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Microsoft

A Courtroom Victory For Microsoft In Cellphone-Related Patent Suit 14

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been cleared of patent infringement by the US International Trade Commission. The case dates back to 2007 when InterDigital Inc claimed Microsoft infringed its patents, and there were calls for a ban on the import of handsets. InterDigital Inc has been battling in court for eight years, initially trying to claim royalties on phones made by Nokia, now transferred to Microsoft. As well as blocking the call for an import ban, the ITC stated that Microsoft did not infringe patents relating to the way mobiles make calls. In short Microsoft is in the clear and InterDigital's rights have not been violated.
Businesses

Paywalled Science Journals Under Fire Again 131

The Real Dr John sends this report from The Guardian: Emeritus professor Stephen Leeder was sacked by the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in April after challenging a decision to outsource some of the journal's functions to the world's biggest scientific publisher, Elsevier. This month he will address a symposium at the State Library of NSW where academics will discuss how to fight what they describe as the commodification of knowledge. Alex Holcombe, an associate professor of psychology who will also be presenting at the symposium, said the business model of some of the major academic publishers was more profitable than owning a gold mine. Some of the 1,600 titles published by Elsevier charged institutions more than $19,000 for an annual subscription to just one journal. The Springer group, which publishes more than 2,000 titles, charges more than $21,000 for access to some of its titles. "The mining giant Rio Tinto has a profit margin of about 23%," Holcombe said. "Elsevier consistently comes in at around 37%. Open access publishing is catching on, but it requires researchers to pay up to $3000 to get a single open access article published. What other options are there for making scientific publications available to everyone?
Earth

How California Is Winning the Drought 390

An anonymous reader writes: California is in its fifth year of drought; the past four years have been the driest four-year period in recorded history, and the hottest as well. There have been consistent worries about how it will affect California's residents and its economy — but somehow, the state still seems to be doing fine. "In 2014, the state's economy grew 27 percent faster than the country's economy as a whole — the state has grown faster than the nation every year of the drought. ... The drought has inspired no Dust Bowl-style exodus. California's population has grown faster even as the drought has deepened."

The article makes the case that California is pioneering the water preservation and governance techniques that will be helpful elsewhere in the country if the global climate continues to warm. "The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California now supplies roughly 19 million people in six counties, and it uses slightly less water than it did 25 years ago, when it supplied 15 million people. That savings — more than one billion gallons each day — is enough to supply all of New York City." The article notes, however, that this resilience won't last forever — if the drought continues for several more years, California will be in trouble despite their water-saving tactics.
Power

Solar-Powered Flight For 81 Hours: a New Endurance World Record 34

Hallie Siegel writes: A team of researchers from ETH Zurich have just set a new endurance record for solar powered flight of an unmanned autonomous aircraft, achieving over four days of solar-powered flight in a range of weather conditions. Being able to demonstrate more than 24 hours of endurance is important because overcast skies can inhibit recharging and poor weather or high winds can effect power consumption. Nice achievement for this class of aircraft.
Patents

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 184

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.
Japan

Olympic Organizer Wants To Feed Athletes Fukushima Produce 149

New submitter Grady Martin writes: Toshiaki Endo, Japan's government-appointed parliament member in charge of planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has expressed hopes of supplying the Olympic/Paralympic village with foods grown in Fukushima [Google's autotranslation], stating, 'Using foods from Fukushima in the village is another possibility. I wish to strengthen ties with ground zero in numerous ways.' Would you eat it?
China

Chinese Tourist's Drone Crashes Into Taipei 101 Skyscraper 102

Taco Cowboy writes that a Chinese tourist has been hit with a fine of $48,000 (NT $1.5 Million) after his drone crashed into the Taipei 101 skyscraper. The tourist, 30-year-old Yan Yungfan, was supposedly attempting to film Taipei's cityscape on Tuesday morning with a remotely controlled Phantom 3 UAV when he lost control of the drone, causing it to hit the side of Taipei 101 at around the 30th floor. No one was injured in the incident and only minor damage was sustained by the building's glass windows, but the video immediately became a viral sensation after it was uploaded online. Taipei 101 said in a statement that there have been three incidents of drones crashing around the building since mid-June, with the first two cases taking place on June 15 and June 20. No injuries have resulted from these crashes, but I wouldn't want to get hit by a 3-pound object falling from that height.
Privacy

Red Star Linux Adds Secret Watermarks To Files 100

An anonymous reader writes: ERNW security analyst Florian Grunow says that North Korea's Red Star Linux operating system is tracking users by tagging content with unique hidden tags. He particularizes that files including Word documents and JPEG images connected to but not necessarily executed in Red Star will have a tag introduced into its code that includes a number based on hardware serial numbers. Red Star's development team seems to have created some quite interesting custom additions to Linux kernel and userspace, based on which Grunow has written a technical analysis.
Businesses

