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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

+ - 152 The New Jersey Supreme Court Restricts Police Searches of Phone Data->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times reports, "Staking out new ground in the noisy debate about technology and privacy in law enforcement, the New Jersey Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the police will now have to get a search warrant before obtaining tracking information from cellphone providers. The ruling puts the state at the forefront of efforts to define the boundaries around a law enforcement practice that a national survey last year showed was routine, and typically done without court oversight or public awareness. With lower courts divided on the use of cellphone tracking data, legal experts say, the issue is likely to end up before the United States Supreme Court. The New Jersey decision also underscores the extent of the battles over government intrusion into personal data in a quickly advancing digital age, from small town police departments to the National Security Agency’s surveillance of e-mail and cellphone conversations.""
Link to Original Source

+ - 113 Colorado town considers drone-hunting licences

Submitted by ciotog
ciotog (1098035) writes "The town of Deer Trail, Colorado (population approximately 550) will be voting next month on whether to offer licences for drone hunting. Furthermore, a bounty of $100 for each drone shot down will be offered (upon offering proof that the drone was potentially owned by the US government).
Is this just a fun gimmick, or a serious commentary on an increasingly surveillance based society?"

+ - 188 Is the world's largest virus a genetic time capsule?->

Submitted by gbrumfiel
gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "Researchers in France have discovered a the worlds largest virus and given it a terrifying name: Pandoravirus. NPR reports it doesn't pose a threat to people, but its genetic code could hint at an unusual origin. The team believes that the virus may carry the genes from a long-dead branch of the tree of life, one that possibly even started on Mars or somewhere else. Other scientists are skeptical, but everyone agrees that the new giant virus is pretty cool."
Link to Original Source

+ - 432 Microsoft is sitting on six million unsold Surface tablets-> 1

Submitted by DavidGilbert99
DavidGilbert99 (2607235) writes "Microsoft took everyone by surprise last year with the Surface tablet. It was something completely new from the company everyone knew as a software company. However nine months later and the sheen has worn off the Surface tablet and Microsoft's financial results on Thursday revealed it has taken a $900 million write down on the Surface RT tablets, leading David Gilbert in IBTimes to estimate it is sitting on a stockpile of six million unsold tablets."
Link to Original Source

+ - 213 Tech Firms Planning Highly Irate Letter to Government Over Requests Transparency->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "a “broad alliance” of 63 technology companies and civil liberties organizations plan on demanding more transparency about U.S. government surveillance programs, according to a new report in AllThingsD. Those companies and organizations will reportedly ask the government to allow them to report more accurate information about user-data requests. At the moment, federal agencies forbid Google, Microsoft, and other tech vendors from reporting more than a broad numerical range; for example, Google might announce as part of its Transparency Report that it received between 0-999 National Security Letters (issued by agencies as part of national security investigations) in 2009. “We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities,” reads a portion of a letter that will be reportedly published July 19 and signed by all those tech companies. “This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.” This is all continuing fallout from Edward Snowden's leaks of top-secret documents alleging that the NSA maintains a program called PRISM that allegedly siphons personal information from the databases of the world’s largest tech companies. Ever since, those companies (which have all denied participation in PRISM) have been anxious to show the world that they only give the government as little user data as possible. This new push for more “transparency” plays to that strategy, and the stakes couldn’t be higher—if consumers and businesses lose faith in their IT providers' ability to preserve privacy, the latter's very existence could be at risk."
Link to Original Source

+ - 167 Mars' Once Thick Atmosphere Now Kaput->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "At one time, Mars had a thick, protective atmosphere — possibly even cushier than Earth’s — but the bubble of gases mostly dissipated about 4 billion years ago and has never been replenished, new research shows. The findings come from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, which has been moonlighting as an atmospheric probe as it scours planet’s surface for habitats that could have supported ancient microbial life. “On Earth, our magnetic field protects us, it shields us from the solar wind particles. Without Earth’s magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet. Everything would be wiped out — especially when you go back 4 billion years. The solar wind was at least 100 times stronger then than it is today. It was a young sun with a very intense radiation, ” Chris Webster, manager of the Planetary Sciences Instruments Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. Unfortunately for Mars, the last 4 billion years have not been kind."
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+ - 175 Don't Tie a Horse To a Tree and Other Open Data Lessons->

