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An anonymous reader writes about a Chinese building project designed to cement claims to a disputed region of the South China Sea. Sand, cement, wood, and steel are China's weapons of choice as it asserts its claim over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei have sparred for decades over ownership of the 100 islands and reefs, which measure less than 1,300 acres in total but stretch across an area about the size of Iraq. In recent months, vessels belonging to the People's Republic have been spotted ferrying construction materials to build new islands in the sea. Pasi Abdulpata, a Filipino fishing contractor who in October was plying the waters near Parola Island in the northern Spratlys, says he came across "this huge Chinese ship sucking sand and rocks from one end of the ocean and blasting it to the other using a tube."
Artificial islands could help China anchor its claim to waters that host some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The South China Sea may hold as much as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. China has considered the Spratlys—which it calls Nansha—part of its territory since the 1940s and on occasion has used its military might to enforce its claim. In 1988 a Chinese naval attack at Johnson South Reef, in the northern portion of the archipelago, killed 64 Vietnamese border guards.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers have discovered that emperor penguins may not be faithful to their previous nesting locations, as previously thought. Scientists have long thought that emperor penguins were philopatric, returning to the same location to nest each year. However, a new research study showed that the penguins may be behaving in ways that allow them to adapt to their changing environment. Lead author Michelle LaRue said,"Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins. If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn't make any sense. These birds didn't just appear out of thin air—they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies. That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes."
An anonymous reader writes There have been many US military machines of war that seemed to be revolutionary, but never make it out of the prototype stage. As Robert Farley explains: "Sometimes they die because they were a bad idea in the first place. For the same reasons, bad defense systems can often survive the most inept management if they fill a particular niche well enough." A weapon can seem like an amazing invention, but it still has to adapt to all sorts of conditions--budgetary, politics, and people's plain bias. Here's a look at a few of the best weapons of war that couldn't win under these "battlefield" conditions.
schwit1 (797399) writes "The text of a 19-page, international trade agreement being drafted in secret was published by WikiLeaks as the transparency group's editor commemorated his two-year anniversary confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Fifty countries around the globe have already signed on to the Trade in Service Agreement, or TISA, including the United States, Australia and the European Union. Despite vast international ties, however, details about the deal have been negotiated behind closed-doors and largely ignored by the press. In a statement published by the group alongside the leaked draft this week, WikiLeaks said "proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets," and have participated in "a significant anti-transparency maneuver" by working secretly on a deal that covers more than 68 percent of world trade in services, according to the Swiss National Center for Competence in Research.
hypnosec writes A new movement dubbed the Open Wireless Movement is asking users to open up their private Wi-Fi networks to total strangers – a random act of kindness – with an aim of better securing networks and facilitating better use of finite broadband resources. The movement is supported by non-profit and pro-internet rights organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and Free Press among others. The EFF is planning to unveil one such innovation – Open Wireless Router – at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference to be held next month on New York. This firmware will allow individuals to share their private Wi-Fi to total strangers to anyone without a password.
An anonymous reader writes The White House has announced a federal strategy to reverse a decline in the number of honeybees and other pollinators in the United States. Obama has directed federal agencies to use research, land management, education and public/private partnerships to advance honeybee and other pollinator health and habitats. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department will lead a multi-agency task force to develop a pollinator health strategy and action plan within six months. As part of the plan, the USDA announced $8 million in funding for farmers and ranchers in five states who establish new habitats for honeybee populations.
retroworks writes: The Guardian uses a stock photo of obvious electronic junk in its coverage of the sentencing of Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics. But film of the actual containers showed fairly uniform, sorted televisions which typically work for 20 years. In 2013, the Basel Convention Secretariat released findings on a two-year study of the seized sea containers containing the alleged "e-waste," including Benson's in Nigeria, and found 91% of the devices were working or repairable. The study, covered by Slashdot in Feb. 2013, declared the shipments legal, and further reported that they were more likely to work than new product sent to Africa (which may be shelf returns from bad lots, part of the reason Africans prefer used TVs from nations with strong warranty laws).
