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Monthly Archives: May 2013

First Larry Ellison bought the island. Now he is buying the airline to get there.

The Oracle CEO and multi-billionaire announced this morning he has purchased Island Air, an airline that travels between the Hawaiian islands. Last year, Ellison purchased the vast majority of the island of Lanai, off the coast of Maui.

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Deepwater Horizon explosion did not result from cost cuts, Hayward testifies, as he is asked to explain BP’s safety culture

Tony Hayward, BP’s former boss, defended his role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on Wednesday as lawyers blamed his cost cuts for the deadly oil rig explosion.

In video testimony shown to the New Orleans court, Hayward defended the massive cost savings made under his tenure. “When you don’t have accountability no one is accountable for anything,” he said, under often combative questioning from Robert Cunningham.

Hayward was asked about a Guardian article from 2007 which reported on his cost-cutting plans, outlined in a speech to staff in Houston. The article reads: “‘Assurance is killing us,’ Mr Hayward told US staff, noting that too many people were engaged in decision-making leading to excessive cautiousness, something that critics of its safety performance in the US might question.”

In his video evidence, Hayward said: “The context was [that] I had spent a lot of time in this speech talking about safe and reliable operations before I mentioned any of this.”

Looking tired and harried, Hayward (pictured) repeatedly tried to emphasise that he had not sacrificed safety when making cost cuts.

Hayward was chief executive of BP in 2010 when the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. At the height of the spill, Hayward attracted criticism said: “I’d like my life back.”

He took over at BP when the company was facing serious financial difficulties. In March 2008, Hayward held a meeting of BP’s top 500 managers in Phoenix, Arizona and invited a Morgan Stanley analyst, Neil Perry, to address the meeting.

Perry told attendees BP “might not be here in a couple of years’ time” unless it did something different, according to reports.

Hayward was quizzed about Perry’s role in BP’s cost cutting. “I asked Neil Perry to do one thing one thing only – to come to a management conference and give an unblemished assessment of BP,” said Hayward. “He may have given recommendations but they were not asked for and they were not acted upon,” he said.

The BP boss was followed by video testimony from Kevin Lacy, a former official with BP’s drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, who resigned some months before the disaster because of disagreements over the company’s commitment to safety, according to a federal lawsuit.

Lacy was asked whether he had been asked to choose cost over safety. After a long pause he replied: “Not explicitly.” The lawyer asked about the “six second pause”.

“I was never given a directive to cut corners or deliver something not safely but there was tremendous pressure on costs,” he said.

Decision to post 84 documents provides first crack in the army’s public information blackout during WikiLeaks trial

Read the Manning trial documents released by the Pentagon

The Pentagon has acceded to pressure from news organisations and human rights groups protesting secrecy surrounding the prosecution of the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, releasing 84 previously unpublished rulings and orders into the public domain.

The Pentagon’s decision to post on the internet scores of rulings made by the presiding judge, Colonel Denise Lind, and other judges involved in the court martial process, provides the first crack in the army’s approach to public information in the trial. Previously, the US government refused to release any documents coming out of the trial other than often heavily redacted motions from the defence lawyer, David Coombs.

The lack of public access to court papers has been in contrast to the fact that the media and public have been allowed to attend the pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade. The duality has led to an Alice in Wonderland world where Lind has read out documents in court, which are then reported in the media, yet those same documents have not been published. In Tuesday she spent two hours reading a ruling on whether Manning’s rights to a speedy trial had been violated, yet this document has not been published.

The extent of the military authorities’ resistance to public access to documents was so extreme – observers pointed out that it is more stringent than at the Guant namo military commissions hearing the 9/11 trials – that it prompted a legal petition from the civil rights organisation the Center for Constitutional Rights calling for greater media access. The legal action had the backing of 47 news organisations including the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS, NBC, Firedoglake and individual journalists covering the trial such as Alexa O’Brien.

The case has reached the army court of criminal appeals, which could issue a ruling at any time. The Department of Defense’s action has pre-empted such a ruling, which may not be coincidental.

The 84 documents released by the army include court rulings on defence and government motions, and orders that set the scheduling of the trial that is currently earmarked to begin on 3 June. But the batch constitutes only a tiny portion of the huge mountain of paperwork that has already been generated in the proceedings, including some 500 documents stretching to 30,000 pages.

Michael Ratner, CCR’s president, said the public offering was “completely inadequate response” to the group’s legal action. “The idea of justice that is carried out in the absence of the public is completely anathema.”

Ratner pointed out that some of the most important kinds of filings that are requested under CCR’s petition – notably transcripts of the court hearings and government motions – were not among the 84 documents released. There was only one transcript among them: a short excerpt from one day’s hearing.

