cold fjord writes "The Washington Examiner reports, 'Oregon ... signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange. The state's exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services. The weak number of sign-ups undercuts two major defenses of Obamacare from its supporters. One defense was that state-based exchanges were performing a lot better than the federal healthcare.gov website servicing 36 states. But Oregon's website problems have forced the state to rely on paper applications to sign up participants. Another defense of the Obama administration has attributed the troubled rollout of Obamacare to the obstruction of Republican governors who wanted to see the law fail as well as a lack of funding. But Oregon is a Democratic state that embraced Obamacare early and enthusiastically.'"
codeusirae writes "A study by Incapsula suggests 61.5% of all website traffic is now generated by bots. The security firm said that was a 21% rise on last year's figure of 51%. From the article: 'Some of these automated software tools are malicious - stealing data or posting ads for scams in comment sections. But the firm said the biggest growth in traffic was for 'good' bots. These are tools used by search engines to crawl websites in order to index their content, by analytics companies to provide feedback about how a site is performing, and by others to carry out other specific tasks - such as helping the Internet Archive preserve content before it is deleted.'"
First time accepted submitter spineas writes "JetBlue is rolling out a new form of inflight Wi-Fi operating from satellites instead of ground-based cell towers. Up to eight times faster than traditional inflight Wi-Fi, it will enable users to stream video whilst in the air, something that is nearly impossible to do with current dial-up speed access in aircraft."
astroengine writes "Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found plumes of water vapor shooting off the southern pole of Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter that is believed to have an underground ocean. If confirmed — so far the plumes have only been spotted once — the finding could have implications for the moon's suitability for life and help explain why its surface appears relatively young and crater-free. "The plumes are incredibly exciting, if they are there. They're bringing up material from in the ocean, perhaps there's organic material that will be laying on the surface of the south pole. Those are the things that we want to know about," James Green, head of NASA's planetary science programs, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco on Thursday."
wiredmikey writes "A Ukrainian national, Roman Vega, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to creating a popular online marketplace for selling stolen financial account data has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. Called one of the world's 'most prolific cybercriminals' by the Department of Justice, Vega, 49, will serve significant time in prison for his role in co-founding the notorious website CarderPlanet. In the early 2000s, Vega co-founded and became a high-ranking administrator of the notorious website, which became one of the first and busiest online marketplaces for the sale of stolen financial information, computer hacking services and money laundering. At its height, CarderPlanet had more than 6,000 members and had a hierarchical leadership structure that borrowed its leadership titles from La Cosa Nostra, US authorities said."
First time accepted submitter Austrian Anarchy writes with this story via Reason (and based on a report at Wired) about a maker of physical Bitcoin tokens. Quoting from Reason's take: "Mike Caldwell ran a business called Casascius that printed physical tokens with a bitcoin digital key on it, key hidden behind a tamper proof strip. He'd charge $50 worth of bitcoin to print a bitcoin key you sent him via computer on this token. Cool stuff--a good friend of mine found one sitting unnoticed in her tip jar from an event at which she sold her artisan lamps from 2011 and was naturally delighted given the nearly 1000x increase in value of a bitcoin since then. So, you're making something fun, useful, interesting, harmless--naturally the federal government is very concerned and wants to hobble you. 'Just before Thanksgiving, [Caldwell] received a letter from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN, the arm of the Treasury Department that dictates how the nation’s anti-money-laundering and financial crime regulations are interpreted. According to FINCEN, Caldwell needs to rethink his business. "They considered my activity to be money transmitting," Caldwell says. And if you want to transmit money, you must first jump through a lot of state and federal regulatory hoops Caldwell hasn't jumped through.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "From the annals of Really Important Science comes word that a research assistant who picked up his B.S. just seven months ago has invented a coffee mug designed to keep java at just the right piping-hot temperature for hours. Logan Maxwell, who got his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University in May, created the "Temperfect" mug as part of his senior design project for the College of Engineering. Most insulated mugs have two walls separated by a soft vacuum that insulates the temperature of a liquid inside from the temperature of the air outside. Maxwell's design has a third layer of insulation in a third wall wrapped around the inner basin of the mug. Inside is a chemical insulator that is solid at room temperature but melts into a liquid at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The insulator – which Maxwell won't identify but swears is non-toxic – turns to liquid as it absorbs the extra heat of coffee poured into the mug at temperatures higher than 140 F, cooling it to a drinkable temperature quickly. As the heat of the coffee escapes, the insulating material releases heat through the inner wall of the mug to keep it hot as long as possible; a graph mapping the performance of a prototype shows it could keep a cup of coffee at between 128 F and 145 F for as long as 90 minutes. "Phase-change" coffee-mug insulation was patented during the 1960s, but has never been marketed because they are difficult and expensive to manufacture compared to simpler forms of insulation. While working on the Temperfect design, Maxwell met Belgian-born industrial designer Dean Verhoeven, president of consulting form Ancona Research, Inc., who had been working on a similar design and had already worked out how to manufacture a three-walled insulated mug cost effectively. The two co-founded a company called Joevo to manufacture the mugs." According to the Joevo Kickstarter page, you can get one starting at $40. For that much, I'd like a clever lid like this Contigo has.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "Google has fixed a vulnerability, first discovered by researcher Gergely Kalman, which let users search for credit card numbers by using hex number ranges. However, Google should have acknowledged or at least responded to the original bug finder (and possibly even paid him a bounty for it), and should have been more transparent about the process in general." Read on for the rest of the story.
