Seven States Propose Own Broadband Network Model

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Seven states have proposed to come up with their own model to roll out broadband network proposed under Rs. 72,000 crore BharatNet prorgamme, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Friday.”Seven states have offered to come up with state or SPV (special purpose vehicle) run model. Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have already been talking about it,” Prasad said after meeting with state IT ministers and principal secretaries.

Representatives from almost all states, except Delhi and some North Eastern states, were present in the meeting to discuss new model to roll out the broadband network.

Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal said that they will develop their own model for broadband network rollout as some expressed displeasure over the work of central public sector companies involved in National Optical Fibre Network.

“Keep this fact in mind that you are creating an integrated BharatNet so that there has to be certain standard.

I will appeal you give your views soon on this,” Prasad said in the meeting.

Haryana said that it is exploring possibility of state-led model for the project.

Government has given option to roll out broadband network as per three models current model operated by CPSUs, SPV or state run and private sector led model to speed up broadband network reach in the country.

At present NOFN project, which aims to connect 2.5 lakh village panchayats by 2016, is being operated by SPV Bharat Broadband Network Limited and project is being executed by CPSUs BSNL, RailTel and Powergrid.

“If state government opts for state-led model, the existing NOFN architecture will migrate to new model,” Prasad said.

Andhra Pradesh Advisor for e-governance and IT J Satyanarayana said the state government expects to roll out broadband in 30 to 36 month period and provide connection with download speed of 10 megabit per second for Rs. 150 per month.

Committee that has worked on design of BharatNet model in place of NOFN has estimated over three fold increase in project cost to Rs. 72,778 crore from about Rs. 20,000 crore approved earlier.

“Under BharatNet, broadband availability will be 99.9 percent compared to about 96 per provisioned under NOFN. This means broadband service can be down only for 9 hours in a year compared to 350 hours under NOFN,” the Department of Telecom Joint Secretary V Umashankar said.

The BharatNet project proposes broadband connectivity to households under village panchayats and even to government institutions at district level.

“If we are able to create 100 users at each panchayat level, then it will enhance GDP by about Rs. 66,500 crore,” Umashankar said.

US to Bring Japan Under Its Cyber Defense Japan

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The United States will extend its cyber defense umbrella over Japan, helping its Asian ally cope with the growing threat of online attacks against military bases and infrastructure such as power grids, the two nations said in a joint statement on Saturday.”We note a growing level of sophistication among malicious cyber actors, including non-state and state-sponsored actors,” they said in a statement released by the US-Japan Cyber Defense Policy Working Group, which was established in 2013.

Cyber-security is a key area where Japan and the United States are deepening their military partnership under a set of new security guidelines released in April, that will also integrate their ballistic missile defense systems and give Tokyo a bigger security role in Asia as China’s military power grows.

Both the United States and Japan are wary of cyber threats, including potential attacks from China or North Korea. While the United States is investing heavily in building a force to counter and retaliate against online attacks, Japan, which hosts the biggest US military contingent in Asia, has been slower to buttress its cyber defenses.

The Japanese military’s cyber defense unit has around 90 members, compared to more than 6,000 people at the Pentagon, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said at a briefing on Thursday.

Japan is trying to catch up as it prepares to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and with cyber-attacks on the rise. Assaults on government websites are now being detected ever few seconds, according to Japanese cyber defense experts.

In the statement on Saturday, Japan’s defense ministry pledged to “contribute to join “efforts for addressing various cyber threats, including those against Japanese critical infrastructure and services utilized by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and US Forces.”

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who met his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday, unveiled a more muscular military cyber strategy in April that stressed an ability to retaliate with cyber weapons.

That strengthened deterrence comes in the wake of high-profile attacks against corporations including the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment last year, which the US blamed on North Korea.

China’s Defense Ministry expressed concern about the new strategy saying it would worsen tension over Internet security. China is frequently accused by the US of being engaged in widespread hacking attacks, charges Beijing denies.

US Senate to Let NSA Spy Program Lapse, at Least for Now

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The legal authority for US spy agencies’ collection of Americans’ phone records and other data was set to expire at midnight on Sunday after the US Senate failed to pass legislation extending the powers.

