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Verizon Now Throttling Top 'Unlimited' Subscribers On 4G LTE
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 01:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's we-meant-un-un-un-unlimited department:
PC Magazine (along with Forbes, Reuters, and others) reports that those on the rightmost edge of the graph for Verizon's "unlimited" 4G LTE service are about to hit a limit: [T]hose in the top five percent of Verizon's unlimited data users (which requires one to pull down an average of just around 4.7 gigabytes of monthly data or so) who are enrolled on an unlimited data plan and have fulfilled their minimum contract terms (are now on a month-to-month plan) will be subject to network throttling if they're trying to connect up to a cellular tower that's experiencing high demand." As the article goes on to point out, though,
[A] user would have to hit all of these criteria in order to have his or her connection slowed down. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, giving even more weight to the fact that Verizon's throttling — while annoying on paper — won't affect a considerable majority of those still holding on to their unlimited data plans.

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Bad "Buss Duct" Causes Week-long Closure of 5,000 Employee Federal Complex
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's something-to-be-indignant-about department:
McGruber (1417641) writes In Atlanta, an electrical problem in a "Buss Duct" has caused the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center to be <a>closed for at least a week. 5,000 federal employees work at the center. While many might view this as another example of </a> The Infrastructure Crisis in the USA, it might actually be another example of mismanagement at the complex's landlord, the General Service Administration (GSA). Probably no one wants to go to work in an Atlanta July without a working A/C.

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Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's we-know-why-you're-reading-it department:
Nate the greatest (2261802) writes with news made public Friday that Apple has acquired a little known ebook company called Booklamp, a small Idaho-based ebook startup which is best known for the Book Genome Project. First shown off to the world in 2008, this project was conceived by Booklamp founder and CEO Aaron Stanton as a way of analyzing a book's pacing, dialog, perspective, genre, and other details in order to identify a book's unique DNA. Booklamp has been using the tech to sell various services to publishers, tech companies, and the like, but Booklamps's existing contracts were apparently cancelled earlier this year.

According to one industry insider the deal happened in April, but Apple managed to keep the news under wraps until just last night. No one knows for sure how Apple will use booklamp but there is speculation that Apple could launch an ebook subscription service similar to the week-old Kindle Unlimited, or they could just use Booklamp to drive ebook recommendations in what some are speculating is the world's second largest ebookstore.


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AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 10:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's everything-that-rises department:
theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."

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Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's burning-questions department:
First time accepted submitter jIyajbe (662197) writes Two researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics investigate the imaginary world of Kalgash, a planetary system based on the novel 'Nightfall' (Asimov & Silverberg, 1991). From the arXiv paper: "The system consists of a planet, a moon and an astonishing six suns. The six stars cause the wider universe to be invisible to the inhabitants of the planet. The author explores the consequences of an eclipse and the resulting darkness which the Kalgash people experience for the first time. Our task is to verify if this system is feasible, from the duration of the eclipse, the 'invisibility' of the universe to the complex orbital dynamics." Their conclusion? "We have explored several aspects of Asimov's novel. We have found that the suns, especially Dovim are bright enough to blot out the stars. Kalgash 2 can eclipse Dovim for a period of 9 hours. We also tested one possible star configuration and after running some simulations, we found that the system is possible for short periods of time."

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Greenpeace: Amazon Fire Burns More Coal and Gas Than It Should
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-enough-greenwashing department:
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The biggest thing that sets the Amazon Fire Phone apart from its Android and Apple competitors probably isn't the clean interface or the unlimited photo storage—it's the dirty power behind it. When Fire users upload their photos and data to Amazon's cloud, they'll be creating a lot more pollution than iPhone owners, Greenpeace says. Apple has made a commitment to running its iCloud on 100 percent clean energy. Amazon, meanwhile, operates the dirtiest servers of any major tech giant that operates its own servers—only 15 percent of its energy comes from clean sources, which is about the default national average." Greenpeace's jaundiced eye is on Amazon more generally; the company's new phone is just an example. Maybe Amazon or some other provider could take a page from some local utilities and let users signal their own preferences with a (surcharged) "clean energy" option.

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Household Robot Jibo Nets Over $1 Million On Indiegogo
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 07:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's one-meeeelion-dollars department:
mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.