Toshiba CEO, 8 Others, Resign Over $1.2 Billion Accounting Cover-Up 85

The BBC reports that Toshiba president and chief executive Hisao Tanaka, along with vice-chairman Norio Sasaki, former chief executive Atsutoshi Niched, and six other executives, has resigned from the company in the wake of an accounting scandal: On Monday, an independent panel appointed by Toshiba said the firm had overstated its operating profit by a total of 151.8bn yen ($1.22bn, £780m). The overstatement was roughly triple an initial estimate by Toshiba. Asia Times has an article that delves into the pressure which drove Tanaka and others to misstate their revenue figures so drastically. From that piece: Top management and the heads of in-house companies acted on “the shared goal of padding nominal profits,” the report said. President Hisao Tanaka and immediate predecessor Norio Sasaki, now vice chairman, denied intentionally delaying loss-booking, but those who worked below them thought they were being instructed to do so, according to the report. Top management would assign “challenges,” or earnings improvement targets, at monthly meetings with the heads of in-house companies and subsidiaries. These targets were especially aggressive in fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012, when Sasaki was president. In-house company chiefs felt enormous pressure to meet the goals, the committee concluded. After the announcement of Tanaka's resignation, the company's stock actually rose six percent. CNBC explains: Getting the bad news out appears to have eased investors' concerns about the stock. "The total problem has been quantified and there's a likely chance the CEO will have to quit. That's been seen as the end of that," said Amir Anvarzadeh, director of Japan equity sales at BGC Securities.
Businesses

IT Workers Training Their Foreign Replacements 'Troubling,' Says White House 305

dcblogs writes: A top White House official told House lawmakers this week that the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B visa holders is 'troubling' and not supposed to happen. That answer came in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that referenced Disney workers who had to train their temporary visa holding replacements (the layoffs were later canceled. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said if H-1B workers are being used to replace U.S. workers, then "it's a very serious failing of the H-1B program." But Johnson also told lawmakers that they may not be able to stop it, based on current law. Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University who has testified before Congress multiple times on H-1B visa use, sees that as a "bizarre interpretation" of the law.
Piracy

Popular Torrent Site Disappears From Google After Penalty 165

An anonymous reader writes: Following what appears to be a severe penalty, the popular torrent site KickassTorrents has become pretty much unfindable in Google. Meanwhile, the top search result in many locations points to a scam site that's serving malware to its visitors. For now, only DuckDuckGo presents the real site as a main result. With millions of visitors per day, KickassTorrents is arguably the most visited torrent site on the Internet, and has gained new users during the moments when the notorious Pirate Bay has been offline.
Medicine

Study: Living Near Fracking Correlates With Increased Hospital Visits 132

New submitter Michael Tiemann writes: An article published in PLOS One finds increased hospital admissions significantly correlate with living in the same zip code as active fracking sites. The data comes from three counties in Pennsylvania, whose zip codes mostly had no fracking sites in 2007 and transitioned to a majority of zip codes with at least one fracking site. While the statistical and medical data are compelling, and speak to a significant correlation, the graphical and informational figures flunk every Tufte test, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless, with open data and Creative Commons licensing, the paper could be rewritten to provide a more compelling explanation about the dangers of fracking to people who live within its vicinity, and perhaps motivate more stringent regulations to protect them from both immediate and long-term harm.
Piracy

UK Government Proposes 10-Year Copyright Infringement Jail Term 274

An anonymous reader writes: According to a BBC report, the UK government is proposing increasing the jail term for copyright infringement from the current two years to 10 years, which they say would "act as a significant deterrent." "The proposed measures are mainly targeted at the distributors of pirated content — the people creating copies of movies, sometimes before release, and uploading them to be downloaded by thousands upon thousands." Another reader notes a related court ruling in the UK which has once again made it illegal to rip lawfully-acquired CDs and DVDs for personal use. "A judge ruled that the government was wrong legally when it decided not to introduce a compensation scheme for songwriters, musicians, and other rights holders who face losses as a result of their copyright being infringed."
Biotech

New Letters Added To the Genetic Alphabet 74

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: [A]fter decades of work, [organic chemist Steven] Benner's team has synthesized artificially enhanced DNA that functions much like ordinary DNA, if not better. In two papers published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society last month, the researchers have shown that two synthetic nucleotides called P and Z fit seamlessly into DNA's helical structure, maintaining the natural shape of DNA. Moreover, DNA sequences incorporating these letters can evolve just like traditional DNA, a first for an expanded genetic alphabet. In fact, the article continues, these new nucleotides can actually outperform their natural counterparts: "When challenged to evolve a segment that selectively binds to cancer cells, DNA sequences using P and Z did better than those without."
Government

Amnesty International Seeks Explanation For 'Absolutely Shocking' Surveillance 112

Mark Wilson writes: A court recently revealed via email that the UK government had been spying on Amnesty International. GCHQ had put Amnesty under surveillance — despite this having previously been denied — and now the human rights organization wants answers.

In a letter to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Amnesty International asks for an explanation for the surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal's (IPT) email made it clear that GCHQ had been intercepting, accessing and storing communications, something that Amnesty International's Secretary General, Salil Shetty believes 'makes it vividly clear that mass surveillance has gone too far'.

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