LordLucless writes "Australia's Liberal Democratic Party, which describes itself as a classically liberal, free-market libertarian party, has had their candidate for New South Wales elected to the upper house, with roughly double the number of votes they were expecting. In part, this has been attributed to them being placed first on the ballot paper (which is determined by a random process) and similarities in name to one of the major parties, the Liberal Party of Australia."
"Taking a drag from an e-cigarette may be just as safe and effective as slapping on a nicotine patch for smokers struggling to quit, according to the first physician-run trial to compare the two products." That's according to research recently published in The Lancet (PDF) and reported by Bloomberg. Why is this significant? From the article: "If European and U.S. regulators treat e-cigarettes as medical devices, yet leave cigarettes on general sale, tobacco makers 'will retain their market monopoly, and we will never learn whether e-cigarettes would replace traditional cigarettes if allowed to continue evolving and competing with smoked tobacco on even terms,' [wrote clinical psychology professor Peter Hajek]. The results will also be presented today at the European Respiratory Society’s annual meeting in Barcelona. E-cigarettes have taken Europe and the U.S. by storm. In France, there are more than 1 million regular users, according to a government-commissioned report published in May. Sales worldwide will probably approach $2 billion by the end of this year and top $10 billion by 2017, according to a forecast by Wells Fargo & Co."
New submitter santosh.k83 writes with this snippet: "TorrentFreak has learned that VPN provider iPredator is already blocked under the 'adult filter' of some, if not all, mobile providers. TorrentFreak has seen communication between the mobile provider GiffGaff and iPredator which makes it clear that the VPN's website is blocked because it allows kids to bypass the age restrictions. Based on the above it is safe to say that censorship is a slippery slope, especially without any oversight. VPNs are used for numerous purposes and bypassing age restrictions is certainly not the most popular one. If this holds up then proxy services and even Google's cache may soon be banned under the same guise."
dreamstateseven writes "Canadian Bitcoin enthusiasts will be able to exchange Canadian cash for the digital currency through a kiosk that's similar to an ATM. Bitcoiniacs says it has ordered five Bitcoin kiosks from a Las Vegas-based company called RoboCoin and intends to roll them out across Canada in the coming months, with the first machine expected to land in Vancouver in early October. The kiosks allow users to select how much money they would like to spend, insert cash into the machine and then scan a QR code on their phone to transfer the Bitcoins to their wallet."
Ars Technica reviewer Casey Johnston gives a mildly positive review to the Oyster book-rental app (and associated site), which intentionally tries to be for books what Netflix has become for movies: a low-price, subscription-based, data-sifting source of first resort. For $10 a month, users can read any of the books in Oyster's catalog (in the range of 100,000, and growing), and their reading habits are used to suggest new books of interest (with some bum steers, it seems, at present). It's iOS-only for now, with an Android version expected soon. I've only grudgingly moved more and more of my reading to tablets, but now am glad I have; still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.
New submitter deepdive writes "I have a basic question: What is the privacy/security health of the Linux kernel (and indeed other FOSS OSes) given all the recent stories about the NSA going in and deliberately subverting various parts of the privacy/security sub-systems? Basically, can one still sleep soundly thinking that the most recent latest/greatest Ubuntu/OpenSUSE/what-have-you distro she/he downloaded is still pretty safe?"
mikejuk writes with some robot eye candy, in the form of this excerpt: "If you think its cool to video the unboxing of your latest mobile phone — think again. Unboxing a robot has a lot more going for it and reaches a whole new level of sci-fi realized. The Atlas robot is a standard humanoid robot to be used by competitors in the DARPA Robotics challenge. Built by Boston Dynamics, it is in the same line as Petman and BigDog. It is now being delivered to the labs that will take part and the temptation to make an unboxing video has been irresistible They arrive in plain of wooden crates as if they were auto parts. Next it is unwrapped and lifted out of its packing case using a crane. It looks black and threatening — just like a sci-fi movie but watch the videos and see."
McGruber writes "The NY Times reports how the alumni of distant also-ran social network Myspace have created an impressive number of spinoff internet companies. These companies have so significantly changed the Los Angeles area's tech scene that the area has been dubbed the 'Silicon Beach.' The article also provides details about the demise of Myspace under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. When YouTube launched in February 2005, many at Myspace wanted to introduce a similar feature. Travis Katz, who had joined Myspace as general manager of international business just after the acquisition, said he remembered telling News Corporation representatives that they would need to hire 40 developers immediately and 200 the next year. 'That was much faster than anything they were accustomed to,' Mr. Katz said. 'They said, "We're going to do a hiring freeze for six months and take a deep breath and determine then what we really need." But we couldn't wait six months. In six months, YouTube went from two million to 80 million users.'"
CNET's Steve Guttenberg ("The Audiophiliac") profiles prolific audio engineer and general music industry do-it-all Steve Albini; Albini (who's worked on literally thousands of albums with musicians across a wide range of genres) has interesting things to say about compression, the rise of home-recording ("The majority of recordings will be crappy, low-quality recordings, but there will always be work for engineers who can do a good job, because there will always be people who appreciate good sound."), and why he still prefers to record to analog tape. (Note: Albini is justly famous not just for his production work, but in particular for his essay "The Problem with Music.")
