Nerval's Lobster writes "The idea of Samsung as a Google rival isn't unprecedented. For the past several quarters, Samsung has progressively molded Android to its own vision: layered with TouchWiz and sprinkled with all sorts of Samsung-centric apps, the software interface on Samsung devices is deviating rapidly away from the 'stock' Android that runs on other manufacturers' devices. During this year's unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, Samsung executives onstage barely mentioned the word 'Android,' and played up features designed specifically for the device. Establishing its own brand identity by moving away from 'stock' Android has done Samsung a lot of good: its smartphones and tablets not only stand out from the flood of Android devices on the market, but it's given the company an opportunity to position itself as the one true rival to iOS. While other Android manufacturers struggle, Samsung has profited. If Samsung continues to gain strength, it could become a huge issue for Google, which has its own eye on the hardware segment. Although Google purchased Motorola in 2011 for $12.5 billion, it hasn't yet remolded the brand in its own image, claiming that the subsidiary's existing pipeline of products first needs to be flushed into the ecosystem. But that reluctance could be coming to an end: reports suggest that Google will pump $500 million into marketing the Moto X, an upcoming 'hero' smartphone meant to reestablish Motorola's dominance of the Android space. If the Moto X succeeds, and Google decides to push aggressively into the branded hardware space, it could drive Samsung even further away from core Android. Never mind issuing TouchWiz updates until the original Android interface is virtually unrecognizable—with its industry heft, Samsung could potentially boot Google Play from the home-screen and substitute it with an apps-and-content hub of its own design. That would take a lot of work, of course: first, Samsung would need to build a substantial developer ecosystem, and then it would need to score great deals with movie studios and other content providers. But as Amazon and Apple have shown, such things aren't impossible. The only questions are whether (a) Samsung has the will to devote the necessary time and resources to such a project, and (b) if it's willing to transform its symbiotic relationship with Google into an antagonistic one."
Lasrick writes "Interesting opinion piece that explains successes and holes in the U.S. system of detecting and responding to pandemics: 'In April 2009, following an experimental protocol, staff members at a Navy lab in San Diego tested specimens from two patients using a new diagnostic device. Both tested positive for influenza, but, oddly, neither specimen matched the influenza A subtypes that are known to infect humans. This finding raised suspicions, and so the samples were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further tests would reveal that these two patients were the first reported cases of a novel H1N1 influenza virus that would cause a global pandemic in 2009. In many respects, the Navy lab's discovery of H1N1 is a success story for US efforts to boost its biosurveillance capabilities.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Wikipedia today announced it has launched support for editing content on your mobile device. The first version of mobile editing, which requires a Wikimedia account, is available right now. 'For our first release, our primary goal was to create a fast, intuitive editing experience for new users and experienced editors alike, while still sticking with markup editing for now,' Wikimedia's Juliusz Gonera explained. 'We started simple so we could observe our users' needs and expectations.'"
snydeq writes "Java 8 brings exciting developments, but as with any new technology, you can count on the good, the bad, and the headaches, writes Andrew C. Oliver. 'Java 8 is trying to "innovate," according to the Microsoft meaning of the word. This means stealing a lot of things that have typically been handled by other frameworks and languages, then incorporating them into the language or runtime (aka standardization). Ahead of the next release, the Java community is talking about Project Lambda, streams, functional interfaces, and all sorts of other goodies. So let's dive into what's great — and what we can hate.'"
Brandon Butler writes "Netflix, yes the video rental company Netflix, is changing the cloud game. During the past two years the company has pulled back the curtains through its Netflix OSS program to provide a behind-the-scenes look into how it runs one of the largest deployments of Amazon Web Services cloud-based resources. In doing so, the company is creating tools that can be used by both entire business-size scale cloud deployments and even smaller test environments. The Simian Army, for example randomly kills off VMs or entire availability zones in Amazon's cloud to test fault tolerance, Asgard is a cloud resource dashboard and Lipstick on (Apache) Pig, is a data visualization tool for the Hadoop program; there are dozens of others that help deploy, manage and monitor the tens of thousands of VM instances the company company can be running at any single time. Netflix is also creating a cadre of developers who are experts in managing cloud deployments, and already its former employees are popping up at other companies to bring their expertise on how to run a large-scale cloud resources. Meanwhile, Netflix does this all in AWS's cloud, which raises some questions of how good of a job it's actually doing when it can be massively impacted by cloud outages, such as the one on Christmas Eve last year that brought down Netflix's services but, interestingly, not Amazon's own video streaming system, which is a competitor to the company."
An anonymous reader points out this story about the latest effort by the U.S. to get Edward Snowden back in the country. "A U.S. Senate panel voted unanimously on Thursday to seek trade or other sanctions against Russia or any other country that offers asylum to former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who has been holed up for weeks at a Moscow airport. The 30-member Senate Appropriations Committee adopted by consensus an amendment to a spending bill that would direct Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with congressional committees to come up with sanctions against any country that takes Snowden in."
