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

Television

Aereo Embraces Ruling, Tries To Re-Classify Itself As Cable Company 9

Posted by samzenpus
from the bend-like-the-broadcast-reed dept.
An anonymous reader writes Rather than completely shuttering its TV-over-the-internet business, Aereo has decided to embrace the Supreme Court's recent decision against it. In a letter to the lower court overseeing the litigation between the company and network broadcasters, Aereo asks to be considered a cable company and to be allowed to pay royalties as such. Cable companies pay royalties to obtain a copyright statutory license under the Copyright Act to retransmit over-the-air programming, and the royalties are set by the government, not the broadcasters. The broadcasters are not happy with this move, of course, claiming that Aereo should not be allowed to flip-flop on how it defines itself.
Science

Hair-Raising Technique Detects Drugs, Explosives On Human Body 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the charge-and-detect dept.
sciencehabit writes Scientists have found a way to combine Van de Graaff generators with a common laboratory instrument to detect drugs, explosives, and other illicit materials on the human body. In the laboratory, scientists had a volunteer touch a Van de Graaff generator for 2 seconds to charge his body to 400,000 volts. This ionized compounds on the surface of his body. The person then pointed their charged finger toward the inlet of a mass spectrometer, and ions from their body entered the machine. In various tests, the machine correctly identified explosives, flammable solvents, cocaine, and acetaminophen on the skin.
Google

Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent "Arms Control Pact" 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
jfruh writes Patent trolling is a serious irritant and financial drain on many big tech companies — but those same companies can't guarantee that their own future management won't sell the patents they own to a 'non-practicing entity', especially in the case of sale or bankruptcy. That's why a number of tech giants, including Google and Dropbox, have formed the 'License or Transfer Network,' in which a patent will automatically be licensed to everyone else in the network in the event that it's sold to a third party.
Science

Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-scratch-your-back-you-publish-my-paper dept.
blackbeak (1227080) writes The Washington Post reports that the Journal of Vibration and Control's review system was hijacked by a ring of reviewers. 60 articles have been retracted as a result. "After a 14-month investigation, JVC determined the ring involved “aliases” and fake e-mail addresses of reviewers — up to 130 of them — in an apparently successful effort to get friendly reviews of submissions and as many articles published as possible by Chen and his friends.'On at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he created,' according to the SAGE announcement."
Government

FTC Files Suit Against Amazon For In-App Purchases 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-fool-his-kids-and-his-money dept.
Charliemopps writes The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against Amazon for illegally billing parents for in-app purchases of digital goods prior to requiring a password for making purchases. "The FTC's complaint, filed Thursday, asks the court to force Amazon to refund the money to those customers. In-app purchases typically involve virtual goods bought within an app, like extra coins or energy in a game, according to the FTC. Some bills totaled hundreds of dollars, and some virtual goods cost as much as $99.99." We recently told you about Amazon's refusal to reach a settlement over these FTC complaints.
Space

SpaceX Wins FAA Permission To Build a Spaceport In Texas 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-build dept.
Jason Koebler writes SpaceX just got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a 56.5-acre spaceport along the Gulf of Mexico on the Texas-Mexico border—a huge step toward actually making the spaceport a reality. Wednesday, the FAA, which handles all commercial space launch permitting in the United States, issued what's known as a "Record of Decision" that suggests the agency would allow the company to launch 10 Falcon 9 rockets and two Falcon Heavy rockets per year out of the spaceport, through at least 2025.
Science

Hints of Life's Start Found In a Giant Virus 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-a-big-one dept.
An anonymous reader points out this update on the world's largest virus, discovered in March. Chantal Abergel and Jean-Michel Claverie were used to finding strange viruses. The married virologists at Aix-Marseille University had made a career of it. But pithovirus, which they discovered in 2013 in a sample of Siberian dirt that had been frozen for more than 30,000 years, was more bizarre than the pair had ever imagined a virus could be. In the world of microbes, viruses are small — notoriously small. Pithovirus is not. The largest virus ever discovered, pithovirus is more massive than even some bacteria. Most viruses copy themselves by hijacking their host's molecular machinery. But pithovirus is much more independent, possessing some replication machinery of its own. Pithovirus's relatively large number of genes also differentiated it from other viruses, which are often genetically simple — the smallest have a mere four genes. Pithovirus has around 500 genes, and some are used for complex tasks such as making proteins and repairing and replicating DNA. "It was so different from what we were taught about viruses," Abergel said. The stunning find, first revealed in March, isn't just expanding scientists' notions of what a virus can be. It is reframing the debate over the origins of life."
AT&T

Senator Al Franken Accuses AT&T of "Skirting" Net Neutrality Rules 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
McGruber writes In a letter to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission and the Department of Justice, Senator Al Franken warned that letting AT&T acquire Direct TV could turn AT&T into a gatekeeper to the mobile Internet. Franken also complained that AT&T took inappropriate steps to block Internet applications like Google Voice and Skype: "AT&T has a history of skirting the spirit, and perhaps the letter' of the government's rules on net neutrality, Franken wrote."
The Almighty Buck

