phantomfive writes "Verizon has said they will not be digging new lines any time soon. Time-Warner's cash flow goes towards paying down debt, not laying down fiber. AT&T is doing everything they can to slow deployment of Google fiber. How can the situation be improved? Mainly by expediting right-of-way access, permits, and inspections, according to Andy Kessler. That is how Google was able to afford to lay down fiber in Austin, and how VTel was able to do it in Vermont (gigabit connections for $35 a month)."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
littlesparkvt writes "Harnessing the sun's power is nothing new on Earth, but if a Japanese company has its way, it will build a solar strip across the 11,000 mile Lunar equator that could supply our world with clean and unlimited solar energy for generations." Some of the company's other projects look just as ambitious.
__roo writes "Herbicides used in Vietnam in the 1970s still pose a threat to servicemen, according to a study published Friday. The U.S. Air Force and Department of Veteran Affairs denied benefits to sick veterans, taking the position that any dioxin or other components of Agent Orange contaminating its fleet of C-123 cargo planes would have been 'dried residues' and unlikely to pose meaningful exposure risks. According to the lead researcher, 'The VA, whether out of ignorance or malice, has denied the entire existence of this entire branch of science. They have this preposterous idea that somehow there is this other kind of state of matter — a dried residue that is completely inert.' To show that such exposures happened, her research team had to be 'very clever.'"
McGruber writes "In a post on the Flyertalk website, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum provides another interesting detail about how he steered WhatsApp into a $16 billion deal with Facebook: 'we announced the deal with Facebook on wednesday after the market closed. during the process, we realized there was a chance we might not be able to get the deal wrapped up and signed on wednesday and it could delay. when the risk of the delay became real, i said: "if we don't get it done on wednesday, it probably wont get done. i have tickets on thursday to fly out to Barcelona which i bought with miles and they are not easily refundable or even possible to change. this has to be done by wednesday or else!!!"...and so one of the biggest deals in tech history had to be scheduled around my M&M award ticket."
We've mentioned several times the tension between giant streaming sources (especially Netflix), and ISPs (especially Comcast, especially given that it may merge with Time-Warner). Now, Marketwatch reports that Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast (amount undisclosed) for continued smooth access to Comcast's network customers, "a landmark agreement that could set a precedent for Netflix's dealings with other broadband providers, people familiar with the situation said." From the article: "In exchange for payment, Netflix will get direct access to Comcast's broadband network, the people said. The multiyear deal comes just 10 days after Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable TWC -0.79% Inc., which if approved would establish Comcast as by far the dominant provider of broadband in the U.S., serving 30 million households" I wonder how soon until ISPs' tiered pricing packages will become indistinguishable from those for cable TV, with grouped together services that vary not just in throughput or quality guarantees, but in what sites you can reach at each service level, or which sports teams are subject to a local blackout order.
An anonymous reader writes "There is a very interesting project underway to recreate the ZX Spectrum and more. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum has been successfully crowdfunded, and it is due to go on sale in September 2014. If you want to go back to the 1980s — to the wonderful era of 8-bit gaming, you can instead try one of the many ZX Spectrum emulators." I remember being excited at the new Sinclair when my dad brought it home, but my strongest memory now is of what might be the worst keyboard I've ever had the chance to use.
sfcrazy writes "Amazon is all set to get Apple and Roku some serious competition with its own 'web-TV' or set-top box. According to reports, Amazon will be using Google's Android to build the box. Amazon already has a huge library of content (from Amazon Prime) which it can push to the living room through the box. Amazon, like Netflix, is also investing heavily in producing content to their own set-box. Amazon has also been hiring game developers and it won't be surprising if the company also dabbles into gaming." And while it may be only a rumor, the idea's got some reasonable legs: besides the content on Prime, Amazon has been making media-centric Android devices for a few years with its Kindle Fire line.
At last month's CES, I mislaid a microphone that I'd just bought: too many items in little black pouches, and that one disappeared on a patch of dark carpet when I got something else out of my bag. A few minutes later, when I realized this, I walked back to find (no shocker) that it had walked away, and the lost mic somehow never made it to the Lost & Found office. Dumb as I felt for having let it get away, the real sting is knowing that I didn't so much as have my name on it, which I like to think might have nudged a morally ambivalent finder into returning it. My question is this: How do you personalize, label, or mark your expensive tech goodies, so it's harder for them to be innocently or less-innocently taken away? Even at a LAN party, it's easy for items to get swapped around and confused. I've sometimes put my name or initials (in permanent ink) on any flat surface I can find that will fit it, but even the "permanent" ink of Sharpies seems to fade on many surfaces. Stickers degrade with heat, time, and bag jostling, but they certainly help. Is engraving the best permanent option? Have you used one of the physical tag services, like Boomerang, and has that ever actually come in handy for you? There's theft-deterrent (or at least post-theft tracking) software, as we've mentioned a few times on Slashdot, but many things aren't suited to it, like my lost mic. What do you do to keep your stuff yours?
