Hugh Pickens writes "AFP reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is calling for an easing of the ban on using mobile phones and other electronic devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing, saying devices such as smartphones 'empower people' and can boost economic productivity. 'I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety,' the FCC chief said in the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The ban is in place based on the assumption that devices could interfere with an airplane's navigation equipment. But a number of news stories have questioned the validity of this claim, and many point out that some people forget to turn off their devices during flights. The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time. But not everyone has been forced to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year the FAA approved iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit for pilots, but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."
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hessian writes "In the next few days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to propose long-delayed regulations requiring auto manufacturers to include event data recorders — better known as 'black boxes' — in all new cars and light trucks. But the agency is behind the curve. Automakers have been quietly tucking the devices, which automatically record the actions of drivers and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop, into most new cars for years. Data collected by the recorders is increasingly showing up in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile accidents. Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray initially said that he wasn't speeding and that he was wearing his seat belt when he crashed a government-owned car last year. But the Ford Crown Victoria's data recorder told a different story: It showed the car was traveling more than 100 mph and Murray wasn't belted in."
another random user writes "Bitcoin-Central, a currency exchange that specialises in virtual cash, has won the right to operate as a bank. They got the go-ahead thanks to a deal with French financial firms Aqoba and Credit Mutuel. The exchange is one of many that swaps bitcoins, computer generated cash, for real world currencies. The change in status makes it easier to use bitcoins and bestows national protections on balances held at the exchange. Under European laws, the deal means Bitcoin-Central becomes a Payment Services Provider (PSP) that has an International Bank ID number. This puts it on an equal footing with other payment networks such as PayPal and WorldPay. As a PSP it will be able to issue debit cards, carry out real-time transfers to other banks and accept transfers into its own coffers."
Bruce66423 writes "A number of British councils are being banned from accessing the national Vehicle Database system. While sometimes this appears to be due to technical infractions, the banning of some 'permanently' seems to be as a result of more serious misdemeanours. Trust the government? Not a good idea..."
kc67 writes "Nintendo of Europe is blocking Wii U content in the region that is rated PEGI 18+ between the hours of 3 a.m. and 11 p.m., according to a Eurogamer report. Under these stipulations, the four-hour window of 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. is the only time users can purchase games like ZombiU or Assassin's Creed III or even view trailers for such games. The story originated from a NeoGAF forum user, which reportedly received an email from Nintendo saying the following: 'Dear customer, we would like to let you know that Nintendo has always aimed to offer gameplay experiences suited to all age groups, observing carefully all the relevant regulations regarding content access that are present in the various European countries. We have thus decided to restrict the access to content which is unsuitable to minors (PEGI) to the 11 p.m.- 3 a.m. time window.' Eurogamer has since verified the claim. It received a message stating 'You cannot view this content' and 'The times during which this content can be viewed have been restricted.' Nintendo has yet to comment on the matter."
jcreus writes "After struggling for some years with Nvidia cards (the laptop from which I am writing this has two graphic cards, an Intel one and Nvidia one, and is a holy mess [I still haven't been able to use the Nvidia card]) and, encouraged by Torvalds' middle finger speech, I've decided to ditch Nvidia for something better. I am expecting to buy another laptop and, this time, I'd like to get it right from the start. It would be interesting if it had decent graphics support and, in general, were Linux friendly. While I know Dell has released a Ubuntu laptop, it's way off-budget. My plan is to install Ubuntu, Kubuntu (or even Debian), with dual boot unfortunately required." So: what's the state of the art for out-of-the-box support?
An anonymous reader writes "Apple's most famous multitouch software patents are increasingly coming under invalidation pressure. First the rubber-banding patent and now a patent that Apple's own lawyers planned to introduce to a Chicago jury as 'the Jobs patent.' U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 covers a method for distinguishing vertical and horizontal gestures from diagonal movements based on an initial angle of movement. For example, everything up to a slant of 27 degrees would be considered vertical or horizontal, and everything else diagonal. The patent office now seems to think that Apple didn't invent the concept of 'heuristics' after all."
McGruber writes "The Washington Post reports that the Washington Post, and local newspapers owned by Warren Buffett, are all planning to follow the New York Times and install metered paywalls." Buffett's got more than 80 papers right now, and hasn't quit buying them. There's some time to read the WaPo sans paywall, but by mid-year it may be up.