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Private Data On iOS Devices Not So Private After All
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's it's-totally-intuitive department:
theshowmecanuck (703852) writes with this excerpt from Reuters summarizing the upshot of a talk that Jonathan Zdziarski gave at last weekend's HOPE conference:

Personal data including text messages, contact lists and photos can be extracted from iPhones through previously unpublicized techniques by Apple Inc employees, the company acknowledged this week. The same techniques to circumvent backup encryption could be used by law enforcement or others with access to the 'trusted' computers to which the devices have been connected, according to the security expert who prompted Apple's admission. Users are not notified that the services are running and cannot disable them, Zdziarski said. There is no way for iPhone users to know what computers have previously been granted trusted status via the backup process or block future connections.

If you'd rather watch and listen, Zdziarski has posted a video showing how it's done.

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Soccer Superstar Plays With Very Low Brain Activity
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 06:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's one-hemisphere-tied-behind-his-back department:
jones_supa (887896) writes "Brazilian superstar Neymar's (Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior) brain activity while dancing past opponents is less than 10 per cent the level of amateur players, suggesting he plays as if on "auto-pilot", according to Japanese neurologists Eiichi Naito and Satoshi Hirose. The findings were published in the Swiss journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience following a series of motor skills tests carried out on the 22-year-old Neymar and several other athletes in Barcelona in February this year. Three Spanish second-division footballers and two top-level swimmers were also subjected to the same tests. Researcher Naito told Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper: "Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows [the player] to perform many complex movements at once. We believe this gives him the ability to execute his various shimmies." In the research paper Naito concluded that the test results "provide valuable evidence that the football brain of Neymar recruits very limited neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements"."

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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's choking-hard department:
MojoKid (1002251) writes The ongoing battle between Netflix and ISPs that can't seem to handle the streaming video service's traffic, boiled over to an infuriating level for Colin Nederkoon, a startup CEO who resides in New York City. Rather than accept excuses and finger pointing from either side, Nederkoon did a little investigating into why he was receiving such slow Netflix streams on his Verizon FiOS connection. What he discovered is that there appears to be a clear culprit. Nederkoon pays for Internet service that promises 75Mbps downstream and 35Mbps upstream through his FiOS connection. However, his Netflix video streams were limping along at just 375kbps (0.375mbps), equivalent to 0.5 percent of the speed he's paying for. On a hunch, he decided to connect to a VPN service, which in theory should actually make things slower since it's adding extra hops. Speeds didn't get slower, they got much faster. After connecting to VyprVPN, his Netflix connection suddenly jumped to 3000kbps, the fastest the streaming service allows and around 10 times faster than when connecting directly with Verizon. Verizon may have a different explanation as to why Nederkoon's Netflix streams suddenly sped up, but in the meantime, it would appear that throttling shenanigans are taking place. It seems that by using a VPN, Verizon simply doesn't know which packets to throttle, hence the gross disparity in speed.

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Day One With the Brand New Oculus Rift DK2: the Good, the Ugly and the Games
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 03:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's he-was-there department:
muterobert (2927951) writes Paul James goes hands on with one of the first next-gen Oculus Rifts in the wild: "After much hacking (and some kind developer linkage) I stepped into a DK2 enabled version of Technolust and lost myself utterly! The stunning attention to detail, neon on black really lets the OLED panel shine here. In fact, this experience was the closest I think I've ever some to presence in virtual reality thus far. Leaning in to check the myriad retro objects, gawking at the lighting and just generally being blown away by the experience. This game was fabulous on the DK1, it's utterly compelling now."

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How Stanford Engineers Created a Fictitious Compression For HBO
Posted by News Fetcher on July 26 '14 at 12:01 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's buzzword-bingo department:
Tekla Perry (3034735) writes Professor Tsachy Weissman and Ph.D student Vinith Misra came up with (almost) believable compression algorithms for HBO's Silicon Valley. Some constraints -- they had to seem plausible, look good when illustrated on a whiteboard, and work with the punchline, "middle out." Next season the engineers may encourage producers to tackle the challenge of local decodability.

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Australian Government Moving Forward With Anti-Piracy Mandate For ISPs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 09:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's sniff-it-sniff-all-of-it department:
angry tapir (1463043) writes Australia is moving closer to a regime under which ISPs will be forced to block access to websites whose "dominant purpose" is to facilitate copyright violations. A secret government discussion paper (PDF) has been leaked and proposes a system of website blocking and expanded liability for ISPs when it comes to "reasonable steps that can be taken ... to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement."

