By Soulskill from Slashdot's can't-you-go-back-to-not-passing-legislation department
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports that a trio of U.S. Congressmen are asking NASA to investigate what they call "an epidemic of anomalies" at SpaceX. They sent a memo (PDF) demanding that SpaceX be held accountable to taxpayers for mission delays stemming from the development of new rockets. Plait notes, "[A]s a contractor, the rules are different for them than they would be if NASA themselves built the rockets, just as the rules are for Boeing or any other contractor. In fact, as reported by Space News, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did." He adds, "Another reason this is silly is that every rocket ever made has undergone problems; they are fiendishly complex machines and no design has ever gotten from the drafting board to the launch pad without issues. Sure, SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems, but the critical thing to remember is that those problems are noted, assessed, and fixed sometimes within hours or minutes." Plait accuses the congressmen of trying to bury private spaceflight under red tape in order to protect established industries in their own states.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's he-actually-wrote-the-book department
(attorney Lawrence Rosen
) writes with a response to an article that appeared on Opensource.com late last month, detailing a court case that arose between Versata Software and Ameriprise Financial Services
; part of the resulting dispute hinges on Versata's use of GPL'd software (parsing utility VTD-X, from Ximpleware
), though without acknowledging the license. According to the article's author, attorney Aaron Williamson (former staff attorney for the Software Freedom Law Center), "Lawyers for commercial software vendors have feared a claim like this for essentially the entire 20-odd-year lifetime of the GPL: a vendor incorporates some GPL-licensed code into a product—maybe naively, maybe willfully—and could be compelled to freely license the entire product as a result. The documents filed by Amerprise in the case reflect this fearful atmosphere, adopting the classically fear-mongering characterization of the GPL as a 'viral' license that 'infects' its host and 'requires it to become open source, too.'" Rosen writes: I want to acknowledge Aaron's main points: This lawsuit challenges certain assumptions about GPLv2 licensing, and it also emphasizes the effects of patents on the FOSS (and commercial) software ecosystem. I also want to acknowledge that I have been consulted as an expert by the plaintiff in this litigation (Ximpleware vs. Versata, et al.) and so some of what I say below they may also say in court.
Read on for the rest (and Williamson's article, too, for a better understanding of this reaction to it). An important take-away: it's not just the license that matters.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's don't-steal-the-government-hates-competition department
An anonymous reader writes "Criminals smuggle an estimated $30 billion in U.S. currency into Mexico each year from the United States, most of it laundered drug money. But researchers say help is on the way for border guards in the form of a portable device that identifies specific vapors given off by U.S. paper money. "We're developing a device that mimics the function of trained dogs 'sniffing' out concealed money, but without the drawbacks, such as expensive training, sophisticated operators, down time and communication limitations," says Suiqiong Li, Ph.D., a member of the research team behind the technology. When developing the device, the researchers first had to figure out which gases money emits and how fast that happens. It turned out that the gases are a set of trace chemicals, including aldehydes, furans and organic acids."
What do bitcoins smell like?Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's keep-the-recording-handy department
An anonymous reader writes In yet another example of the quality of Comcast's customer service, a story surfaced today of a Comcast customer who was over-charged for a service that was never provided. At first, the consumer seemed to be on the losing end of a customer service conversation, with Comcast insisting that the charges were fair. But then, the consumer whipped out a recording of a previous conversation that he had with another Comcast representative in which not only was the consumer promised that he wouldn't be charged for services not rendered, but the reason why was explained. Suddenly Comcast conceded, and the fees were dropped. But most telling of all, the Comcast rep implied that she only dropped them because he had taped his previous interaction with Comcast customer service.
I wish I had recordings of every conversation that I've ever had with AT&T, the USPS, and the landlord I once had in Philadelphia. Lifehacker posted last year a few tips on the practicality of recording phone calls
, using Google Voice, a VoIP service, or a dedicated app. Can anyone update their advice by recommending a good Android app (or iOS, for that matter) designed specifically to record sales and service calls, complete with automated notice?Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's follow-that-car-driver department
writes WSJ looks at the cantankerous rivalry between two popular ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, and the dirty tactics each employs to weaken its opponent. Lyft, for example, alleges that representatives from Uber frequently order short rides from Lyft just to slow down Lyft's service and to try to poach its drivers. WSJ points out that the rivalry is more than just a made-for-TV competition: "It's a battle for a key role in the future of urban transportation."
Lyft certainly isn't Uber's only rival, though, even setting aside conventional taxis and car services, even those two names are big in U.S. cities: its clash with has Gett reportedly involved tricks at least as dirty
. Another way to look at the rivalry, too, is that the biggest clash is not between Uber and any other particular company, but rather between the various ride-calling / ride-sharing services taken together and the existing, regulated taxi and car-service companies they threaten.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's how-far-away-you-are department
writes "Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What's really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results, the cameras have to be slightly modified but that's only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor." The video
is impressive, but note that so are several of the other projects that Microsoft has created
for this year's SIGGRAPH
, in particular one that makes first-person sports-cam footage more watchable
.Read Replies (0)
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's have-to-break-the-law-to-protect-the-law department
Via Ars Technica
comes news that an Amtrak employee was paid nearly $900,000 over the last ten years to give the DEA passenger lists
outside of normal channels. Strangely enough, the DEA already had access to such information through official channels. From the article: The employee, described as a "secretary to a train and engine crew" in a summary obtained by the AP, was selling the customer data without Amtrak's approval. Amtrak and other transportation companies collect information from their customers including credit card numbers, travel itineraries, emergency contact info, passport numbers, and dates of birth. When booking tickets online in recent years, Amtrak has also collected phone numbers and e-mail addresses. ... Amtrak has long worked closely with the DEA to track drug trafficking activity on its train lines. The Albuquerque Journal reported in 2001 that "a computer with access to Amtrak's ticketing information sits on a desk in the [DEA]'s local office," wrote the ACLU.Read Replies (0)