Submitted by itwbennett
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Baltimore this week became the first city to hop on the open data bandwagon with the launch of the Baltimore Decoded website. The site makes the city’s charter and codes more accessible to the public and will eventually include information on court decisions, legislative tracking and city technical standards (e.g., building regulations, zoning restrictions, fire codes). The site also offers a RESTful, JSON-based API for accessing the data. ITworld's Phil Johnson dug in and found these lesser-known Baltimore codes: You can't hold more than 1 yard sale every 6 months, you can't tie a horse to a tree, and you can't have fruit on a wharf. What you do with this information is up to you."
Link to Original Source

+ - 113 U.S. makes a Top 10 supercomputer available to anyone who can 'boost' America->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The federal government is making one of the most powerful supercomputers in its computing arsenal available to any U.S. businesses that can help make the country more competitive. The system is the 5 petaflop Vulcan, an IBM Blue Gene/Q system running at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, Calif. To qualify for system time a project must meet be able to establish that it can either: Boost American competitiveness, accelerate advances in science and technology, or develop the country's high-performance computing-skilled workforce."
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+ - 318 Gut Microbes Can Split a Species->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The community of microbes in an animal's gut may be enough to turn the creature into a different species. Species usually split when their members become so genetically distinct--usually by living in separate environments that cause them to evolve different adaptations (think finches on different islands)--that they can no longer successfully breed with each other. Now researchers have shown that a couple groups of wasps have become new species not because their DNA has changed, but because the bacteria in their guts have changed--the first example of this type of speciation."
Link to Original Source

+ - 199 Microsoft Has 1 Million Servers. So What?->

Submitted by itwbennett
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The only thing that's noteworthy about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's recent disclosure that the company has one million servers in its data centers is that he decided to disclose it — most of the industry giants like to keep that information to themselves, says ITworld's Nancy Gohring. But just for fun, Amazon Web Services engineer James Hamilton did the math: One million servers equals 15–30 data centers, a $4.25 billion capital expense, and power consumption of 2.6TWh annually, or the amount of power that would be used by 230,000 homes in the U.S. Whether this is high or low, good or bad is impossible to know without additional metrics."
Link to Original Source

+ - 129 Every Time We Look at Neptune, We Find More Moons-> 1

Submitted by Daniel_Stuckey
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Though we’ve been exploring space for over a half century, there’s still plenty to find in our own backyard. Case in point: last week, Mark Showalter, a keen-eyed researching with the SETI institute, found a previously unseen moon orbiting Neptune in archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The moon, for the time being, is called S/2004 N 1. Preliminary estimates suggest it’s no more than 12 miles across, so small that from our Earthly vantage point i’s about 100 times as dim as the faintest star we can see. Even Voyager 2—the planet-hopping probe that flew past Neptune in 1989 and caught a brief glimpse of the planet’s moons and rings—didn’t see this moon. It is currently the smallest known moon in the Neptunian system and the 14th one we’ve found.
"

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+ - 137 Comcast may put WiFi transceivers on cars, buses, humans->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Comcast engineers want to put WiFi transceivers in rental cars, taxis, buses and even on humans to extend reach of its Xfinity WiFi network. They also detail an idea for offering incentives to drivers to move WiFi-enabled cars to areas where it needs WiFi coverage. The plan was detailed in a patent application published today by the USPTO (I wrote a story about it for FierceCable). http://www.fiercecable.com/story/comcast-mobile-wifi-network-would-use-transceivers-placed-rental-cars-buses/2013-07-18"
Link to Original Source

+ - 236 VLC For iOS Returns On July 19, Rewritten And Fully Open-Sourced

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "VideoLAN revealed some very exciting news today: VLC for iOS will be back in Apple's App Store by tomorrow (July 19). The company tells TNW the app will be available for free worldwide, requires iOS 5.1 or later, as well supports the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

As you can expect, VLC for iOS version 2.0 will be open-source. This time, however, its code will be available online (also by tomorrow), bi-licensed under both the Mozilla Public License Version 2 as well as the GNU General Public License Version 2 or later."

+ - 125 How One Drunk Driver Sent My Company To The Cloud

Submitted by snydeq
snydeq (1272828) writes "Andrew Oliver offers further proof that drunk driving and on-site servers don't mix. Oliver, who had earlier announced a New Year's resolution to go all-in on cloud services, had that business strategy expedited when a drunk driver, fleeing a hit-and-run, drove his SUV directly into the beauty shop next door to his company's main offices. 'Our servers were down for eight hours, and various services were intermittent for at least 12 hours. Had things been worse, we could have lost everything. Like our customers, we needed HA and DR. Moreover, we thought, maybe our critical services like email, our website, and Jira should be in a real data center. This made going all-cloud a top priority for us rather than "when we get to it.",' Oliver writes, detailing his company's resultant hurry-up migration plan to 100 percent cloud services."

