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How I Cut My Time Warner Cable Bill By 33% 206

lpress writes "I was at a Time Warner Cable (TWC) store returning a router, when I asked what my new monthly bill would be. The answer — $110 — surprised me, so I asked a few questions and ended up with the same service for $76.37. Check out my conversation with their representative to see what was said, then do the same yourself."

Free (Gratis) Version of Windows Could Be a Reality Soon 392

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft is exploring whether to release a free version of Windows to increase the number of computers using the latest operating system. Currently the company seems to be testing a new version of the OS called 'Windows 8.1 with Bing', which will include Microsoft's key modern apps and services."

Apple's Messages Offers Free Texting With a Side of iPhone Lock-In 179

itwbennett writes "Who doesn't love free text messages? People who try to transition from an iPhone to any other phone, that's who. Apple's Messages app actively moves conversations away from paid text messages to free Messages. Very convenient until you want to leave your iPhone and switch back to plain old text messages because suddenly you'll be unable to receive text messages from your iPhone-toting friends. There's an obscure workaround, and Samsung, which has a vested interest in the matter, has a lengthy guide to removing your iPhone as a registered receiver of Messages . But the experience is just annoying enough that it might be the kind of thing that would keep someone from making a switch — and that's when it starts to feel like deliberate lock-in, and not so much like something Apple overlooked."

Your Next Car's Electronics Will Likely Be Connected By Ethernet 180

Lucas123 writes "As the sophistication of automotive electronics advances, from autonomous driving capabilities to three-dimensional cameras, the industry is in need of greater bandwidth to connect devices to a car's head unit. Enter Ethernet. Industry standards groups are working to make 100Mbps and 1Gbps Ethernet de facto standards within the industry. Currently, there are as many as nine proprietary auto networking specifications, including LIN, CAN/CAN-FD, MOST and FlexRay. FlexRay, for example, has a 10Mbps transmission rate. Making Ethernet the standard in the automotive industry could also open avenues for new apps. For example, imagine a driver getting turn-by-turn navigation while a front-seat passenger streams music from the Internet, and each back-seat passenger watches streaming videos on separate displays." This might get us into trouble when the Cylons show up.

The Spy In Our Living Room 148

An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kuchera at Polygon ponders the surveillance capabilities of our gaming consoles in light of recent NSA and GCHQ revelations. 'Xbox One Kinect can see in the dark. It can keep a moving human being in focus without motors. It knows how to isolate voices from background noise. The privacy implications of having a device that originally couldn't be removed pointed at your living room at all times was always kind of scary, and that fear has been at least partially justified.' Kuchera, like many of us, habitually disconnects cameras and microphones not currently in use. But he also feels a sense of inevitability about the whole thing: 'If the government wants this information they're going to get it, no matter what we do with our gaming consoles. It's important to pay attention to what our government is doing, but this issue is much bigger than our gaming consoles, and we open ourselves up to much greater forms of intrusion on a daily basis.'"

Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience 794

__roo writes "Many Americans get riled up about creationists and climate change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods. It's all pseudoscience — so why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others? That's the question the author of this article tackles: 'From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort ... Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. ... The homeopathy section has plenty of Latin words and mathematical terms, but many of its remedies are so diluted that, statistically speaking, they may not contain a single molecule of the substance they purport to deliver.' He points out his local Whole Foods' clientele shop at a place where a significant portion of the product being sold is based on simple pseudoscience. So, why do many of us perceive Whole Foods and the Creation Museum so differently?"
Open Source

Open Source Brings High-End Canon Camera Dynamic Range Closer To Nikon's 88

PainMeds writes "Magic Lantern is an open source 'free software add-on' that 'adds a host of new features to Canon EOS cameras that weren't included from the factory by Canon.' One of ML's newest features is a module named Dual ISO, which takes advantage of the sensor in some of Canon's high-end cameras (such as the 5D MK II and MK III) to allow the camera to capture an image in two different ISOs, greatly expanding the dynamic range of the camera, and bringing its dynamic range closer to Nikon's popular D800 and D4."
Open Source