theodp writes "A conversation with an angry young developer prompts Microsoft Program Manager Scott Hanselman to blog about 'Microsoft Haters: The Next Generation.' 'The ones I find the most interesting,' says Hanselman, are the 'Microsoft killed my Pappy' people, angry with generational anger. My elders hated Microsoft so I hate them. Why? Because, you wronged me.' The U.S. and Japan managed to get over the whole World War II thing, Hanselman notes, so why can't people manage to get past the Microsoft antitrust thing, which was initiated in 1998 for actions in 1994? 'At some point you let go,' he suggests, 'and you start again with fresh eyes.' Despite the overall good-humored, why-can't-we-get-along tone of his post, Hanselman can't resist one dig that seems aimed at putting things into perspective for those who would still Slashdot like it's 1999: 'I wonder if I can swap out Chrome from Chrome OS or Mobile Safari in iOS.'"
Lauren Weinstein writes "You'd think that with so many concerns these days about whether the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and other telecom companies can be trusted not to turn our data over to third parties whom we haven't authorized, that a plan to formalize a mechanism for ISP and other 'man-in-the-middle' snooping would be laughed off the Net. But apparently the authors of IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) Internet-Draft 'Explicit Trusted Proxy in HTTP/2.0' (14 Feb 2014) haven't gotten the message. What they propose for the new HTTP/2.0 protocol is nothing short of officially sanctioned snooping."
SmartAboutThings writes "At a special event at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft has announced the 'spring' update for Windows 8.1. Joe Belfiore, who is the head of platform at Microsoft for smartphones, tablets and desktop devices, said the Windows 8.1 update will come with improvements for non-touch devices. Belfiore also said the update will focus on bringing back some of the 'old' features to Windows 8.1, such as the much-hyped start button, but this won't have a negative impact on the touch experience."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chris Parnin has an interesting read about an international team of scientists lead by Dr. Janet Siegmund using brain imaging with fMRI to understand the programmer's mind and to compare and contrast different cognitive tasks used in programming by analyzing differences in brain locations that are activated by different tasks. One recent debate illuminated by their studies is recent legislation that considers offering foreign-language credits for students learning programming languages. There have been many strong reactions across the software-developer community. Some developers consider the effort laudable but misguided and proclaim programming is not at all like human language and is much closer to mathematics. Siegmund observed 17 participants inside an fMRI scanner while they were comprehending short source-code snippets and found a clear, distinct activation pattern of five brain regions, which are related to language processing, working memory, and attention. The programmers in the study recruited parts of the brain typically associated with language processing and verbal oriented processing (ventral lateral prefrontal cortex). At least for the simple code snippets presented, programmers could use existing language regions of the brain to understand code without requiring more complex mental models to be constructed and manipulated." (Read on for more.)
An anonymous reader writes "A VP9 video decoder written for FFmpeg, FFvp9, now holds the title of being the world's fastest VP9 video decoder. FFvp9 is faster than Google's de facto VP9 decoder found in libvpx, but this doesn't come as too much of a surprise given that FFmpeg also produced a faster VP8 video decoder than Google a few years back with both single and multi-threaded performance."
New submitter optimus_phil writes "New Scientist magazine reports on findings that suggest that delaying fatherhood may increase the risk of fathering children with disorders such as Apert syndrome, autism and schizophrenia. The article reports that 'although there is a big increase in risk for many disorders, it's a big increase in a very small risk. A 40-year-old is about 50 per cent more likely to father an autistic child than a 20-year-old is, for instance, but the overall risk is only about 1 per cent to start with.'"
Zothecula writes "Three years ago, we heard about a prototype shoe that could be used to guide the wearer via haptic feedback. Designed by Anirudh Sharma, who was then a researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Bangalore, India, the Lechal shoe was intended for use mainly by the blind. This week, however, Sharma and business partner Krispian Lawrence announced that the production version of the Lechal will soon be available for preorder, and it's aimed at helping all people navigate the city streets." Sensor-laden shoe computers aren't a new idea; in the past, they've just been put to different purposes (PDF).