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Updated: 53 min 22 sec ago

Govt Docs Reveal Canadian Telcos Promise Surveillance Ready Networks

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 16:30
An anonymous reader writes "Michael Geist reports that Canadian telecom and Internet providers have tried to convince the government that they will voluntarily build surveillance capabilities into their networks. Hoping to avoid legislative requirements, the providers argue that "the telecommunications market will soon shift to a point where interception capability will simply become a standard component of available equipment, and that technical changes in the way communications actually travel on communications networks will make it even easier to intercept communications."

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How Birds Lost Their Teeth

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 16:08
An anonymous reader writes A research team from the University of California, Riverside and Montclair State University, New Jersey, have found that the lack of teeth in all living birds can be traced back to a common ancestor who lived about 116 million years ago. From the article: "To solve this puzzle, the researchers used a recently created genome database that catalogues the genetic history of nearly all living bird orders--48 species in total. They were looking for two specific types of genes: one responsible for dentin, the substance that (mostly) makes up teeth, and another for the enamel that protects them. Upon finding these genes, researchers then located the mutations that deactivate them, and combed the fossil record to figure out when those mutations developed. They concluded that the loss of teeth and the development of the beak was a two-stage process, though the steps basically happened simultaneously. The paper states: 'In the first stage, tooth loss and partial beak development began on the anterior portion of both the upper and lower jaws. The second stage involved concurrent progression of tooth loss and beak development from the anterior portion of both jaws to the back of the rostrum.'"

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Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 15:48
Bennett Haselton writes Sidecar is a little-known alternative to Lyft and Uber, deployed in only ten cities so far, which lets drivers set their own prices to undercut other ride-sharing services. Given that most amateur drivers would be willing to give someone a ride for far less than the rider would be willing to pay, why didn't the flex-pricing option take off? Keep reading to see what Bennet has to say.

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Small Bank In Kansas Creates the Bank Account of the Future

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 15:15
HughPickens.com writes Nathaniel Popper writes at the NYT that the Citizens Bank of Weir, Kansas, or CBW, has been taken apart and rebuilt, from its fiber optic cables up, so it can offer services not available at even the nation's largest bank. In the United States the primary option that consumers have to transfer money is still the ACH payment. Requests for ACH transfers are collected by banks and submitted in batches, once a day, and the banks receiving the transfers also process the payments once a day, leading to long waits. ACH technology was created in the 1970s and has not changed significantly since. The clunky system, which takes at least a day to deliver money, has become so deeply embedded in the banking industry that it has been hard to replace. CBW went to work on the problem by using the debit card networks that power ATM cash dispensers. Ramamurthi's team engineered a system so that a business could collect a customer's debit card number and use it to make an instant payment directly into the customer's account — or into the account of a customer of almost any other bank in the country. The key to CBW's system is real-time, payment transaction risk-scoring — software that can judge the risk involved in any transaction in real time by looking at 20 to 40 factors, including a customers' transaction history and I.P., address where the transaction originated. It was this system that Elizabeth McQuerry, the former Fed official, praised as the "biggest idea" at a recent bank conference. "Today's banks offer the equivalent of 300-year-old paper ledgers converted to an electronic form — a digital skin on an antiquated transaction process," says Suresh Ramamurthi. "We'll now be one of the first banks in the world to offer customers a reliable, compliant, safe and secure way to instantly send and receive money internationally."

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Sir Richard Branson Quietly Shelves Virgin Submarine Plan

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 14:33
An anonymous reader writes with news that Sir Richard Branson's goal of diving to the deepest part of the ocean has been put on indefinite hold. "Sir Richard Branson has quietly shelved his latest adventure: an ambitious plan to pilot a submarine to the deepest points of the world's five oceans. The entrepreneur had a grand scheme to explore both space and sea. But his plan for the first rocket ship charging passengers for trips to the edge of space is in jeopardy after the craft crashed during a test flight, killing a pilot. Now Sir Richard's dream of exploring the lowest points on Earth is also on hold. Virgin Oceanic's DeepFlight Challenger submarine was unveiled in a blaze of publicity in April 2011, with Sir Richard describing its mission as 'the last great challenge for humans.' He had hoped the 18ft-long submarine, designed to 'fly' along the ocean floor, would make its maiden voyage to the bottom of the Pacific's Mariana Trench – at a depth of 36,000ft, the lowest known point on Earth – by the end of 2011, or failing that, by 2012."

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Eric Schmidt: To Avoid NSA Spying, Keep Your Data In Google's Services

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 13:50
jfruh writes Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference on surveillance at the Cato Institute that Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA spying shocked the company's engineers — who then immediately started working on making the company's servers and services more secure. Now, after a year and a half of work, Schmidt says that Google's services are the safest place to store your sensitive data.

