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European Space Agency Picks Plato Planet-hunting Mission
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 12:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's in-space-they-don't-mind-if-you-look department:
kc123 writes "A telescope to find worlds around other stars has been selected for launch by the European Space Agency's Science Policy Committee. Known as Plato (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars), the mission should launch on a Soyuz rocket in 2024. The Plato space telescope will prepare the way for scientists searching for alien life by locating the first genuinely Earth-like exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. It will break new ground in astronomy by using a "bug eye" array of 34 individual telescopes. The intention is for this array to sweep about half the sky, to investigate some of its brightest and nearest stars."

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WhatsApp: 2d Biggest Tech Acquisition of All Time
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's of-all-time! department:
Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to drop a cool $16 billion on WhatsApp, a messaging service with 450 million users. It was a mind-boggling sum, even if you buy into Facebook's argument that WhatsApp (which will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary, at least for the moment) will soon connect a billion people around the world. But it wasn't the biggest tech acquisition of all time: that honor belongs to Hewlett-Packard, which bought Compaq for a (inflation-adjusted) $33.4 billion in 2001. Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp comes in second on the list, followed by Hewlett-Packard's purchase of Electronic Data Systems for $15.4 billion; Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $13 billion, and Oracle snatching up Peoplesoft for $12.7 billion. In sixth comes Hewlett-Packard again, with its Autonomy buy in 2011 (for $11.7 billion), followed by Oracle's BEA Systems acquisition ($9.4 billion) and Microsoft seizing Skype ($9.0 billion). What do many of these highest-cost purchases have in common? Many of them didn't pan out. Hewlett-Packard's Compaq, Autonomy, and EDS acquisitions, for example, made all the sense in the world on paper, the tech giant eventually took significant write-downs on all three (Autonomy in particular was an outright disaster, resulting in a $8.8 billion write-off and widespread allegations of financial and management impropriety)."

Update: 02/20 19:32 GMT by T : Of interest: Mother Jones has an interesting take on the seeming mismatch between Facebook's business model and the way the WhatsApp founders think about advertising. Hint: they hate it.

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Ask Slashdot: Should I Get Google Glass?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's well-are-you-a-stone-thrower? department:
lunatick writes "I put in my application for Google Glass as a joke. I never figured I would be selected. Well in less than one week I got my invite to buy Google Glass. My main hold back is the $1500 price tag for a device that just seems to be a camera and navigation aid. Does anyone in the /. community have Google Glass and can they give some advice to the rest of us considering it?"

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Your Next Online Order Could Be Delivered To Your Car's Trunk
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 10:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's don't-mind-the-bodies-or-fireworks department:
cartechboy writes "It's amazing how far we've come with technology. Now many of us have the ability to work remotely, and we can even lock/unlock our vehicles via the Internet. And yet, the way we receive our packages from FedEx, UPS, and USPS hasn't really changed. But Volvo thinks it has a way to revolutionize package delivery with Roam Delivery: instead of having packages delivered to your house or office, you could have packages dropped off in the trunk of your car. Volvo says this would work via its new digital keys technology which would allow customers to choose their car as a delivery option when ordering goods online. Via a smartphone or tablet, the owner would be informed when a delivery requires dropping off or picking up from the car. Accepting the delivery will enable a digital key which tracks when the car is opened, and then when it's locked again. The digital key expires once the delivery is complete. Not only does this sound pretty slick, but the technology to make it happen is pretty simple. Now the only question is whether you really want your Amazon box being delivered to your vehicle."