+ - 315 NSA Admits Searching "3 Hops" from Suspects

Submitted by cpitman
cpitman (2835721) writes "In a house hearing Wednesday the NSA admitted that it could query not only a suspect's records, but also perform up to a "three hop query". Considering that most people in the world are separated by under 6 degrees of separation, the NSA essentially claims that any single suspect gives them rights to investigate a chunk of the world's population.

With the terror watch list having over 700,000 names, just how many times has Kevin Bacon been investigated?"

+ - 118 Research in Motion/Blackberry Device Exploitation Guidelines for Law Enforcement->

Submitted by MichaelBall
MichaelBall (41354) writes "The following table describes Research in Motion/Blackberry requirements for disclosure of user data to law enforcement. The table shows what legal process is required to request user data, the type of data each process can typically obtain and the legal authorities authorizing each form of request. The table is from a course for DEA agents on mobile device exploitation and is accompanied by a script to be read by an instructor."
Link to Original Source

+ - 102 Congress Warns Section 215 Won't Be Renewed

Submitted by Trailrunner7
Trailrunner7 (1100399) writes "Incensed at the way that the Department of Justice and the intelligence community have used the controversial section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday angrily questioned Justice and NSA officials about their surveillance of U.S. citizens and said that when section 215 expires in two years, it won’t be renewed.

The hearing was the latest in a string of what have turned into interrogations of top Justice, law enforcement and intelligence community officials in the wake of the leaks of classified documents revealing the methods that the NSA and FBI use to gather phone metadata and email and Web records. The leaks have spurred a conversation in Washington about the use of section 215, as well as section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to collect data on Americans.

“Section 215 expires at the end of 2015,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said to James Cole of the Justice Department. “Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House of Representatives to renew section 215.”"

+ - 322 Study Finds iOS Apps Just as Intrusive as Android Apps->

Submitted by wiredmikey
wiredmikey (1824622) writes "Despite fevered arguments that iOS is more secure than Android, or that Android offers developers more options than iOS, a study has found that both platforms are equally as invasive and curious when it comes to collecting user data.

Security firm BitDefender analyzed more than 522,000 apps over the past year and focused on the "intrusive behaviors" the app developer may have included in the product, such as tracking location, reading contact lists, and leaking your email address or device ID. According to Catalin Cosi, iOS applications appear to be more focused on harvesting private data than the ones designed for Android.

Cosi did acknowledge that Android apps state all the permissions needed at installation time and there is no way to change the settings afterwards, while iOS permissions are requested at run-time, as the specific resource is used, making iOS a little bit more secure in practice."

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+ - 285 PayPal Credits Man with $92 Quadrillion->

Submitted by solareagle
solareagle (892616) writes "Pennsylvania resident Chris Reynolds got quite a shock when he opened his most recent PayPal statement — it said he had a $92,233,720,368,547,800 balance in his account. "I'm just feeling like a million bucks," Reynolds told the [Philadelphia] Daily News yesterday. "At first I thought that I owed quadrillions. It was quite a big surprise." When asked what he would do with the money, he said, "I would pay the national debt down first. Then I would buy the Phillies, if I could get a great price." The Daily News speculates that the astronomical balance may be related to PayPal's new Galactic initiative, announced last month, to expand its business beyond Earth."
Link to Original Source

+ - 282 When Metadata Analytics Goes Awry-> 1

Submitted by jfruh
jfruh (300774) writes "When blogger Dan Tynan started seeing lots of Latvians in his LinkedIn People You May Know list, it was pretty funny, considering he'd never been to Latvia or ever met anyone from there. But now that shadowy spy agencies are using algorithms similar to LinkedIn's to see if we're terrorists, mistakes like this are a lot scarier."
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+ - 235 Tesla Motors May Be Having An iPhone Moment->

Submitted by pacopico
pacopico (802691) writes "Telsa Motors has started churning out 500 of its all electric Model S sedans per week. Bloomberg Businessweek just did a cover story about the company, suggesting that Tesla is becoming more than just a fad of rich folks in California. According to the story, 75 percent of Tesla's sales now come from outside of California, and the company appears poised to raise its sales forecasts for the year. There's a lot of talk about Tesla's history and why it survived when Fisker and Better Place failed too."
Link to Original Source