New submitter OldTimeRadio writes "Over the last month, both game publishers and gaming communities alike were surprised to find their GameSpy multiplayer support suddenly disabled by GLU Mobile, who purchased GameSpy from IGN this August. Many games, including Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Swat 4, Sniper Elite, Hidden and Dangerous 2, Wings of War, Star Wars: Battlefront are no longer able to find (and in some cases even host) multiplayer games. While games like Neverwinter Nights are still able to directly connect to servers if players know the IP address, less-fortunate gamers expressed outrage on GLU Mobile's 'Powered by GameSpy' Facebook page. In an open letter to their Sniper Elite gaming community today, UK game developer Rebellion explained it was helpless to change the situation: 'A few weeks ago, the online multiplayer servers for Sniper Elite were suddenly switched off by Glu, the third-party service we had been paying to maintain them. This decision by Glu was not taken in consultation with us and was beyond our control. We have been talking to them since to try and get the servers turned back on. We have been informed that in order to do so would cost us tens of thousands of pounds a year — far in excess of how much we were paying previously. We also do not have the option to take the multiplayer to a different provider. Because the game relies on Glu and Gamespy's middleware, the entire multiplayer aspect of the game would have to be redeveloped by us, again, at the cost of many tens of thousands of pounds.""
New submitter mrvan writes "Guido van Rossum, the proclaimed Python Benevolent Dictator For Life, has left Google to work for Dropbox. In their announcement, Dropbox says they relied heavily on Python from the beginning, citing a mix of simplicity, flexibility, and elegance, and are excited to have GvR on the team. While this is, without a doubt, good news for Dropbox, the big question is what this will mean for Python (and for Google)."
New submitter Sesostris III writes "In April 2010, with £20,000 of government money, 6uk was set up to encourage the adoption of the IPv6 protocol in the UK. In December 2012 the board resigned en-masse in protest at official indifference to its work. 'The biggest organization we needed to join 6UK was the government,' the former director, Philip Sheldrake, is quoted as saying. Without government support, 'there's no material incentive for any organization to go for IPv6.' Government interest can be gauged by the fact that no government website currently sat on an IPv6 address. The UK is among the nations that have done the least to move to IPv6, and lags behind other nations in adopting the new protocol. In contrast, governments like that in the U.S. are encouraging adoption of the new protocol by mandating IPv6 compliance in contracts."
grrlscientist writes "Proving that robots aren't just for people any longer, an African grey parrot, Pepper, has learned to drive a robot that was specially designed for him. Pepper, whose wings are clipped to preventing him from flying around his humans' house and destroying their things, now manipulates the joystick on his riding robot to guide it to where ever he wishes to go. This robotic 'bird buggy' was the brainchild of his human companion, Andrew Gray, a 29-year-old electrical and computer engineering graduate student at the University of Florida."
New submitter kc67 sends this report from ABC: "Five years after the iPhone originally launched in 2007, T-Mobile will finally start carrying it. It might not be as buzz-worthy as when Verizon finally got the iPhone back in 2011, but it's going to be a pretty big deal for T-Mobile subscribers next year, when the carrier starts selling Apple products. ... T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere said while speaking at the Deutsche Telekom conference Thursday that it will carry the iPhone and will offer it in a different way. 'What was missing? A certain number of customers wouldn't come to the store if we didn't have the iPhone,' Legere said. 'We worked very, very hard for a deal that made sense for us.'"
MrSeb writes "An international team of engineers, physicists, and chemists have created the first fiber-optic solar cell. These fibers are thinner than human hair, flexible, and yet they produce electricity, just like a normal solar cell. The U.S. military is already interested in weaving these threads into clothing, to provide a wearable power source for soldiers. In essence, the research team started with optical fibers made from glass — and then, using high-pressure chemical vapor deposition, injected n-, i-, and p-type silicon into the fiber, turning it into a solar cell (abstract). Functionally, these silicon-doped fiber-optic threads are identical to conventional solar cells, generating electricity from the photovoltaic effect. Whereas almost every solar cell on the market is crafted out of 2D, planar amorphous silicon on a rigid/brittle glass substrate, though, these fiber-optic solar cells have a 3D cross-section and retain the glass fiber's intrinsic flexibility. The lead researcher, John Badding of Penn State University, says the team has already produced 'meters-long fiber,' and that their new technique could be used to create 'bendable silicon solar-cell fibers of over 10 meters in length.' From there, it's simply a matter of weaving the thread into a fabric."
pigrabbitbear writes "A new study (abstract) from Michigan State University shows that media multitasking exhibits a strong correlation with social anxiety and depression. Importantly, the direction of causality remains to be seen: Does multi-tasking make us more anxious and depressed? Or, as the study's leader, Mark W. Becker, an assistant professor of psychology, put it in an email, 'are depressed and anxious [people] turning toward media multitasking as a form of distraction?' The results of this study aren't conclusive in that regard, he says. But they're an important step. 'While that question will not be easy to answer, it is worth pursing because the practical implications of the findings depend on the causal direction,' he said."