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Microsoft Facing Class-Action Suit Over Xbox Live Points
Posted by News Fetcher on January 27 '10 at 01:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's demo-suit-is-free deptartment:
An anonymous reader tips news that a lawyer in Pennsylvania has filed a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, alleging that the company's handling of Xbox Live transactions is, in some cases, fraudulent. "Samuel Lassoff, of Horsham, PA, said an invoice he received earlier this month from Microsoft included charges for purchases he couldn't complete due to a balky download system—and he claimed it wasn't an accident. Microsoft 'engaged in a scheme to unjustly enrich itself through their fraudulent handling' of his account, Lassoff charged in papers filed earlier this week in US District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. ... 'Microsoft breached that contract by collecting revenues for digital goods and services which were not provided,' Lassoff said in his lawsuit."

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Champerty and Other Common Law We Could Use Today
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 11:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's officious-intermeddling deptartment:
pevans writes "Over on Red Hat's Opensource.com I found this neat summary of a few old laws that could really help us today with the patent trolls. The article 'What's wrong with champerty?' is brief, but full of legal goodness that seems to have fallen by the wayside: 'Let's bring back barratry, maintenance, and champerty for patent lawsuits. Combine that with a limitation on the assignment of patents and a lot of patent trolls would be out of business. ...do patents have to be freely assignable? And why can't we prohibit a cause of action for patent infringement where there is no net gain to society?"

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Canadian Android Carrier Forcing Firmware Update
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 08:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's monopoly-rents deptartment:
Wolfier writes "For wireless carrier Rogers in Canada, it seems that 'Customer Safety' only becomes a concern after months of neglect. Rogers is the only GSM carrier in Canada and so the only choice for Android users. Months ago, a customer called Rogers to report a firmware bug that was preventing users from making 911 calls under certain circumstances, and informed the carrier that Google had fixed the bug (recording of that call). But Rogers is only doing something about it now — namely, cutting data access of paying customers until they accept a mandatory firmware upgrade that not only fixes the 911 problem, but also contains 'extra' features that prevent users from ever gaining root access to their phones — even non-subsidized ones. And some phones are also getting bricked by this 'official' update. The moral: we really need to open up the competition here up North."

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GM Is Selling Saab To Spyker Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 06:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's joy-in-trollhatten deptartment:
johncadengo writes "General Motors said today that it has struck a preliminary deal to sell Saab to Spyker Cars, a tiny Dutch maker of high-end sports cars, saving the Swedish automaker from what seemed like certain extinction after previous bids for it collapsed. A previous bid from Spyker was rejected by GM in late December because GM was uncomfortable with Spyker's Russian backers. The biggest investor in Spyker is the Russian bank Convers Group, which is controlled by Alexander Antonov. In March, Mr. Antonov was shot seven times and reportedly lost a finger in an attempt on his life in Moscow. No arrests have been made. His son Vladimir, 34, is a top executive at Convers and the chairman of Spyker." GM is taking a bath on the deal, financially speaking.

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AMD Launches Budget Processor Refresh
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 04:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's low-end-oomph deptartment:
MojoKid writes "AMD has again launched a bevy of new processors targeted squarely at budget-conscious consumers. Though Intel may be leading the market handily in the high-performance arena, AMD still provides a competitive offering from a price/performance perspective for the mainstream. HotHardware has a performance quick-take of the new 3.2GHz Phenom II X2 555 and 2.9GHz Athlon II X4 635. For $100 or less, bang for the buck with AMD is still relatively high."

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Darwinian Evolution Considered As a Phase
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 03:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's everything-you-know-is-wrong deptartment:
LucidBeast tips a mind-bending report at New Scientist on the latest paradigm-breaking work of Carl Woese, one of whose earlier discoveries was the third branch of life on Earth, the Archaea. Woese and physicist Nigel Goldenfeld argue that, even in its sophisticated modern form, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection applies only to a recent phase of life on Earth. Woese and Goldenfeld believe that horizontal evolution led to the rise of the genetic code itself. "At the root of this idea is overwhelming recent evidence for horizontal gene transfer — in which organisms acquire genetic material 'horizontally' from other organisms around them, rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors. The donor organisms may not even be the same species. This mechanism is already known to play a huge role in the evolution of microbial genomes, but its consequences have hardly been explored. According to Woese and Goldenfeld, they are profound, and horizontal gene transfer alters the evolutionary process itself."

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BSkyB Wins £709m Lawsuit Against HP-EDS
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 03:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's pants-on-fire deptartment:
E5Rebel writes "In a massive legal case in the UK, HP-EDS has been found guilty of 'fraudulent misrepresentation' by their sales team when winning a major CRM project. Settlement could cost £200M out of an initial claim for £700M. HP's only relief was that parts of the claim were dismissed, but the core claim was upheld. HP is likely to appeal. Outsourcing will never be the same again. HP workers have been on strike against pay cuts last week; no doubt management will try and screw them further to pay for this debacle."