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Sony Pictures Leak Reveals Quashed Plan To Upload Phony Torrents

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 13:05
retroworks writes Motherboard.vice offers an interesting scoop from the hacked Sony Pictures email trove. A plan championed by Polish marketing employee Magda Mastalerz was to upload false versions of highly-pirated Sony programming, effectively polluting torrent sites with false positives. For example, a "Hannibal"-themed anti-piracy ad to popular torrent sites disguised as the first episode. Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them. There were plans in WW2 to drop phony counterfeit currency to disrupt markets, and I wonder why flooding underground markets with phony products isn't widespread. Why don't credit card companies manufacture fake lists of stolen credit card numbers, or phony social security numbers, for illegal trading sites? For that matter, would fake ivory, fake illegal porn, and other "false positives" discourage buyers? Or create alibis?

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SpaceX Set To Create 300 New US Jobs and Expand Facilities

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 11:02
littlesparkvt writes The SpaceX manufacturing plant in McGregor , TX is set to spend $46 million on an expansion that would create 300 full-time jobs. SpaceX is proposing to invest $46.3 million in the site during the next five years. They will spend $32.4 million in real property improvements and $13.9 million in personal property improvements.

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9th Circuit Will Revisit "Innocence of Muslims" Takedown Order

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 08:10
The Associated Press, as carried by ABC News, reports that "An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena will hear arguments Monday by Google, which owns YouTube, disputing the court's decision to remove Innocence of Muslims from the popular video sharing service." At the heart of the earlier take-down order, which was the result of a 2-1 split from a 3-judge panel, is the assertion of copyright by actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who appeared in the film, but in a role considerably different from the one she thought she was playing. Google is supported in its appeal by an unusual alliance that includes filmmakers, Internet rivals such as Yahoo and prominent news media companies such as The New York Times that don't want the court to infringe on First Amendment rights. Garcia has support from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Musicians. If the court upholds the smaller panel's ruling, YouTube and other Internet companies could face takedown notices from others in minor video roles.

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How Identifiable Are You On the Web?

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 05:22
An anonymous reader writes How identifiable are you on the web? This updated browser fingerprinting tool implements the current state of the art in browser fingerprinting techniques(including canvas fingerprinting) to show you how unique your browser is on the web. Good food for thought when three-letter agencies talk about "mere metadata."

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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

Mon, 15/12/2014 - 02:36
An anonymous reader send this link to a developing situation in Sydney, Australia, being reported on via live feed at the Guardian, and covered by various other news outlets as well. According to CNN's coverage, "CNN affiliate Seven Network said that at least 13 people are being held at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe. It published a photograph of people inside the cafe holding a black flag with Arabic writing on it. The flag reads: "There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God." From The New York Times' coverage: The police have shut down parts of the city’s transport system, and closed off the mall area. They would not confirm how many people were being held hostage inside the cafe, nor whether those inside are armed. Local media reports said that the airspace over Sydney had been closed and the famed Sydney Opera House evacuated. Television images showed heavily armed officers with their weapons trained on the cafe.

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Microsoft To Open Source Cloud Framework Behind Halo 4 Services

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 23:55
angry tapir writes Microsoft plans to open-source the framework that helps developers of cloud services like those behind Halo 4. Project Orleans is a framework built by the eXtreme Computing Group at Microsoft Research using .NET, designed so developers who aren't distributed systems experts can build cloud services that scale to cope with high demand and still keep high performance. The Orleans framework was used to build several services on Azure, including services that are part of Halo 4. The code will be released under an MIT license on GitHub early next year.

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Spanish Media Group Wants Gov't Help To Keep Google News In Spain

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 22:35
English-language site The Spain Report reports that Google's response to mandated payments for linking to and excerpting from Spanish news media sources — namely, shutting down Google News in Spain — doesn't sit well with Spanish Newspaper Publishers' Association, which issued a statement [Thursday] night saying that Google News was "not just the closure of another service given its dominant market position," recognising that Google's decision "will undoubtedly have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses. Given the dominant position of Google (which in Spain controls almost all of the searches in the market and is an authentic gateway to the Internet), AEDE requires the intervention of Spanish and community authorities, and competition authorities, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and companies." Irene Lanzaco, a spokeswoman for AEDE, told The Spain Report by telephone that "we're not asking Google to take a step backwards, we've always been open to negotiations with Google" but, she said: "Google has not taken a neutral stance. Of course they are free to close their business, but one thing is the closure of Google News and quite another the positioning in the general index." Asked if the newspaper publishers' association had received any complaints from its members since Wednesday's announcement by Google, Mrs. Lanzaco refused to specify, but said: "Spanish publishers talk to AEDE constantly."

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Ask Slashdot: Best Software For Image Organization?

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 21:37
Wycliffe writes Like many people, I am starting to get a huge collection of digital photos from family vacations, etc. I am looking for some software that allows me to rate/tag my own photos in a quick way. I really don't want to spend the time tagging a bunch of photos and then be locked into a single piece of software, so what is the best software to help organize and tag photos so that I can quickly find highlights without being locked into that software for life? I would prefer open source to prevent lock-in and also prefer Linux but could do Windows if necessary.