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Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's can't-even-count-that-high department:
DavidHumus writes with this excerpt from a New York Times article: "Big paydays on Wall Street often come under laserlike scrutiny, while Silicon Valley gets a pass on its own compensation excesses. Why the double standard? The typical director at a Standard & Poor's 500 company was paid $251,000 in 2012, according to Bloomberg News. Mr. Schmidt [Google's CEO] is above that range by over $100 million. ...The latest was the criticism of Jamie Dimon's pay for 2013, given the many regulatory travails of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. The bank's board awarded Mr. Dimon $20 million in pay for 2013, $18.5 million of which was in restricted stock that vests over three years. ...For one, the outsize pay for Mr. Schmidt doesn't square with Google's performance. Putting aside the fact that he is not even the chief executive, Google had net income of $12.9 billion last year. JPMorgan was higher at $17.9 billion...."
DavidHumus notes "Maybe the bigger question is why is CEO pay so entirely disconnected from company performance?"

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How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's models-meta-models-and-mega-ultra-super-models department:
bunratty writes "According to recent articles by Roy Spencer and John Christy, our climate models have done a poor job of predicting warming due to humans burning fossil fuels. They claim that we've observed only a fraction of the warming they predict. But when I look at the source they claim to use, the State of the Climate in 2012, I see that it shows a warming of 0.7 degrees Celsius worldwide since 1980, close to the 0.8 degrees Celsius warming predicted by the climate models. Take a look at the data for yourself. How well do our predictions match our observations?"

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Sony's Favorite Gadget Is Kinect
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 08:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's they're-practically-tiering-up department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Gary Marshall writes that.Microsoft's marvelous motion-sensing device is doing really good work for Sony, helping the PS4 outsell the Xbox One in the US and rocketing it to the top of the world's console sales charts. With the Xbox One $100 more expensive than the PlayStation 4, the Kinect is the explanation for the huge difference in price between the rival platforms says Marshall. "That kind of money makes a huge difference, and I wonder: if Microsoft had kept the Kinect as an optional add-on, which we all know it should be, would the Xbox One be much more attractive?" Ben Kuchera describes the peripheral as one of the most hated pieces of equipment in current use. "The system is still new, but every Xbox One owner now has a peripheral that has little reason to exist, aids their gaming in very few real ways and costs them a significant amount of money." The common defense of the Kinect is that developers wouldn't support it unless it was forced on consumers but according to Kuchera pushing a product on the public with the hope that it will be useful once we have it is a cruel inversion of how product adoption should be handled. "The forced pack-in proves something we already knew at the beginning of this generation: Almost no one would want to buy the Kinect separately if they were given the choice," writes Kuchera. "It's time to make the Kinect a peripheral, not a pack-in.""

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With 'Virgin' Developers, Microsoft Could Fork Android
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's are-you-sure-this-is-a-shortcut? department:
colinneagle writes "Amid all the talk about Microsoft forking Android for a smartphone OS, one suggestion involves a look back to Microsoft's DOS days. Microsoft DOS was designed per IBM's specification to run exclusively on IBM's PC hardware platforms. Phoenix Technologies employed software developers it nicknamed 'virgins,' who hadn't been exposed to IBM's systems, to create a software layer between Microsoft's DOS system and PCs built by IBM's competitors. This helped Microsoft avoid infringing on IBM's patents or copyrights, and subsequently helped fuel the explosive growth of PC clones. Microsoft could use the same approach to 'clone' the proprietary Android components in its own Android fork. This would prevent copyright infringement while giving Microsoft access to Google Play apps, as well as Android's massive base of developers." Microsoft (or anyone) could generate a lot of goodwill by completely replacing the proprietary bits of Android; good thing that doing so is a work in progress (and open-source, too), thanks to Replicant. (Practically speaking, though, couldn't Google just make access to the Play Store harder, if Microsoft were to create an Android-alike OS? Even now, many devices running Android variants don't have access to it.)

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GameFace: Making a Virtual Reality Android Headset
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's walk-away-just-walk-away department:
jonyami writes "Virtual reality headsets are the next big thing thanks to the rise of the Oculus Rift, but this new headset from tiny startup GameFace Labs promises to one-up its rivals by going completely wireless. A new article goes heads-on with the new device and features an interview with the company's founder, Ed Mason."