+ - 246 Jimmy Carter Calls Snowden Leak Ultimately "Beneficial"->

Submitted by eldavojohn
eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to RT, the 39th president of the United States made several statements worth noting. Carter said that 'America has no functioning democracy at this moment' and 'the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far.' The second comment sounded like the Carter predicted the future would look favorably upon Snowden's leads — at least those concerning domestic spying in the United States — as he said: 'I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.' It may be worth noting that, stemming from Zurcher v. Stanford Daily, Jimmy Carter signed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 into law and that Snowden has received at least one nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize."
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+ - 113 Blackberry 10 sends Full Email Account Credentials to RIM->

Submitted by vikingpower
vikingpower (768921) writes "How a phone manufacturer making a somewhat successful come-back can shoot itself in the foot: Marc "van Hauser" Heuse, who works for German technology magazine Heise, has discovered that immediately after setting up an email account on Blackberry 10 OS, full credentials for that account are sent to Research In Motion, the Canadian Blackberry manufacturer. Shortly after performing the set-up, the first successful connections from a server located within the RIM domain appear in the mail server's logs. ( most of the story in english, some comments in German ). At least according to German law, this is completely illegal, as the phone's user does not get a single indication or notice of what is being done."
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+ - 128 Swedish Machine Turns Sweat into Perfectly Good Drinking Water 1

Submitted by Taffykay
Taffykay (2047384) writes "Swedish designers developed the Sweat Machine to drain perfectly good drinking water from sweaty clothes! PR Agency Deportivo has teamed up with UNICEF to show off the machine at the Gotha Cup youth soccer tournament in order to highlight how many people around the world lack access to basic drinking water."

+ - 240 TSA orders searches of valet parked car at airport->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 (797399) writes "Laurie Iacuzza walked to her waiting car at the Greater Rochester International Airport after returning from a trip and that's when she found it — a notice saying her car was inspected after she left for her flight. She said, “I was furious. They never mentioned it to me when I booked the valet or when I picked up the car or when I dropped it off.”

Iacuzza's car was inspected by valet attendants on orders from the TSA."

Link to Original Source

+ - 166 California Smart License Plates->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "California license plates could get a high-tech makeover with a digital screen and wireless capabilities as part of a Senate bill making its way through the Legislature.
Senate Bill 806 authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a pilot program at no cost to the state with as many as 160,000 cars testing the digital plates patented by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile. The state hopes the technology will improve efficiencies in vehicle registrations and potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals.
Privacy advocates say the approach could leave motorists vulnerable to government surveillance by undoing a Supreme Court ruling that required authorities to obtain search warrants before using vehicle tracking devices.
"It means everyone driving in California will have their location accessible to the government at any time," said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 2010, the Legislature considered a similar bill supported by Smart Plate Mobile, with the noted addition of allowing for scrolling advertisements when a vehicle comes to a stop for four seconds or longer"

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+ - 160 ICANN approves first set of new gTLD, .Amazon rejection looms->

Submitted by hypnosec
hypnosec (2231454) writes "ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved the first set of global Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and surprisingly all four are non-English words including . (“Web” in Arabic); . (“Game” in Chinese); . (“Online” in Russian); and . (“Web site” in Russian). Approval of four non-English words can be considered as a milestone and this approval marks "the first time that people will be able to access and type in a website address for generic Top-Level Domains in their native language.""
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+ - 154 Artists asking for sanity in copyright law

Submitted by MotorMachineMercenar
MotorMachineMercenar (124135) writes "Effi (Electronic Frontier Finland) has arranged an art exhibit (in Finnish) with several artists as part of a grassroots copyright reform campaign. A citizen-written petition (in Finnish, summary in English) on an official government site — similar to the White House petition site in the US — asks for "sanity in copyright law". It has 40,000 signatures, with 10,000 more required for consideration by the the Finnish parliament. There is one more week to gather signatures until deadline.

The coordinator points out that the exhibit does not advocate piratism, since artists "need to get paid" for their art. Instead, the exhibit features works which question the sanity of punishing pirates with similar harshness as aggravated assault, for example. Related, the petition calls for reducing the classification of piratism from a crime to a misdemeanor."