Director of regulated industry Harvey Bradshaw of the U.K. tells the Guardian: "This sentence is a landmark ruling because it's the first time anyone has been sent to prison for illegal waste exports." But five separate university research projects question what the crime was, and whether prohibition in trade is really the best way to reduce the percentage of bad product (less than 100% waste). Admittedly, I have been following this case from the beginning and interviewed both Benson and the Basel Secretariat Executive Director, and am shocked that the U.K. judge went ahead with the sentencing following the publication of the E-Waste Assessment Study last year. But what do Slashdotters think about the campaign to arrest African geeks who pay 10 times the value of scrap for used products replaced in rich nations?
itwbennett writes: ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé hopes to make progress on preparations to take over running the world's central DNS servers from the U.S. government's National Telecommunications and Information Agency when the organization meets in London next week. 'I think this is a meeting where the ICANN community has to deal with the fact, the good fact, that its relationship with the U.S. government, which characterized its birth, its existence and growth, has now run its course,' Chehadé said.
An anonymous reader writes When you think of people who teach at a college, you probably imagine moderately affluent professors with nice houses and cars. All that tuition has to go into competitive salaries, right? Unfortunately, it seems being a college instructor is becoming less and less lucrative, even to the point of poverty. From the article: "Most university-level instructors are ... contingent employees, working on a contract basis year to year or semester to semester. Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5." This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?
An anonymous reader sends word that BlackBerry, hit hard over the past several years by the emergence of smart phones, has come back to profitability. BlackBerry has been fighting an uphill battle to stay relevant in the world of mobile devices. It has lost market share to Apple, companies like Samsung that offer gadgets running on Google's Android operating system, and Microsoft. But John Chen, who took over as CEO in November, has injected new life to the company. Chen, who says BlackBerry is getting close to breaking even on its hardware business, has steered the company's focus more towards software. He's made several product announcements that Wall Street has cheered. Last month, the company launched its Project Ion, an initiative to develop more connected devices ... a trend dubbed the Internet of Things. On Wednesday, BlackBerry reached a deal with Amazon that will let users of BlackBerry's newest operating system access Android apps in Amazon's appstore later this fall.
rtoz writes: The popular home monitoring camera startup "Dropcam" will be acquired by Nest Labs, the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors. The deal is worth $555 million in cash. Nest itself was purchased by Google just four months ago for $3.2 billion. Dropcam is a cloud-based, Wi-Fi video monitoring service, founded in 2009. It lets users place cameras throughout a home for live-viewing and recording. The cameras also include options for night vision and two-way talking with built-in microphones. Dropcam has never disclosed sales, but it is routinely the top-selling security camera on Amazon, and it recently branched into selling in retail stores like Apple and Best Buy. People concerned about the privacy implications of Google's acquisition of Nest may be further unsettled by Nest's purchase of a home surveillance company. Nest's founder Matt Rogers anticipated this issue, and insisted that there's no reason to worry. In his blog post, he says that data won't be shared with anyone, including Google, without a customer's permission. Nest has run into product challenges recently.
SmartAboutThings writes: Mozilla took the world by surprise when it announced that it was developing a Firefox operating system that would be used for mobile phones, particularly in developing markets. Such devices have already arrived, but they aren't the only targets for the new operating. According to a report from GigaOM, Mozilla is currently working on a secretive project to develop a Chromecast-like media streaming stick powered by Firefox-OS. Mozilla's Christian Heilmann shared a picture of a prototype.
schwit1 sends this report on the perils of imperfect drone technology:
"More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation. Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. Drone flights by law enforcement agencies and the military, which already occur on a limited basis, are projected to surge. The documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes."