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Cable Companies: We're Afraid Netflix Will Demand Payment From ISPs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 06:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's who-pays-whom-for-what department:
Dega704 (1454673) writes While the network neutrality debate has focused primarily on whether ISPs should be able to charge companies like Netflix for faster access to consumers, cable companies are now arguing that it's really Netflix who holds the market power to charge them. This argument popped up in comments submitted to the FCC by Time Warner Cable and industry groups that represent cable companies. (National Journal writer Brendan Sasso pointed this out.) The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents many companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter wrote to the FCC:

"Even if broadband providers had an incentive to degrade their customers' online experience in some circumstances, they have no practical ability to act on such an incentive. Today's Internet ecosystem is dominated by a number of "hyper-giants" with growing power over key aspects of the Internet experience—including Google in search, Netflix and Google (YouTube) in online video, Amazon and eBay in e-commerce, and Facebook in social media. If a broadband provider were to approach one of these hyper-giants and threaten to block or degrade access to its site if it refused to pay a significant fee, such a strategy almost certainly would be self-defeating, in light of the immediately hostile reaction of consumers to such conduct. Indeed, it is more likely that these large edge providers would seek to extract payment from ISPs for delivery of video over last-mile networks."
Related: an article at Gizmodo explains that it takes surprisingly little hardware to replicate (at least most of) Netflix's current online catalog in a local data center.

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FBI Studied How Much Drones Impact Your Privacy -- Then Marked It Secret
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 04:46 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's awfully-suggestive department:
v3rgEz writes When federal agencies adopt new technology, they're required by law to do Privacy Impact Assessments, which is exactly what the FBI did regarding its secretive drone program. The PIAs are created to help the public and federal government assess what they're risking through the adoption of new technology. That part is a little trickier, since the FBI is refusing to release any of the PIA on its drone project, stating it needs to be kept, er, private to protect national security.

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The Truth About Solar Storms
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's deepen-the-basement department:
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story about a very large solar flare two years ago that missed Earth, but not by too much. From a scientific point of view, what is it that happens when a solar flare interacts with Earth, and what are the potential dangers to both humans and humanities infrastructure? A very good overview, complete with what you can do — as both an individual and a power company — to minimize the risk and the damage when the big one comes. Unlike asteroids, these events happen every few centuries, and in our age of electronics, would now create a legitimate disaster.

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Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's pit-carrier-against-carrier department:
NotSanguine (1917456) writes The U.S. Senate has passed a bill (S.517) today, allowing users to unlock their phones when moving to another provider. From a recent article at thehill.com: "Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider," [Sen. Patrick] Leahy said in a statement. "Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace," he said. [Sen. Chuck] Grassley called the bipartisan compromise "an important step forward in ensuring that there is competition in the industry and in safeguarding options for consumers as they look at new cell phone contracts." "Empowering people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service is the right thing to do," he said. The House in February passed a companion bill sponsored on cellphone unlocking from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)." Also at Ars Technica, as pointed out by reader jessepdx.

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The Army Is 3D Printing Warheads
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 02:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's do-not-try-this-at-your-local-makerspace department:
Jason Koebler writes: In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology (PDF). "3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured," James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center said. "Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality."

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Russia Posts $110,000 Bounty For Cracking Tor's Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's what-happens-in-siberia-stays-in-siberia department:
hypnosec writes: The government of Russia has announced a ~$110,000 bounty to anyone who develops technology to identify users of Tor, an anonymising network capable of encrypting user data and hiding the identity of its users. The public description (in Russian) of the project has been removed now and it only reads "cipher 'TOR' (Navy)." The ministry said it is looking for experts and researchers to "study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users' equipment on the Tor anonymous network."

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The NSA's New Partner In Spying: Saudi Arabia's Brutal State Police
Posted by News Fetcher on July 25 '14 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's with-friends-like-these department:
Advocatus Diaboli sends this news from The Intercept: The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world's most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency's plans "to provide direct analytic and technical support" to the Saudis on "internal security" matters. The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that "Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse," specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly "poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat" of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI's use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

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