First time accepted submitter Dawn Kawamoto writes "Want to become more efficient? Try lopping off 250 workers. That's what BlackBerry did this week — saying it was a move to become more efficient. From the article: '“This is part of the next stage of our turnaround plan to increase efficiencies and scale our company correctly for new opportunities in mobile computing. We will be as transparent as possible as those plans evolve,” says Lisette Kwong, a company spokeswoman.'"
An anonymous reader writes "During his company's quarterly earnings call, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed how Instagram will be monetized. The answer isn't too surprising: there is a big expectation for the app to one day be profitable, and advertising will be the name of the game. 'Kevin [Systrom] has always been clear that we're building Instagram to be a business,' Zuckerberg said. 'We expect over time to generate a lot of profit from it. We think the right focus for now is to continue increasing the footprint of Instagram and, when the right time comes, we'll think about advertising.'"
Jim Hazard is a lawyer who leans geek; since he got his law degree in 1979, he's been the guy in the office who could make sense of things technical more often than others could, and dates his interest in regularizing complex legal documents (and making them a bit *less* complex) back to the era where Wang word processors were being replaced with personal computers. Most documents -- no matter how similar to each other, and how much work was spent in re-creating similar parts -- were "pickled" in proprietary formats that didn't lend themselves to labor-saving generalization and abstraction. That didn't sit well with Jim, and (in the spirit of Larry Lessig's declaration that "law is code," Hazard has been working for years to translate some of the best practices and tools of programmers (like code re-use, version control systems, and hierarchies of variables) to the field of law, in particular to contract formation. (Think about how many contracts you're party to; in modern life, there are probably quite a few.) He calls his endeavor Common Accord, and he'd like to see it bring the benefits of open source to both lawyers and their clients.
schwit1 writes "Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV's chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat. Luckily, all of this is happening at less than 5mph. So the Escape merely plows into a stand of 6-foot-high weeds growing in the abandoned parking lot of a South Bend, Ind. strip mall that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have chosen as the testing grounds for the day's experiments, a few of which are shown in the video below. (When Miller discovered the brake-disabling trick, he wasn't so lucky: The soccer-mom mobile barreled through his garage, crushing his lawn mower and inflicting $150 worth of damage to the rear wall.) The duo plans to release their findings and the attack software they developed at the hacker conference Defcon in Las Vegas next month–the better, they say, to help other researchers find and fix the auto industry's security problems before malicious hackers get under the hoods of unsuspecting drivers."
An anonymous reader writes "Regeneration is one of the most useful skills that an organism can possess. Lizards can regrow their tails and starfish can regrow and entire part of themselves if they're cut to pieces. Yet scientists have long wondered why some creatures possess this ability while others don't. That's why they decided to examine the process of regeneration, looking at the masters of this particular adaptation: flatworms."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "When you walk around a city, there are things you can just sense, like if you've wandered into a dodgy neighborhood, or where the new happening spot is. Intuitively, we know that a city's more intangible characteristics, like class or uniqueness, play a big role in what it’s like to live there, but until now there was no way to actually quantify that idea. Researchers from MIT Media Lab may have found a way to measure this 'aesthetic capital' of cities, with their website Place Pulse, a tool to crowdsource people's perception of cities by judging digital snapshots—a sort of 'hot or not' for urban neighborhoods. Some 4,000 geotagged Google Streetview images and 8,000 participants later, the team found that by using digital images and crowdsourced feedback, they can accurately quantify the diverse vibes within a city (pdf), which in turn can help us better understand issues like inequality and safety."
v3rgEz writes "After the ACLU's Christopher Soghoian highlighted NSA programs listed on LinkedIn, Jason Gulledge filed a request for details about the program — and turned up lucky. The NSA released 7 pages of database descriptions of its ANCHORY program, an open-source intelligence data gathering effort. The NSA's FOIA office said it would pony up more, but only if Gulledge could prove he was requesting the documents as part of a news gathering effort or if he would agree to pay associated fees."
steveb3210 writes "EQ2Wire.com is a fan site for the MMO Everquest 2. One feature of their site is a searchable portal for all game-related stats such as characters, equipment, items, and mobs which they generate from an XML feed provided by the game's publisher. Recently, the owner of a trademark has been threatening them over the name of a character and in the face of possible legal bills, they were forced to remove the character's profile from their site. Adding further insult to injury, the character seems to have been created prior to the trademark in question."
An anonymous reader writes "The latest major release of the LibreOffice office suite has just been published, including an experimental improved sidebar based on the work of Apache OpenOffice, embedded fonts, better Microsoft Office compatibility (improving their exclusive capability in the free software world of not only being able to read but also write .docx and .xlsx files) and many further Improvements."