An anonymous reader writes "With the Linux 3.16 kernel the Nouveau driver now supports re-clocking for letting the NVIDIA GPU cores and video memory on this reverse-engineered NVIDIA driver run at their designed frequencies. Up to now the Nouveau driver has been handicapped to running at whatever (generally low) clock frequencies the video BIOS programmed the hardware to at boot time, but with Linux 3.16 is experimental support for up-clocking to the hardware-rated speeds. The results show the open-source NVIDIA driver running multiple times faster, but it doesn't work for all NVIDIA hardware, causes lock-ups for some GPUs at some frequencies, and isn't yet dynamically controlled. However, it appears to be the biggest break-through in years for this open-source NVIDIA driver that up to now has been too slow for most Linux games."
Lasrick writes: Mark Cooper with one of the best explanations of some of the most pressing details on the new EPA rule change: 'The claims and counterclaims about EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards have filled the air: It will boost nuclear. It will expand renewables. It promotes energy efficiency. It will kill coal. It changes everything. It accomplishes almost nothing.' Cooper notes that although it's clear that coal is the big loser in the rule change, the rule itself doesn't really pick winners in terms of offering sweet deals for any particular technology; however, it seems that nuclear is also a loser in this formulation, because 'Assuming that states generally adhere to the prime directive of public utility resource acquisition—choosing the lowest-cost approach—the proposed rule will not alter the dismal prospects of nuclear power...' Nuclear power does seem to be struggling with economic burdens and a reluctance from taxpayers to pay continuing subsides in areas such as storage and cleanup. It seems that nuclear is another loser in the new EPA rule change.
An anonymous reader writes We had some good news yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent for failing to turn an idea into an invention. Unfortunately, the justices weren't willing to make any broader statements about the patentability of basic software tools, so the patent fights will continue. Timothy B. Lee at Vox argues that this is because the Supreme Court does not understand software, and says we won't see significant reform until they do.
He says, "If a sequence of conventional mathematical operations isn't patentable, then no software should enjoy patent protection. For example, the 'data compression' patents that Justice Kennedy wants to preserve simply claim formulas for converting information from one digital format to another. If that's not a mathematical algorithm, nothing is. This is the fundamental confusion at the heart of America's software patent jurisprudence: many judges seem to believe that mathematical algorithms shouldn't be patented but that certain kinds of software should be patentable. ... If a patent claims a mathematical formula simple enough for a judge to understand how it works, she is likely to recognize that the patent claims a mathematical formula and invalidate it. But if the formula is too complex for her to understand, then she concludes that it's something more than a mathematical algorithm and uphold it."
Funksaw writes: Steve Wozniak, co-found of Apple Computer, has come out to endorse Lawrence Lessig's MAYDAY PAC in an animated audio recording. Mayday.US, (formerly MayOne.US) is Lessig's crowd-funded (citizen-funded!), kick-started Super PAC to end all Super PACs. In the video, Wozniak points out that we're never going to get anywhere on issues important to the Internet community and technology advocates if we don't fix the root cause of corruption. The video can be found at the Mayday PAC's new landing page, "theInternetHasASuperPAC.com."
theodp writes: On Thursday, Google announced a $50 million initiative to inspire girls to code called Made with Code. As part of the initiative, Google said it will also be "rewarding teachers who support girls who take CS courses on Codecademy or Khan Academy." The rewards are similar to earlier coding and STEM programs run by Code.org and Google that offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. The announcement is all the more intriguing in light of a Google job posting seeking a K-12 Computer Science Education Outreach Program Manager to "work closely with external leaders and company executives to influence activities that drive toward collaborative efforts to achieve major 'moonshots' in education on a global scale." Perhaps towards that end, Google recently hired the Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), who was coincidentally also a Code.org Advisory Board member. And Code.org — itself a Made With Code grantee — recently managed to lure away the ACM's Director of Public Policy to be its COO. So, are these kinds of private-public K-12 CS education initiatives (and associated NSF studies) a good idea? Some of the nation's leading CS educators sure seem to think so (video).
