jamie writes "The US National Helium Reserve stores a billion cubic meters of helium, half the world supply, in an old natural gasfield. The array of pipes and mines runs 200 miles from Texas to Kansas. In the name of deficit reduction, we're selling it all off for cheap. Physics professor and Nobel laureate Robert Richardson says: 'In 1996, the US Congress decided to sell off the strategic reserve and the consequence was that the market was swelled with cheap helium because its price was not determined by the market. The motivation was to sell it all by 2015. The basic problem is that helium is too cheap. The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and it has taken that long to accumulate our helium reserves, which we will dissipate in about 100 years. One generation does not have the right to determine availability forever.' Another view is The Impact of Selling the Federal Helium Reserve, the government study from 10 years ago that suggested the government's price would end up being over market value by 25% — but cautioned that this was based on the assumption that demand would grow slowly, and urged periodic reviews of the state of the industry."
An anonymous reader writes "After its recent bait and switch, AT&T went ahead and threatened someone emailing the company CEO about customer service concerns, namely with a query about tethering and eligibility rates. The email author also put up a voicemail recording of the company's response and how he managed to contact the CEO in the first place — through The Consumerist." As Engadget notes (as does the complaining customer's updated page), AT&T did at least offer an apology for the threat of legal action, which the company says was unauthorized.
EA Sports has unveiled a new feature that they hope will help them get a piece of the lucrative used games market: the Online Pass. Each of their new titles will come with a one-time code that allows access to "premium" content and features. Players who buy the games used can get the same content, but will need to pay $10 for the privilege. "According to EA, the content can include anything from title updates and downloads to features like online leagues — and even online gameplay and multiplayer modes. ... EA will offer 10-day trials of Pass content so that users can see what they would be getting. So far, EA seems to be limiting the premium add-on experiment to its sports portfolio. ... The company has apparently gained the support of retailer GameStop, which has been watching with a close eye efforts on the part of publishers to discourage its thriving used games business. According to the retailer, encouraging premium content add-ons still benefits GameStop, since it sells PlayStation Network and Microsoft Points cards. It praised EA's Online Pass as 'forward-thinking.'"
Joe Helfrich writes "Ubisoft's Settlers 7 servers have been causing problems for over a week for users worldwide, and Australian gamers are hardly able to connect at all. 'The problem reportedly strikes after the game has already confirmed an active Internet connection, and prevents the user from playing even the single-player campaign, returning the error "server not available." But they are available, because other people are logged into them and merrily playing away.' Wonder how they're going to describe this one as an attack."
MojoKid writes "A report just released states that total mobile data traffic topped mobile voice traffic in the United States last year, for the first time. In fact, globally, data traffic topped voice traffic on a monthly basis last year, and the total traffic across the world exceeded an exabyte for the first time in 2009. Apparently, North America and Western Europe's mobile data markets are growing so rapidly they each should exceed an exabyte sometime in 2010. Interestingly, the nations with the largest data service revenues were: the US, Japan, China, the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Spain and Korea, respectively."
jamesswift writes "The FSF have written an open letter to Google urging them to free the VP8 codec with an irrevocable royalty-free licence: 'With its purchase of the On2 video compression technology company having been completed on Wednesday February 16, 2010, Google now has the opportunity to make free video formats the standard, freeing the web from both Flash and the proprietary H.264 codec.'" Also from the letter: "The world would have a new free format unencumbered by software patents. Viewers, video creators, free software developers, hardware makers -- everyone -- would have another way to distribute video without patents, fees, and restrictions. The free video format Ogg Theora was already at least as good for web video (see a comparison) as its nonfree competitor H.264, and we never did agree with your objections to using it. But since you made the decision to purchase VP8, presumably you're confident it can meet even those objections, and using it on YouTube is a no-brainer."
Arvisp writes with this snippet about HP's recently completed datacenter in northeast England, which utilizes the glacial wind blowing off the North Sea to lower temperatures of IT equipment and plant rooms: "The Wynyard takes in the cool air, filters it accordingly and collects it in the management system and is then forced over the front of the server racks before it is exhausted. The result is a hall with a constant temperature of 24C. When the winds become even colder than usual, the exhausted heat is mixed with the outside air to maintain temperatures."