After debate pitting Americans’ distrust of intrusive government against fears of terrorist attacks, the Senate voted to move ahead with reform legislation that would replace the bulk phone records program revealed two years ago by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

It was a victory for Democratic President Barack Obama, who had pushed hard for Congress to advance the reform measure, calling it a compromise that addressed privacy concerns while preserving a program his administration describes as important to protect the country from attack.

But final Senate passage was delayed until at least Tuesday morning by objections from Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican presidential hopeful who has fulminated against the NSA program as illegal and unconstitutional.

As a result, the government’s collection and search of phone records was set to terminate at midnight (0400 GMT on Monday) when provisions of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law known as the USA Patriot Act expire.

In addition, US law enforcement and security agencies will lose authority to conduct three other programs.

Those allow for “roving wiretaps” aimed at terrorism suspects who use multiple disposable cell phones; permit authorities to target “lone wolf” suspects with no connection to specific terrorist groups, and make it easier to seize personal and business records of suspects and their associates.

Still, eventual resumption of the phone records program in another form, and the other government powers, appeared likely after the Senate voted 77-17 to take up the reform legislation, called the USA Freedom Act.

“This bill will ultimately pass,” Paul acknowledged after the procedural vote.

The Senate abruptly reversed course during a rare Sunday session to let the bill go ahead, after Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly acknowledged that Paul had stymied his efforts to extend the Patriot Act provisions.

Intelligence experts say a lapse of only a few days would have little immediate effect. The government is allowed to continue collecting information related to any foreign intelligence investigation that began before the deadline.

Obama strongly backed the Freedom Act, as have most Democrats. It passed the House on May 13 by a 338-88 vote.

After the Senate adjourned, the White House issued a statement calling on the Senate to “put aside partisan motivations and act swiftly.”

‘Demagoguery and disinformation’

Republicans have been badly divided, delaying action on the issue, between security hawks who wanted the NSA program to continue as is, and libertarians like Paul who want to kill it altogether.

The Senate debate was angry.

In an emotional speech, Paul said the Patriot Act provisions wasted resources that would be better spent targeting those planning attacks. He even accused some of his critics of wanting an attack on the United States “so they can blame it on me.”

McConnell accused Paul, his fellow Kentucky Republican, and other Patriot Act opponents of waging “a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation” based on revelations from Snowden “who was last seen in Russia.”

McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. But he wanted to extend the Patriot Act provisions, unchanged, for five years, and agreed only reluctantly to allow a vote on the Freedom Act despite what he called its “serious flaws.”

Several senators accused Paul of using the issue to raise money for his presidential campaign.

“He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation,” Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, told reporters.

The Senate came back early from a holiday to resume consideration of the legislation at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) on Sunday, just as security officials said they had to begin shutting down the NSA program to meet the midnight deadline.

The Freedom Act would end the spy agencies’ bulk collection of domestic telephone “metadata” and replace it with a more targeted system.

The telephone records would be held by telecommunications companies, not the government, and the NSA would have to get court approval to gain access to specific data. Neither the current or proposed new system gives the government access to the content of phone conversations.

Many civil liberties groups feel the Freedom Act does not go far enough in protecting privacy.

“Congress should take advantage of this sunset to pass far reaching surveillance reform, instead of the weak bill currently under consideration,” Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement.

A review panel that Obama established in 2013 concluded that the telephone metadata collection program had not been essential to preventing any terrorist attack. Security officials counter that it provides important data that, combined with other intelligence, can help stop attacks.

Bad Weather Casts Doubt on Doubt Impulse 2 Pacific Flight

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Solar Impulse 2 was in a holding pattern over the Sea of Japan on Monday as organisers warned that bad weather in the days ahead could block the aircraft’s ambitious bid to cross the Pacific Ocean.

The seventh leg of the round-the-world journey was set to take pilot Andre Borschberg, 62, on a six-day, six-night flight from the Chinese city of Nanjing across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, an 8,500-kilometre (5,270-mile) flight.

Borschberg completed Solar Impulse 2’s first overnight leg, with the aircraft relying solely on batteries charged by the sun’s energy, but poor weather ahead threw the rest of the marathon leg into doubt.

“Yesterday we had the possibility to cross the weather front just before Hawaii on day five,” the Solar Impulse team said in a statement.

“However, with the forecasts we now have, we don’t see this possibility anymore, which means that for the moment the road to Hawaii is blocked.”

Borschberg will stay in a holding pattern over the Sea of Japan, a map on the team’s website showed.