Lucas123 writes: Katherine, a 14-foot, 2,300lb. Great White Shark, has become so popular with visitors to a research site tracking her daily movements that the site's servers have crashed and remained down for hours. The shark, one of dozens tagged for research by the non-profit global shark tracking project OCEARCH, typically cruises very close to shore up and down the Eastern Seaboard. That has attracted a lot interest from the swimming public. Currently, however, she's heading from Florida's west coast toward Texas. OCEARCH tags sharks with four different technologies to create a three-dimensional image of a shark's activities. "On average, we're collecting 100 data points every second — 8.5 million data points per day."
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. House of Representatives voted late Thursday night, 293 to 123, to approve an amendment to the NSA's appropriations bill that cuts all funding for warrantless surveillance and for programs that force companies to create backdoors in their products. The success of this vote in the House is attributed to the fact that the amendment did not have to go through the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and also to the increasingly apparent unpopularity of NSA activities among voters. Although privacy advocates laud the vote, there are those who note that the amendment specifically applies to the NSA and CIA while remaining silent on other agencies such as the FBI. The appropriations bill in its entirety will now proceed to the Senate for approval."
sfcrazy writes Mozilla is working on developing a content and commenting platform in collaboration with The New York Times and The Washington Post. The platform aims to be the next-generation commenting and content creation platform which will give more control to readers. Mozilla says in a blog post, “The community platform will allow news organizations to connect with audiences beyond the comments section, deepening opportunities for engagement. Through the platform, readers will be able to submit pictures, links and other media; track discussions, and manage their contributions and online identities. Publishers will then be able to collect and use this content for other forms of storytelling and spark ongoing discussions by providing readers with targeted content and notifications.” The project is being funded by Knights Foundation.
An anonymous reader writes Der Spiegel has written a piece on the extent of collaboration between Germany's intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the U.S.'s National Security Agency (NSA). The sources cited in the piece do reveal BND's enthusiastic collusion in enabling the NSA to tap fiber optic cables in Germany, but they seem inconclusive as to how much information from the NSA's collection activity in the country is actually shared between the NSA and BND. Of note is evidence that the NSA's collection methods do not automatically exclude German companies and organizations from their data sweep; intelligence personnel have to rectro-actively do so on an individual basis when they realize that they are surveilling German targets. Germany's constitution protects against un-warranted surveillance of correspondence, either by post or telecommunications, of German citizens in Germany or abroad and foreigners on German soil.
MarkWhittington writes Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.
The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa's subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.
The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth.
An anonymous reader writes Mark Karpeles doesn't seem to understand how much anger and trouble the $400 million Mt. Gox fiasco caused his customers. According to Wired: "After a long absence, the Mt Gox CEO has returned to Twitter with a bizarre string of tone-deaf tweets that were either written by a Turing test chat bot, or by a man completely oblivious to the economic chaos he has wrought. His first message after losing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bitcoins? 'What would we do without busybox?'—a reference to a slimmed-down Linux operating system used on devices such as routers. He's also Tweeted about a noodle dish called yakisoba and Japanese transportation systems." Andreas Antonopoulos, the CSO with Blockchain says, "He continues to be oblivious about his own failure and the pain he has caused others. He is confirming that he is a self-absorbed narcissist with an inflated sense of self-confidence who has no remorse."
alphadogg writes A Chinese electronics vendor accused of selling signal jammers to U.S. consumers could end up leading the market in one dubious measure: the largest fine ever imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. The agency wants to fine CTS Technology $34,912,500 for allegedly marketing 285 models of jammers over more than two years. CTS boldly—and falsely—claimed that some of its jammers were approved by the FCC, according to the agency's enforcement action released Thursday. Conveniently, CTS' product detail pages also include a button to "report suspicious activity." The proposed fine, which would be bigger than any the FCC has levied for anti-competitive behavior, or a wardrobe malfunction, comes from adding up the maximum fines for each model of jammer the company allegedly sold in the U.S. The agency also ordered CTS, based in Shenzhen, China, to stop marketing illegal jammers to U.S. consumers and identify the buyer of each jammer it sold in the U.S.