The Oatmeal Convinces Elon Musk To Donate $1 Million To Tesla Museum 55

Posted by timothy
from the carreon-should-donate-too dept.
Ars Technica notes (as does Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman) that Elon Musk has agreed to donate $1 million towards the restoration of Nikola Tesla's old lab as a museum, a project that Inman has been pushing for some time now. And if you happen to get there in a Tesla, you're in luck: Musk is also planning to install one of his company's superchargers in the parking lot. (At the other end of the east coast, you can visit a very different kind of Tesla museum.)
Music

Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment? 344

Posted by timothy
from the won't-fit-in-my-phone dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Back in the day (which is a scientific measurement for anyone who used to walk to school during snowstorms, uphill, both ways), integrated audio solutions had trouble earning respect. Many enthusiasts considered a sound card an essential piece to the PC building puzzle. It's been 25 years since the first Sound Blaster card was introduced, a pretty remarkable feat considering the diminished reliance on discrete audio in PCs, in general. These days, the Sound Blaster ZxR is Creative's flagship audio solution for PC power users. It boasts a signal-to-noise (SNR) of 124dB that Creative claims is 89.1 times better than your motherboard's integrated audio solution. It also features a built-in headphone amplifier, beamforming microphone, a multi-core Sound Core3D audio processor, and various proprietary audio technologies. While gaming there is no significant performance impact or benefit when going from onboard audio to the Sound Blaster ZxR. However, the Sound Blaster ZxR produced higher-quality in-game sound effects and it also produces noticeably superior audio in music and movies, provided your speakers can keep up."
Google

On the Significance of Google's New Cardboard (Video) 27

Posted by Roblimo
from the recycling-a-post-title-is-good-for-the-environment dept.
On June 29, 2014, Timothy started a Slashdot post with these words: 'Last week at Google I/O, the company introduced Cardboard, its cheap-and-cheerful (it's made of cardboard, after all) approach to nearly instant VR viewing.' Several commenters noted that Viewmaster has been doing something similar for over 70 years; that you can get a slicker 3-D adapter for your smartphone from Durovis, with the Vrizzmo VR Goggles and vrAse coming soon; and that you can buy an iPhone/iPod Touch-only 3-D viewer for about $8 (at the time this was typed), which is a whole lot less than the price of most third-party Cardboard kits that are getting ready to hit the market. || The Google person behind The Cardboard is VP Clay Bevor, whose day job is overseeing Google apps. Clay says you are welcome to make your own Cardboard from scratch instead of buying one (or a kit) from someone else, and of course you can write all the software for it you like. || You may (or may not) remember that Timothy ended that June 29 post about Cardboard with a promise that before long we'd have 'a video introduction to Cardboard with Google VP Clay Bavor.' So here it is, as promised. (Alternate Video Link)
Government

After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart 170

Posted by timothy
from the wir-werden-wissen dept.
The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."
Google

How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business 119

Posted by timothy
from the you-aren't-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Wired about the one big problem that comes with crowdsourced data: enough eyeballs may make all bugs shallow, but may not fare as well against malice and greed: Maps are dotted with thousands of spam business listings for nonexistent locksmiths and plumbers. Legitimate businesses sometimes see their listings hijacked by competitors or cloned into a duplicate with a different phone number or website. In January, someone bulk-modified the Google Maps presence of thousands of hotels around the country, changing the website URLs to a commercial third-party booking site ... Small businesses are the usual targets. ....These attacks happen because Google Maps is, at its heart, a massive crowdsourcing project, a shared conception of the world that skilled practitioners can bend and reshape in small ways using tools like Google's Mapmaker or Google Places for Business. ... In February, an SEO consultant-turned-whistleblower named Bryan Seely demonstrated the risk dramatically when he set up doppelganger Google Maps listings for the offices of the FBI and Secret Service..
Crime

Police Recording Confirms NYPD Flew At a Drone and Never Feared Crashing 250

Posted by timothy
from the where-is-your-flightplan? dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes An air traffic control recording confirms that a New York Police Department helicopter flew at a drone hovering near the George Washington Bridge earlier this week—not the other way around. What's more, police had no idea what to charge the drone pilots with, and never appeared to fear a crash with the drone.
Two men were arrested Monday on felony reckless endangerment charges after the NYPD said the two flew their drone "very close" to a law enforcement chopper, causing the police helicopter to take evasive maneuvers. Air traffic control recordings suggest that only happened after the chopper pilot decided to chase the drone.
Bug

Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s 166

Posted by timothy
from the pa-dmv-never-did-me-any-favors-either dept.
sandbagger (654585) writes with word of a Y2K-style bug showing up in Y2K14: "The glitch originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles during an automated data transfer of nearly 400,000 records. The records of males born between 1993 and 1997 were mixed with those of men born a century earlier. The federal agency didn't know it because the state uses a two-digit code to indicate birth year." I wonder where else two-digit years are causing problems; I still see lots of paper forms that haven't made the leap yet to four digits.

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