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"Normal" Prions May Protect Myelin
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 02:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's simple-fold-of-fate deptartment:
thomst writes "Nature Neuroscience just published an online article about the function of 'normal' prions in protecting myelin, the substance that sheathes and protects sensory and motor nerves. The international study (which has 11 authors) concluded that 'normal' (i.e., not mis-folded) prions may form a protective coat around myelin. The researchers found that Prnp/ mice (mice with the gene for prions knocked out) consistently developed progressive demyelination, inevitably leading to persistent polyneuropathy by 60 weeks of age. Their data suggest that damage to myelin sheaths cause normal prions to cleave, and the resulting prion fragments activate Schwann cells, which are known to play a part in myelin repair. This research might eventually lead to possible treatments for progressive polyneuropathies in humans, including those mediated by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and even diabetes."

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Google Gets Its iPhone Voice
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 01:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's tap-tap-is-this-thing-on deptartment:
snydeq writes "Google has found a way to let iPhone owners use Google Voice, launching a Google Voice Web app that runs on iPhone 3.0 OS devices, as well as on Palm WebOS devices. The Google Voice application leverages HTML 5's functionality for running sophisticated Web applications on a browser at speeds matching those of native applications, Google said. The Google Voice-iPhone conflict is one of several issues putting the companies on a collision course, the latest of which involves Apple potentially courting Microsoft to tap Bing as the iPhone's default search."

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NASA Concedes Defeat In Effort To Free Spirit Rover
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 12:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's beat-ninety-days-by-a-bit deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "NASA has conceded defeat in its battle to free the Spirit rover from its Martian sand trap. The vehicle became stuck in soft soil back in May last year and all the efforts to extricate it have failed. NASA says that Spirit, which landed on the Red Planet over six years ago, will 'no longer be a fully mobile robot,' and has instead designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform."

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CompTIA Reneges, Reconsiders on Lifetime Certifications
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 12:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's had-our-fingers-crossed deptartment:
garg0yle writes "Recently, it was reported that IT certification house CompTIA had changed their A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications — rather than being 'for life,' there would now be a recertification requirement through continuing-education credits (and an accompanying fee). Needless to say, this made a lot of people very unhappy, and today it was announced that CompTIA has reversed their decision. Basically, any certification obtained before 2011 will still be 'for life.'" Ars notes the coincidence that CompTIA contacted them about the change of heart an hour after Ars's story about CompTIA's initial switcheroo went live.

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Evidence Weakens That China Did the Recent Cyberattacks
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 11:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's reasonable-doubt-abounds deptartment:
click2005 notes a an article in The Register calling into question the one piece of hard evidence that has been put forward to pin the Google cyberattacks on China. It was claimed that a CRC algorithm found in the Aurora attack code was particular to Chinese-language developers. Now evidence emerges that this algorithm has been widely known for years and used in English-language books and websites. Wired has a post introducing the Pentagon's recently initiated effort to identify the "digital DNA" of hackers and/or their tools; this program is part of a wide-ranging effort by the US government to find useful means of deterring cyberattacks. This latter NY Times article notes that Google may have found the best deterrence so far — the threat to withdraw its services from the Chinese market.

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UK Police Plan To Use Military-Style Spy Drones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's knock-down-the-copseyes deptartment:
krou writes "According to documents obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, the UK police plan on deploying unmanned drones in the UK to 'revolutionize policing' and extend domestic 'surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering,' which will be used in 'the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies.' The documents come from the South Coast Partnership, 'a Home Office-backed project in which Kent police and others are developing a national drone plan' in conjunction with BAE Systems. The stated aim is to introduce the system in time for the 2012 Olympics. Initially, Kent police stated that the system would be used to monitor shipping lanes and illegal immigrants, but the documents reveal that this was part of a PR strategy: 'There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a "good news" story to the public rather than more "big brother."' However, the documents talk about a much wider range of usage, such as '[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving,' as well as 'road and railway monitoring, search and rescue, event security and covert urban surveillance.' Also, due to the expense involved, it has also been suggested that some data could be sold off to private companies, or the drones could be used for commercial purposes."

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Open Source Software Meets Do-It-Yourself Biology
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's releasing-your-genome-under-the-gpl deptartment:
destinyland writes "This article profiles a growing movement — DIY biology — that's made possible in part by open source tools. Using programs like BioPerl and BioPython, DIY biologists write their own code (computer and genetic), designing their own biological systems and altering the genome. A protein-folding simulator, Folding@home, is now the most powerful distributed computing cluster in the world, and as the movement evolves, cooperatives are also springing up where hobbyists pool resources and create 'hacker spaces' to reduce costs and share knowledge. 'As the shift to open source software continues, computational biology will become even more accessible, and even more powerful,' this article argues — while intellectual property and other bureaucracies continue to hobble traditional forms of research."

