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Former Microsoft Managers Now In Charge of Washington State's Budget
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '13 at 04:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's with-special-advisor-Clippy department:
reifman writes "The Seattle Times reports, 'For the first time in state history, the Washington state budget is being written by Microsofties,' Representative Ross Hunter has 'tamed his Microsoft-style head-butting with a politician's trust-building.' Senator Andy Hill is 'the first Senate budget chair ever to request Excel files instead of paper spreadsheets.' 'The two must find $1 billion in new money for the state's K-12 system.' Unfortunately, The Times neglects to mention that Hunter and Microsoft are among those behind the deficit and cutbacks in the first place. Hunter helped pass the amnesty bill for Microsoft's $1.5 billion Nevada tax dodge ($4.37 billion if you include impacts from its lobbying to reduce tax rates) that contributed to $4 billion in cuts to K-12 and higher education since 2008. The state has resorted to using Yelp to tax dancing to try to make up the shortfall (for real)."

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New Console Always-Online Requirements and You
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '13 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires-and-terrible-DRM department:
An anonymous reader writes "The new Xbox is almost here and the details appear to strongly suggest 'always on' is the way forward. We all know that this is an artificial requirement and certainly there are plenty of people on all sides of the table. To paraphrase the user 'tuffy' who commented on this issue at Ars Technica recently; if you're trying to sell 'always online' as a feature of the future, there needs to be some benefit for me the customer. There is not one. Or, rather, there is no sign yet of any actual clearly compelling reason why any end user would support this limitation to their purchase. So, what's the best way to express this? Spend your money on an Ouya? Contact the Xbox team? These are all valid options but they also lack visibility. What we need is a way that could help actually quantify the levels of discontent in the gamer community. Maybe E3 attendees could turn their backs in protest like some did during Thatcher's funeral procession. Or gamers could sign some useless petition. What do Slashdotters think? Is the upcoming Steam box a reasonable plan? As a gamer, I'm of two minds about the whole thing. I really don't like it but I may roll over eventually and join the herd because I could get used to it. Then again part of me is rankled by this slow erosion of access to me and my data."

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'Master Gene' Makes Mouse Brain Look More Human
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's rats-of-nimh-become-real department:
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. When they mutated this gene in mice, the rodents developed brains that look more like ours (abstract). The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. The findings go against a common conception that 'dumber species will have different genes' for brain development than more intelligent species, Borrell says. He adds that the mechanism could help explain how New World monkeys, with their small, smooth brains, could have evolved from an ancestor with a bigger and more folded brai"

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Eric Schmidt: Google Glass Critics 'Afraid of Change,' Society Will Adapt
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's didn't-they-say-the-same-about-the-segway department:
curtwoodward writes "Eric Schmidt came to Harvard this week to discuss his new book, but many students really wanted to know more about the implications for privacy and social interaction once Google Glass starts hitting the market. Schmidt cautioned against jumping to the worst conclusions, saying that society always tends to adapt to new technologies — and he's hoping for etiquette rather than government regulation. Of course, that's what you would say if you used to run a company that has been fined and paid settlements to regulators for the way it scoops up data and tracks users. But Schmidt also doesn't have much patience for critics: 'Criticisms are inevitably from people who are afraid of change, or who have not figured out that there will be an adaptation of society.'"

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LivingSocial Hacked: 50 Million Users Exposed
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 06:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's no-end-to-the-low-hanging-fruit department:
wiredmikey writes "Daily deals site and Groupon competitor LivingSocial said on Friday it had fallen victim to a cyber attack that put its roughly 50 million users at risk. 'LivingSocial recently experienced a cyber-attack on our computer systems that resulted in unauthorized access to some customer data from our servers,' the company said in a brief note on its site while prompting users to reset their passwords. Attackers reportedly obtained information including names, email addresses, date of birth for some users, and passwords, which fortunately were hashed and salted. Additionally, the database holding credit card information was not accessed by the attacker, the company said. 'While it is good that the passwords stolen from LivingSocial are hashed and salted as this likely slow down the cracking process, it won't stop it,' Rapid7's Ross Barrett said. 'Once they had cracked the first round with the tools at their disposal, they posted the hashes in a Russian hacker forum where other motivated individuals with the necessary skills and more advanced cracking tools were able to help decode the remaining passwords,' Barrett continued. 'While salting the passwords will slow this process down further, eventually the attackers or their network will get the information they're after.' LivingSocial said they are actively working with law enforcement to investigate the incident but have not provided any additional details."

