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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

timothy posted 1 hour ago | from the hi-cousin-barry dept.

Earth 57

merbs (2708203) writes Across drought-stricken California, farmers are desperate for water. So many of them are calling dowsers. These 'water witches', draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to "find" water. The professional variety do so for a fee. And business is booming. They're just part of a storied tradition of pseudoscientific hucksters exploiting our thirst for water, with everything from cloudbusters to rainmachines to New Age rituals.

PHP 5.6.0 Released

timothy posted 4 hours ago | from the still-hard-to-pronounce dept.

PHP 83

An anonymous reader writes The PHP team has announced the release of PHP 5.6.0. New features include constant scalar expressions, exponentiation using the ** operator, function and constant importing with the use keyword, support for file uploads larger than 2 GB, and phpdbg as an interactive integrated debugger SAPI. The team also notes important changes affecting compatibility. For example: "Array keys won't be overwritten when defining an array as a property of a class via an array literal," json_decode() is now more strict at parsing JSON syntax, and GMP resources are now objects. Here is the migration guide, the full change log, and the downloads page.

Mozilla Rolls Out Sponsored Tiles To Firefox Nightly's New Tab Page

timothy posted 5 hours ago | from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.

Firefox 106

An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has rolled out directory tiles, the company's advertising experiment for its browser's new tab page, to the Firefox Nightly channel. We installed the latest browser build to give the sponsored ads a test drive. When you first launch Firefox, a message on the new tab page informs you of the following: what tiles are (with a link to a support page about how sponsored tiles work), a promise that the feature abides by the Mozilla Privacy Policy, and a reminder that you can turn tiles off completely and choose to have a blank new tab page. It's quite a lot to take in all at once.

Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll

timothy posted 9 hours ago | from the may-the-bridge-collapse-upon-you-and-your-family dept.

Google 33

An anonymous reader writes Earlier this year, Google sued Beneficial Innovations for breach of contract, ostensibly in defense of its Doubleclick ad technology clients against whom Beneficial Innovations had filed suits despite Google having already paid licensing fees for the technology. Following Google's jury trial win, the company was originally awarded only 'nominal damages of $1 and a judicial order stopping Beneficial from going after more Doubleclick customers.' Now, however, the presiding judge has ruled that Google is entitled to some attorneys' fees in the amount of $1.3 million (PDF).

FBI Investigates 'Sophisticated' Cyber Attack On JP Morgan, 4 More US Banks

timothy posted 10 hours ago | from the could-have-been-motivated-by-love dept.

Security 90

Bruce66423 writes with news of an electronic attack believed to affect at least five U.S. banking institutions this month, including JP Morgan, now being investigated by the FBI. According to the Independent, The attack on JP Morgan reportedly resulted in the loss of “gigabytes of sensitive data” that could have involved customer and employee information. It is said to have been of a level of sophistication beyond ordinary criminals, leading to speculation of a state link. The FBI is thought to be investigating whether there is a connection to Russia. American-Russian relations continue to be fraught amid the crisis in Ukraine, with sanctions ramped up. Bruce66423 asks "The quality of the attack, which appears to have led to 'gigabytes' of data being lost, is raising the prospect of a state being the source. The present culprit suggested is Russia... why the assumption it's not China — just because China isn't invading the Ukraine at the moment?" News of the attack is also at the New York Times, which notes Earlier this year, iSight Partners, a security firm in Dallas that provides intelligence on online threats, warned companies that they should be prepared for cyberattacks from Russia in retaliation for Western economic sanctions. But Adam Meyers, the head of threat intelligence at CrowdStrike, a security firm that works with banks, said that it would be “premature” to suggest the attacks were motivated by sanctions.

Indiana University Researchers Get $1 Million Grant To Study Memes

samzenpus posted 11 hours ago | from the oh-long-johnson dept.

The Almighty Buck 120

An anonymous reader writes with news that the NSF has just awarded a group of researchers a grant to study the life cycle of memes. "Indiana University is receiving nearly $1 million in federal grant money to investigate the genesis, spread, and demise of Internet memes. The grant from the National Science Foundation awards four Indiana researchers $919,917 to for a project called Truthy that will, as the grant's abstract explains, "explore why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten." (And yes, in case you're wondering, the name was inspired by Stephen Colbert's neologism "truthiness.") The government-funded research is aimed at identifying which memes are organic and which ones are mere astroturf. "While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns," Truthy's About page explains."