The CCR president also pointed out that the released documents were not contemporaneous – the most recent is from 9 January and the oldest from February 2012. “If the public has to wait six months for information, that makes no sense at all,” he said.

In a statement that accompanied the release, the army said it would continue to publish court filings but that “due to the voluminous nature of these documents, it will take additional time to review, redact, and release all of the responsive documents”.

Freescale Kinetis KL02

Chip manufacturers continue to reduce the size of processors with each new generation. And in doing so, the applications for their use continue to expand. This week, Freescale Semiconductor has introduced the world’s smallest ARM-powered microcontroller (MCU) in a bid to continue that expansion. It’s so small, it can be used in devices designed to be swallowed and is currently 25 percent smaller than any other ARM MCU on the market.

The Kinetis KL02 is a tiny MCU as can be seen from the image of it laying on a keyboard key above. It measures just 1.9 x 2.0mm, and yet it includes a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0+ core running at 48MHz, has 32KB of flash memory on board, and 4KB of RAM. It’s also happy operating in temperatures ranging from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius.

Freescale Kinetis KL02

Freescale developed the Kinetis KL02 in order to support the Internet of Things – the growing number of small and low-powered devices that are connected to the Internet. By developing an ARM chip this small, Freescale hopes manufacturers can design their devices around it and make them much smaller, too. Expected uses include portable consumer devices, remote sensors, devices we wear (e.g. integrated into clothing), and integration with medical products which are small enough to be swallowed or implanted.

The Kinetis KL02 is expected to be available from July with each MCU costing around $0.75 if bought in 100,000+ quantities. Freescale will also be supporting the KL02 with its Freedom development platform available from next month in preparation for the July launch.

Now read: $89 ODROID-U2 dev board with 1.7GHz quad-core Exynos now shipping

Twitter Infinite

Web comic XKCD is great for lots of laughs, and a little learning too. If you want a little less laughing, but lots more learning, there’s always the weekly XKCD What-If. This week it answers the eternal question, “How long would it take to read every possible English language tweet?” First you need to figure out how many valid English tweets there are. The answer is surprisingly complicated.

If you just look at the raw numbers, you have 140 characters per tweet. There are 26 English letters, plus the space. So with 27 characters, you come up with 10200 possible strings of letters and spaces. But then there is Unicode to deal with, which brings the total number up to 10800. That is a 1 followed by 800 zeros. Sounding insane? Not to fear, most of these permutations are meaningless nonsense. To get to the true valid English tweets, we have to apply some information theory.

To find out how many likely valid English tweets there are, we can estimate that value based on the information contained in each letter for aggregated samples. In the mid-20th century, Claude Shannon pioneered several key concepts in information theory. Among his contributions was the discovery that, on average, each letter contains 1.0-1.2 bytes of information. This was based on having test subjects guess on blanked out letters in a sentence. It sounds bizarre, but the compression ratio he predicted holds true when tested.

So where does that leave the math, according to XKCD? In a piece of text with n bits of information, there are 2n different messages possible. So 2140*1.1 equals 2*1046 different English tweets. This calculation is based on unicity distance, a principal in cryptography for predicting variations. Still a big number, but much less than the 10800 figure from before.

Back to the original question: how long would it take to read all of them? Just 1047 seconds, which is 3*1039 years. But that’s just if you read straight through! Let’s say you work a 16 hour day reading tweets out loud before retiring for a night of fitful sleep. At that rate, the heat death of the universe would have happened several duodecillion years before you finished the task.

XKCD creates a handy new unit of time to make this easier to grasp. Imagine each day was 1032 years long (again, that’s a 1 followed by 32 zeros). It would take ten thousand years made up of these super-long days to finish reading all those tweets. In short: lots of tweets and lots of years. It’s math!

Now read: Algorithm will tweet in your place after you die

windows_phone_8

Do you want to give your iPhone a Windows Phone 8 makeover? You can now do that if you’ve jailbroken your iPhone.

A new DreamBoard theme called iWphone8 iPhone5 brings the Windows Phone 8 look and feel to the iPhone.