“Whilst we wait for the forecasts, we have decided to hold the position of the aircraft. We have asked Andre to stay where he is,” the statement said.

Organisers still held out the possibility of continuing the leg, however.

“During this time we will analyse where he will have to go to find a possibility to cross that front,” the statement said.

The journey began in Abu Dhabi in March and is scheduled for 12 legs, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

Promote green energy
The flight from Nanjing to Hawaii is the longest section of the maiden solar-powered global circumnavigation, an attempt to promote green energy.

The journey began in Abu Dhabi in March and is scheduled for 12 legs, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

Speaking on Saturday hours before the departure from Nanjing, Borschberg told reporters that the plane could land in Japan in case of technical problems.

Planners had identified airports in Japan should the plane need to make a stop, but the open ocean offers no such possibility, he said.

“As soon as we leave this part of the world, then afterwards we are in the open sea. There is no way to come back,” Borschberg said.

But failure could mean a parachute descent into the ocean, hundreds of kilometres (miles) from rescue.

No ship is trailing the plane as it travels far too fast for a maritime vessel to keep up with, even though its maximum speed of 140 kilometres an hour is much slower than conventional jet aircraft.

Solar Impulse 2 is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into wings that, at 72 metres, are longer than those of a Boeing 747 and approaching those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.

Ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled, the venture has since been hailed around the world, including by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Windows 10 Release Date, Pricing Tipped by Online Retailer

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Microsoft previously announced that it is “on track” for a summer release of Windows 10 for PCs, followed by versions for mobiles and tablets. The company however is yet to reveal an exact release date for Windows 10.Now, an online reseller has publicised the release date of two Windows 10 editions for OEMs alongside their pricing. So far, there has been no official announcement regarding the release date and pricing of Windows 10 editions by Microsoft.

The online retailer, Newegg.com, which sells computer hardware and software, is now taking pre-orders for Microsoft Windows 10 Professional and Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM System Builder packages at $149.99 (approximately Rs. 9,500) and $109.99 (approximately Rs. 7,000) respectively.

windows_10_editions_newgg.jpgOf course, since this is a third-party store, one cannot be certain if this will be the official launch price for Windows 10. Notably, back in April, AMD President and CEO Lisa Su had let slip that Windows 10 would be made available in late July, and is thought to be referring to the RTM (release to manufacturing) versions of Windows 10. This would mean the gap between RTM and OEM version would be reduced to around a month, compared to previous iterations.

The Redmond giant has announced that its new OS will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages. Apart from Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Enterprise, other editions include Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Education, and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise.

Microsoft last month clarified that it will not offer a free Windows 10 upgrade to users of non-genuine Windows copies. Instead a paid upgrade path will be provided. The company also added that, as before, it will allow customers running devices with non-genuine Windows to upgrade to Windows 10, saying that with OEM partners it will offer attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers to users of pirated Windows.

Ending NSA Spying Would Boost Terror Threat, Says CIA Chief

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CIA chief John Brennan warned Sunday that allowing vital surveillance programs to lapse could increase terror threats, as the US Senate scrambled to renew the controversial provisions hours before their expiration.

With key counterterrorism programs under threat of suspension at midnight Sunday, the top intelligence official made a final pitch for Senate action, arguing that the bulk data collection of telephone records of millions of Americans unconnected to terrorism has not abused civil liberties and only serves to safeguard citizens.

“This is something that we can’t afford to do right now,” Brennan said of allowing the counterterrorism provisions to expire at midnight Sunday.

“Because if you look at the horrific terrorist attacks and violence being perpetrated around the globe, we need to keep our country safe, and our oceans are not keeping us safe the way they did century ago,” he said on CBS talk show “Face the Nation.”

Brennan added that groups like Islamic State have followed the developments “very carefully” and are “looking for the seams to operate.”

The House has already passed a reform bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would end the telephone data dragnet by the National Security Agency and require a court order for the NSA to access specific records from the data retained by telecommunications companies.

If no action is taken by the Senate Sunday, authorities will be forced to shut down the bulk collection program and two other provisions, which allow roving wiretaps of terror suspects and the tracking of lone-wolf suspects.

A senior administration official said switches would be turned off for the bulk collection servers beginning at 3:59 pm (1959 GMT) Sunday, and any collection after midnight would be deemed illegal, without congressional authorization.

