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5.8 Earthquake Hits East Coast of the US 614

At 1:51 p.m. EDT a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia (map of reported tremors). Reports indicate it was felt along most of the east coast (my monitor and floor definitely wobbled a bit down here in Raleigh NC) with reported evacuations of government buildings at least in DC. QuantumPion noted that the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station is located only a few miles from the epicenter, and the NRC has confirmed the plant automatically shut down with no apparent damage. For folks who like that sort of thing, there is a hashtag on Twitter, and the WSJ has a page with live updates on the situation.

Can Google Fix the Cable Box? 223

theodp writes "In purchasing Motorola Mobility, Slate's Farhad Manjoo reports that Google will also come into possession of one the nation's biggest suppliers of set-top boxes. So, can Google work some of its do-no-evil magic on the loathsome cable box? Don't bet on it, says Manjoo. For one thing, there's no evidence that Google would be very good at remaking the set-top box (Google TV, anyone?). But even if Google managed to dramatically improve set-top boxes, it's doubtful that cable and satellite companies would buy in. First, they'd lose all those ridiculously lucrative cable-box rental fees. More importantly, they'd have to give up control of the main entertainment device in most homes, and with it the opportunity to slow or stymie competing sources for entertainment. After the merger, notes Manjoo, Google could get several billion dollars by selling off Motorola Mobility's set-top-box division — a much surer payday than taking on Big Cable."

Paul Ceglia: Facebook Is Doing the Forgery, Not Me 135

An anonymous reader writes "Last week, Facebook said it found the original 'authentic contract' between Mark Zuckerberg and Paul Ceglia, a man who claims he owns half of the company according to a 2003 contract. Now, Ceglia says the original 'authentic contract' Facebook claims to have found is really just a Photoshopped image the company planted on his computer."

Feds' Radios Have Significant Security Flaws 84

OverTheGeicoE writes "The Wall Street Journal has a story describing how the portable radios used by many federal law enforcement agents have major security flaws that allow for easy eavesdropping and jamming. Details are in a new study being released today (PDF). The authors of the study were able to intercept hundreds of hours of sensitive traffic inadvertently sent without encryption over the past two years. They also describe how a texting toy targeted at teenage girls can be modified to jam transmissions from the affected radios, either encrypted or not."

S&P's $2 Trillion Math Mistake 1040

Last friday Moody's S&P announced that they had downgraded the U.S.'s credit rating (leading to a pretty huge discussion on Slashdot I might add). Since then more interesting news has come out, suraj.sun writes "In a document provided to Treasury on Friday afternoon, Standard and Poor's (S&P) presented a judgment about the credit rating of the U.S. that was based on a $2 trillion mistake. After Treasury pointed out this error — a basic math error of significant consequence — S&P still chose to proceed with their flawed judgment by simply changing their principal rationale for their credit rating decision from an economic one to a political one. S&P incorrectly added that same $2.1 trillion in deficit reduction to an entirely different baseline where discretionary funding levels grow with nominal GDP over the next 10 years. Relative to this alternative baseline, the Budget Control Act will save more than $4 trillion over ten years — or over $2 trillion more than S&P calculated. S&P acknowledged this error — in private conversations with Treasury on Friday afternoon and then publicly early Saturday morning. In the interim, they chose to issue a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating."

AptiQuant Browser/IQ Study Was Likely a Hoax 185

A steady stream of people have submitted notes this morning saying that the story we (and the entire internet, and even NPR's Marketplace) mentioned recently talking about browser platform correlating with IQ looks like a hoax. Of course, if you read the Slashdot discussion, you probably would have known this already, but now everyone knows. The company responsible for the survey, AptiQuant, looks to not be real.

Missouri Law Says Students, Teachers Can't Be Facebook Friends 415

An anonymous reader writes "Teachers can be friendly with their students, but they can't be their friends, at least when it comes to social networks such as Facebook. State Governor Jay Nixon has signed Senate Bill 54, which goes into effect on August 28, 2011 in the state of Missouri. In other words, later this month it will be illegal for students and teachers to be friends online."

