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The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 11:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-a-sou-more department:
Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article:
This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

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Source Code Leaked For Tinba Banking Trojan
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 08:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's small-can-be-potent department:
msm1267 (2804139) writes "The source code for Tinba, known as the smallest banker Trojan in circulation, has been posted on an underground forum. Researchers say that the files turned out to be the source code for version one of Tinba, which was identified in 2012, and is the original, privately sold version of the crimeware kit. Tinba performs many of the same malicious functions as other banker Trojans, injecting itself into running processes on an infected machine, including the browser and explorer.exe. The malware is designed to steal financial information, including banking credentials and credit-card data and also makes each infected computer part of a botnet. Compromised machines communicate with command-and-control servers over encrypted channels. Tinba got its name from an abbreviation of "tiny banker," and researchers say that it's only about 20 KB in size."

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CDC Closes Anthrax, Flu Labs After Potentially Deadly Mix-Ups Come to Light
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 04:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's try-the-new-super-vaccine department:
In the wake of two potentially deadly accidents, the CDC yesterday announced the temporary closure of both the anthrax and flu research labs at the agency's Atlanta headquarters. The New York Times reports:


In one episode last month, at least 62 C.D.C. employees may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle them. Employees not wearing protective gear worked with bacteria that were supposed to have been killed but may not have been. All were offered a vaccine and antibiotics, and the agency said it believed no one was in danger. “We have a high degree of confidence that no one was exposed,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the C.D.C. director. Credit David Goldman/Associated Press In a second accident, disclosed Friday, a C.D.C. lab accidentally contaminated a relatively benign flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain that has killed 386 people since 2003. Fortunately, a United States Agriculture Department laboratory realized that the strain was more dangerous than expected and alerted the C.D.C. ... The anthrax and flu labs will remain closed until new procedures are imposed, Frieden said. For the flu lab, that will be finished in time for vaccine preparation for next winter’s flu season, he said.


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New Technology Uses Cellular Towers For Super-Accurate Weather Measurements
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 03:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's gives-each-droplet-ipv6-address department:
Iddo Genuth (903542) writes "Israeli scientists from the Tel Aviv University perfected a method for using cell phone service towers' microwave emitters to measure rain and snow and even (for the first time ) detect fog with great accuracy over vast areas in real time. The research team members have analyzed endless amounts of raw cellular data and developed more accurate ways to measure meteorological information and added more parameters that they can now measure using their growing database. When combined with existing meteorological monitoring technologies such as radars and local ground based weather stations, the results show unprecedented level of accuracy that can give better and further weather forecast as well as special warnings about upcoming floods, fog and hail which can affect both people and crop production."

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Chimpanzee Intelligence Largely Determined By Genetics
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's why-I'll-be-a-smart-monkey's-uncle department:
As reported by National Geographic, intelligence in chimpanzees appears to be strongly heritable, according to research led by William Hopkins, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, who examined both genetic and environmental factors for a group of related chimpanzees with varying measured intelligence:

To find out how much of that variability is due to genetics, Hopkins and his team assessed the cognitive abilities of 99 captive chimpanzees. They used a battery of 13 tests measuring various manifestations of intelligence, such as how the animals dealt with the physical world, reacted to sound, and used tools.
The group of chimps tested had an expansive family tree, ranging from full siblings to fourth and fifth cousins. This allowed the researchers to calculate how well scores on cognitive traits aligned with genetic relatedness. Two categories of tasks were significantly heritable: those related to spatial cognition, such as learning physical locations, and those that required social cognition, such as grabbing a person's attention. Some chimps are quite clever, making kissing sounds or clapping their hands to draw an experimenter's attention, Hopkins said. "This one is a real measure of intelligence and innovative behavior."



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Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 01:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's does-it-shoot-deadly-darts? department:
Watches that do more than tell the time have been around for a long time. (And in fiction, James Bond, Dick Tracey, and Michael Knight all had notably high-tech watches.)
The new smart watches from Samsung and LG, without a phone connected via Bluetooth as backhaul, can still serve to show the time and to serve as alarms (and Samsung's can measure your pulse, too), but all the magic features (like searching by voice via the watch) do require a connection. They can't play MP3s or take pictures on their own, and they don't have built-in GPS. Even so, compared to the polarizing Google Glass, the new breed of smart watches are wearables that probably are an easier sell, even if this far the trend has been to replace watches with smart phones. (Android Wear has gotten a lot of attention, but Microsoft has their own upcoming, and Apple almost certainly does, too.) Are you interested in a smart watch, and if so, what uses do you want it for? If they have no appeal to you now, are there functions that would make you change your mind on that front?