“I do believe we have the votes” to pass the Freedom Act, Republican Senator Mike Lee, who supports ending NSA metadata collection, told CNN’s State of the Union.

“At this point I think the question is not about whether we will get it passed, but when.”

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican 2016 presidential candidate adamantly opposed to reauthorizing the surveillance, is threatening to use his parliamentary prerogative to delay votes on the reform bill or an extension of the original USA Patriot Act.

That could force the counterterrorism provisions to lapse until Wednesday, and possibly later.

Political ‘grandstanding’ over security?
Brennan did not mention Paul by name, but he expressed exasperation over the politicization of important programs which he insisted “have not been abused” by US authorities.

“Unfortunately I think there is a little too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have really fuelled the debate on this issue,” he said.

The Senate meanwhile convened at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT) with the fate of the provisions hanging in the balance.

Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid blasted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for opposing the painstakingly crafted compromise reform legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House, but having no viable plan that would keep crucial provisions from expiring.

“That’s why we’re here, staring down the barrel of yet another unnecessary manufactured crisis that threatens our national security,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat who co-authored the Freedom Act, piled on, saying the Senate was facing a crises of McConnell’s making.

“We should pass it tonight,” Leahy said of the reform bill. “But don’t duck behind not doing anything and pretend that’s a solution.”

McConnell stood at odds with House Speaker John Boehner, who warned how Al-Qaeda and IS could benefit if counterterror tools lapsed and urged the Senate to pass the Freedom Act.

“Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” Boehner said Sunday.

Independent Senator Angus King said it was important to halt the government storage of metadata, leaving it instead with telecommunications companies.

But he said the Freedom Act should be improved so that it compels companies to hold data for a long period of time.

“There should be some reasonable requirement for holding the data if, indeed, you think the program has value, and I do,” King told CNN.

Get Ready to Pay More for Your Mobile Calls From Monday

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People will have to shell out more from Monday while using mobiles, eating out and travelling as the service tax rate goes up to 14 percent.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget had proposed to raise service tax from 12.36 percent (including education cess) to 14 percent. The proposal takes effect from June 1.

The tax is levied on all services, expect a small negative list.

Some of the key services that will attract higher tax and hence become costlier are: railways, airlines, banking, insurance, advertising, architecture, construction, credit cards, event management and tour operators.

Mobile operators and credit card companies have already started sending messages to subscribers conveying the increase in service tax rate which will have a bearing on the bills.

According to railway ministry officials, fares for First Class and AC classes in passenger trains, besides freight charges, will go up by 0.5 percent from June 1.

“Currently, 3.7 percent service tax is levied on train fares for AC Class, First Class and freight. This will go up to 4.2 percent from June which means the rise is only 0.5 percent,” the official said. Currently, there is abatement of 70 percent on passenger services.

Jaitley had proposed to raise the service tax rate to 14 percent to facilitate a smooth transition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which the government wants to roll out from April 2016.

Once implemented, GST will subsume service tax, excise and other local levies.

“To facilitate a smooth transition to levy of tax on services by both the Centre and the States, it is proposed to increase the present rate of service tax plus education cesses from 12.36 percent to a consolidated rate of 14 percent,” Jaitley had said in Budget speech.

Education cess, which is levied on service tax, will be subsumed in the service tax rate with effect from June 1.

Although the Budget also proposed a 2 percent Swachh Bharat cess on selected services, the government is yet to come out with a notification in this regard.

Nasa Orbit Pavilion Lets World Science Festival Visitors Listen to Satellites

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The US space agency has debuted a “Nasa Orbit Pavilion” at the World Science Festival in New York that is offering the visitors an auditory experience inspired by Nasa’s Earth-watching satellites.

The visitors enter the curved metal enclosure and get to listen to calming sounds like waves crashing and crickets chirping, Space.com reported.

The sounds come from all directions – gliding from one end of the dome to the other on different paths.

These sounds represent each of the 20 active Nasa Earth satellites passing overhead.

A network of speakers creates the “movement” of the sounds.

“Most people do not know that Nasa studies the Earth. It is good to do Earth science from space because you get a global view,” Dan Goods, Nasa visual strategist, was quoted as saying.

During the presentation, a Nasa presenter reminds the visitors that these satellites must be launched into space.

Then the speakers play the sound of a rocket taking off. The sound moves across curve of the structure, giving a realistic impression of movement. Then the calming sounds return.