+ - 150 James Bond's creator, and the real spy gadgets he inspired->

Submitted by cylonlover
cylonlover (1921924) writes "It's one of the most memorable moments in perhaps the best James Bond film, From Russia with Love: SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb, posing as a hotel maid, drops her gun, and appears to be at a disadvantage as she goes toe to toe with Sean Connery's imposing Bond. That is until she deploys her iconic poison-tipped dagger shoes, which have gone on to be copied in other notable action films and Wild Wild West. But as kitsch as Klebb's cleaver clogs might seem, the CIA attempted to replicate them, and another classic Bond gadget, in real life, according to research by Dr. Christopher Moran of Warwick University. At the heart of the story is the close friendship of Bond author and Ian Fleming and former CIA Director Allen Dulles. Gizmag spoke to Moran about 20th century Intelligence, and its peculiar relationship with the fictional British spy."
Link to Original Source

+ - 187 Congressman Wants to Repeal Patriot Act->

Submitted by korbulon
korbulon (2792438) writes "New Jersey congressman Rush Holt has submitted legislation to repeal both the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act in an attempt to curtail the expansion of government infringment of citizens' rights and privacy. In a press announcement Holt stated: "My bill would restore the probable cause-based warrant requirement for any surveillance against an American citizen being proposed on the basis of an alleged threat to the nation." In an interesting twist, Holt is currently running for a U.S. Senate seat, giving NJ voters have a chance to indirectly voice their opinion regarding NSA surveillance and eavesdropping ."
Link to Original Source

+ - 95 Chevron granted access to environmental activists' email accounts->

Submitted by mikeoride
mikeoride (2988121) writes "Oil giant Chevron has been granted access to "more than 100 email accounts, including environmental activists, journalists, and attorneys" involved in a long-running dispute involving damage "caused by oil drilling" in Ecuador, reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which, with EarthRights International (ERI), is opposing the New York court's decision says:

After years of litigation, an Ecuadorian court last year imposed a judgment of over $17 billion on Chevron for dumping toxic waste into Amazon waterways and causing massive harm to the rainforest."

Link to Original Source

+ - 197 New Android Eyewear Butts Heads with Google Glass->

Submitted by DeviceGuru
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes "GlassUp, an Italian startup, has started taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for an Android eyewear display system billed as a simpler, lower-cost alternative to Google Glass. The GlassUp device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications. GlassUp was unveiled at CeBit in March, and is now up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, where pre-sales opened today ranging from $199 to $399, depending on whether it’s a pre-release, pre-production, or full-production version. This is less than a quarter the price of the $1,500 Google Glass Developer Edition. Already almost two years in development, GlassUp is expected to ship to presales customers in Feb. 2014, around the same time Google Glass is expected to ship in commercial production form."
Link to Original Source

+ - 169 Google storing WLAN passwords in the "clear"

Submitted by husemann
husemann (15965) writes "Micah Lee from the EFF filed a bug report (https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=57560) about Google storing all your WLAN passwords on their application settings backup service without allowing you to encrypt them. So far it's not known whether the passwords are stored encrypted at rest, but just the fact that Google can read them (and disclose them if forced by "law") is a bit surprising, too put it nicely. Already one German university is concerned enough about this "feature" that they issued a warning to their users (http://www.rz.uni-passau.de/rzaktuell/meldung/detail/speicherung-von-zugangsdaten-auf-servern-der-fa-google/)."

+ - 187 Spatial Ability a Predictor of Creativity in Science

Submitted by HonorPoncaCityDotCom
HonorPoncaCityDotCom (2980655) writes "The gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — is sometimes referred to as the “orphan ability” for its tendency to go undetected. Now Douglas Quenqua reports that according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, spatial ability may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields. “Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures (PDF) used in educational selection,” says David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.” Spatial ability can be best defined as the ability to “generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.” Some examples of great inventors who have used their high levels of spatial ability to innovate include James Watt, who is known for improving the steam engine and James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Nikola Tesla, who provided the basis for alternating current (AC) power systems, is said (or fabled) to have been able to visualize an entire working engine in his mind and be able to test each part over time to see what would break first. Testing spatial aptitude is not particularly difficult but is simply not part of standardized testing because it is considered a cognitive function — the realm of I.Q. and intelligence tests — and is not typically a skill taught in school. “It’s not like math or English, it’s not part of an academic curriculum,” says Dr. David Geary. “It’s more of a basic competence. For that reason it just wasn’t on people’s minds when developing these tests.”"

+ - 96 Apple's 'Designed in California' Ad is Nuts

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Over at Fast Company, Mark Wilson is of the opinion that the Designed by Apple in California ad is nuts. Why? 'In what should be a warm, humanizing montage,' writes Wilson, 'people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on.' And, in case Apple wants a second opinion, Bloomberg describes the ad as self-indulgent and lacking in joy, too!"

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