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Texas Town Turns To Treated Sewage For Drinking Water
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 10:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's says-something-about-the-west-texas-average department:
Scientific American reports that Wichita Falls, Texas has taken an unusual step, precipitated by the years-long drought that Texas has faced: it's using treated sewage for drinking water. From the article:

To launch what it calls its "Direct Potable Reuse Project," the city pipes water 12 miles from its wastewater treatment plant to this treatment facility where it goes through microfiltration. A pump pulls water through a module filled with fibers that removes most of the impurities. Then it is forced through a semi-permeable membrane that can remove dissolved salts and other contaminants. The process, called reverse osmosis, is used by the U.S. military, in ships and in the manufacture of silicon chips. The water then gets blended with lake water before going through the regular water treatment system. ... At 60 cents per 1,000 gallons, it's far cheaper than any other source of water, [Wichita Falls' public works director Russell] Schreiber said. ... He said there have been few complaints so far. A glass of the finished product, sampled at a downtown restaurant, tasted about average for West Texas.


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FCC Approves Subsidy Plan to Upgrade School and Library Networks
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 10:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ask-for-a-mile-in-hopes-of-an-inch department:
The Washington Post reports that, "In a 3-2 vote along party lines Friday, the FCC greenlit a plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years on subsidies for internal networks. The move also begins a process to phase out some subsidies under the federal program, known as E-Rate, for services and equipment that are on the decline, such as pagers and dial-up Internet service." That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but as usual in politics it's the result of a messy process:

The original plan called for spending $5 billion on WiFi over five years, in line with a push by the Obama administration to bring next-gen broadband and WiFi to 99 percent of students over the same period. Those funds would have partly come from savings as a result of transitioning away from supporting legacy technologies. The proposal would also have eliminated an existing requirement that E-Rate funds be spent first on broadband services before being applied to WiFi. In past years, the cost of broadband service meant that money was rarely left over for upgrading WiFi connections. But the FCC's proposal was ultimately scaled back late Thursday amid Republican objections that the E-Rate program can't afford the changes. The final proposal's two-year, $2 billion commitment accounts for the money the FCC has already set aside for WiFi upgrades, but it does not commit the FCC to funding WiFi upgrades at that same rate for the following three years.


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A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's big-badda-boom department:
Lasrick (2629253) writes It isn't as if real analysis of Israel's "Iron Dome" isn't available, but invariably, whenever Israel has a skirmish the media is filled with glowing reports of how well the system works, and we always find out months later that the numbers were exaggerated. John Mecklin at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the coverage of Iron Dome in the recent exchanges between Israel and Hamas and finds the pattern is repeating itself. However, 'Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all,"' Includes a good explanation of the differences between Iron Dome (a 'rocket defense system') and missile defense systems pushed by the U.S.

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Take a Picture Just By Thinking About It, Using Google Glass With MindRDR App
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's what's-on-your-mind-and-your-ears department:
rtoz (2530056) writes A London based company, This Place, is launching a new app "MindRDR" for providing one more way for controlling Google Glass. It will allow the users to control the Google Glass with their thoughts. This MindRDR application bridges the Neurosky EEG biosensor and Google Glass. It allows users to take photos and share them on Twitter and Facebook by simply using brainwaves alone. This Place has put the code of this app on GitHub for others to use it and expand on it.

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Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's really-great-bread-man department:
meghan elizabeth writes How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course.
Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.


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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's only-criminals-will-have-commercial-drones department:
mpicpp (3454017) writes For months, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been investigating realtors who use drones to film their properties. Now, Forbes has learned that the FAA's investigations have succeeded in intimidating NRT —the nation's largest residential real estate brokerage company — into advising their members to not only cease flying drones as part of their work, but to also cease using drone footage. This is a troubling development in an ongoing saga over the FAA's rules which punish the safe commercial use of drones. Currently, the FAA does not prohibit the use of drones for a hobby — flying over your home and taking pictures of it for fun is allowed, but because real estate drones take pictures for a commercial purpose, the FAA prohibits their use.

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Finnish National TV Broadcaster Starts Sending Bitcoin Blockchain
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 06:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's in-the-air department:
New submitter Joel Lehtonen (3743763) writes "The Finnish national digital TV broadcaster Digita is co-operating with startup company Koodilehto to start transmission of Bitcoin blockchain and transactions in Terrestrial Digital TV (DVB-T) signal that covers almost the entire Finnish population of 5 million people. The pilot broadcasting starts September 1st and lasts two months. The broadcast can be received by a computer with any DVB-T adapter (like this $20 dongle). A commercial production phase is planned to begin later this year."

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New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 05:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's learnings-about-synergy department:
jfruh (300774) writes New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that he and his leadership team are taking "important steps to visibly change our culture" and that "nothing is off the table" on that score. While much of his declaration consists of vague and positive-sounding phrases ("crease the fluidity of information and ideas by taking actions to flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes"), he outlined his main goals for the shift: reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision; quantify outcomes for products and use that data to predict future trends; and increasing investment for employee training and development.