Unlike the Metroon theme, which was quite feature rich, iWphone8 iPhone5 is essentially a Windows Phone 8 skin on the iPhone’s Home screen. Here are some of the features of the theme:

  • It replaces the static Home screen icons with the tile interface, giving quick access to default iOS apps such as Camera, Phone, Safari, Mail, Messages, Settings, Calculator, App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks etc, some third-party apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Skype, Shazam etc, and even jailbreak apps such as Cydia and iFile.
  • Tapping on the tiles on the start screen launches the appropriate app. It doesn’t display any real time information from the apps, which is one of the popular features of Windows Phone 8 operating system, but uses information such as the badge numbers to dynamically display the information on the tile for the relevant application.
  • It also has a Quick notes section, that allows you to take notes on the start screen and an RSS reader (though I really couldn’t figure out how to configure it). The scrolling wallpaper section which you can see in the video below is quite cool.
  • Swiping on the right gives you access to all the apps installed on your iPhone, which you can scroll through vertically. They’re in alphabetic order.

dreamboard_windows_phone_8-4

  • Tapping on the Settings icon in the top right corner gives you access to the Settings panel, where you can change the color of the tiles, background for the app Home screen, change the time format, change your default messaging app to biteSMS and an option to go back to Dreamboard, which allows you to revert back to the default iOS Home screen.

dreamboard_windows_phone_8-3

  • You can double press the Home button to access the app switcher. Zephyr also kind of works with the theme, but it’s not very smooth.

You can check out the detailed demo of the theme below:

If you like what you see then you can grab the iWphone8 iPhone5 theme from Cydia for $1.5 using the download links provided below on your jailbroken iPhone.

Let me know what you think of the theme in the comments below.

Download Links:

DreamBoard – Free

iWphone8 iPhone5 – $1.5

iWphone8 for iPhone 4S/iPhone 4 – $1.5

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s board is investigating the company’s flawed $11 billion acquisition of software firm Autonomy Corp., and has set up an informal committee to provide strategic advice to Chief Executive Meg Whitman.

The moves were disclosed by some HP directors in a private meeting with big investors on Monday, according to a person who attended the meeting. The efforts appeared to be aimed at demonstrating that the board has put management on a shorter leash following a string of blunders at the Palo Alto, Calif., company.

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Paralympic star accused of trying to massage public perceptions as press release issued over plans for private memorial service

Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic star accused of murder, is due to hold a personal memorial service to honour Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he shot dead at his home in what he claims was an accident.

The service is due to take place on Tuesday night at the home of his uncle Arnold, where the South African has been staying since he was released on bail awaiting trial.

Plans for the service in the capital Pretoria came to light after a “leak” to the media, according to the public-relations agency representing Pistorius.

Vuma Reputation Management said: “Oscar specifically requested the memorial service as he continues to grieve and remains in deep mourning for the loss of his partner, Reeva. Since it is such a sensitive issue, Oscar has asked for a private service with people who share his loss, including his family members who knew and loved Reeva as one of their own.”

The press release added: “The Pistorius family would like to make a personal request to the media to please respect their privacy at their home in Pretoria tonight.”

Pistorius, 26, claims he shot the 29-year-old model by accident, assuming an intruder had entered his home on 14 February. The state accuses him of premeditated murder.

A woman answered the phone at Arnold Pistorius’s home on Tuesday evening but said Arnold was unavailable. There was no immediate comment from Steenkamp’s family, who held her funeral last week and have called for Pistorius to face justice.

Shashi Naidoo, a friend of Steenkamp, said: “If you wanted to keep a memorial service private, you would not put out a press release. I think this is a sad attempt to alter public perception.”

The battle of perceptions is being waged by the Johannesburg-based Vuma, hired to deal with intense international media interest since the fatal shooting. It has revamped Pistorius’s website, acted as a conduit for public statements by the Pistorius family, and become the first point of contact for journalists after the former Sun editor Stuart Higgins returned to Britain last week.

Higgins said recently: “I’ve been here at the family’s request to offer short-term support and, given my own lack of knowledge and experience of the South African media landscape, I’ve recruited a local PR agency to offer local support and I will help out from London.

“There’s a danger I will become the story if I stay here and alienate the local media,” he said.

On Monday a government official was quoted as saying that Pistorius wanted to resume training while on bail. Vuma’s Janine Hills was quick to issue a denial, however: “Absolutely not. He is currently in mourning and his focus is not on his sports.”

Meanwhile, a South African government politician weighed into the tragedy on Tuesday. Lulu Xingwana, the women’s minister, said: “I was disappointed Oscar got bail but I respect the decision of the court.”

Xingwana echoed critics who said the Pistorius case highlighted a deep malaise of violence against women, often involving firearms. “If there was no gun in the Pistorius home, Reeva Steenkamp would still be alive.

“Domestic violence is exacerbated by easy access to guns. We are making a call for stricter gun control. As a country we need to wage a sustained and effective campaign against the availability of guns in our homes and streets.”

Women are three times more likely to die violently if a firearm was kept in the home, she added.

It has also emerged that the magistrate who granted bail to Pistorius is related to a woman suspected of killing her two children and then killing herself last weekend. Desmond Nair confirmed that the woman, whose body was found at her home on Sunday evening along with those of her sons, is a first cousin.

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