Freshly Exhumed writes "A security blogger, acknowledging that the NSA methodically ranks communications on the basis of their 'foreignness' factor to determine candidacy for prolonged retention proposes, is proposing '...an opportunity for us on the civilian front to aid the NSA by voluntarily indicating citizenship on all our networked communications. Here, we define the syntax and semantics of X-No-Wiretap, a HTTP header-based mechanism for indicating and proving citizenship to well-intentioned man-in-the-middle parties. It is inspired by the enormously successful RFC 3514 IPv4 Security Flag and HTTP DNT header.'"
An anonymous reader writes with a report from Spiegel Online that the U.S. government "has the capability of tapping user data from the iPhone, [and] devices using Android as well as BlackBerry, a system previously believed to be highly secure. The United States' National Security Agency intelligence-gathering operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all leading manufacturers. ... The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been." As a bonus, the same reader points out a Washington Post report according to which "The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications in its massive databases ... In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."
TechRadar reports today the first major public-facing move that Microsoft has made with its newly acquired Nokia devices business: "The headline-making Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone-cum-camera is now available for $100 less in the United States, potentially a sign that Microsoft is already ringing the changes at Nokia. The Microsoft Store stateside is now selling the 41-megapixel Windows Phone 8 handset for $199 (around £127, AU$216) on a two-year contract, compared with Nokia's lofty $299 (around £191, AU$325) launch price. The price is being matched by the AT&T network, but Microsoft is going one better (for a limited time) and chucking in the camera grip accessory for everyone who picks up the device. Early indications are that the heavily-hyped Lumia 1020 hasn't been flying off the shelves, so perhaps this price cut can offer Microsoft a boost in the early stages of its Nokia stewardship."
theodp writes "Throwing some cold water on the buzz surrounding the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch launch, The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan questions how smart a watch can really be. Calling offerings like the Galaxy Gear useful but not the stuff of dreams and revolutions, Buchanan writes, 'So there remains a strange undercurrent of hope that somebody-Apple-will figure out, soon, some grander vision for wearable technology, transforming it from something that people have vaguely imagined into something people intensely desire. It did it for smartphones, once, and again, for tablets. The question that Apple has been charged with, since nobody has definitively answered it yet, is whether the lack of an invention that truly carries us beyond the last five hundred years of wrist-mounted technology is the result of a failure of imagination or simply a fact of nature-that a watch will always just be a watch, no matter how smart it might think it is.' So, will you be an early adopter and drink Samsung's or Sony's smartwatch Kool-Aid, wait to see what Apple comes up with, or hold out for a Windows Forearm Pad 8?"
An anonymous reader writes "Just days after Intel added XMir support to their Linux graphics driver so it would work with the in-development the X11 compatibility layer to the Mir display server premiering with Ubuntu 13.10, Intel management has rejected the action and had the XMir patch reverted. There's been controversy surrounding Mir with it competing with Wayland and the state of the display server being rather immature and its performance coming up short while it will still debut in Ubuntu 13.10. Intel management had to say, "We do not condone or support Canonical in the course of action they have chosen, and will not carry XMir patches upstream." As a result, Canonical will need to ship their own packaged version of the Intel (and AMD and Nouveau drivers) with out-of-tree patches."
Yahoo has joined the ranks of large online businesses like Google and Facebook who have made it a practice to disclose the number and kind (if not all the details) of requests they've received from government agencies for user data. Its first report (you can read it here) lists "12,444 requests from U.S. authorities relating to a total of 40,322 user accounts." Those numbers are only part of the story, though: at the bottom of the linked report, note this disclaimer from Yahoo: "The numbers reported above include all types of government data requests such as criminal law enforcement requests and those under U.S. national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), if any were received. The U.S. Government does not permit us to disclose additional details regarding the number of requests, if any, under national security authorities at this time, or even to separate them in aggregate from other requests. Additionally, the government would not authorize us to separate NSLs from other government data requests or to express the NSLs that we have received, if any, as a range from 0 to 1,000—even though the government allowed other providers to do so in the past."
NASA wasn't the only organization with a successful launch this week; Virgin Galactic might not have any firm plans for a launch to the moon, but this week successfully tested SpaceShip Two for the second time, hopefully bringing the era of (more) affordable space tourism even closer. "The test began when the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off with SpaceShipTwo at about 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port. From there, the mated aircraft ascended to 46,000 feet, whereupon SpaceShipTwo was released from the carrier aircraft and ignited the rocket motor for a 20-second burn to an altitude of 69,000 feet. SpaceShipTwo achieved its maximum speed of Mach 1.43 during this portion of the mission, then returned to Mojave at 9:25 a.m. local time. Upon landing, the test pilots at the controls of SpaceShipTwo, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both pilots for Scaled Composites, reported a flawless flight." The L.A. Times' story on the launch has some great video footage, too.