Toward the end, a voice calls out the names of Nasa satellites currently studying the Earth as well as the International Space Station (ISS).

The eighth annual World Science Festival, ending on Sunday, has brought together the brightest scientists with the most interesting jobs on the planet.

HTC Desire 820G+ Dual SIM With 5.5-Inch Display, Octa-Core SoC Launched

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HTC has launched a new Desire-series smartphone, the Desire 820G+ Dual SIM, in Taiwan. The smartphone has been priced at TWD 5,990 (approximately Rs. 12,350).Unfortunately, the company as of now has not revealed any plans to launch the Desire 820G+ Dual SIM outside Taiwan.

The HTC Desire 820G+ Dual SIM runs Android 4.4 KitKat and features a 5.5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display. It packs a 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, and an 8-megapixel secondary front-facing camera, just like the HTC Desire 820. It is powered by an octa-core processor (clocked at 1.7GHz) coupled with 1GB of RAM.

The 16GB inbuilt storage on the Desire 820G+ Dual SIM is expandable via microSD card (up to 32GB). Connectivity options on the handset include Wi-Fi, FM radio, Bluetooth, GPRS/ EDGE, GPS/ A-GPS, 3G and Micro-USB. According to the official listingof the HTC Desire 820G+ Dual SIM, the smartphone doesn’t feature 4G connectivity support. The handset is backed by a 2600mAh battery that can offer up to 12 hours of talk time and up to 560 hours of standby time. It measures 157.7×78.74×7.74mm and weighs around 155 grams.

Much like other recently launched HTC smartphones, the Desire 820G+ Dual SIM supports HTC DotView cases. The launch was first reported by Sogi.com.

HTC Taiwan has also launched the Desire 626G+ Dual SIM in Taiwan. The smartphone was launched in India back in April priced at Rs. 16,900.

The HTC Desire 626G+ Dual SIM features a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) resolution display and is powered by a 1.7GHz octa-core processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. A 13-megapixel autofocus rear camera with BSI sensor, f/2.2 aperture and LED flash is onboard, apart from a 5-mgepixel front-facing camera with the same sensor and f/2.8 aperture. Both are capable of recording full-HD videos. The handset equips 8GB of inbuilt storage, which is further expandable via microSD card (up to 32GB). However, the Android-based handset will come with HTC BlinkFeed and Sense UI on top. 3G connectivity is also included in the handset besides Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The Desire 626G+ Dual SIM, measuring 146.9×70.9×8.1mm and weighing 138 grams, will be available in Blue Lagoon & White Birch colour variants. A 2000mAh Li-Po non-removable battery backs the smartphone.

MIT's Cheetah Robot Can Now Leap Over Obstacles

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MIT researchers have trained their cheetah robot to jump over hurdles as it runs – making it the first four-legged robot that can run and jump over obstacles autonomously.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers had demonstrated last year that the robotic cheetah was able to run untethered.

The feat was performed by the robot without the use of cameras or other vision systems.

Now, the robot can ‘see’, with the use of onboard LIDAR – a visual system that uses reflections from a laser to map terrain.

The researchers developed a three-part algorithm to plan out the robot’s path, based on LIDAR data. Both the vision and path-planning system are onboard the robot, giving it complete autonomous control.

To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.

The robot gauges the best position from which to jump, and adjusts its stride to land just short of the obstacle, before exerting enough force to push up and over.

Based on the obstacle’s height, the robot then applies a certain amount of force to land safely, before resuming its initial pace.

In experiments on a treadmill and an indoor track, the cheetah robot successfully cleared obstacles up to 18 inches tall – more than half of the robot’s own height – while maintaining an average running speed of 8 km per hour.

The team tested the MIT cheetah’s jumping ability first on a treadmill, then on a track. On the treadmill, the robot ran tethered in place, as researchers placed obstacles of varying heights on the belt.

As the treadmill itself was only about 4 metres long, the robot, running in the middle, only had 1 metre in which to detect the obstacle and plan out its jump.

After multiple runs, the robot successfully cleared about 70 percent of the hurdles.

In comparison, tests on an indoor track proved much easier, as the robot had more space and time in which to see, approach, and clear obstacles. In these runs, the robot successfully cleared about 90 percent of obstacles.

The team is now working on getting the MIT cheetah to jump over hurdles while running on softer terrain, like a grassy field.