I was told that Australia has different standards. They have their own ratings system, as does Europe, so I was told that we had to submit it for ratings and they come back and tell you this will pass, this won't. Ultimately, the full version of the game is in North America, so at least that version is out there, but anywhere it's censored [in the other version], we just put in little black cards explaining what has happened.
It's not that big a deal. It doesn't change things that much, but we weren't going to change the game downwards somewhere and just not tell anybody. You'll see how ridiculous that is.
How do you feel about that?
It does feel like a double standard, a little bit. We weren't willing to change the content, but also it doesn't ruin the game – it's like 40 seconds' worth of the whole game. As long as we could make a joke out of the fact that they made us cut this, that was fine.
On TV only one episode of South Park has been censored. Would you have had to censor the scenes in the game for TV? Do you think that people feel differently about the same content when it's in a game?
There is an interactiveness that makes it different. In movies and television you can do stuff that's morally grey very easily, because you get to show consequences, you get to show reward, but in a video game there's a reason why everything is a Nazi, zombie, or alien - these are pretty clear moral choices.
There are things that make people more uncomfortable in an interactive world, definitely. But that said, what we had in the game, we could have shown that on TV pretty easily, especially now.
Have the challenges of writing Stick of Truth given you an insight into why games traditionally haven't been very good at comedy?
A lot of comedy is timing and it's hard to control comic timing in an open world where you're not in control of when the joke happens. It's not really a writer's medium, because you can't write and mould and change on the fly like you can in a live show. Timing is one of those things that's pretty crucial to comedy and pretty hard for video games.
Do you think that American comedy has become more permissive during the 17 years that South Park has been on air?
People have done raw comedy for a long time. That kind of comedy always existed, but it is easier to find on TV and in our living rooms now. But then, so is pornography.
Maybe it's a technology thing as much as anything, but I do think American TV has opened up hugely to a lot that it wouldn't have been tackled a decade ago or two decades ago.
The big great shows that everyone loves now are more adult-orientated – they're more free with language, and it's just great.
The Stick of Truth was released on 7 March for Playstation 3, PC and Xbox 360
Satoshi Nakamoto: is this bitcoin's founder? - video
(Fri, 07 Mar 2014 01:14:00 GMT)
Reporters in the US descend on the home of Dorian S Nakamoto after Newsweek published a story that said he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive creator of bitcoin, and was living in Temple City, California
Watch Dogs – freedom and morality in open-world games
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 17:00:14 GMT)
Does Ubisoft's cyberpunk thriller hint at a future in which open-world games offer moral as well as environmental exploration? By Nick Cowen
Spotify acquires music data firm The Echo Nest
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 16:28:38 GMT)
The Echo Nest uses a database of more than 30m songs to provide music recommendation, audio fingerprinting, and other services. By Alex Hern
Has bitcoin's founder Satoshi Nakamoto been found in California?
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:33:00 GMT)
A 64-year-old Californian resident, Satoshi Nakamoto, is the creator of the original cryptocurrency, according to the Newsweek. By Alex Hern
Wake up and smell the bacon-scented iPhone alarm clock
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 10:41:27 GMT)
Meat-smelling promo might be the pinnacle of morning gadgets. By Samuel Gibbs
Boot up: you are the product, Nokia broke Ballmer, Samsung stops cheating, and more
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 07:30:04 GMT)
Plus mother's iPad remains locked, MetroTwit goes dark, London goes 4.5G, and more. By Samuel Gibbs
After 640 prototypes, Dyson makes a new, quieter fan
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 07:30:04 GMT)
The Cool fan took three years, 65 engineers and £40m, but the British firm has acoustically re-engineered it for 'near silence'. By Samuel Gibbs
Battle for the car: will Google, Apple or Microsoft dominate?
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 07:00:14 GMT)
Tech companies are fighting for domination of the in-car market, as car manufacturers line up behind their banners. By Samuel Gibbs
Quantum computing explained: harnessing particle physics to work faster
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 06:59:00 GMT)
Work is underway around the world to revolutionise computers using the principles of quantum mechanics
Around the world teams of scientists are working on the next technological revolution: quantum computing. But what makes it so special? And why do we need it? We ask physicist Dr Ruth Oulton of the Bristol University to explain.
In a normal computer, information is stored as bits. How is it different in a quantum computer?
A normal computer has bits and each bit [is either] zero or one. A quantum computer has quantum bits. These are made out of quantum particles that can be zero, one, or some kind of state in between – [in other words they can have both values] at the same time.
So a quantum bit is made from a physical particle?
