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Microsoft Research Paper Considers Serving Web-ads From Localhost 231

An anonymous reader writes: A paper from Microsoft researchers (PDF) posits the possibility of 'pushing' web ads to a user's own computer and serving them into pre-arranged containers on web pages, with the EFF or ACLU serving as privacy mediators between the user and the advertisers who want to engage them. However the framework — dubbed 'Privad' — would need to get installed on the user's system by the same familiar means which the likes of Superfish use. The report admits that Privad would probably need to be disseminated "through adware-style software bundling, shopping discounts, toolbars or other incentives."
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554 writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."

Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash 664

Gr8Apes writes "Hitachi has created a 'perfect virtual boss.' The company is manufacturing and selling a device intended to increase efficiency in the workplace called the Hitachi Business Microscope (paywalled). 'The device looks like an employee ID badge that most companies issue. Workers are instructed to wear it in the office. Embedded inside each badge, according to Hitachi, are "infrared sensors, an accelerometer, a microphone sensor and a wireless communication device." Hitachi says that the badges record and transmit to management "who talks to whom, how often, where and how energetically." It tracks everything. If you get up to walk around the office a lot, the badge sends information to management about how often you do it, and where you go. If you stop to talk with people throughout the day, the badge transmits who you're talking to (by reading your co-workers' badges), and for how long. Do you contribute at meetings, or just sit there? Either way, the badge tells your bosses.'"

You Might Rent Features & Options On Cars In the Future 437

cartechboy writes "These days, you go to a car dealership and you buy a car. If you want seat heaters, you might need to option for the cold weather package from the factory. Want the high-end stereo? You'll be likely be opting for some technology package which bundles in navigation. While some options are a la carte, most are bundled, and even when they are a la carte, they aren't cheap. What if in the future you could buy a car and unlock options later? Say the car came from the factory with heated seats, but you didn't pay for them. But later on, say in the middle of the freezing winter, you suddenly want them. What if you could simply pay a monthly fee during the winter months to have those heated seats work? Whether this model would benefit the consumer, the automakers, or both is yet to be seen. But automakers such as MINI are already talking about this type of a future. Is this the right road to be headed down, or are consumers going to just get screwed in the long run?"

Embedded SIM Design Means No More Swapping Cards 192

judgecorp writes "A new remotely-programmable embedded SIM design from the GSMA operators' group means that devices can be operated on the Internet of things and won't have to be opened up to have their SIM card changed if they move to a different operator. The design could speed up embedded applications."
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation 4 Released 294

Today marks the launch of the latest entrant to the next-gen console race: Sony's PlayStation 4. A number of reviews for the system have already gone up, but many outlets are waiting for next Friday's Xbox One launch before passing final judgment. With regard to the PS4's hardware and UI, Digital Foundry praises the DualShock 4 controller design and the improvements to background downloading, while worrying about fan noise in warmer environments. iFixit provides a step-by-step teardown of the device, giving it an 8/10 repairability score. Ars has many good things to say, but many bad things as well: "The PlayStation 4 has an excellent controller, decently powerful hardware, some intriguing, well-executed new features, and an interface that shows belated acknowledgment of some of Sony's most user-unfriendly past designs. It also has a lot of features that are half-assed, missing, or downright bewildering at this point." Polygon's review is more visually oriented, filled with pictures, videos, and drawings. They conclude, "[T]he PlayStation 4's focus on gaming — and only gaming — is undermined by a distinct lack of compelling software. That failing is sure to improve — better games and more of them will appear on the PlayStation 4 — but right now, this is a game console without a game to recommend it." Eurogamer's coverage includes has a round-up of launch title reviews and gameplay videos. IGN has coverage of the roughly 0.4% of PS4s that arrive broken out of the box, and Kotaku explains how they fixed theirs.

Soylent: No Food For 30 Days 440

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Senior Editor of Motherboard Brian Merchant went an entire month without eating regular food. Instead, the journalist whisked up a concoction called soylent, an efficient take on the future of nourishment and nutrition. Merchant says: 'It was my second day on Soylent and my stomach felt like a coil of knotty old rope, slowly tightening. I wasn't hungry, but something was off. I was tired, light-headed, low-energy, but my heart was racing. My eyes glazed over as I stared out the window of our rental SUV as we drove over the fog-shrouded Bay Bridge to Oakland. Some of this was nerves, sure. I had twenty-eight days left of my month-long all-Soylent diet—I was attempting to live on the full food replacement longer than anyone besides its inventor—and I felt woozy already. ... By the third week of Soylent, not eating food seemed normal. I saw a doctor, who said I was healthy; I was still losing weight, but nothing serious. Yet, given that a daily mixture of Soylent contains 2,400 calories, both Rob and Dr. Engel thought it was odd that I’d shed so much. Dr. Engel said that given my weight, height, and body mass, I should only require about 1,800 calories a day. I could still be adjusting to the new diet, or I could have such a hyperactive metabolism that before Soylent, I was tearing through hundreds of extra calories per day and staying trim.'"