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Sand-Based Anode Triples Lithium-Ion Battery Performance
Posted by News Fetcher on July 12 '14 at 01:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-where-will-it-comes-from? department:
Zothecula (1870348) writes "Conventional lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made of graphite, but it is widely believed that the performance of this material has reached its zenith, prompting researchers to look at possible replacements. Much of the focus has been on nanoscale silicon, but it remains difficult to produce in large quantities and usually degrades quickly. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have overcome these problems by developing a lithium-ion battery anode using sand."

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Chinese Hackers Infiltrate Firms Using Malware-Laden Handheld Scanners
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '14 at 11:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's location-location-location department:
wiredmikey (1824622) writes "China-based threat actors are using sophisticated malware installed on handheld scanners to target shipping and logistics organizations from all over the world. According to security firm TrapX, the attack begins at a Chinese company that provides hardware and software for handheld scanners used by shipping and logistics firms worldwide to inventory the items they're handling. The Chinese manufacturer installs the malware on the Windows XP operating systems embedded in the devices.

Experts determined that the threat group targets servers storing corporate financial data, customer data and other sensitive information. A second payload downloaded by the malware then establishes a sophisticated C&C on the company's finance servers, enabling the attackers to exfiltrate the information they're after. The malware used by the Zombie Zero attackers is highly sophisticated and polymorphic, the researchers said. In one attack they observed, 16 of the 48 scanners used by the victim were infected, and the malware managed to penetrate the targeted organization's defenses and gain access to servers on the corporate network. Interestingly, the C&C is located at the Lanxiang Vocational School, an educational institution said to be involved in the Operation Aurora attacks against Google, and which is physically located only one block away from the scanner manufacturer, TrapX said."


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Mars (One) Needs Payloads
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '14 at 08:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-but-nothing-too-heavy department:
mbone (558574) writes Mars One has announced that their first, unmanned, lander, targeted for 2018, needs payloads. Along with their 4 experiments, and a University experiment, they have two payloads for hire: "Mars One offers two payload opportunities for paying mission contributors. Proposals can take the form of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, marketing and publicity campaigns, or any other suggested payload. 'Previously, the only payloads that have landed on Mars are those which NASA has selected,' said Bas Lansdorp, 'We want to open up the opportunity to the entire world to participate in our mission to Mars by sending a certain payload to the surface of Mars.'" The formal Request for Proposals for all of this is out now as well.

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O3b Launches Four More Satellites To Bring Internet To 'Other 3 Billion'
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '14 at 05:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's from-above department:
An anonymous reader writes "O3b Networks is aiming to provide internet access through satellite, to the "other three billion" people in under-served equatorial regions (Africa, the Pacific, South America). O3b launched four more satellites [Thursday], to add to the four they already have in orbit. This is a very international effort; a Russian Soyuz rocket went up from South America, carrying satellites built in France. There's a video of the rocket and payloads coming together and a video of the rocket launch. There's also an academic paper describing using the O3b system from the Cook Islands in the Pacific, giving an idea of what it does and those all-important ping times."

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Lyft's New York Launch Halted By Restraining Order
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '14 at 04:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's restraining-competition-is-more-like-it department:
Forbes reports that Lyft's planned expansion into the New York market has been delayed by a restraining order. The article explains that State officials had asked Lyft to delay its launch. When Lyft refused, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office filed a temporary restraining order against the startup Friday morning to prevent its launch. Other statements said that the restraining order had been granted, though Simpson said that was untrue.

Lyft and officials will reconvene in court Monday for a hearing. Lyft will not launch until it has reached an agreement with the city, Simpson said.

Since Monday, when Lyft announced it was planning to launch in the two boroughs [of Queens and Brooklyn], the app has faced criticism from city officials. The taxi and limousine commission declared the app 'unauthorized' and said its riders were at risk and its drivers could be cited and fined if they were caught using it.


Lyft seems to to have left riders mostly unscathed in Boston, where it's been operating since early last year, and in numerous other cities. Also at Ars Technica.

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"Internet's Own Boy" Briefly Knocked Off YouTube With Bogus DMCA Claim
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '14 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's until-proven-innocent department:
An anonymous reader writes "In a bitter irony, a documentary celebrating Aaron Swartz, the late Internet activist who helped create the Creative Commons, has been taken down from YouTube by a misguided copyright claim." From the article: [O]ne of the dark sides of how copyright is enforced on the Internet is that sites that don't actually infringe are sometimes mistakenly swept up in rightsholders' takedown notices, which are frequently automated. Visitors who tried to watch The Internet's Own Boy on YouTube Friday were greeted by the message, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Remove Your Media LLC," a reference to a company that specializes in sending copyright takedowns in accordance with the law that governs them, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). It's not clear who made the claim, but that's not the point—as activists are all too aware, false copyright claims can can knock legitimate content offline.

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