alphadogg writes "The ITU has taken a big step in the standardization of G.fast, a broadband technology capable of achieving download speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper telephone wire. The death of copper and the ascent of fiber has long been discussed. However, the cost of rolling out fiber is still too high for many operators that instead want to upgrade their existing copper networks. So there is still a need for technologies that can complement fiber, including VDSL2 and G.fast. Higher speeds are needed for applications such as 4K streaming, IPTV, cloud-based storage, and communication via HD video, ITU said." Meanwhile, I'm hoping Google Fiber, FIOS, and other fast optical options scare more ISPs into action along both price and speed axes.
rjmarvin writes "The Delhi High Court approved an appeal by Nokia today to unfreeze the company's Indian assets, including the Chennai mobile phone factory set to be transferred to Microsoft as part of its devices and services acquisition. The decision was contingent on Nokia putting $367 million in escrow to go towards its imposed taxes. Nokia lobbied to lift the freeze to avoid holding up the deal or being forced to stay on as a subcontractor, though they're still on the hook for taxes and penalties to the tune of up to $3.4 billion for a financial period dating back to 2006. Microsoft, though, is in the clear."
Freshly Exhumed writes "What a father eats before his child is conceived may influence the chance a baby will be born with a birth defect, a new study suggests. Much of the focus on how diet relates to birth has been done on moms. A father's diet before conception plays a crucial role in the health of his offspring, researchers in Canada suggest. Sarah Kimmins, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal, said the study focused on vitamin B9, also known as folate, which is found in green leafy vegetables, cereal, fruit and meat. The researchers found that the mouse offspring of folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to those offspring who had received a sufficient amount of folate."
Qedward writes "Munich's switch to open source software has been successfully completed, with the vast majority of the public administration's users now running its own version of Linux, city officials said today. In one of the premier open source software deployments in Europe, the city migrated from Windows NT to LiMux, its own Linux distribution. LiMux incorporates a fully open source desktop infrastructure. The city also decided to use the Open Document Format (ODF) as a standard, instead of proprietary options. Ten years after the decision to switch, the LiMux project will now go into regular operation, the Munich City council said."
First time accepted submitter LibbyMC writes "Google's approach to bringing older C software to the browser is demonstrated in bringing the '80s-era AmigaOS to Chrome. 'The Native Client technology runs software written to run on a particular processor at close to the speeds that native software runs. The approach gives software more direct access to a computer's hardware , but it also adds security restrictions to prevent people from downloading malware from the Web that would take advantage of that power.'" Chrome users can go straight to the demo.
cartechboy writes "How many Nissan Leafs does it take to power an office building? The answer, it turns out, is six. Nissan is the latest Japanese automaker to explore electric "vehicle-to-building" setups, this time with impressive results. The company started testing its latest system at the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi City, Japan, during the summer. It found that just six Leafs plugged in to the building's power supply allowed it to cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent. Annualized, that's a savings of half a million yen (about $4,800 US) in electricity costs. How it works: The building pulls electricity from the plugged-in vehicles during peak-use hours, when power is most expensive, and then sends the power back to recharge the cars when grid prices fall. Nissan says the system is set up to ensure the cars are fully charged by the end of the workday. (Is this a devious secret way to make sure workers stay until a certain time?) Next up: Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?"
paavo512 writes "For the last decade or so, Estonia has developed a national electronic data exchange layer called X-Road. Is is based on national electronic ID cards and allows creation of common electronic services like founding a company, declaring taxes or e-voting. Every day, over 800,000 enquiries are made via X-Road (the population of Estonia is 1.3M). According to the PM of Estonia, the solution is saving 2% of national GDP annually. The Estonian ID card technology was originally imported from Finland; however, it appears Finns have for 10 years failed to come up with any significant e-services making use of them. So it is now agreed that Estonian X-Road solution will be expanding to Finland as well."