The NSA Is Looking For a Few Good Geeks 388

itwbennett writes "Dan Tynan noticed something curious when he was reading a TechCrunch story (about Google's mystery barges, as it happens). There was a banner ad promoting careers at the NSA — and this was no ad-serving network fluke. Tynan visited the TechCrunch site on three different machines, and saw an NSA ad every time. In one version of the ad, a male voice says, 'There are activities that I've worked on that make, you know, front page headlines. And I can say, I know all about that, I had a hand in that. The things that happen here at NSA really have national and world ramifications.'"

Google Is Testing a Program That Tracks Your Purchases In the Real World 160

cold fjord writes "Business Insider reports, Google is beta-testing a program that tracks users' purchasing habits by registering brick-and-mortar store visits via smartphones, according to a report from Digiday. Google can access user data via Android apps or their Apple iOS apps, like Google search, Gmail, Chrome, or Google Maps. If a customer is using these apps while he shops or has them still running in the background, Google's new program pinpoints the origin of the user data and determines if the customer is in a place of business."
The Almighty Buck

Facebook Autofill Wants To Store Users' Credit Card Info 123

cagraham writes "Facebook has teamed up with payment processors PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe, in an attempt to simplify mobile payments. The system allows Facebook members (who have turned over their credit and billing info) to click a 'Autofill with Facebook' button when checking-out on a mobile app. Facebook will then verify the details, and securely transfer a user's info over to the payment processing company. The move is likely aimed at gathering more data on user behavior, which can be used to increase the prices Facebook charges for mobile ads. Whether or not the feature takes off however, will depend almost entirely on how willing users are to trust Facebook with their credit card data."

Samsung Unveils Galaxy Gear Smartwatch 244

MojoKid writes "The smartwatch race heated up today, as Samsung showed its Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin. Samsung's take on such a device has been eagerly anticipated. Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear as a companion to the new Galaxy Note 3 (or any Galaxy device). The Gear lets users make and receive calls hands-free with the built-in speaker, and it notifies you of any incoming texts, emails, and alerts and gives you a preview of whatever is coming through. A Smart Relay feature will display the full content on your Galaxy device. The Galaxy Gear sports an 800MHz processor and 1.63-inch display (320x320) AMOLED display with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a speaker, and two microphones with noise cancellation. There's a 1.9MP camera with a BSI sensor and autofocus, and it connects via Bluetooth 4.0 + BLE. Sensors include an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Samsung plans to launch the smartwatch in October for $300."

Microsoft Surface Pro Arrives Feb. 9 268

adeelarshad82 writes "According to Microsoft, the Surface Windows 8 Pro will be available for purchase on Feb. 9 in the U.S. and Canada. As anticipated, the Surface Pro will be slightly thicker than the Surface with Windows RT, and will weigh about two pounds. The tablet is powered with an Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of memory. It also includes an 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band Wi-Fi, a stylus for pressure-sensitive input, dual 720p HD webcams, a full-sized USB 3.0 port, microSDXC slot, and mini DisplayPort. Since the Surface Pro runs Windows 8 Pro, it will work with your corporate infrastructure, as well as any older apps that you used on Windows XP to 7. In terms of pricing, the 64GB version will cost $899 while the 128GB will set you back by $999."

Touchscreen Laptops, Whether You Like Them Or Not 398

An anonymous reader writes "With CES all wrapped up, an article at CNET discusses a definite trend in the laptops on display from various manufacturers this year: touchscreens. Intel and Microsoft are leading the way, and attempting to grab the industry's reins as well: '... just to make sure the touch message was crystal clear, Intel issued an edict to PC partners during its CES keynote: all next-generation ultrabooks based on its "Haswell" chip must be touch.' With tablets and detachable/convertible computers coming into the mainstream, it seems the manufacturers have something to gain by condensing their production options. The article says, 'What does that mean to consumers? Your next laptop will likely be touch, whether you like it or not.'"

MS Office 2013 Pushing Home Users Toward Subscriptions 349

An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports that Microsoft has announced pricing plans for Office 2013 that include a subscription-based model for home users. There will be a $100/year Home version that can be shared by up to 5 users and a $150/year Small Business version. 'Subscription software of one form or another has proven popular in the enterprise (whether it be cloud services, like Office 365, or subscriptions to desktop software, such as Microsoft's Software Assurance scheme). But so far it's a rarity in the consumer space. Anti-virus software has tried to bully and cajole users into getting aboard the subscription train, but the large number of users with out-of-date anti-viral protection suggests users are resisting. ... As another incentive to subscribe, and one that might leave a bad taste in the mouth, the company says that subscribers will be given unspecified "updates" to add new features and capabilities over the life of their subscription. Perpetual licensees will only get bug fixes and security updates.'"

Solving Climate Change By Bioengineering Humans? 363

derekmead writes "Forget CFLs, hybrid cars, and organic jeans. Buying our way out of climate change — even if it's green consumption — won't get us far. A new paper (PDF), published in Ethics, Policy, and the Environment by NYU bioethics professor S. Matthew Liao, poses an answer: engineer humans to use less. The general plan laid out by Liao is straightforward, ranging from using pharmacological behavior modification to create an aversion to meat in people, to using gene therapy to create smaller, less resource-intensive children. The philosophical and ethical questions, on the other hand, are absurdly complicated. The Atlantic also has a great interview with Liao, in which he talks about gene therapy and making humans hate the taste of meat."

How many Bavarian Illuminati does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Three: one to screw it in, and one to confuse the issue.