First time accepted submitter ormembar writes "I have a laptop with a 1 TB hard disk. I use rsync to perform my backups (hopefully quite regularly) on an external 1 TB hard disk. But, with such a large hard disk, it takes quite some time to perform backups because rsync scans the whole disk for updates (15 minutes in average). Does it exist somewhere a kind of asynchronous RAID-1 free software that would record in a journal all the changes that I perform on the disk and replay this journal later, when I plug my external hard disk on the laptop? I guess that it would be faster than usual backup solutions (rsync, unison, you name it) that scan the whole partitions every time. Do you feel the same annoyance when backing up laptops?"
miller60 writes "The U.S. government keeps finding more data centers. Federal agencies have about 7,000 data centers, according to the latest stats from the ongoing IT consolidation process. The number started at 432 in 1999, but soon began to rise as agencies found more facilities, and exploded once the Obama administration decided to include server closets as well as dedicated data centers. The latest estimate is more than double the 3,300 facilities the government thought it had last year. The process has led to the closure of 484 data centers thus far, with another 855 planned over the next year. The GAO continues to call for the process to look beyond the number of facilities and focus on savings."
alphadogg writes "Malware writers are increasingly considering the Tor anonymity network as an option for hiding the real location of their command-and-control servers, according to researchers from security firm ESET. The researchers recently came across two botnet-type malware programs that use C&C servers operating as Tor 'hidden services.' The Tor Hidden Service protocol allows users to set up services — usually Web servers — that can only be accessed from within the Tor network through a random-looking hostname that ends in the .onion pseudo domain extension. The traffic between a Tor client and a Tor hidden service is encrypted and is randomly routed through a series of computers participating in the network and acting as relays."
After a Chinese woman was earlier this month evidently electrocuted while talking on her iPhone while it was plugged in to charge, Apple is warning users to avoid counterfeit chargers. From CNet: "Last week, reports surfaced in China that suggested the woman, Ma Ailun, might have been using a third-party charger designed to look like the real thing. Although third-party chargers are not uncommon, they vary widely in terms of safety and quality. Earlier this year, safety consulting and certification company UL issued a warning that counterfeit Apple USB chargers were making the rounds and that consumers should be on the lookout for them due to their lower quality and possibly dangerous defects. The company posted the guidance on its site after a woman was allegedly electrocuted while answering a call on her iPhone."
dryriver writes "Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research. Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain. Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up. Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming. The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation. Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition."
Reader turp182 notes that the Amash Amendment (#100) to HR 2397 (DOD appropriations bill) failed to pass the House of Representatives, meaning it will not be added to the appropriations bill. turp182 writes "The amendment would have specifically defunded the bulk collection of American phone records." Americans can see how their representatives voted here.
First time accepted submitter fsagx writes "The U.S. government has attempted to obtain the master encryption keys that Internet companies use to shield millions of users' private Web communications from eavesdropping. These demands for master encryption keys, which have not been disclosed previously, represent a technological escalation in the clandestine methods that the FBI and the National Security Agency employ when conducting electronic surveillance against Internet users."
An anonymous reader writes "One of the arguments for continuing and even expanding the H1-B visa program (pdf) is that it enables highly-skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. and grow the U.S. economy. Counterarguments state that the H1-B visa program does not bring in the 'best and brightest' and is used to drive down wages, particularly in the STEM fields. This Bloomberg article, discussing pending H1-B legislation, quotes some of the salaries of current workers in the U.S. on H1-B visas: $4,800/month and $5,500/month which work out to $57,600/year and $66,000/year; only slightly higher than the average entry-level salaries of newly-graduated engineering or computer science majors."
oritonic1 writes "During their long, cold winters, the Norwegian town of Rjukan doesn't enjoy much by way of daylight—so the town (population 3,386), installed three giant sun-tracking mirrors to shine a steady light over a 2000 square foot circle of the town square. From Popular Mechanics: 'Call it a mood enhancer. Or a tourist attraction. But the mirrors, which will be carried in via helicopter, will provide an oasis of light in an otherwise bleak location at the center of the 3500-population town. Three mirrors with a total surface area of about 538 square feet will sit at an angle to redirect winter sun down into the town, lighting up over 2150 square feet of concentrated space in the town square. A similar idea exists in the Italian village of Viganella, which has used brushed steel to reflect light since 2006.'"
notscientific writes "Each wolf has a unique howl, which scientists can now decipher through voice recognition (audio), allowing them to identify wolves individually. The scientists developed sound analysis code that can tell which wolf is howling with 100% accuracy. Previously, pitch was used to tell wolves apart, but these only achieved a relatively low accuracy rate. This sound analysis is important because it could well give researchers the first proper way to effectively monitor wolves in the wild. Interestingly, this research comes after the recent finding that dolphins have names for one another. In the case of wolves, their howls are essentially their names."
AmiMoJo writes "Experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology studied the cost of decontamination for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, estimating it at $50 billion. They estimate that decontamination in no-entry zones will cost up to 20 billion dollars, and in other areas, 31 billion dollars. It includes the cost of removing, transporting and storing radioactive waste such as contaminated soil. The central government has so far allocated about 11 billion dollars and the project is already substantially behind schedule. Meanwhile the effectiveness of the decontamination is being questioned. NHK compared data from before and after decontamination at 43 districts in 21 municipalities across Fukushima Prefecture. In 33 of the districts, or 77 percent of the total, radiation levels were still higher than the government-set standard of one millisievert per year. In areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where decontamination has been carried out on an experimental basis, radiation levels remain 10 to 60 times higher than the official limit."