Broadcom Releases Source For Graphics Stack; Raspberry Pi Sets Bounty For Port 77

One of the few but lingering complaints about the Raspberry Pi is that it relies on a proprietary GPU blob for communication between the graphics drivers and the hardware. Today, Broadcom released the full source for the OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 driver stack for the Broadcom VideoCore IV 3D graphics subsystem running on one of its popular cellphone systems-on-a-chip. It's available under a BSD license, and Broadcom provided documentation for the graphics core as well. The SoC in question is similar to the one used on the Raspberry Pi, and Eben Upton says making a port should be 'relatively straightforward.' The Raspberry Pi Foundation has offered a $10,000 bounty for the first person who can demonstrate a functional port. (The test for functionality is, of course, being able to run Quake III Arena.) Upton says, 'This isn't the end of the road for us: there are still significant parts of the multimedia hardware on BCM2835 which are only accessible via the blob. But we're incredibly proud that VideoCore IV is the first publicly documented mobile graphics core, and hope this is the first step towards a blob-free future for Raspberry Pi.' Side note: the RPi is now two years old, and has sold 2.5 million units.

Live Q&A With Ex-TSA Agent Jason Harrington 141

Jason Harrington (@Jas0nHarringt0n) is a controversial blogger, frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and one of the TSA's least favorite ex-employees. His descriptions of life on the job as a TSA agent caused some big waves and restarted a national discussion on security theater. Jason will be answering your questions below for the next couple of hours, or until the security line starts moving again. Please keep it to one question per post so everyone gets a chance. Update: 03/01 02:11 GMT by S : Jason has finished up for now — you can skip to his answers at his user page, or simply browse the comments to read everything. Thanks Jason for answering our questions!

How To Take Apart Fukushima's 3 Melted-Down Reactors 167

the_newsbeagle writes "In Japan, workers have spent nearly three years on the clean-up and decommissioning of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. They only have 37 years to go. Taking apart the plant's three melted-down reactors is expected to take 40 years and cost $15 billion. The plant's owner, TEPCO, admits that its engineers don't yet know how they'll pull off this monumental task. An in-depth examination of the decommissioning process explains the challenges, such as working amid the radioactive rubble, stopping up the leaks that spill radioactive water throughout the site, and handling the blobs of melted nuclear fuel. Many of the tasks will be accomplished by newly invented robots that can go where humans fear to tread."

Study: Half of In-App Purchases Come From Only 0.15% of Players 144

An anonymous reader writes "Have you ever seen a goofy microtransaction for a mobile game you play and wondered, 'Does anyone actually buy that junk?' As it turns out, few players actually do. A new study found that only 1.5% of players actually spend money on in-app purchases. Of those who do, more than 50% of the money is spent by the top 10%. 'Some game companies talk openly about the fact that they have whales, but others shy away from discussing them publicly. It costs money to develop and keep a game running, just like those fancy decorations and free drinks at a casino; whales, like gambling addicts, subsidize fun for everyone else.' Eric Johnson at Re/code says he talked to a game company who actually assigned an employee to one particular player who dropped $10,000 every month on in-app purchases." Meanwhile, in-app purchases have come to the attention of the European Commission, and they'll be discussing a set of standards for consumer rights at upcoming meetings. They say, 'Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved.'

Open Source Initiative, Free Software Foundation Unite Against Software Patents 105

WebMink writes "In rare joint move, the OSI and FSF have joined with Eben Moglen's Software Freedom Law Center to file a U.S. Supreme Court briefing in the CLS vs Alice case. The brief asserts the basic arguments that processes are not patentable if they are implemented solely through computer software, and that the best test for whether a software-implemented invention is solely implemented through software is whether special apparatus or the transformation of matter have been presented as part of the claims (the 'machine or transformation' test). They assert that finding software-only inventions unpatentable will not imperil the pace of software innovation, citing the overwhelming success of open source in the software industry as proof."