An anonymous reader writes "The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice today issued their opinion that the EU Directive covering the retention of data is incompatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In an interim ruling in a case taken by the Irish Digital Rights movement, the AG found the limitation on a persons right to privacy imposed by the EU Directive was not properly laid down in law. The ECR has yet to make a formal ruling and is not bound by the AG opinion, however it is unusual for the court not to follow suit."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Suzanne Goldenberg writes at The Guardian that researchers at the University of Toronto's department of chemistry have identified a newly discovered greenhouse gas, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century, that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth. 'We claim that PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of any molecule detected in the atmosphere to date,' says Angela Hong. Concentrations of PFTBA in the atmosphere are low – 0.18 parts per trillion in the Toronto area – compared to 400 parts per million for carbon dioxide but PFTBA is long-lived. There are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere. 'It is so much less than carbon dioxide, but the important thing is on a per molecule basis, it is very very effective in interacting with heat from the Earth.' PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment, such as transistors and capacitors. 'PFTBA is just one example of an industrial chemical that is produced but there are no policies that control its production, use or emission,' says Hong. 'It is not being regulated by any type of climate policy.'"
sciencehabit writes "Three lawsuits filed last week that attempted to achieve 'legal personhood' for four chimpanzees living in New York have been struck down. The suits, brought by the animal rights group the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), targeted two chimps on private property and two in a research lab at Stony Brook University in New York. NhRP says it will now appeal each lawsuit to a higher court, and that it will continue its campaign to grant chimpanzees, dolphins, and other cognitively advanced animals legal personhood nationwide."
An anonymous reader writes "A New Zealand backpacker stripped of all electrical equipment at Auckland airport suggests attending a London talk on cyber-security following the Edward Snowden leaks may be to blame. Samuel Blackman was returning home for Christmas on 11 December from London Heathrow to Auckland via San Francisco when a customs officer at his final destination took the law graduate's two smartphones, iPad, external hard drive and laptop, demanding the passwords for all devices." For a quieter version, see also The New Zealand Herald.
KentuckyFC writes "During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union battled on many fronts to demonstrate their superior technical and scientific achievements. While the race to put a human in space and then on the Moon is famous, a much less well-known battlefront was the unconventional science of parapsychology, or psychotronics as the Soviets called it. Now a new review of unconventional research in the Soviet Union reveals the scale of this work for the first time and the cost: as much as $1 billion. The Soviets had programs studying how "human energy" could influence other objects and how this energy could be generated independently of humans using a device called 'cerpan'. The Soviets also had a mind control program similar to the CIA's infamous MKULTRA project. Interestingly, the Soviets included non-local physics in this work, such as the Aharonov-Bohm effect in which an electromagnetic field can influence a particle confined to region where the field strength is zero. And they built a number of devices that exploited the effect, although research in this area appears to have ended in 2003."
dotarray writes "The world's first professional StarCraft II gamer has been granted a five-year pro athlete visa for the United States, making Kim 'viOLet' Dong Hwan the first of his kind. viOLet was one of the first gamers to apply for the P-1A visa when they were introduced in July. The new paperwork doesn't mean that he can live permanently in the U.S., but it does mean he'll be treated like other (more traditional) athletes, able to easily enter the country temporarily to participate in tournaments."
astroengine writes "A coolant system glitch on the International Space Station has forced several of the orbital outpost's modules offline as astronauts and ground control manage the problem. The crew are not in danger and ground control teams are currently working to see how best to troubleshoot. The issue, that occurred early on Wednesday, focuses on one of the space station's two external ammonia cooling loops, along which the station's electrical systems use to regulate their temperatures. The loop 'automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits,' said NASA in a statement. It is thought that a flow control valve in the ammonia pump itself may have malfunctioned."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Thousands of German users that have used a porn website to stream shows have received threatening letters from a local law firm demanding €250 ($344) per certain watched clips, Chip.de reports. Apparently, a Swiss-based firm that owns the content hosted by porn site Redtube has tasked a law firm with collecting fines for each of its shows that was streamed online in the region. The law firm has apparently received a go ahead from a local court, and as many as ten thousand warnings may have been set to users, for porn shows watched in August."
jones_supa writes "Details are shaping up of a plan for a new government-backed high capacity data cable between Germany and Finland, routed through the Baltic Sea. The project to significantly upgrade Finland's international data transfer capacity has long been high on the government's list of priorities. It could improve the country's competitiveness in ICT technologies and digital services. Following a meeting of the cabinet's economic policy committee on Wednesday, Pekka Haavisto, the minister responsible for state ownership steering, told the press that the state will take part in the venture as a partial owner. The estimated cost of the undersea data cable project is around 100 million euros. Haavisto said that roughly one third of the costs could be paid by the state, another third by institutional investors and the remainder by private companies. So far, all data transmission to Finland has taken place via the Øresund Bridge, that is through Denmark and Sweden."