Euro Bank Santander Commissions Study On Bitcoin's Impact On Banking

timothy posted 13 hours ago | from the first-they-commission-a-story-about-you dept.

Bitcoin 49

First time accepted submitter Nikkos (544004) writes Digital currency news website HashReport broke the news Monday that European megabank Santander has commissioned a study to "Analyze the impact of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on banks and devise a strategic course of action." The study is being facilitated as a challenge through Yegii, an 'Insight Network' founded by Trond Undheim. Undheim is also a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as Managing Director at Tautec Consulting. The challenge was initiated by Julio Faura — Head of Corporate development for Banco Santander. According to Dr. Undheim, Faura was "looking for additional outside perspective onto the topic of Bitcoin. While acquiring consulting services from top tier consulting firms can be exciting, he thought that an outsider, multidisciplinary perspective, would be particularly helpful."

Netflix Open Sources Internal Threat Monitoring Tools

timothy posted yesterday | from the how-they-watch-you-watching-them dept.

Open Source 20

alphadogg (971356) writes Netflix has released three internal tools it uses to catch hints on the Web that hackers might target its services. "Many security teams need to stay on the lookout for Internet-based discussions, posts and other bits that may be of impact to the organizations they are protecting," wrote Andy Hoernecke and Scott Behrens of Netflix's Cloud Security Team. One of the tools, called Scumblr, can be used to create custom searches of Google sites, Twitter and Facebook for users or keywords.

$33 Firefox Phone Launched In India

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the cheaper-by-the-dozen dept.

Mozilla 78

davidshenba writes Intex and Mozilla have launched Cloud FX, a smartphone powered by Mozilla's Firefox OS. The phone has a 1 GHz processor, 2 Megapixel camera, dual SIM, 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen. Though the phone has limited features, initial reviews say that the build quality is good for the price range. With a price tag of $33 (2000 INR), and local languages support the new Firefox phone is hitting the Indian market of nearly 1 billion mobile users.

New NRC Rule Supports Indefinite Storage of Nuclear Waste

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the can-I-leave-this-here? dept.

Government 133

mdsolar writes in with news about a NRC rule on how long nuclear waste can be stored on-site after a reactor has shut down. The five-member board that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday voted to end a two-year moratorium on issuing new power plant licenses. The moratorium was in response to a June 2012 decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that ordered the NRC to consider the possibility that the federal government may never take possession of the nearly 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at power plant sites scattered around the country. In addition to lifting the moratorium, the five-member board also approved guidance replacing the Waste Confidence Rule. "The previous Waste Confidence Rule determined that spent fuel could be safely stored on site for at least 60 years after a plant permanently ceased operations," said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC. In the new standard, Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Rule, NRC staff members reassessed three timeframes for the storage of spent fuel — 60 years, 100 years and indefinitely.

CenturyLink: Comcast Is Trying To Prevent Competition In Its Territories

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the my-kingdom-for-a-non-monopoly dept.

The Internet 108

mpicpp sends word that CenturyLink has accused Comcast of restricting competition in the development of internet infrastructure. CenturyLink asked the FCC to block the acquisition of Time Warner Cable to prevent Comcast from further abusing its size and power. For example, Comcast is urging local authorities to deny CenturyLink permission to build out new infrastructure if they can't reach all of a city's residents during the initial buildout. Of course, a full buildout into a brand new market is much more expensive than installing connections a bit at a time. Comcast argues that CenturyLink shouldn't be able to cherry-pick the wealthy neighborhoods and avoid the poor ones. CenturyLink points out that no other ISP complains about this, and says allowing the merger would let Comcast extend these tactics to regions currently operated by Time Warner Cable.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

timothy posted yesterday | from the hey-these-guys-did-it-to-me-too dept.

