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Patents

Patent Trolls On the Run But Not Vanquished Yet 14

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-forget-the-fire dept.
snydeq writes Strong legislation that will weaken the ability of the trolls to shake down innovators is likely to pass Congress, but more should be done, writes InfoWorld's Bill Snyder. "The Innovation Act isn't an ideal fix for the program patent system. But provisions in the proposed law, like one that will make trolls pay legal costs if their claims are rejected, will remove a good deal of the risk that smaller companies face when they decide to resist a spurious lawsuit," Snyder writes. That said, "You'd have to be wildly optimistic to think that software patents will be abolished. Although the EFF's proposals call for the idea to be studied, [EFF attorney Daniel] Nazer doesn't expect it to happen; he instead advocates several reforms not contained in the Innovation Act."
Facebook

Facebook Puts Users On Suicide Watch 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-an-eye-on-things dept.
Mark Wilson writes A few months ago Twitter was criticized for teaming up with suicide prevention charity Samaritans to automatically monitor for key words and phrases that could indicate that someone was struggling to cope with life. Despite the privacy concerns that surrounded Samaritans Radar, Facebook has decided that it is going to launch a similar program in a bid to prevent suicides. Working with mental health organizations including Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Save.org, Facebook aims to provide greater help and support for anyone considering suicide or self-harm.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Old PC File Transfer Problem 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'll-never-let-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes I have an old Compaq Contura Aero laptop from the nineties (20 Mhz, 12 Mb RAM, Windows 3.11, 16-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT, floppy) with 160 Mb drive that I would want to copy in full to a newer machine. The floppies are so unreliable — between Aero's PCMCIA floppy drive and USB floppy disk drive — that it is a total nightmare to try and do it; it just doesn't work. If that option is excluded, what else can I do? I have another old laptop with Windows XP (32-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT) that could be used; all other machines are too new and lack ports. Will be grateful for any ideas.
Biotech

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-test-subject-35 dept.
sciencehabit writes Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. "This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness," says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.
Security

OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the protect-yourself-before-somebody-wrecks-yourself dept.
Nicola Hahn writes: "In the wake of the Snowden revelations strong encryption has been promoted by organizations like The Intercept and Freedom of the Press Foundation as a solution for safeguarding privacy against the encroachment of Big Brother. Even President Obama acknowledges that "there's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption."

Yet the public record shows that over the years the NSA has honed its ability to steal encryption keys. Recent reports about the compromise of Gemalto's network and sophisticated firmware manipulation programs by the Office of Tailored Access Operations underscore this reality.

The inconvenient truth is that the current cyber self-defense formulas being presented are conspicuously incomplete. Security tools can and will fail. And when they do, what then? It's called Operational Security (OPSEC), a topic that hasn't received much coverage — but it should.
Printer

3D Printers Making Inroads In Kitchens 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the license-to-print-honey dept.
mpicpp sends an article from Fortune about the tiny industry springing up around food-related 3D printing. While such devices are still too expensive and too special-purpose for home kitchens, professionals in restaurants and large cafeterias are figuring out ways they can automate certain time-intensive tasks. For example, pasta: "If the user is making a recipe for ravioli, for instance, the [device] prints the bottom layer of dough, the filling and the top dough layer in subsequent steps. It reduces a lengthy recipe to two minutes construction time and ensures that no one has to clean a countertop caked with leftover dough and flour." The companies developing these 3D printers hope they'll be this generation's version of the microwave, gradually finding a use in almost every kitchen.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Goals For Their New Web Rendering Engine 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the learning-from-mistakes dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft has put up a post about explaining what they wanted to accomplish when they started working on Project Spartan, the new web browser that will ship with Windows 10. They say some things you wouldn't expect to hear from Microsoft: "We needed a plan to make it easy for Web developers to build compatible sites regardless of which browser they develop first for. We needed a plan which ensured that our customers have a good experience regardless of whether they browse the head or tail of the Web. We needed a plan which gave enterprise customers a highly backward compatible browser regardless of how quickly we pushed forward with modern HTML5 features." They also explain how they decided against using WebKit so they wouldn't contribute to "a monoculture on the Web."
Programming