Microsoft Curbs Wi-Fi Location Database 69

suraj.sun writes "Microsoft has ceased publishing the estimated locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other devices with Wi-Fi connections around the world after a CNET article on Friday highlighted privacy concerns. The decision to rework's geolocation service comes following scrutiny of the way Microsoft made available its database assembled by both Windows Phone 7 phones and what the company calls 'managed driving' by Street View-like vehicles that record Wi-Fi signals accessible from public roads. Every Wi-Fi device has a unique ID, sometimes called a MAC address, that cannot normally be changed."

800Mbps Wireless Network Made With LED Light Bulbs 175

Mark.JUK writes "German scientists working at Berlin's Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications have set a new world record for Visible Light Communication technology after they succeeded in using regular red, blue, green and white LED light bulbs as the basis for building a new 800Mbps capable ultrafast Wireless Local Area Network. Dr. Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos explained: 'With the aid of a special component, the modulator, we turn the LEDs off and on in very rapid succession and transfer the information as ones and zeros. The modulation of the light is imperceptible to the human eye. A simple photo diode on the laptop acts as a receiver. The diode catches the light, electronics decode the information and translate it into electrical impulses, meaning the language of the computer.' The solution, which could be installed on ceilings and would cover approximately 10 square meters, would be ideal for HD video streaming and inside Hospitals or Aircraft where traditional Wi-Fi is often banned. However visible light signals can easily be blocked, such as when a hand is passed in front of the transmitter."

Detroit Maker Faire Was Kinda Awesome 138

I was excited to have a chance to go to the Detroit Maker Faire this year. I've always wanted to attend such a thing, but the stars never aligned. I saw an entire tent filled with DIY 3D Printers making strange objects including the coolest polyhedral dice ever. Utilikilts held in place with suspenders! Haberdashery! Quilting! Blacksmithing! Books! A Cupcake Car! Gomp! Beer! Remote control turtles! A giant hay bailer! Numerous strange pedal powered forms of locomotion, and an entire garrison of Star Wars costumes... Besides, it's not often you have the opportunity to witness a giant steel dragon blow fireballs in a parking lot. I've shared a giant collection of photos if you want to see these things and more for a taste of the inspiring insanity I can't wait for next year... and between now and then I have some projects to tackle.

Ask Slashdot: Geeky Volunteer Work? 229

An anonymous reader writes "I plan to be in-between jobs for 1-2 months later this year and use part of this time to do some volunteer work in Africa. My naive question: what to do and where to go? Is it possible to make good use of the skill-set of a typical geek? Any interesting projects worth supporting on-site?"

Cast-off Gadgets Spy on Owners (on Purpose for a Change) 73

Eric Smalley writes "For the project, dubbed Backtalk, researchers sent refurbished Netbooks to developing countries via nonprofit organizations. They set up the computers to record location and pictures, and send the data home to MIT--with their new owners' consent... The MIT team used the data to build visual narratives about the computers' new lives."

Gates: Not Much To Show For $5B Spent On Education 496

theodp writes "Since 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships. Ten years into his record-breaking philanthropic push for school reform, the WSJ reports that Bill Gates is sober about the investment and willing to admit some missteps. 'I applaud people for coming into this space,' said Gates, 'but unfortunately it hasn't led to significant improvements.' This understanding of just how little influence seemingly large donations can have has led the foundation to rethink its focus in recent years. Instead of trying to buy systemic reform with school-level investments, a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent. Despite the good intentions, some are expressing concerns about how billionaires and the Gates Foundation rule our schools, including the lack of transparency and spotty track record of the wealthy would-be reformers. Perhaps Gates should consider funding a skunkworks educational project for retired Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, who was working on networked, self-paced computer assisted instruction in 1974 — 36 years before Bill and Google discovered Khan Academy!"

"Spock, did you see the looks on their faces?" "Yes, Captain, a sort of vacant contentment."