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Some are twisting the facts in requests to be forgotten, Google says

Some of those seeking to scrub their histories from the Web under Europe?s ?right to be forgotten? rule are being economical with the truth when making their requests, Google said Thursday.

In a letter to European data regulators, Google listed some of the challenges it faces in complying with the ruling, which allows people to compel search engines like Google and Bing to remove links to pages that mention their name, if the references are ?inadequate,? ?irrelevant? or ?excessive.?

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Almost 200,000 people may have been affected by US visa system crash

Computer problems with the U.S. State Department?s system for issuing passports and visas may have affected up to 200,000 people, it emerged Thursday, as the scale of the problem became clear for the first time.

The problems began July 20 when engineers from Oracle and Microsoft applied a software patch to the State Department?s Consular Consolidated Database, which handles millions of passport and visa applications in the U.S. and at its embassies and consulates around the globe.

The patch was intended to solve several months of instability but instead crashed the system, which did not come back online until July 23.

?From the start of the operational issues on July 20th through the 28th, we issued more than 180,000 non-immigrant visas globally,? said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, at a televised briefing Thursday. ?Based on our average production figures, we would have anticipated issuing closer to 370,000 in that same time period.?

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Windows Phone 8.1 Update to make IE as good as iOS

It isn't every day that a company like Microsoft admits that its mobile browser isn't up to snuff compared to its competitors, like the iPhone or Android devices.

But that's what Microsoft did on Thursday, acknowledging that websites viewed using Internet Explorer 11 on Windows Phones don't provide the same rich browsing experience as they do on rival platforms. Naturally, Microsoft said it would fix this, via the version of IE11 built into Windows Phone 8.1 Update.

Microsoft

The Hawaiianairlines.com website rendered by Internet Explorer 11 for Windows Phone 8.1 (left) and IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1 Update.

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Most USB thumb drives can be reprogrammed to silently infect computers

Most USB devices have a fundamental security weakness that can be exploited to infect computers with malware in a way that cannot easily be prevented or detected, security researchers found.

The problem is that the majority of USB thumb drives, and likely other USB peripherals available on the market, do not protect their firmware?the software that runs on the microcontroller inside them, said Karsten Nohl, the founder and chief scientist of Berlin-based Security Research Labs.

This means that a malware program can replace the firmware on a USB device like a thumb drive by using secret SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) commands and make it act like some other type of device, for example, a keyboard, Nohl said.

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Who wins if Iliad buys T-Mobile?

French carrier Iliad?s surprise unsolicited bid for T-Mobile US may be good news for everyone but Sprint.

Iliad confirmed on Wednesday it has offered to buy a majority stake in the fourth-largest U.S. mobile operator in a deal that values the company at about $30 billion. The news followed months of reports about an impending takeover deal with Sprint, the third-largest carrier, that?s never quite materialized.

The Iliad bid may have been unexpected, but it?s not likely to be unwelcome. U.S. regulators will see a potential deal that changes the ownership of T-Mobile without affecting the makeup of the domestic mobile market. Consumers would be looking at a scrappy U.S. carrier now owned by a French company that?s specialized in undercutting bigger rivals in its own market. And Deutsche Telekom, the majority owners of T-Mobile, may have a bidding war on its hands.

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Windows Server 2003 support expiration could push sales next year

Server sales could spike with the expiration of extended support for Microsoft?s Windows Server 2003 OS in July next year, a Dell executive said.

The expiration of extended support for Windows Server 2003 is analogous to support expiration for Windows XP in April, which prompted PC upgrades, said Forrest Norrod, general manager of servers.

Security in data centers is paramount so servers will likely be immediately upgraded once support ends for Windows Server 2003 and its various flavors, Norrod said.

Windows Server is the dominant OS and there could be up to 12 million Windows Server 2003 servers now in use, Norrod said.

?That?s a pretty sizeable portion of the installed base,? Norrod said.

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Judge rules against Microsoft in email privacy case

A U.S. district court judge has ruled against Microsoft in the company?s effort to oppose a U.S. government search warrant for emails stored in Ireland.

On Thursday, Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the company?s appeal of an earlier ruling requiring it to turn over emails stored in the company?s facility in Dublin. Preska ruled that Microsoft will not have to turn over the emails while it files an appeal.

Preska, in an oral ruling from the bench, sided with a magistrate judge?s April ruling quashing Microsoft?s opposition to the warrant, related to a criminal case, from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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MongoDB snags key Oracle engineer

Upstart NoSQL software vendor MongoDB has snagged a key engineer from the ranks of Oracle, the company?s largest competitor in the database software market.