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes It has already been widely reported that the NSA works closely with eavesdropping agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as part of the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance. But the latest Snowden documents show that a number of other countries, described by the NSA as "third-party partners," are playing an increasingly important role – by secretly allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment on their fiber-optic cables. The NSA documents state that under RAMPART-A, foreign partners "provide access to cables and host U.S. equipment." This allows the agency to covertly tap into "congestion points around the world" where it says it can intercept the content of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, internet chats, data from virtual private networks, and calls made using Voice over IP software like Skype.
harrymcc (1641347) writes "In June 1967, a weekly newspaper called Computerworld launched. Almost exactly 47 years later, it's calling it quits in print form to focus on its website and other digital editions. The move isn't the least bit surprising, but it's also the end of an era--and I can' t think of any computing publication which had a longer run. Over at Technologizer, I shared some thoughts on what Computerworld meant to the world, to its publisher, IDG, and to me."
An anonymous reader writes There are several proposals on the table to stave off the impending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (which pays for transit, biking, and walking projects too) in two months. Just now, two senators teamed up to announce one that might actually have a chance. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have proposed increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over two years. The federal gas tax currently stands at 18.4 cents a gallon, where it has been set since 1993, when gas cost $1.16 a gallon.
msm1267 (2804139) writes Incentivized by a minimal amount of cash, computer users who took part in a study were willing to agree to download an executable file to their machines without questioning the potential consequences. The more cash the researchers offered, capping out at $1, the more people complied with the experiment. The results toss a big bucket of cold water on long-standing security awareness training advice that urges people not to trust third-party downloads from unknown sources in order to guard the sanctity of their computer. A Hershey bar or a Kennedy half-dollar, apparently, sends people spiraling off course pretty rapidly and opens up a potential new malware distribution channel for hackers willing to compensate users. The study was released recently in a paper called: "It's All About The Benjamins: An empirical study on incentivizing users to ignore security advice." While fewer than half of the people who viewed the task actually ran the benign executable when offered a penny to do so, the numbers jumped to 58 percent when offered 50 cents, and 64 percent when offered $1.
An anonymous reader writes Developed as part of a university master thesis is this "truly 3D" windowing system environment. The 3D desktop was developed as a Qt Wayland compositor and output to an Oculus Rift display and then controlled using a high-precision Razer mouse. Overall, it's interesting research for bringing 2D windows into a 3D workspace using Wayland and the Oculus Rift. The code is hosted as the Motorcar Compositor. A video demonstration is on YouTube.
An anonymous reader writes On a request from Matthew Green to fork the TrueCrypt code, the author answers that this is impossible. He says that this might be no good idea, because the code needs a rewrite, but he allows to use the existing code as a reference. "I am sorry, but I think what you're asking for here is impossible. I don't feel that forking TrueCrypt would be a good idea, a complete rewrite was something we wanted to do for a while. I believe that starting from scratch wouldn't require much more work than actually learning and understanding all of truecrypts current codebase. I have no problem with the source code being used as reference."
phrackthat (2602661) writes The Senate Finance Committee has been informed that the IRS recycled the hard drive of Lois Lerner, which will deprive investigators of the ability to forensically retrieve emails which were supposedly deleted or lost in a "crash." This news comes after the IRS revealed that it had lost the emails of Lois Lerner and six other employees who were being investigated regarding the targeting of conservative groups and donors.
An anonymous reader writes A group of internet industry executives and politicians came together to look back on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and to do a little crystal-ball gazing about the future of broadband regulation in the United States. Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps was among the presenters, and he had sharp words for the audience about the "insanity" of the current wave of merger mania in the telecom field and the looming threats of losing net neutrality regulation.
camperdave writes Author Daniel Keyes has died at 86. Keyes is best known for his Hugo Award winning classic SF story Flowers for Algernon and the film version Charly. Keyes was born August 9, 1927 in New York. He worked variously as an editor, comics writer, fashion photographer, and teacher before joining the faculty of Ohio University in 1966, where he taught as a professor of English and creative writing, becoming professor emeritus in 2000. He married Aurea Georgina Vaquez in 1952, who predeceased him in 2013; they had two daughters.
