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itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.
43 comments | 9 hours ago
Their website says, 'Come for the code, stay for the people! We have awesome attendees and electrifying parties. Check out the robotics club, the automated home brewing system running on Linux, or the game room for extra conference fun.' This is an all-volunteer conference, and for a change the volunteers who run it are getting things together far in advance instead of having sessions that don't get scheduled until a few days before the conference, which has happened more than once with LFNW.
So if you have an idea for a session, this is the time to start thinking about it. Sponsors are also welcome -- and since LFNW sponsorships regularly sell out, it's not to soon to start thinking about becoming a sponsor -- and if you are part of a non-profit group or FOSS project, LFNW offers free exhibit space because this is a conference that exists for the community, not to make money for a corporate owner. But don't delay. As you can imagine, those free exhibit spots tend to fill up early. (Alternate Video Link)
20 comments | 13 hours ago
HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).
In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
51 comments | yesterday
First time accepted submitter groggy.android writes This year's biggest news about Bitcoin may well turn out not to be the repeat of its surge in value last year against the dollar and other state currencies but its impending eclipse by another independent but corporate-backed digital currency. Popularly known as Ripple, XRP shot up in value last year along with other cryptocurrencies that took advantage of the hype around Bitcoin. However, among the top cryptocurrencies listed in Coinmarketcap.com, a site that monitors trading across different cryptocurrency exchanges, Ripple is the only one that not only regained its value after the collapse in the price of Bitcoin but has more than doubled from its peak last year. In September it displaced Litecoin to become the second most valuable cryptocurrency. Even more surpising, a Ripple fork, Stellar, is one of the two other cryptocurrencies in the Coinmarketcap top ten that have risen sharply in value during the last few weeks.
What makes Ripple different from Bitcoin? Strictly speaking, Ripple isn't the name of the digital currency but of the decentralized payment network and protocol created and maintained by the eponymous Ripple Labs. Users of the Ripple system are able to transact in both cryptocurrency and regular fiat currency like the dollar without passing through a central exchange. XRP is the name of the native unit of exchange used in the Ripple network to facilitate conversion between different currency types.
142 comments | 2 days ago
will_die writes Because of recent currency devaluation Steam has now added region locking for games sold in Russia and CIS. Brazil and local area and Indonesia and local area are also being locked. If you purchase a game from one of those regions you cannot gift it to somone outside of the area. So someone from Russia can gift a game to someone to Georgia [Note: This Georgia, rather than this one, that is.] but not to someone in the USA. You want to see the prices in the Russia store and compare them to the Steam Christmas Sale which should be starting in a few hours.
154 comments | 2 days ago
tobiasly writes The country's top five theater chains — Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment — have decided not to play Sony's The Interview. This comes after the group which carried off a massive breach of its networks threatened to carry out "9/11-style attacks" on theaters that showed the film. Update: Sony has announced that it has cancelled the planned December 25 theatrical release.
579 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.
When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."
653 comments | 2 days ago
New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.
191 comments | 3 days ago
mpicpp sends this report from CNN: Uber has rolled back employee access to its "God view" mode, which allows the company to track riders' locations and other data. The ride service company was faced with questions about its privacy policies from U.S. Senator Al Franken, following a series of recent privacy debacles. Uber's updated policy is detailed in its response to the senator's questions. Franken sent Uber a letter (PDF, Uber's response) in November after news reports made two things clear: The ride service company collects lots of data on customers — and some executives don't exercise that power responsibly. In one case, an Uber employee using "God View" easily tracked a reporter's movements on her way to a meeting.
76 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: In a scathing indictment of NASA's bureaucracy, the Washington Post documents a $349 million project to construct a laboratory tower that was closed as soon as it was finished. From the article: "[The tower was] designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. ... As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially 'mothballed' — closed up and left empty — without ever being used. ... The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010. ... The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn't need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse. ... Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space. In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift."
196 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes For about an hour on Friday a few lucky Amazon UK shoppers were able to take advantage of a price glitch which discounted thousands of marketplace products to the price of 1p. An Amazon spokesman said: "We are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrect prices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on Amazon.co.uk. We responded quickly and were able to cancel the vast majority of orders placed on these affected items immediately and no costs or fees will be incurred by sellers for these cancelled orders. We are now reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers directly."
138 comments | 4 days ago
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.
190 comments | 4 days ago
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."
155 comments | 4 days ago
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.
433 comments | 5 days ago
Lasrick writes Energy expert H-Holger Rogner walks through the realities of the shale-gas boom, the 'game-changer' that has brought about a drop in energy prices and greatly reduced carbon emissions. But despite the positive impact on carbon emissions, Rogner points out that the cheap gas brought about by fracking shale may already be affecting investments into renewable energy, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency by offering more attractive investment opportunities: 'At today's prices of $4 to $5 per million British thermal units, gas-fired electricity holds a definite competitive advantage over new nuclear construction and unsubsidized renewables.' But natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide. 'A much higher share of natural gas in the energy mix would eventually raise emissions again, especially if gas not only displaces coal but also non-fossil energy sources. Moreover, methane, the chief component of natural gas, is itself a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. If total methane leakage—from drilling through end use—is greater than about 4 percent, that could negate any climate benefits of switching from coal and oil to gas.'
390 comments | about a week ago
With the holidays coming up, Bennett Haselton has updated his geek-oriented gift guide for 2014. He says: Some of my favorite gifts to give are still the ones that were listed in several different previously written posts, while a few new cool gift ideas emerged in 2014. Here are all my current best recommendations, listed in one place. Read on for the list, or to share any suggestions of your own.
113 comments | about a week ago
Rei writes Julian Assange, from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, has recently taken to Twitter to try to raise nearly $200,000 for a life-size bronze statue of himself. The statue would have him standing front and center between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (with Manning pictured as male); the art piece would be then shipped around the world on tour.
171 comments | about a week ago
schwit1 writes The Army's ever-growing use of unmanned aerial systems has gotten to the point where two of the most commonly used UAS are getting their own airport. The service's Corps of Engineers at Fort Worth, Texas, has awarded a $33 million contract to SGS to build a 150-acre unmanned aircraft launch and recovery complex at Fort Bliss for Grey Eagle and Shadow UAS. In related news, the FAA has just cleared 4 companies (Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc.) to use drones commercially, for purposes such as site inspection and aerial surveys. (A lot of drones are already in use, of course, but the FAA doesn't like it.)
48 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes A new page in the help guide in the payment information of Microsoft's website reveals that the Redmond giant is now accepting Bitcoin as a payment method for products and services on Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. Currently the payments must go through to credit a Microsoft Wallet account, and the service is initially only available to U.S. users. But the wording of the new page combines with an expansive year for Microsoft and a number of positive statements about Bitcoin from Bill Gates to indicate that this first step is more than just an experiment. Microsoft is now the largest commercial entity accepting the Bitcoin currency, which it processes via the BitPay system, thus protecting the company from fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin. Also at CNN Money.
107 comments | about a week ago
sciencehabit writes For an agency regularly called 'adrift' without a mission, NASA will at least float through next year with a boatload of money for its science programs. Yesterday Congress reached agreement on a spending deal for fiscal year 2015 that boosts the budget of the agency's science mission by nearly 2% to $5.24 billion. The big winner within the division is planetary sciences, which received $160 million more than the president's 2015 request in March. Legislators also maintained support for an infrared telescope mounted on a Boeing 747, a project that the White House had proposed grounding. NASA's overall budget also rose by 2%, to $18 billion. That's an increase of $364 million over 2014 levels, and half a billion dollars beyond the agency's request.
121 comments | about two weeks ago