STLR Link Roundup – October 5, 2013

The Silk Road Bust: Ulbricht, Tor and Bitcoins

F.B.I. agents recently arrested Ross Ulbricht in connection to the Silk Road, a black market version of eBay that utilized bitcoin currency and was hosted on the Tor network. Since its origins in 2011, the Silk Road generated approximately $1.2 billion in revenue and $80 million in commissions and averaged up to 60,000 visitors per day.

Bitcoin values initially dropped by about 20 percent but have swiftly recovered. Bitcoin advocates believe that the Silk Road bust will not have long-term effects on the bitcoin market. Meanwhile, the Tor network still hosts other sites like Silk Road and Tor project administrators contend that the Silk Road bust was not attributable to F.B.I. exploitation of Tor security loopholes.

Rather, Ulbricht posted incriminating information on Stack Overflow and mailed a package containing nine counterfeit IDs to his San Francisco address. This Wednesday, Ulbricht appeared before a San Francisco federal court judge who ordered for him to be held without bail pending another hearing on Friday, October 4.

Controversy Over Android Phones’ Benchmark App Performance

Samsung might be using a special, high-power CPU benchmark mode to artificially boost the benchmark app scores on its Galaxy Note 3 by approximately twenty percent. This benchmark mode is triggered whenever users run popular benchmark apps like Geekbench and Quadrant. However, Samsung officials deny the exaggeration of Note 3 benchmark scores. ASUS, HTC and LG devices also appear to utilize special benchmark modes. Benchmark app makers like Futuremark have explicitly objected to such score-gaming practices within their public rules.

How the Government Shutdown is Affecting Science Programs

For the Hubble Telescope alone, a two-week-long federal government shutdown might waste between $3 and $8 million and could forfeit hundreds of critical astronomical observations. Additionally, none of the 1,437 NIH Clinical Center studies that are now underway – 500 of which involve new drugs and medical devices – will accept new patients during the shutdown. In fact, the shutdown-induced damage to biomedical research, as a whole, seems particularly irreversible. Furthermore, while the NASA Mars rover Curiosity is still running and Mission Control Center operations are ongoing, virtually all NASA employees are forced to stay home.

Google Fiber Expansion and the Reigning Cable Monopolies

Over the past five years, Comcast has monopolized the provision of high-speed internet access in many parts of the U.S. and has arguably engaged in ever-increasing levels of price discrimination. But Google Fiber’s upcoming expansion into cities like Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas might soon curtail this practice. In order to compete with Google Fiber and other gigabit providers, Comcast might have to emulate AT&T, which has announced plans this week to provide its own gigabit service to Austin residents.


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