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Belief In God Correlates With Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 04:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's take-two-communion-wafers-and-call-me-in-the-morning department:
Hatta writes "According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, belief in god is correlated with improved outcomes of treatment for depression. Quoting: 'In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers comment that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without. "Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm," says David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.' This raises interesting questions. Does this support the concept of depressive realism? If the association is found to be causal, would it be ethical for a psychiatrist to prescribe religion?"

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Hollywood Studios Fuming Over Indie Studio Deal With BitTorrent
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 03:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's steam-shooting-from-ears department:
silentbrad sends this quote from TheWrap:
"'It's a deal with the devil,' one studio executive [said]. 'Cinedigm is being used as their pawn.' Cinedigm announced this weekend that it would offer the first seven minutes of the Emily Blunt-Colin Firth indie Arthur Newman exclusively to BitTorrent users, which number up to 170 million people.... Hollywood studios have spent years and many millions of dollars to protect their intellectual property and worry that by teaming up with BitTorrent, Cinedigm has embraced a company that imperils the financial underpinnings of the film business and should be kept at arm's length. 'It's great for BitTorrent and disingenuous of Cinedigm,' said the executive. 'The fact of the matter is BitTorrent is in it for themselves, they're not in it for the health of the industry.' Other executives including at Warner Brothers and Sony echoed those comments, fretting that Cinedigm had unwittingly opened a Pandora's box in a bid to get attention for its low-budget release. ... 'Blaming BitTorrent for piracy is like blaming a freeway for drunk drivers, ' Jill Calcaterra, Cinedigm's chief marketing officer said. 'How people use it can be positive for the industry or it can hurt the industry. We want it help us make this indie film successful.' ... 'We'll be working with all of [the studios] one day,' [Matt Mason, BitTorrent's vice president of marketing] said. 'It's really up to them how quickly they come to the table and realize we're not the villain, we're the heroes.'"

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Suspect Arrested In Spamhaus DDoS Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 02:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's distributed-denial-of-liberty-attack department:
New submitter apenzott writes "According to the BBC, a Dutch citizen has been arrested by Spanish police who suspect he was behind the recent Spamhaus DDOS attack, one of the biggest such attacks ever. 'The man arrested is believed to be Sven Kamphuis, the owner and manager of Dutch hosting firm Cyberbunker that has been implicated in the attack.' According to a press release from the Dutch Public Prosecutor (Google translation of Dutch original), the 35-year-old man's computers and other devices have been seized as evidence. The man will be transferred from Spain to the Netherlands shortly. 'Spamhaus is delighted at the news that an individual has been arrested and is grateful to the Dutch police for the resources they have made available and the way they have worked with us,' said a Spamhaus spokesman."

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Assess the Status of an Open Source Project?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's say-its-name-three-times-in-front-of-a-mirror-site department:
Chrisq writes: "Our software landscape includes a number of open source components, and we currently assume that these components will follow the same life-cycle as commercial products: they will have a beta or test phase, a supported phase, and finally reach the end of life. In fact, a clear statement that support is ended is unusual. The statement by Apache that Struts 1 has reached end of life is almost unique. What we usually find is:

Projects that appear to be obviously inactive, having had no updates for years

Projects that are obviously not going to be used in any new deployments because the standard language, library, or platform now has the capability built in

Projects that are rapidly losing developers to some more-trendy alternative project

Projects whose status is unclear, with some releases and statements in the forums that they are 'definitely alive,' but which seem to have lost direction or momentum.

Projects that have had no updates but are highly stable and do what is necessary, but are risky because they may not interoperate with future upgrades to other components. By the treating Open Source in the same way as commercial software we only start registering risks when there is an official announcement. We have no metric we can use to accurately gauge the state of an open source component — but there are a number of components that we have a 'bad feeling' about. Are there any standard ways of assessing the status of an open source project? Do you use the same stages for open source as commercial components? How do you incorporate these in a software landscape to indicate at-risk components and dependencies?"

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Salesforce, a Pillow Maker and a $125k AmEx Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 01:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's Carnac-the-Magnificent-punchline-needed department:
itwbennett writes "Salesforce.com, pillow manufacturer My Pillow, and an employee of My Pillow are caught up in a complex three-way legal battle. At issue is an allegedly failed software implementation and a $125,000 charge on a personal card. In short, there was an aggressive go-live date, a demand for immediate payment, and a system that was ultimately 'not functional'. Now, AmEx won't remove the charge, Salesforce.com is suing My Pillow for breach of contract and wants $550,000 in damages, My Pillow denies it owes anyone anything and is seeking unspecified damages from Salesforce.com, and the employee with the big bill wants his account credited. Still unclear is why My Pillow had no choice but to use the employee's personal credit card — and why the employee was naive enough to hand it over."