First time accepted submitter Dharma's Dad writes Christie's New York is auctioning off a 1958 prototype microchip, used by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments in his Nobel Prize-winning invention of putting an integrated circuit onto a single chip. Gifted to one of the lab employees by Kilby, the family has decided to sell it. Estimated at $1,000,000 - $2,000,000, this prototype integrated circuit was built between July 18 and September 12, 1958, of a doubly diffused germanium wafer with flying gold wire and four leads.
sandbagger sends this news from io9: In what's being heralded as a secular triumph, the U.K. government has banned the teaching of creationism as science in all existing and future academies and free schools. The new clauses, which arrived with very little fanfare last week, state that the "requirement for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school." So, if an academy or free school teaches creationism as scientifically valid, it's breaking the funding agreement to provide a "broad and balanced curriculum." ... In addition to the new clauses, the UK government clarified the meaning of creationism, reminding everyone that it's a minority view even within the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
dcblogs writes: The U.S. Postal Service plans to spend up to $100,000 to investigate how it can utilize low cost sensors and related wireless technologies to improve the efficiency of its operations. The postal service already scans letters and parcels up to 11 times during processing, representing 1.7 trillion scans a year. It uses supercomputers to process that data. In theory, the postal service believes that everything it uses — mailboxes, vehicles, machines, or a letter carrier — could be equipped with a sensor to create what it terms the Internet of Postal Things. The Internet has not been kind to the postal service. Electronic delivery has upended the postal services business model. In 2003, it processed 49 billion pieces of single-piece first-class mail, but by 2013, that figured dropped to 22.6 billion pieces. In other high-tech postal service news, Digital Post Australia has shut down. It was an attempt to digitize snail mail, but they didn't manage to convince enough senders that it was worth trying.
BillCable writes: Politico reports, "In a major blow to the Washington Redskins, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday canceled six federal trademarks of the 'Washington Redskins' team name because it was found to be 'disparaging' to Native Americans. 'We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,' the PTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board wrote. The panel voted 2-1 in favor of the decision." Perhaps this move will speed up the inevitable name change, which was expected within the next few years."
Amazon has unveiled the Fire Phone. It runs a modified version of Android, and it will launch exclusively for AT&T's network. The screen is a 4.7" IPS LCD (they tested from 4.3" to 5.5", and decided 4.7" worked best for single-hand use), with an emphasis on brightness. It runs on a quad-core 2.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and an Adreno 330 GPU. It has a rear-facing, 13-megapixel camera using an f/2.0 five-element lens with image stabilization. There's a dedicated physical button on the side of the phone that will turn it on and put it into camera mode when pressed. The phone comes with dual stereo speakers that produce virtual surround sound. Amazon wants the phone to be distinctive for its ability to provide video content, both from a hardware and software perspective.
The Fire Phone runs Mayday, Amazon's live tech support service for devices. They also demonstrated Firefly, software that recognizes physical objects using the phone's camera, as well as TV shows and songs it hears. It runs quickly, often identifying things in less than a second (and it pulls up an Amazon product listing, of course). It can even recognize art. Firefly has its own dedicated physical button on the phone, and Amazon is providing a Firefly SDK to third parties who want to develop with it. Another major feature of the Fire Phone is what Amazon calls "dynamic perspective." Using multiple front-facing cameras, the phone tracks the position of a user's head, and uses that to slightly adjust what's displayed on the screen so content is easier to see from the new angle. It allows for gesture control of the phone — for example, you can tilt the phone to scroll a web page or move your head slightly look around a 2-D stadium image when browsing for available seats. Putting your thumb on the screen acts like a mute button for the head tracking, so it isn't confused when you look up from the screen or turn your head to talk to somebody. It's an impressive piece of software, and they've made an SDK available for it.