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Major Vulnerability In Tinder Dating App Allowed User Tracking
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 06:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's coming-from-inside-the-building department:
An anonymous reader writes "Include Security unveiled new research showing that users of the popular online dating app Tinder were at significant risk due to a vulnerability they discovered in the geo-location feature of the application. This vulnerability allowed Tinder users to track each another's exact location for much of 2013. Anyone with rudimentary programming skills could query the Tinder API directly and pull down the co-ordinates of any user. This resulted in a privacy violation for the users of the application." Include Security has posted a video that shows how the the flaw could be exploited, before it was fixed last month.

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EFF Reports GHCQ and NSA Keeping Tabs On Wikileaks Visitors and Reporters
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 06:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's lets-have-a-look department:
sandbagger writes in with a story about U.S. and British government interest and involvement with journalists visiting the Wikileaks website. "The Intercept recently published an article and supporting documents indicating that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ surveilled and even sought to have other countries prosecute the investigative journalism website WikiLeaks. GCHQ also surveilled the millions of people who merely read the WikiLeaks website. The article clarifies the lengths that these two spy organizations go to track their targets and confirms, once again, that they do not confine themselves to spying on to those accused of terrorism. One document contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices discuss whether to categorize WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor" for surveillance targeting purposes. This would be an important categorization because agents have significantly more authority to engage in surveillance of malicious foreign actors."

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How Jan Koum Steered WhatsApp Into $16B Facebook Deal
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 06:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-today-I-can-supersize-it department:
First time accepted submitter paulbes writes "Jan Koum picked a meaningful spot to sign the $19 billion deal to sell his company WhatsApp to Facebook [Wednesday]. Koum, cofounder Brian Acton and venture capitalist Jim Goetz of Sequoia drove a few blocks from WhatsApp's discreet headquarters in Mountain View to a disused white building across the railroad tracks, the former North County Social Services office where Koum, 37, once stood in line to collect food stamps. That's where the three of them inked the agreement to sell their messaging phenom –which brought in a miniscule $20 million in revenue last year — to the world's largest social network." Forbes overstates the apparent selling price by a few billion dollars; big numbers, either way. [Update: 02/20 13:51 GMT by T : The $19 billion makes sense, if you include retention bonuses in the form of restricted stock units.] Another reader points out the interesting fact that "Acton — himself a former Apple engineer — applied for jobs at both Twitter and Facebook way before WhatsApp became a wildly popular mobile app. Both times he was rejected."

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ICE License-Plate Tracking Plan Withdrawn Amid Outcry About Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 05:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's on-second-thought department:
An anonymous reader writes "Homeland security officials on Wednesday abruptly shelved a proposal to build a national database of license-plate scans after criticism from privacy advocates. The proposal, which had been posted online last week by the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sought a contractor who could establish a searchable database of license plates, with the times and locations where they were spotted by traffic cameras and other sources. But in a statement late Wednesday, the department announced a reversal. 'The solicitation, which was posted without the awareness of ICE leadership, has been canceled,' said spokeswoman Gillian Christensen. 'While we continue to support a range of technologies to help meet our law enforcement mission, this solicitation will be reviewed to ensure the path forward appropriately meets our operational needs.'"

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EFF Reports GHCQ and NSA Keeping Tabs Wikileaks Visitors and Reporters
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 02:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's lets-have-a-look department:
sandbagger writes in with a story about U.S. and British government interest and involvement with journalists visiting the Wikileaks website. "The Intercept recently published an article and supporting documents indicating that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ surveilled and even sought to have other countries prosecute the investigative journalism website WikiLeaks. GCHQ also surveilled the millions of people who merely read the WikiLeaks website. The article clarifies the lengths that these two spy organizations go to track their targets and confirms, once again, that they do not confine themselves to spying on to those accused of terrorism. One document contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices discuss whether to categorize WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor" for surveillance targeting purposes. This would be an important categorization because agents have significantly more authority to engage in surveillance of malicious foreign actors."