AT&T 334

An anonymous reader writes "AT&T has been overbilling my account based on overcounting DSL internet usage (they charge in 50 gigabyte units after the first 150). I have been using a Buffalo NFinity Airstation as a managed switch to count all traffic. As you may know, this device runs firmware based on dd-wrt and has hidden telnet functionality, so I am able to load a script to count traffic directly onto the device. I have an auto-scraper that collects the data and saves it on my computer's hard disk every two minutes while the computer is running. While it is not running, the 2 minute counters accumulate in RAM on the device. Power problems are not normally an issue here; and even when they are I can tell it has happened. The upshot of all this is I can measure the exact amount of download bandwidth and a guaranteed overestimate of upload bandwidth in bytes reliably. I have tested this by transferring known amounts of data and can account for every byte counted, including ethernet frame headers. AT&T's billing reporting reports usage by day only, lags two days, and uses some time basis other than midnight. It is also reading in my testing a fairly consistent 14% higher whenever the basis doesn't disturb the test by using too much bandwidth too close to midnight.

AT&T has already refused to attempt to fix the billing meter, and asserts they have tested it and found it correct. Yet they refuse to provide a realtime readout of the counter that would make independent testing trivial. I've been through the agencies (CPUC, FCC, and Weights & Measures) and can't find one that is interested, AT&T will not provide any means for reasonable independent testing of the meter. It is my understanding that if there is a meter and its calibration cannot be checked, there is a violation of the law, yet I can't find an agency that can even accept such a claim (I'm not getting "your claim is meritless", but "we don't handle that"). If indeed they are not overbilling, my claim of no way to verify the meter still stands. My options are running thin here. So that my account can be identified by someone who recognizes the case: 7a6c74964fafd56c61e06abf6c820845cbcd4fc0 (bit commitment).

GOG Introduces DRM-Free Movie Store

Unknown Lamer posted yesterday | from the am-I-dreaming? dept.

Businesses 126

Via Engadget comes news that GOG, the DRM-free game store platform, has launched a DRM-free movie store. The initial set of movies are gamer oriented, and you won't find major studio releases (yet, and not for a lack of trying on the part of GOG). From GOG: Our goal is to offer you cinema classics as well as some all-time favorite TV series with no DRM whatsoever, for you to download and keep on your hard drive or stream online whenever you feel like it. We talked to most of the big players in the movie industry and we often got a similar answer: "We love your ideas, but we do not want to be the first ones. We will gladly follow, but until somebody else does it first, we do not want to take the risk". DRM-Free distribution is not a concept their lawyers would accept without hesitation.

We kind of felt that would be the case and that it's gonna take patience and time to do it, to do it, to do it right. That's quite a journey ahead of us, but every gamer knows very well that great adventures start with one small step. So why not start with something that feels very familiar? We offer you a number of gaming and Internet culture documentaries - all of them DRM-Free, very reasonably priced, and presenting some fascinating insight into topics close to a gamer's heart.
Videos are mostly 1080p (~8GB for a 90 minute film) and can be acquired for about $6. They're using h.264/mp4 and not VP9/Matroska, but you can't have everything ;). If you don't want to download that much data, it looks like all of the videos are also available in 720p and 576p.

Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

Unknown Lamer posted yesterday | from the thinking-leads-to-questioning dept.

Education 504

frdmfghtr (603968) writes Over at Ars Technica, there's a story about a bill in the Ohio legislature that wants to downplay the teaching of the scientific process. From the article: "Specifically prohibiting a discussion of the scientific process is a recipe for educational chaos. To begin with, it leaves the knowledge the kids will still receive—the things we have learned through science—completely unmoored from any indication of how that knowledge was generated or whether it's likely to be reliable. The scientific process is also useful in that it can help people understand the world around them and the information they're bombarded with; it can also help people assess the reliability of various sources of information." The science standards would have "...focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another." Political interpretation of scientific facts include humans contributing to climate change according to the bill's sponsor, who also thinks intelligent design would be OK under the law.

Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

Unknown Lamer posted yesterday | from the midsummer-2045 dept.

Earth 466

New submitter SomeoneFromBelgium (3420851) writes According to Bloomberg a leaked climate report from the IPPC speaks of "Irreversible Damage." The warnings in the report are, as such, not new but the tone of voice is more urgent and more direct than ever. It states among other things that global warming already is affecting "all continents and across the oceans," and that "risks from mitigation can be substantial, but they do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation action."

