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PayPal Will Be Able To Robo-Text/Call Users With No Opt-out Starting July 1 116

OutOnARock notes that as PayPal separates from eBay in the coming months, new terms of service are set to take effect on July 1st. Most of the changes unexciting, but one provision has consumer rights groups up in arms: PayPal is granting itself the ability to use automated systems to call and text users. These robocalls could happen for something as serious as debt collection or as frivolous as advertisements. What's more, the company grants the same rights to its affiliates. Activists are questioning the legality of these changes. "Given that both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (which created the Do Not Call list) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ban most robocalling and texting, this seemed in direct opposition to consumer protections granted Americans by Congress." PayPal says it will comply with all laws, but their actions may spark a legal debate about whether terms of service can qualify as "written consent."

On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google 108

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "MetaFilter recently announced layoffs due to a decline in ad revenue that started with a mysterious 40% drop in traffic from Google on November 17, 2012, and which never recovered. Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand explores in detail how MetaFilter 'serves as a poster child of problems with Google's penalty process, despite all the advances Google has made over the years.' Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post puts it more bluntly: 'That may be the most striking, prescient takeaway from the whole MetaFilter episode: the extent to which the modern Web does not incentivize quality.'"

Comment Games (Score 1) 322

I noticed a couple of talents over at the University are making some kind of shared consensual AR game that runs inside of our Virtual World netnodes. Turn-based strategy. It's based on the idea of "What if we never went to Alpha Centauri, and instead, society had developed from the industrial base as it existed on Earth in the early 21st century?" They've got some wild ideas about how things might have gone, what the consequences might have been, etc. Some of their "predictions" are a bit fantasy-like, but it's mostly good hard science fiction.

Comment Re:so... (Score 2) 172

It's one of those rare ones in the Discovery tech tree, where you don't get a new weapon or base facility, but it's a prerequisite to some other, totally kickass tech. That next tech doesn't seem to be the docs, though. Actually, I can't even find out if this tech makes a Secret Project available. It's all undocumented. You just have to play to find out what happens, I guess.

Comment Re:Will increased exposure make the market rationa (Score 2) 140

When the bubble finally bursts, Bitcoins' value will hover around the cost of the electricity & equipment to mine them, so investors can write off the purchase as a slight loss or slight profit.

"Energy is the currency of the future." --CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Centauri Monopoly"

A currency based on something solid, pretty much impossible to fake, and hard to get confused about. Compare that to national currencies base on different people's varying fuzzy perceptions of the stability of the issuing government. Sounds pretty good, actually.

I think you're right (it'll stabilize at that price) but others think it'll deflate. This'll be interesting to watch. And damn useful to have a pocket change, for those usenet server subscriptions which don't take paypal anymore.

Hardware Hacking

The Patents That Threaten 3-D Printing 134

An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."

Ask Slashdot: Spreadsheet With Decent Programming Language? 332

First time accepted submitter slartibartfastatp writes "Spreadsheets are very flexible tools for data analysis and transformations, the obvious options being MS Excel and LibreOffice. However, I found increasingly infuriating to deal with the VBA--dialect functions or (even worse) its translated versions. Is there any spreadsheet that allows usage of a decent programming language in its formulae? I found PySpread intriguing, but still very beta (judging from its latest release version 0.2.3). Perl or even javascript would be better options than =AVERAGE(). Do you know any viable alternatives?"

Google Pushing Back On Law Enforcement Requests For Access To Gmail Accounts 75

Virtucon writes "Ars technica has an interesting article on how Google is handling requests from law enforcement for access to Gmail accounts. With the recent Petraeus scandal where no criminal conduct was found, it seems that they're re-enforcing their policies and standing up for their users. 'In order to compel us to produce content in Gmail we require an ECPA search warrant,' said Chris Gaither, Google spokesperson. 'If they come for registration information, that's one thing, but if they ask for content of email that's another thing.'"