Official Wayland Support Postponed From GNOME 3.12 77

An anonymous reader writes "GNOME 3.12 was going to have official Wayland support as one of its main features for the upcoming desktop release. The developers have now decided to delay the official Wayland support until at least GNOME 3.14 while the support found there will be shipped as a preview. Missing features like drag 'n' drop and clipboard support are still missing from GNOME's Wayland code, which made them decide another six months of development work is needed. Other GNOME 3.12 features are mentioned on the GNOME Wiki."

Water Filtration With a Tree Branch 205

Taco Cowboy writes "Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. 'The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.' People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. 'Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.' 'Before experimenting with contaminated water, the group used water mixed with red ink particles ranging from 70 to 500 nanometers in size. After all the liquid passed through, the researchers sliced the sapwood in half lengthwise, and observed that much of the red dye was contained within the very top layers of the wood, while the filtrate, or filtered water, was clear. This experiment showed that sapwood is naturally able to filter out particles bigger than about 70 nanometers.' The team tested E. coli-contaminated water, and the branch was able to filter out 99 percent of the bacterial cells."

First Outdoor Flocks of Autonomous Flying Robots 84

KentuckyFC writes "Aerial flocking has been a long-standing goal for roboticists, but the technical demands for autonomous outdoor flocking have always been too great. Now a European team has successfully demonstrated autonomous outdoor flocking for the first time, with up to 10 flyers in the air simultaneously for up to 20 minutes. The flyer of choice is the MK Basicset L4-ME made by the German company MikroKopter. They modified this by attaching an extension board carrying a variety of navigational devices such as a gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS receiver, as well as a wireless communications unit and a minicomputer to calculate trajectories. To simplify these calculations, all the quadcopters fly at the same altitude to make the flocking problem two-dimensional. The team say the quadcopters can fly autonomously in lines and circles, and even demonstrate self-organizing behavior when confined to specific volumes of space. Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralized control for its behavior. The researchers imagine using them for large-scale, redundant observations over wide areas, perhaps for farming, traffic monitoring and, of course, military purposes. They might even put on aerial displays for entertainment purposes."
The Courts

Using Handheld Phone GPS While Driving Is Legal In California 142

jfruh writes "Steven R. Spriggs was ticketed and fined $165 for violating California's law on cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, which states that you can only use a phone while driving if you have a hands-free device. But he appealed the judgement, arguing that the law only applied to actually talking on the phone, whereas he had been caught checking his GPS app. Now an appeals court has agreed with him. The law in question was enacted in 2006, before the smartphone boom."

Wolfram Language Demo Impresses 216

theodp writes "The devil will be in the details, but if you were stoked about last November's announcement of the Wolfram programming language, you'll be pleased to know that a just-released dry-but-insanely-great demo delivered by Stephen Wolfram does not disappoint. Even if you're not in love with the syntax or are a FOSS devotee, you'll find it hard not to be impressed by Wolfram's 4-line solution to a traveling salesman tour of the capitals of Western Europe, 6-line camera-capture-to-image-manipulation demo, or 2-line web crawling and data visualization example. And that's just for starters. So, start your Raspberry Pi engines, kids!"

How An Astronaut Nearly Drowned During a Space Walk 144

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "About 44 minutes into a 6.5-hour spacewalk last July, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano noted that water was building up inside his helmet – the second consecutive spacewalk during which he reported the problem. As Parmitano worked his way back to the air lock, water covered his eyes, filled his ears, disrupted communications, and eventually began to enter his nose, making it difficult for him to breathe. 'I know that if the water does overwhelm me I can always open the helmet,' wrote Parmitano about making it to the airlock. 'I'll probably lose consciousness, but in any case that would be better than drowning inside the helmet.' Later, when crew mates removed his helmet, they found that it contained at least 1.5 quarts of water. In a 122-page report released Wednesday, a mishap investigation board identified a range of causes for the near-tragedy, including organizational causes that carried echoes of accident reports that followed the loss of the shuttles Challenger and Columbia and their crews in 1986 and 2003. Engineers traced the leak to a fan-and-pump assembly that is part of a system that extracts moisture from the air inside the suit and returns it to the suit's water-based cooling system. Contaminants clogged holes that would have carried the water to the cooling system after it was extracted from the air. The water backed up and flowed into the suit's air-circulation system, which sent it into Parmitano's helmet (PDF).