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2014: Planetary Resources To Launch Their First Satellites
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 12:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamandis department:
symbolset writes "Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids for their sweet, sweet minerals and make a business of it. The sparky little company has been writ up here on Slashdot numerous times. With the backing of such billionaires as Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, James Cameron, and many others, and such luminaries as major NASA project managers, engineers and scientists, you have to think they might have a good shot at it. Recently they picked up a huge engineering, procurement and construction partner: Bechtel. Their operations are already cash-flow positive by selling tech invented to pursue their goals, so they're a legitimate business running lean and intending to make good. Yesterday they announced the plan to launch their first space missions — the Arkyd Series 100 LEO Space Telescopes — as soon as next year. Beginning in 2014 their satellites will be scanning the skies from Low Earth Orbit for lucrative rocks that happen to be heading our way, and incidentally doing for-pay work to keep the lights on. For a reasonable fee they'll sell you the right to retask one of these telescopes to take a picture of anything you want that it can see, for a fair price. The plan is to follow up with harvester craft to go get these asteroids, mulch them, and sell their bits for profit. Some talk has been made of selling what are uncommon terrestrial minerals like gold and platinum, refined on orbit and deorbited at great expense as a business plan, but frankly that's absurd. 'Extraterrestrial Asteroid Bits' ought to go for a higher price on the collector market than gold or platinum ever would, and the temporal preeminence should draw a premium price. 'This 69 mg specimen (769 of 10,000) was one of the first commercially harvested bits of asteroid returned to Earth. Lucite embedded for permanent display, with case. Certificate of authenticity included.'"

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Should TV Networks Put Pilots Online For Judgement Like Amazon Is Doing?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's prime-time-programming-brought-to-you-by-4chan department:
An anonymous reader writes "EW debates how broadcasters might (and might not) benefit from letting the Internet help decide which of their pilots get series orders (like Amazon is doing with their new original content efforts). If NBC had posted its pilots online, would we have been spared 'Animal Practice'? It's an interesting idea, but not without faults: 'According to Nielsen’s research, the vast majority of TV viewing is still on a traditional set. Having pilots judged by online viewers would give networks a skewed sense of what might work in the fall — the entire broadcast schedule might be nothing but sci-fi shows, tween-lit adaptions and whatever Joss Whedon wants to do ... "If something isn’t picked up, for whatever reason, but people really liked it, that could be a problem," one network insider said. "Or if people hated something, and we pick it up — again, for whatever reason — you’re starting off on a bad note." ... Noted a major network programming researcher: "Great pilots don’t always make great television series." Conversely, if you’re a network executive, you usually don’t need millions of people to tell you a show sucks."

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Why We'll Never Meet Aliens
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's probably-immigration-laws department:
iggychaos writes "The idea that aliens will come visit us is fundamentally flawed. Paul Tyma ponders the technology that would be required for such an event and examines how evolution of that technology would preclude any reason to actually make the trip. He writes, 'Twenty years ago if I asked you how many feet were in a mile (and you didn't know) you could go to a library and look it up. Ten years ago, you could go to a computer and google it. Today, you can literally ask your phone. It's not a stretch at all with the advent of wearable computing that coming soon - I can ask you that question and you'll instantly answer. ... How would you change if you had instant brain-level access to all information. How would you change if you were twice as smart as you are now. How about ten times as smart? (Don't answer, truth is, you're not smart enough to know). Now, let's leap ahead and think about what that looks like in 100 years. Or 1000. Or whenever it is you'll think we'd have the technology to travel to another solar system. We'd be a scant remnant of what a human looks like today. ... The question of why aliens might 'want to come here' is probably fundamentally flawed because we are forming that question from our current (tiny) viewpoint. The word 'want' might not apply at all to someone 1000 times smarter than us."

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From 'Quantified Self' To 'Quantified Car'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 10:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's soon-the-game-will-be-mandatory department:
waderoush writes "A San Francisco startup called Automatic Labs came out of stealth mode in March, offering a Bluetooth gadget that connects to your car's onboard data port and sends engine performance data to an app on your smartphone (iPhone only right now, Android coming this fall). Xconomy went on a test drive with Automatic's chief product officer and captured video of the system in action. The app chirps at you when it notices rough braking, aggressive acceleration, or speeding over 70 mph. It also keeps a record of your fuel economy and gives you a gamified 'driving score' to encourage more efficient driving habits and fuel savings. It's all a sign that that the ethic of ubiquitous mobile/cloud sensing and analytics that 'quantified selfers' are applying to their personal health and fitness is spilling over to neighboring areas of consumer technology, including transportation. The Automatic Link device costs $70 and will begin shipping in May." Along similar lines, the Kiwi Drive Green has been available for several years.

