skade88 writes "Does life exist on Mars? We might assume if there ever was life on Mars then it most likely came about when Mars was a wetter and warmer place than it is now. So the question is, if life did exist on Mars in the past, does it still exist? Ars takes a look at how microbes have survived on Earth in environmental conditions much like we currently see on Mars."...

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Following on the story of IP addresses assigned to the major Hollywood studios using BitTorrent to distribute copyright-covered works, Torrentfreak and Scaneye are back pointing out that the same thing is true of all of the major labels and various parts of the US government . That last part is interesting, because they show that IP addresses assigned to the Justice Department, Homeland Security and Congress are all being used by people to distribute popular works covered by copyright. Here, for example, is just a snippet of the content being shared via IP addresses assigned to the Justice Department:
DOJ Taking Down Sites For Infringement... While Infringing Content Is Available Via Its Own Network
Again, the same caveats to yesterday's article apply -- but the key issue remains. If the big content industry folks, along with government officials in the Justice Department are using evidence like IP addresses to make their case of infringement, it would seem like they ought to clean...

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New submitter Copper Nikus writes "The price of Android Mini PCs have recently dropped to the point they are starting to make the Raspberry Pi look overpriced. This article compares the Raspberry Pi model B against the similarly priced MK802 II single core Android mini PC. IMO it can be argued that the mini PC wins that fight. It's worth noting that several new quad-core Chinese ARM SoCs have been recently released to the world, and it can be expected to see Android mini PCs start using them in the very near future. This should translate into even lower prices for the now 'obsolete' generations of single and dual core Andoid mini PCs out there." The target markets and base OS vary, but there's enough overlap for this comparison to make some sense — both have ARM chips, both can (to varying degrees) run either Android or a more conventional...

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cylonlover writes "The SpaceX Grasshopper vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) testbed has successfully flown to a height of 40 meters (131 ft), hovered for a bit and subsequently landed in a picture perfect test on December 17, 2012. The Grasshopper had previously taken two hops to less than 6 m (20 ft) in height, but the latest test was the first that saw it reach an altitude taller than the rocket itself, which is a modified Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle. The flight lasted 29 seconds from launch to landing, and carried a 1.8 m (6 ft) cowboy dummy to give an indication of scale."...

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Dupple writes with news carried by the BBC of a gigantic tech-patent case that (seemingly for once) doesn't involve Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, or Google: "'U.S. chipmaker Marvell Technology faces having to pay one of the biggest ever patent damage awards. A jury in Pittsburgh found the firm guilty of infringing two hard disk innovations owned by local university Carnegie Mellon.' Though the company claims that the CMU patents weren't valid because the university hadn't invented anything new, saying a Seagate patent of 14 months earlier described everything that the CMU patents do, the jury found that Marvell's chips infringed claim 4 of Patent No. 6,201,839 and claim 2 of Patent No. 6,438,180. "method and apparatus for correlation-sensitive adaptive sequence detection" and "soft and hard sequence detection in ISI memory channels.' 'It said Marvell should pay $1.17bn (£723m) in compensation — however that sum could be multiplied up to three times...

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There's been a recent uptick in stories about patent trolling getting mainstream media attention, and the latest example is a recent segment on CBS's national morning program, CBS This Morning , which explored how patent trolls are hurting the US economy , mainly by focusing on the story of Uniloc suing the maker of X-plane.
When we last wrote about that lawsuit, X-plane developer Laminer Research wasn't sure if it was going to fight the lawsuit, but as you can see in the video above, Laminer's Austin Meyer has decided he's going to fight the case no matter what -- even if it costs him $1.5 million (way more than it would cost to settle). Of course, this is how the trolls operate, by trying to make it cheaper to settle than to fight, but sometimes people have to take a stand and Meyer has decided to do exactly...

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Lasrick writes "David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists analyzes the debris from North Korea's December 11th Unha-3 launch. From the article: 'According to press reports, traces on the inner walls of the tank show that the first-stage oxidizer is a form of nitric acid called “red-fuming nitric acid,” which is the standard oxidizer used in Scud-type missiles. There had been some speculation that this stage might instead use a more advanced fuel with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as the oxidizer. Since the Nodong engines believed to power the first stage are scaled-up Scud engines, the use of RNFA is not a surprise. There have also been claims that the stage uses a more advanced fuel called UDMH, but it appears instead to be the kerosene-based fuel used in Scuds. In his recent RAND study, Markus Schiller noted that a test Iraq performed...

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