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Nielsen Ratings To Count Online TV Viewing
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 09:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's good-yet-bad deptartment:
cashman73 writes "Several sources are reporting that Nielsen is finally going to start measuring online TV viewing. You would think that this is a good idea, since many people are now watching TV programs on the internet. However, there's a catch: Nielsen's new service will only count viewings of a program with the same number of advertisements as the network TV model. So, this immediately eliminates Hulu, as well as any shows watched via the network's own websites. As a matter of fact, it would currently only include Comcast's XFinity TV service, and TV Everywhere (which, so far, appears to be the equivalent of Duke Nukem Forever for television). So either, (a) everyone will rush out to watch their online TV on Comcast XFinity, so that their viewing counts in the ratings (unlikely), or (b) Hulu and everyone else starts to put more advertisements on their shows (more likely, but would also probably mean the death of Hulu)."

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NASA Tests All-Composite Prototype Crew Module
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 08:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-don't-try-to-take-a-slap-shot-with-it deptartment:
coondoggie writes "With an eye toward building safer, lighter and tougher spacecraft, NASA said today its prototype space crew module made up of composite materials handled tests simulating structural stresses of launch and atmospheric reentry. The idea behind NASA's Composite Crew Module (CCM) project is to test new structural materials for possible future NASA spacecraft. According to NASA, composite materials are being looked at because they are stiff and lightweight and can be formed into complex shapes that may be more structurally efficient. In space travel, where every additional pound of weight drives costs higher, any weight savings provides increased payload capacity and potentially reduces mission expense."

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The Future of Portable Linux Distros
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's a-penguin-in-every-home deptartment:
i_want_you_to_throw_ sends in a Tech Radar piece about the various portable Linux distributions, focusing on operating systems like Android, Chrome OS, and Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The article compares the distributions designed for similar purposes and discusses where they will likely go in the future. "As UNR is built on Ubuntu, it's highly likely that we'll see almost as many UNR respins as we have for the parent distribution. We've already seen one example in Jolicloud, and we'd put money on many community distributions, such as Linux Mint or Crunchbang offering a UNR overhaul alongside their standard desktop installations. It's also likely that Canonical will be able to forge stronger relationships with companies like Dell, which is already shipping a specific version of UNR on its Mini 9 platform. As Windows XP is phased out and the cost of bundling Windows 7 rises, manufacturers will be looking for a cheap and easily maintainable netbook OS, and UNR fits the bill admirably.

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Schools To Get Their Own DARPA
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 07:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hall-monitor-death-robots-here-we-come deptartment:
Julie188 writes "A decade ago, Lawrence Grossman, former president of both NBC News and PBS, and Newton Minow, former chairman of the FCC, proposed that the government set up a multi-billion dollar trust that would act as a 'venture capital fund' to research educational technologies for schools, libraries and museums. Congress has finally approved the idea, and grants could start rolling by this fall. Dubbed the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, it should be to education what the National Science Foundation is for science, and DARPA is for national defense."

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Universe Closer To Heat Death Than Once Thought
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 06:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's we're-doomed deptartment:
TapeCutter writes "In a paper soon to be published (PDF) in the Astrophysical Journal, Australian researchers have estimated the entropy of the universe is about 30 times higher than previous estimates. According to their research, super-massive black holes 'are the largest contributor to the entropy of the observable universe, contributing at least an order of magnitude more entropy than previously estimated.' For those of us who like their science in the form of a car analogy, Dr. Lineweaver compared their results to a car's gas tank. He states, 'It's a bit like looking at your gas gauge and saying "I thought I had half a gas tank, but I only have a quarter of a tank."'" Fortunately, that quarter of a tank will still get us as far as we need to go and then some.

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Is Programming a Lucrative Profession?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '10 at 06:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's do-fractions-of-pennies-count deptartment:
itwbennett writes "A pamphlet distributed by blogger Cameron Laird's local high school proclaimed that 'Computer Science BS graduates can expect an annual salary from $54,000-$74,000. Starting salaries for MS and PhD graduates can be to up to $100,000' and 'employment of computer scientists is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2018.' The pamphlet lists The US Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as a reference, so how wrong can it be? 'This is so wrong, I don't know where to start,' says Laird. 'There are a lot of ways to look at the figures, but only the most skewed ones come up with starting salaries approaching $60,000 annually, and I see plenty of programmers in the US working for less,' says Laird. At issue, though, isn't so much inaccurate salary information as what is happening to programming as a career: 'Professionalization of programmers nowadays strikes chords more like those familiar to auto mechanics or nurses than the knowledge workers we once thought we were,' writes Laird, 'we're expected to pay for our own tools, we're increasingly bound by legal entanglements, H1B accumulates degrading tales, and hyperspecialization dominates hiring decisions.'"

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