D H NG writes "Following a sophisticated attack on Google infrastructure originating from China late last year, Google has decided to take 'a new approach' to China. In their investigation, Google found that more than 20 large companies had been infiltrated and dozens of Chinese human rights activists' Gmail accounts had been compromised. Google has decided to 'review the feasibility of [its] business operations in China,' no longer censoring results in Google.cn, and if necessary, to 'shut down Google.cn, and potentially [Google's] offices in China.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Although some have raised concerns about how sane switching to Jetpack is, it seems that Mozilla's new gadget is bound to replace the powerful extension mechanism we know. Maybe Mozilla wants to replace all the great add-ons we use daily with gadgets that add an entry to the Tools menu, or maybe they just want to draw thousands of inexperienced developers into putting together a bunch of HTML and CSS that won't integrate in the UI. It seems to me that in light of recent decisions we've discussed before, Mozilla isn't going in the right direction. What do you think ?"
itwbennett writes "The New York Times describes the tablet announcement that Steve Ballmer is supposed to make in his CES opening keynote tonight as 'one of Steve Ballmer's riskiest trade show moves in years.' And blogger Peter Smith is in complete agreement. Here's why: 'Whether or not this announcement is intended as a direct response to the much-rumored Apple event that may or may not be happening on January 27th, consumers will perceive it as one,' says Smith. And if Microsoft unveils a traditional tablet then 'they'll be up against the (presumably more expensive) iTablet and the cult of Apple.' But if the device is the dual-screen Courier that we heard about back in September then it'll be up against the (presumably less expensive) enTourage eDGe, says Smith."
Hackajar writes "Have you ever caught yourself running for the volume control when a TV commercial comes on? Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has, and is submitting legislation that would require TV commercials in the US to stay at volume levels similar to the programming they are associated with. From the article: 'Right now, the government doesn't have much say in the volume of TV ads. It's been getting complaints ever since televisions began proliferating in the 1950s. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials.'"
CWmike writes "Microsoft's Windows ran to stay in place last month as Window 7's market share gains made up for the largest-ever declines in Windows XP and Vista, data released today by Web metrics firm Net Applications showed. By these numbers, Windows 7's gains were primarily at the expense of Windows XP. For each copy of Vista replaced by Windows 7 during November, more than six copies of XP were swapped out. Meanwhile, Apple's Mac OS X lost share during November... betcha Ballmer is having an extra giddy time with that news. Linux came up a winner last month, returning to the 1% share mark for the first time since July. Linux's all-time high in Net Applications' rankings was May 2009, when it nearly reached 1.2%."
Lucas123 writes "A start-up launched a new DVD archive product this week: a disc that it says will hold its data for 1,000 years. The company, Cranberry, says its DiamonDisc product, which can be used in any standard DVD player, is not subject to deterioration from heat, UV rays or material rot due to humidity or other elements because it has no dyes, adhesives or reflective materials like standard DVD discs, and its discs are made from a vastly more durable synthetic stone. Data is laid down on the platter much in the same way as a standard DVD disc, but with DiamonDisc the burner etches much deeper pits. Cranberry said it is also working on producing a Blu-ray version of its 1,000-year disc."
Foofoobar writes "Due to a strike with the UK's postal system, people in Great Britain are getting copies of Windows 7 early and have already posted their experiences about the install process. Some have an easy time but others post installs taking 3 hours including Windows asking them to remove iTunes and Google toolbar prior to installation." The article indicates that many of these early users, though, are having better luck.
Virtual_Raider writes "Wired is running a story about a new twist in the never-ending quest to prove P. T. Barnum's adage. Old: Scammers are creating fake news sites that look almost like the real thing. New: They are advertising on real news sites, making it difficult for unwary readers to catch on they are being duped with fake coverage of get-rich-quick scams. Among those running the scam 'news' ads are the Huffington Post and Salon. From the article: 'The story has art, it has a sidebar, there's weather, supposed reader comments — even ads. Steadman is described as "a mother from San Francisco" — at least, when I read the article. Thanks to cutting-edge reporting techniques perfected by News 5, she will automatically move to the geolocation of your internet IP address when you read it. Look, she lives right in your neighborhood!'" Forbes also wrote about the scam news sites a couple of weeks back.