Roger Bamford, a 30-year Oracle veteran, has joined MongoDB as a distinguished architect, MongoDB announced Wednesday. Bamford served as a principal architect at Oracle for server technologies and was instrumental in developing the company?s flagship RDMS (relational-database-management-system) software. At MongoDB, he will be part of the senior engineering team, leading development of the open-source MongoDB database system software.

Bamford?s hire could be key for MongoDB, even as the popularity of the company?s eponymous database continues to grow.

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FTC's in-app purchasing cases ignored consumer benefits, critics say

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission failed to adequately consider the consumer benefits of easy in-app purchases in its recent complaints accusing Apple and Amazon.com of allowing children to buy digital products without parental permission, according to some critics of the agency.

In both cases, a small number of customers were affected by a legitimate business decision to allow for convenient in-app purchases, critics said at a Thursday discussion about the FTC?s consumer protection priorities sponsored by free-market think tank TechFreedom. Apple in January agreed to pay at least US$32.5 million to customers in a settlement with the FTC, while the agency?s case against Amazon, filed in early July, remains open.

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Clockwise Podcast: Comic-Con, Yelp, smart bulbs, and "app rot"
Amazon and Apple make comic-book fans sad, Yelp lets reviewers add video clips, tablet and smartphone fans let "app rot" set in, and how many tech fans does it take to install a smart bulb? With guests Leah Yamshon and Blake Stimac.
Some SAP users remain unhappy with pricier Enterprise Support

SAP is struggling to convince some customers that a pricier support service it introduced several years ago provides additional value compared to the standard support option.

?SAP still has a great deal of persuading to do?even though the figures have improved,? said DSAG (German-speaking SAP User Group), in a news release this week. The group, which counts more than 50,000 members in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, surveyed 389 members in April and May.

Some 42 percent of respondents ?don?t believe [Enterprise Support] adds very much value, if any,? DSAG said. Another 40 percent declined to answer the question at all.

However, the numbers are an improvement over a similar survey DSAG conducted last year, when almost three-fourths of respondents said Enterprise Support provided little or no added value.

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Twitter reports a rise in government data requests

The number of government requests worldwide seeking Twitter users? data, or the removal of content, increased during the first half of 2014.

There were 2,058 total requests to Twitter for user account information, typically connected to criminal investigations, during the first six months of 2014, a 46 percent increase from the second half of 2013, according to the company?s biannual transparency report, released Thursday.

The majority of the account information requests?1,257?came from the U.S. government.

There were 432 requests to remove content, up 14 percent, which are generally made due to content that?s illegal or defamatory in different countries.

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Office for iPad updated with PDF exporting, flick gestures

Microsoft updated its three Office for iPad apps?Word, PowerPoint, and Excel?with new features including PDF exporting, presentation views, and even a new flick gesture.

The three apps have been officially upgraded to version 1.1 inside the Apple App Store. Microsoft announced Office for iPad in March, where the elegant port of Microsoft's office suite has so far received (mostly)glowing reviews. "Millions" of users have downloaded the apps, according a blog post by Microsoft's Office team on Thursday.

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This wildly ambitious PC uses copper foam and custom engineering to pack big ...

Your next ultra-powerful, ultra-tiny PC could look like a Brillo pad or copper-hued Chia pet, if a crowdfunding-slash-preorder campaign by Silent Power meets its goals?and then delivers on some ambitious engineering promises.

That copper mesh may look ridiculous (or ridiculously awesome, depending on your perspective), but Silent Power says the "metal foam" provides much better heat dissipation than traditional finned heatsinks, and is the key to making its PC completely passively cooled (read: No fans)?and therefore whisper quiet.

Here's the description via Google Translate, so ignore the rough grammar. (Silent Power is based in Germany.)

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Report: CIA improperly accessed Senate computers

An internal CIA investigation has determined its employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee while it was working on a report about the agency?s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, according to a report by McClatchy.

Earlier this year, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, accused the intelligence agency of spying on computers that had been set up in a CIA facility near Washington, D.C., in 2010 to allow committee staffers to examine millions of classified documents, memos and other information that related to the program, implemented when George W. Bush was president.

The unusual system apparently allowed committee staffers access to classified material while keeping that material within the CIA, and the only CIA staff with access were supposed to be IT workers. That would, in theory, allow the Senate to conduct an independent investigation while keeping the documents secure.

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