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$5 Sensor Turns LCD Monitors Into Touchscreens
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 10:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's later-comes-the-voice-control department:
An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from ExtremeTech: "Researchers at the University of Washington's aptly named Ubiquitous Computing Lab can turn any LCD monitor in your house into a touchscreen, with nothing more than a $5 sensor that plugs into the wall and some clever software." The system works by measuring changes that your hand creates in the electromagnetic signature of the monitor. Surprisingly, it offers some pretty fine-grained detection, too: "full-hand touch, five-finger touch, hovering above the screen, pushing, and pulling." The "$5 sensor" part is mostly theoretical for now to those of us who don't live in a lab, though; on the other hand, "co-author Sidhant Gupta tells Technology Review that the $5 sensor uses off-the-shelf parts, and the algorithms are included in the paper, so it would be fairly easy for you — or a commercial entity — to recreate the uTouch system."

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Kenya Police: Our Fake Bomb Detectors Are Real
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-how-are-the-elephant-detectors? department:
First time accepted submitter NF6X writes "Following the conviction of British conman James McCormick for selling fake bomb detectors which were in fact rebadged novelty golf ball divining rods, Nairobi police chief Benson Githinji stated to reporters that his department's fake bomb detectors are serviceable, and contributed towards a recent elimination of successful grenade attacks."

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Was Google's Motorola Mobility Acquisition a Mistake?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's press-one-to-find-out department:
Nerval's Lobster writes "Even before the Google acquisition, Motorola Mobility was engaged in a major legal battle with Microsoft, insisting that the latter needed to pay around $4 billion per year if it wanted to keep using Motorola's patents related to the H.264 video and 802.11 WiFi standards. (The patents in question affected the Xbox and other major Microsoft products.) Had that lawsuit succeeded as Motorola Mobility originally intended, it would have made Google a boatload of cash—but on April 25, a federal judge in Seattle ruled that Microsoft's royalty payments should total around $1.8 million per year. 'Based on Motorola's original demand of more than $4 billion per year from Microsoft,' patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in an April 26 posting on his FOSS Patents blog, 'it would have taken only about three years' worth of royalties for Microsoft to pay the $12.5 billion purchase price Google paid (in fact, way overpaid) for Motorola Mobility.' This latest courtroom defeat also throws into question the true worth of Motorola Mobility's patents. After all, if the best Google can earn from those patents is a few pennies-per-unit from its rivals' products, that may undermine the whole idea of paying $12.5 billion primarily for Motorola Mobility's intellectual-property portfolio.

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Maryland Team Hopes To Nab $250k Prize For Leg-Powered Copter
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 09:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's go-terps department:
daltec writes "The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now closer than ever to being won. With flights up to ten feet in altitude and lasting over 65 seconds, the prize's strict requirements (thought by many to be impossible to satisfy) have all been met — but not on the same flight. Two teams — AeroVelo in Canada and Gamera II at the University of Maryland — are tantalizingly close to claiming the prize. The Gamera team will be making its latest attempt this weekend."

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NYC Police Comm'r: Privacy Is 'Off the Table' After Boston Bombs
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's for-your-own-safety department:
An anonymous reader writes "New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly thinks that now is a great time to install even more surveillance cameras hither and yon around the Big Apple. After the Boston Marathon bombing, the Tsarnaev brothers were famously captured on security camera footage and thereby identified. That just may soften up Americans to the idea of the all-seeing glass eye. 'I think the privacy issue has really been taken off the table,' Kelly gloats."

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New Study Suggests No Shortage of American STEM Graduates
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '13 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's shortage-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder department:
An anonymous reader writes "A study released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute reinforces what a number of researchers have come to believe: that the STEM worker shortage is a myth. The EPI study found that the United States has 'more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.' Basic dynamics of supply and demand would dictate that if there were a domestic labor shortage, wages should have risen. Instead, researchers found, they've been flat, with many Americans holding STEM degrees unable to enter the field and a sharply higher share of foreign workers taking jobs in the information technology industry. (IT jobs make up 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study.)"

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