The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-the-managers-who-want-them-dead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: This article has a look inside the #NoEstimates movement, which wants to rid the software world of time estimates for projects. Programmers argue that estimates are wrong too often and a waste of time. Other stakeholders believe they need those estimates to plan and to keep programmers accountable. Is there a middle ground? Quoting: "Software project estimates are too often wrong, and the more time we throw at making them, the more we steal from the real work of building software. Also: Managers have a habit of treating developers' back-of-the-envelope estimates as contractual deadlines, then freaking out when they're missed. And wait, there's more: Developers, terrified by that prospect, put more and more energy into obsessive trips down estimation rabbit-holes. Estimation becomes a form of "yak-shaving" — a ritual enacted to put off actual work."
Facebook

Facebook's Colonies 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the sun-always-sets-on-the-facebook-empire dept.
sarahnaomi writes: Facebook this week released a major report on global internet access, as part of the company's Internet.org campaign, which aims to bring cheap internet to new markets in partnership with seven mobile companies. Facebook says 1.39 billion people used its product in December 2014, and it's natural for the company to try to corral the other four-fifths of the planet. But aside from ideals and growth markets, the report highlights a tension inherent to the question of access: When Facebook sets sail to disconnected markets, what version of the internet will it bring? In its report, Facebook advocates for closing the digital divide as quickly as we can, which is a good thing. But when Facebook argues that, "as use of the internet continues to expand, it will exert a powerful effect on the global economy, particularly in the developing world," it's arguing that any increase in access is inherently good, which isn't necessarily the case.
Android

Who's Afraid of Android Fragmentation? 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the aside-from-actual-androids dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The dreaded term "fragmentation" has been applied to Android more times than anyone can count over the past half-decade. That's part of the reason why game developers often build for iOS before Android, even though Android offers a bigger potential customer base worldwide, and more types of gaming experiences. Fortunately, new sets of tools allow game developers to build for one platform and port their work (fairly) easily to another. "We've done simultaneously because it is such a simple case of swapping out the textures and also hooking up different APIs for scores and achievements," London-based indie developer Tom Vian told Dice. "I've heard that iOS is a better platform to launch on first, but there's no sense for us in waiting when we can spend half a day and get it up and running." So is fragmentation an overhyped roadblock, or is it a genuine problem for developers who work in mobile?
The Internet

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules 530

Posted by Soulskill
from the done-and-done dept.
muggs sends word that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to approve an expansion of their ability to regulate ISPs by treating them as a public utility. Under the rules, it will be illegal for companies such as Verizon or Cox Communications to slow down streaming videos, games and other online content traveling over their networks. They also will be prohibited from establishing "fast lanes" that speed up access to Web sites that pay an extra fee. And in an unprecedented move, the FCC could apply the rules to wireless carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint -- a nod to the rapid rise of smartphones and the mobile Internet. ... The FCC opted to regulate the industry with the most aggressive rules possible: Title II of the Communications Act, which was written to regulate phone companies. The rules waive a number of provisions in the act, including parts of the law that empower the FCC to set retail prices — something Internet providers feared above all. However, the rules gives the FCC a variety of new powers, including the ability to: enforce consumer privacy rules; extract money from Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators and the poor; and make sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily.
Security

Schneier: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not From Them 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Bruce Schneier has written another insightful piece about the how modern tech companies treat security. He points out that most organizations will tell you to secure your data while at the same time asking to be exempt from that security. Google and Facebook want your data to be safe — on their servers so they can analyze it. The government wants you to encrypt your communications — as long as they have the keys. Schneier says, "... we give lots of companies access to our data because it makes our lives easier. ... The reason the Internet is a worldwide mass-market phenomenon is that all the technological details are hidden from view. Someone else is taking care of it. We want strong security, but we also want companies to have access to our computers, smart devices, and data. We want someone else to manage our computers and smart phones, organize our e-mail and photos, and help us move data between our various devices. ... We want our data to be secure, but we want someone to be able to recover it all when we forget our password. We'll never solve these security problems as long as we're our own worst enemy.
AI

Machine Intelligence and Religion 420

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-god-can't-let-you-do-that dept.
itwbennett writes: Earlier this month Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek raised eyebrows on the Internet by stating his belief that Christians should seek to convert Artificial Intelligences to Christianity if and when they become autonomous. Of course that's assuming that robots are born atheists, not to mention that there's still a vast difference between what it means to be autonomous and what it means to be human. On the other hand, suppose someone did endow a strong AI with emotion – encoded, say, as a strong preference for one type of experience over another, coupled with the option to subordinate reasoning to that preference upon occasion or according to pattern. what ramifications could that have for algorithmic decision making?
Operating Systems

The State of Linux Gaming In the SteamOS Era 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the penguins-learning-to-rocket-jump dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's been over a year since Valve announced its Linux-based SteamOS, the biggest push yet from a huge company to bring mainstream gaming to Linux. In this article, Ars Technica takes a look at how their efforts are panning out. Game developers say making Linux ports has gotten dramatically easier: "There are great games shipping for Linux from development teams with no Linux expertise. They hit the 'export to Linux' button in the Unity editor and shipped it and it worked out alright. We didn't get flying cars, but the future is turning out OK so far."