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Math Models Predicted Global Uprisings
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 01:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's no-food-no-peace department:
retroworks writes "Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest."

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Robot To Serve Security Detail At FIFA World Cup In Brazil
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '14 at 12:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's you-have-20-seconds-to-comply department:
Hallie Siegel writes "PackBots will be deployed in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup Soccer season to bring a high-tech approach to security. The nation's government has secured a $7.2 million deal with PackBot's creators for 30 of the military bots. The robots will be stationed throughout Brazil's 12 host cities, during the soccer matches to boost security and help examine any suspicious objects."

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Supernova Secrets Seen In X-Rays
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '14 at 09:46 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's check-it-out department:
wjcofkc writes "CNN reports that astronomers using NASA's NuSTAR telescope have for the first time mapped deep within the radioactive material from a supernova. The light from the originating star, Cassiopeia A, located about 11,000 light-years away and having had about eight time the mass of our sun, first reached Earth about 350 years ago. But that does not mean there still isn't a lot to study. Scientists using the NuSTAR, which stands for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, launched in June 2012 and consisting of an instrument with two telescopes that focus high energy X-ray light, were able to peer deep within the cataclysmic aftermath. While there is currently no model for how the process of a supernova works, the findings in the study are a big step forward. 'Until we had NuSTAR, we couldn't see down to the core of the explosion,' Brian Grefenstette, lead author and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said at a news conference Wednesday."

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Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '14 at 07:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's be-sure-to-drink-your-Ovaltine department:
bmearns writes "Over the past few weeks we've been hearing a lot about a possible breakthrough in decoding the infamous Voynich manuscript, made by a team of botanists who suggested that the plants depicted in the manuscript may have been from the New World and the mysterious writing could be a form of an Aztec language. But the latest development comes from linguist Stephen Bax, of Bedfordshire University, who believes he has identified some proper names (including of the constellation 'Taurus') in the manuscript and is using these as a crib to begin deciphering the rest of the text, which he believes comes from the near east or Asia."

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Scientists Calculate Most Precise Measurement of Electron's Mass
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '14 at 06:31 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's step-on-the-scale department:
sciencehabit writes "A team of physicists has produced the most precise electron mass measurement ever made. Instead of trying to measure the mass directly, the researchers bound a single electron to a bare carbon nucleus and placed the resulting atom in a uniform electromagnetic field called a Penning trap. The team's new measurement is 13 times more precise than previous efforts, with an uncertainty of just 0.03 parts per billion. The group's precise result will help physicists more accurately calculate the fine-structure constant, an important value in tests of the standard model of particle physics, which shapes our understanding of the basic building blocks of the universe."

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Amazon Coins and How the Definition of 'Crypto-Currency' Is Getting Too Loose
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '14 at 05:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's call-it-money department:
Nerval's Lobster writes "Amazon has expanded support for its Amazon Coins from Kindle Fire tablets to Google Android mobile devices.In its press release, Amazon positioned its e-currency as the ultimate in convenience for customers who don't want their credit-card statements riddled with lots of micro-purchases from Amazon's App Store. Expanding the currency's reach is also a potential win for Amazon, which wants to create an end-to-end ecosystem for app developers. But Amazon Coins' existence could alienate the same demographic that made Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies such a hit. The company tethers the Coins to a user identity, and likely keeps significant records on its crypto-currency ecosystem: who buys what when. That concept is anathema to those online denizens who embraced Bitcoin as a way to make purchases without needing to reveal a real-world identity, or deal with a currency tethered to a central repository; genuine crypto-currency can be used to purchase pretty much anything from a purveyor willing to take it, including—in the case of Silk Road and other online bazaars—drugs and weapons. Indeed, Amazon Coins has more to do with a corporate 'currency' like the now-defunct Microsoft Points than an actual crypto-currency like Bitcoin. But that hasn't stopped some people from getting confused about it."

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