Statistics Losing Ground To CS, Losing Image Among Students

Unknown Lamer posted yesterday | from the big-bad-data dept.

Stats 109

theodp (442580) writes Unless some things change, UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff worries that the Statistician could be added to the endangered species list. "The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia," writes Matloff, "have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that: [1] The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS). [2] Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful."

Matloff, who has a foot in both the Statistics and CS camps, but says, "The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly. Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research 'business model'." So, can Statistics be made more attractive to students? "Here is something that actually can be fixed reasonably simply," suggests no-fan-of-TI-83-pocket-calculators-as-a-computational-vehicle Matloff. "If I had my druthers, I would simply ban AP Stat, and actually, I am one of those people who would do away with the entire AP program. Obviously, there are too many deeply entrenched interests for this to happen, but one thing that can be done for AP Stat is to switch its computational vehicle to R."

UK Prisons Ministry Fined For Lack of Encryption At Prisons

Unknown Lamer posted 2 days ago | from the not-like-prisoners-are-people-anyway dept.

United Kingdom 74

Bruce66423 (1678196) writes The Guardian reports that the UK Information Commissioner has levied a fine of £180,000 on the Ministry of Justice for their failure to encrypt data held on external hard drives at prisons. The fine is nominal — one part of government fining another is rather pointless, but it does show that there's a little bit of accountability. Of course it's interesting to consider the dangers of this hopefully old way of storing backups; but the question of whether we do a lot better now is quite pointed. To make matters worse, one of the unencrypted backup hard drives walked away.

Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

Unknown Lamer posted 2 days ago | from the doubleplus-ungood-pirate dept.

The Internet 316

mpicpp (3454017) writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica about Comcast's data caps that aren't data caps:Customers must pay more if they exceed limits — but it's not a cap, Comcast says. For the past couple of years, Comcast has been trying to convince journalists and the general public that it doesn't impose any "data caps" on its Internet service. ... That's despite the fact that Comcast in some cities enforces limits on the amount of data customers can use and issues financial penalties for using more than the allotment. Comcast has said this type of billing will probably roll out to its entire national footprint within five years, perhaps alongside a pricier option to buy unlimited data. ... Comcast's then-new approach was touted to "effectively offer unlimited usage of our services because customers will have the ability to buy as much data as they want."

Free Law Casebook Project Starts With IP Coursebook

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the good-way-to-start dept.

Education 22

An anonymous reader writes Duke Law School's James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins just published a CC licensed, freely downloadable textbook called "Intellectual Property Law and the Information Society." (Which includes a discussion of whether and when the term "intellectual property" is a dangerous misnomer). The book is apparently part of an attempt to lower what the authors describe as the "obscene cost" of legal textbooks. "This is the first in a series of free digital/low cost print legal educational materials to be published by Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain—starting with statutory supplements aimed at the basic classes. The goal of this project... is to improve the pricing and access norms of the world of legal textbook publishing, while offering the flexibility and possibility for customization that unfettered digital access provides. We hope it will provide a pleasant, restorative, competitive pressure on the commercial publishers to lower their prices and improve their digital access norms." The book's "problems range from a video of the Napster oral argument to counseling clients about search engines and trademarks, applying the First Amendment to digital rights management and copyright or commenting on the Supreme Court's new rulings on gene patents.. [The book] includes discussions of such issues as the Redskins trademark cancelations, the Google Books case and the America Invents Act."

MediaGoblin 0.7.0 "Time Traveler's Delight" Released

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the like-rupert-murdoch dept.

GNU is Not Unix 69

paroneayea (642895) writes "The GNU MediaGoblin folks have put out another release of their free software media hosting platform, dubbed 0.7.0: Time Traveler's Delight. The new release moves closer to federation by including a new upload API based on the Pump API, a new theme labeled "Sandy 70s Speedboat", metadata features, bulk upload, a more responsive design, and many other fixes and improvements. This is the first release since the recent crowdfunding campaign run with the FSF which was used to bring on a full time developer to focus on federation, among other things."

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