It pretty much could be any fundamental particle, so it could be a photon or an electron or it could be a nucleus, for example. It's a particle that can have two different properties [at once]. [For example], the particle can be in both one place and the other place at the same time.
How does this help with computing?
In a normal computer, a particular calculation might go through all the different possibilities of zeros and ones for a particular calculation. Because a quantum computer can be in all the states at the same time, you just do one calculation [testing a vast number of possibilities simultaneously]. So it can be much quicker.
What's the biggest challenge?
You need a very good control over individual particles. You can't just shove [all the particles] together because they would interact with each other [in an unpredictable way]. You need to be able to trap and direct them, but when the particles interact [with the trap itself] it makes them lose their information, so you need to make sure that you design the trap well.
What are the applications?
The biggest and most important one is the ability to factorise a very large number into two prime numbers. That's really important because that's what almost all encryption for internet computing is based on. A quantum computer should be able to do that relatively quickly to get back the prime numbers and that will mean that basically anything that has been with [that] encryption can be de-encrypted. If you were to do it with the classical computers we have now, it would take longer than the age of the universe to go back.
Are there other scientific uses?
Calculating the positions of individual atoms in very large molecules like polymers and in viruses. The way that the particles interact with each other – there's so many different possibilities that normally they say that you can't calculate anything properly [with] more than about 10 atoms inside the molecule. So if you have a quantum computer you could use it to develop drugs and understand how molecules work a bit better.
Are there commercial quantum computers?
There is a commercial computer out there but it's very expensive ($10m), it has very limited computing power and it hasn't yet been verified by anybody externally [as to] what it's actually doing.
Will quantum computers look like our desktops and laptops do now?
We are completely re-designing the computer. The very first quantum computers will probably fill a room. It's going to take us a while to get to desktops. Really, actually what is going to happen [is] you are going to have a hybrid laptop with a quantum chip and a classical chip.
Apple moved $8.9bn in profits from Australia to Ireland, report says
(Thu, 06 Mar 2014 06:05:54 GMT)
AFR reports the company's earnings in Australia totalled just $88.5m last year, but $2bn of income was sent to Ireland
US government moves to drop key charges against Barrett Brown
(Wed, 05 Mar 2014 19:54:50 GMT)
Federal prosecutors had come under widespread criticism for seeking to prosecute Brown for the republishing of a hyperlink
Winklevoss twins use bitcoins to buy Virgin Galactic space flight tickets
(Wed, 05 Mar 2014 19:31:21 GMT)
Brothers who accused Mark Zuckerberg of stealing idea for Facebook plan to travel on Richard Branson's SpaceShipTwo
The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who once accused the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, say they have used bitcoins to buy tickets for a trip on one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space flights.
The brothers, Olympic rowers who earned MBA degrees from Oxford University, have become bitcoin evangelists and investors and are planning to launch a fund to make it easy to trade the digital currency on the stock market.
In a blogpost, Tyler Winklevoss compared Branson's space endeavour and bitcoin entrepreneurs to major historical figures who changed the way the world was perceived, such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Nicolaus Copernicus.
"It is in this vein that Cameron and I contemplate our tickets into space – as seed capital supporting a new technology that may forever change the way we travel, purchased with a new technology that may forever change the way we transact," he wrote.
Virgin Galactic, a US offshoot of Branson's London-based Virgin Group, is selling rides on its SpaceShipTwo for $250,000.
The twins are not the first to sign up for Virgin Galactic using bitcoins, but it is the highest-profile flight booking to date using the currency. Last November, Branson announced that a flight attendant from Hawaii had become the first person to pay for a seat with bitcoins.
Facebook agrees to delete posts selling illegal guns
(Wed, 05 Mar 2014 17:54:56 GMT)
Similar policy to apply to Instagram after social media site under pressure from gun control advocates to thwart illegal activity
Tech Weekly Podcast: The rise of headphones in consumer tech
(Wed, 05 Mar 2014 17:07:13 GMT)
This week on Tech Weekly with Aleks Krotoski, Guardian tech reporter Samuel Gibbs talks to Seth Combs, founder of the Sol Republic brand of headphones, about the rise of quality high-end headphones in the consumer electronics market.
Also Aleks speaks to the Guardian's James Ball about a recent encounter he had with the people who hold the keys to the internet. Click here to read James' article and watch a film documenting the internet key-holders verification ceremony.
Finally Aleks and Samuel are joined by Guardian tech reporter Alex Hern to discuss this week's tech news including the the rise and fall of bitcoin exchange MtGox, why Facebook bought a fleet of drones, and Google's Project Tango opens up a brave new world in 3D space-mapping technologies on our smartphones.
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