The specific cause of the contamination is still under investigation but investigators also identified deeper causes, one of which involved what some accident-investigation specialists have dubbed the 'normalization of deviance' – small malfunctions that appear so often that eventually they are accepted as normal. In this case, small water leaks had been observed in space-suit helmets for years, despite the knowledge that the water could form a film on the inside of a helmet, fogging the visor or reacting with antifogging chemicals on the visor in ways that irritate eyes. NASA officials are not planning on resuming non-urgent spacewalks before addressing all 16 of the highest priority suggestions from the Mishap Investigation Board. 'I think it's a tribute to the agency that we're not hiding this stuff, that we're actually out trying to describe these things, and to describe where we can get better,' says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. 'I think that's how we prevent Columbias and Challengers.'"

MtGox Files For Bankruptcy Protection 465

Sockatume writes "The beleaguered MtGox bitcoin exchange has officially filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bitcoin held an impromptu press conference that addressed recent rumors. They state that they have over $60m in liabilities against just $30m in assets, and confirm the loss of over $500m worth of Bitcoins, split between customers' balances (750,000 BTC) and company assets (100,000 BTC). Owner Mark Karpeles said, 'There was some weakness in the system, and the bitcoins have disappeared. I apologize for causing trouble.'"
United States

Privacy Lawsuits Over NSA Spying Force Retention of Metadata 59

jfruh writes "Under the U.S.'s previously secret program of gathering phone call metadata, that information was only retained for a period of five years. Now the government has petitioned the court system to retain it longer — not because it wants to, it says, but because it needs to preserve it as evidence for the various privacy lawsuits filed against the government. Federal lawyers have suggested several ways the information can be preserved without being available to the NSA."

Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone 162

mpicpp writes "It looks thicker than most of the phones you see at Best Buy, but Boeing's first smartphone isn't meant to be used by the average person. The company that's known for its airplanes is joining the smartphone game with the Boeing Black, targeted at people that work in the security and defense industry. One of its security features is self-destructing if it gets into the wrong hands, although not quite in the Mission Impossible sense. According to the company's letter to the FCC, the phone will have screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it. 'Any attempt to disassemble the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,' writes Bruce Olcott, an attorney for Boeing."

Ancient Chinese Mummies Discovered In Cheesy Afterlife 64

astroengine writes "The world's oldest cheese has been found on the necks and chests of perfectly preserved mummies buried in China's desert sand. Dating back as early as 1615 B.C., the lumps of yellowish organic material have provided direct evidence for the oldest known dairy fermentation method. The individuals were likely buried with the cheese so they could savor it in the afterlife. Although cheese-making is known from sites in northern Europe as early as the 6th millennium B.C. and was common in Egypt and Mesopotamia in 3rd millennium B.C., until now no remains of ancient cheeses had been found."
The Courts

Lawrence Lessig Wins Fair Use Case 89

just_another_sean writes "An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world's most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him. The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix. From the article: 'In a statement, Liberation Music admitted Lessig's use of the song was protected by fair use — a legal doctrine that allows copyrighted material to be used for education, satire and a few other exceptions. Liberation Music says it will also pay Lessig for the harm it caused. The amount is confidential under the terms of the agreement, but it will be dedicated to supporting work by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil rights group, to work on causes that were important to Lessig's friend Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist who committed suicide last year.'"

Spooks-as-a-Service Swarm RSA Conference 38

itwbennett writes "As the list of victims of sophisticated cyber attacks expands, so does the need for specialized, high-priced, and hard-to-find talent to help investigate and recover from those attacks. The latest solution: hosted services offering access to cyber intelligence and incident response. 'At the RSA Security Conference this week, companies large and small are trumpeting the spy agency connections of senior staff as never before,' writes Paul Roberts. 'These new offerings — think of them as spooks-as-a-service — typically combine some degree of network and endpoint monitoring with a cloud-based management platform to gather and analyze data against data aggregated from other customers and third-party threat intelligence.'"