Apple Declutters, Speeds Up iTunes With Major Upgrade 295

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The Washington Post reports that Apple has finally unveiled their new version of iTunes, overhauling its look and feel and integrating it more closely with the company's iCloud Internet- storage service with one of the biggest upgrades Apple has made to the program with 400 million potential users since its debut more than a decade ago. The new design of iTunes moves away from the spreadsheet format that Apple has featured since its debut and adds more art and information about musicians, movies and television shows. It also adds recommendation features so users can find new material. According to David Pogue of the NY Times Apple has fixed some of the dumber design elements that have always plagued iTunes. 'For years, the store was represented only as one item in the left-side list, lost among less important entries like Radio and Podcasts. Now a single button in the upper-right corner switches between iTunes's two personalities: Store (meaning Apple's stuff) and Library (meaning your stuff).' Unfortunately, Apple hasn't fixed the Search box. As before, you can't specify in advance what you're looking for: an app, a song, a TV show, a book. Whatever you type into the Search box finds everything that matches, and you can't filter it until after you search. It feels like a two-step process when one should do. 'Improvements in visual navigation and a more logical arrangement of tools are good, but for me the biggest positive within iTunes 11 remains its vastly improved performance on all three Macs I've tested it on, including a relatively ancient five-year-old MacBook,' writes Jonny Evans."

Hotel Keycard Lock Hack Gets Real In Texas 132

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "You may remember a vulnerability in four million keycard locks presented at the Black Hat conference in July. Hacker Cody Brocious showed he could insert a device he built for less than $50 into the port at the bottom of the common hotel lock, read a key out of its memory, and open it in seconds. Two months later, it turns out at least one burglar was already making use of that technique to rob a series of hotel rooms in Texas. The Hyatt House Galleria in Houston has revealed that in at least three September cases of theft from its rooms, the thief used that Onity vulnerability to effortlessly open rooms and steal valuables like laptops. Petra Risk Solutions, an insurance firm focus the hospitality industry also reports that at least two other hotels in Texas were hit with the attack. Onity has been criticized for its less-than-stellar response to a glaring vulnerability in its devices. The Hyatt says Onity didn't provide a fix until after its break-ins, forcing the hotel to plug its locks' ports with epoxy. And even now, Onity is asking its hotel customers to pay for the full fix, which involves replacing the locks' circuit boards."

Boeing 787 Makes US Debut 317

thomas.kane writes "After years of delays, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is set to take off from Bush Intercontinental Airport this morning bound for O'Hare. Designed to make the flying experience 'revolutionary,' it is constructed from composite materials, has larger windows than previous jetliners, and high efficiency engines. United Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to take delivery; they've ordered 50, but due to processing delays, they only have 2 right now. Start looking for more to take to the skies early next year."

Comment Launch solar shade (Score 1) 757

I always have coastal cities and their production lines are far too important, to disrupt with a build order for domes. When sea levels rise (and to be fair, I'm usually the most to blame for it), there's always a planetary council call to launch a solar shade. I don't always get my way, but those who oppose me on the issue will the dominated ASAP if I can, so that we can re-vote on the issue at the next opportunity.

I'm not saying Earth's current factions are wrong simply because they don't play like me, but... it sure looks dumb. And as is typical, those who you'd think have the most to lose (or at least should think they have the most to lose) are the ones most responsible for the problem and best equipped to do something about it.

I know what you're thinking: it's zero sum. Sure, the developed countries will lose many cities, but so will their opponents. (Earth example: US might lose New York but Nigeria will lose Lagos, and Nigeria is poor so their loss of Lagos will hurt more, ergo, US wins by this disaster.) I would point out, though, that the more advanced factions will have a greater investment in their cities. Also, if you know what you're doing, your HQ will be coastal (always put your HQ on a coast) so that you can send sea crawlers to ocean hotspots. Winning a large map game is always about energy, in the end, because more energy means more tech, and more tech means both 1) better weapons and 2) first shot at the best Secret Projects. And hey, your coastal HQ probably has some mighty fine Secret Projects in it. Those are irreplaceable. This isn't the kind of situation where zero sum thinking is wise.

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