Hardware drivers are still a problem, getting in the way of potential performance gains due to Linux's overall smaller resource footprint than Windows. And while the platform is growing, it's doing so slowly. Major publishers are still hesitant to devote time to Linux, and Valve is taking their time building for it. Their Steam Machine hardware is still in development, and some of their key features are being adopted by other gaming giants, like Microsoft. Still, Valve is sticking with it, and that's huge. It gives developers faith that they can work on supporting Linux without fear that the industry will re-fragment before their game is done.
Security

Lizard Squad Claims Attack On Lenovo Days After Superfish 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-publicity-is-bad-publicity dept.
Amanda Parker writes with news that hacker group Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for a defacement of Lenovo's website. This follows last week's revelations that Lenovo installed Superfish adware on consumer laptops, which included a self-signed certificate authority that could have allowed man-in-the-middle attacks. The hackers seemingly replaced the manufacturer's website with images of an unidentified youth, displayed with a song from the Disney film High School Musical playing in the background. Taking to a new Twitter account that has only been active a matter of days, the Lizards also posted emails alleged to be from Lenovo, leading some to speculate that the mail system had been compromised. While some have seen the attack as retaliation for the Superfish bug, it is also possible that Lizard Squad are jumping on the event merely to promote their own hacking services.
Earth

Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics 364

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
HughPickens.com writes: John Schwartz reports at the NY Times that prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships." Grijalva asked for each university's policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, "communications regarding the funding" and "all drafts" of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. "Corporate special interests shouldn't be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy," said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called "denial-for-hire operations."

The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as "deliverables." Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change," says Kert Davies.
Space

12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
sciencehabit writes: A team of astronomers has discovered what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang. It's roughly 3000 times the size of our Milky Way's central black hole. To have grown to such a size in so short a time, it must have been munching matter at close to the maximum physically possible rate for most of its existence. Its large size and rate of consumption also makes it the brightest object in that distant era, and astronomers can use its bright light to study the composition of the early universe: how much of the original hydrogen and helium from the big bang had been forged into heavier elements in the furnaces of stars.
Government

Drones Cost $28,000 Per Arrest, On Average 255

Posted by Soulskill
from the tag-and-release-even-more-expensive dept.
mpicpp sends this report from CNN: They are sleek, mostly silent converted weapons of war: Drones used by the Border Patrol to scan the skies in the empty deserts of the Southwest to spot illegal immigrants and then, if things work out, have agents arrest them. That's the idea, and the agents who use them say the drones give them a vantage point they never had before. Flying at 18,000 feet, the drones view the landscape below, lock onto potential suspects crossing the Arizona desert, and agents on the ground move into make the arrests. But it's outrageously expensive: $28,000 for a single arrest.
Intel

Intel To Rebrand Atom Chips Along Lines of Core Processors 101

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-consistent dept.
angry tapir writes Intel has announced that going forward it will use style of branding for its Atom chips that is similar to its branding for Core chips. Atom CPUs will have the X3, X5 and X7 designations, much like with the Core i3, i5 and i7 brands. An Atom X3 will deliver good performance, X5 will be better and X7 will be the best, an Intel spokeswoman said.
Microsoft

Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10 451

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
jones_supa writes A lot of people got upset about the flat looks of Modern UI presented in Windows 8. Recent builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview have now started replacing the shell icons, and to some people they are just too much to bear. Basically, Microsoft opted to change the icons in search of a fresh and modern look, but there are plenty of people out there who claim that all these new icons are actually very ugly and the company would better stick to the previous design. To find out what people think about these icons, Softpedia asked its readers to tell their opinion and the messages received in the last couple of days pretty much speak for themselves. There are only few testers who think that these icons look good, but the majority wants Microsoft to change them before the final version of the operating system comes out.