Graculus (3653645) writes with this excerpt from the BBC: Codebreakers credited with shortening World War Two worked in Bletchley Park, in structures built to last only a few years. Now, following a painstaking restoration, they have been brought back to life and Wednesday's official opening marks a remarkable turnaround from top secrecy to world wide attraction. With no photographs of the insides to work with, Bletchley Park looked to its most valuable resource — the veterans who worked there. A museum at the site has already been opened. The structures were once perilously close to being lost forever (until Google stepped in).
LeadSongDog (1120683) writes The venerable Freecode site has today gone static, blaming low traffic. No new content is being accepted, but they continue to serve existing content. They recommend projects consider moving to Sourceforge. Probably obvious, but Freecode/SourceForge/Slashdot share a corporate parent.
mpicpp sends this news from the BBC: The U.K. government has revealed that intelligence service GCHQ can snoop on British citizens' use of Facebook, Twitter and Google without a warrant because the firms are based overseas. U.K. spy boss Charles Farr said that such platforms are classified as external communications. The policy was revealed as part of an ongoing legal battle with campaign group Privacy International (PI). PI said the interpretation of the law "patronizes the British people." According to Mr Farr, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and web searches on Google, as well as webmail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo are classified as "external communications," which means that they can be intercepted without the need for additional legal clearance."
v3rgEz writes: In the age of camera-equipped smart phones and inexpensive digital cameras, many high schoolers have never seen a roll of film or used an analog camera — much less developed film and paper prints in a darkroom. Among those that have, however, old school development has developed a serious cult following, with a number of high schools still finding a dedicated audience for the dark(room) arts.
jppiiroinen writes: At the end of 2007, when Nokia still had huge market share with Symbian devices, they failed to disclose that somebody had stolen their encryption keys and extorted them for millions of Euros. The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation has not been able to figure out who did it. "The blackmailer had gotten hold of the Symbian encryption key used for signing. The code is a few kilobytes in size. Had the key been leaked, Nokia would not have been able to ensure that the phones accept only applications approved by the company."
An anonymous reader writes: A proposal from Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate would require the FCC to stop ISPs from creating "internet fast lanes." Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, "Americans are speaking loud and clear. They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider." Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) added, "A free and open Internet is essential for consumers. Our country cannot afford 'pay-for-play' schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets." Unfortunately, this is only half a solution — the bill doesn't actually add to the FCC's authority. It only requires them to use the authority they currently have, which is questionable at best.
Sockatume writes: In a statement to the Financial Times and reported by the BBC, Google has confirmed that it will remove the music videos of independent artists unless they sign up to its upcoming subscription music service. Many independent musicians and labels have refused to do so, claiming that the contracts offer significantly worse deals than the likes of Spotify and Pandora, and that Google is unwilling to negotiate on the rates it offers artists. A Google spokesperson indicated that the company could start removing videos within days.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Made In China." It's a sticker we all know too well here in the U.S., and yet, it seems not everything we buy is made in China. To date, there haven't been Chinese-built cars in the U.S., but we keep hearing they are coming. Now it seems it's about to become a reality, as Chinese-built Volvos will be arriving in the U.S. as early as 2015. The first model to arrive will be the S60L. The payoff for Volvo if it manages to convince buyers that its cars built in China are just as good as those currently built in Europe is vast. Not only will it save on production costs, but it will help buffer against exchange rate fluctuations. Volvo's planning to make China a manufacturing hub, and that makes sense since it's now owned by Chinese parent company Geely. But will Chinese-built cars be just as good as European-built cars, and will consumers be able to tell the difference?
An anonymous reader writes In the aftermath of the European Court of Justice "right to be forgotten" decision, many asked whether a similar ruling could arise elsewhere. While a privacy-related ruling has yet to hit Canada, Michael Geist reports that last week a Canadian court relied in part on the decision in issuing an unprecedented order requiring Google to remove websites from its global index. The ruling is unusual since its reach extends far beyond Canada. Rather than ordering the company to remove certain links from the search results available through Google.ca, the order intentionally targets the entire database, requiring the company to ensure that no one, anywhere in the world, can see the search results.