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French Cabbies Say They'll Block Paris Roads On Monday Over Uber

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 20:36
mrspoonsi writes Parisian taxi drivers have vowed to block roads leading into the French capital on Monday to protest a court's refusal to ban urban ridesharing service UberPOP. Like their counterparts in large cities across the globe, Parisian taxi drivers are fed up with what they see as unfair competition from Uber's popular smartphone taxi service. UberPOP, which uses non-professional drivers using their own cars to take on passengers at budget rates, has 160,000 users in France, according to the company. A commercial court in Paris ruled on Friday that a new law making it harder for Uber drivers to solicit business could not be enforced until the government had published full details of the restrictions. "It's the straw that breaks the camel's back," said Ibrahima Sylla, president of France Taxis, whose organisation has joined several others in calling for the early morning protest on Monday. They have urged taxi drivers to gather at the northern Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport and the southern Orly airport at 05:00 am before slowly converging on the city in a bid to block arterial highways. "This is a fight against Uber. We're fed up. Allowing UberPOP means leaving 57,000 French taxis high and dry, and thus 57,000 families. And that is out of the question," said Sylla.

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Forbes Blasts Latests Windows 7 Patch as Malware

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 19:38
Forbes contributor Jason Evangelho has nothing good to say about a recent Windows 7 patch that's causing a range of trouble for some users. He writes: If you have Windows 7 set to automatically update every Tuesday, it may be to permanently disable that feature. Microsoft has just confirmed that a recent update — specifically KB 3004394 — is causing a range of serious problems and recommends removing it. The first issue that caught my attention, via AMD’s Robert Hallock, is that KB 3004394 blocks the installation or update of graphics drivers such as AMD’s new Catalyst Omega. Nvidia users are also reporting difficulty installing GeForce drivers, though I can’t confirm this personally as my machines are all Windows 8.1. Hallock recommended manually uninstalling the update, advice now echoed officially by Microsoft. More troubles are detailed in the article; on the upside, Microsoft has released a fix.

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Raspberry Pi In Space

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 18:40
mikejuk (1801200) writes "When British astronaut Tim Peake heads off to the International Space Station in November 2015 he will be accompanied on his 6-month mission by two augmented Rapsberry Pis, aka Astro Pis. The Astro Pi board is a Raspberry Pi HAT and provides gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer and sensors for temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. It also has a real time clock, LED display and some push buttons — it sounds like the sort of addon that we could do with down here on earth as well! It will also be equipped with both camera module and an infra-red camera. UK school pupils are being challenged to write Rapberry Pi apps or experiments to run in space. During his mission Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis, upload the winning code whilst in orbit, set them running, collect the data generated and then download it to be distributed to the winning teams.

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Job Postings Offer Clues to Future of Google Fiber

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 17:43
New submitter Admiral Jimbob McGif writes Even as a massive firestorm burns uncontrollably threatening to scorch the very foundations of the internet with AT&T indefinitely halting future GigaPower FTTH rollouts due to uncertainty over the future of net neutrality and the Obama administration proposing to regulate the internet under Title 2, highly suggestive jobs were recently added to Google Careers. These Google Fiber related positions include: "City Manager", "Community Impact Manager" and "Plant Manager" in all potential Google Fiber cities. Perplexing inconsistences abound, such as Portland, Phoenix, San Jose and Atlanta positions being listed as local. Whereas San Antonio, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Nashville are listed as telecommute positions. One is inclined to speculate as to what these job postings mean despite Google's disclaimer: "Not all cities where we're exploring hiring a team will necessarily become Google Fiber cities." Would Google post jobs as an act of posturing much like AT&T's supposed "Gigabit smoke screen" bluff? Or, should we expect to see these so called Fiber Huts springing up like so many mushrooms after a heavy rain in an additional 9 metro areas? At the rate Google is going, is it too soon to speculate over Fiber Dojos popping up in Japan?

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Last Three Years the Quietest For Tornadoes Ever

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 16:38
schwit1 writes The uncertainty of science: 2014 caps the quietest three year period for tornadoes on record, and scientists really don't understand why. "Harold Brooks, a meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said there's no consistent reason for the three-year lull — the calmest stretch since a similar quiet period in the late 1980s — because weather patterns have varied significantly from year to year. While 2012 tornado activity was likely suppressed by the warm, dry conditions in the spring, 2013 was on the cool side for much of the prime storm season before cranking up briefly in late May, especially in Oklahoma, SPC meteorologist Greg Carbin said. Then, activity quickly quieted for the summer of 2013."

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Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

Sun, 14/12/2014 - 15:29
An anonymous reader writes The WSJ reports that the revival of vinyl records, a several-year trend that many figured was a passing fad, has accelerated during 2014 with an astounding 49 percent sales increase over 2013 (line chart here). Some listeners think that vinyl reproduces sound better than digital, and some youngsters like the social experience of gathering around a turntable. The records are pressed at a handful of decades-old, labor-intensive factories that can't keep up with the demand; but since the increased sales still represent only about 2 percent of US music sales, there hasn't been a rush of capital investment to open new plants. Raw vinyl must now be imported to America from countries such as Thailand, since the last US supplier closed shop years ago. Meanwhile, an industry pro offers his take on the endless debate of audio differences between analog records and digital formats; it turns out there were reasons for limiting playing time on each side back in the day, apart from bands not having enough decent material.

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