zacharye writes "The new Mac Pro is the most powerful and flexible computer Apple has ever created, and it's also extremely expensive — or is it? With a price tag that can climb up around $10,000, Apple's latest enterprise workhorse clearly isn't cheap. For businesses with a need for all that muscle, however, is that steep price justifiable or is there a premium 'Apple tax' that companies will have to pay? Shortly after the new Mac Pro was finally made available for purchase last week, one PC enthusiast set out to answer that question and in order to do so, he asked another one: How much would it cost to build a comparable Windows 8 machine?"
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FuzzNugget writes "Wired presents this damning perspective on so-called social media addiction: 'If kids can't socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd ... has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives. What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won't let them. "Teens aren't addicted to social media. They're addicted to each other," Boyd says. "They're not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they've moved it online." It's true. As a teenager in the early '80s I could roam pretty widely with my friends, as long as we were back by dark. Over the next three decades, the media began delivering a metronomic diet of horrifying but rare child-abduction stories, and parents shortened the leash on their kids. Politicians warned of incipient waves of youth wilding and superpredators (neither of which emerged). Municipalities crafted anti-loitering laws and curfews to keep young people from congregating alone. New neighborhoods had fewer public spaces. Crime rates plummeted, but moral panic soared. Meanwhile, increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids' after-school lives.'"
An anonymous reader writes in with this story of confusion at the NSA due to the flood of data they harvest. "Some of the documents released by Mr. Snowden detail concerns inside the NSA about drowning in information. An internal briefing document in 2012 about foreign cellphone-location tracking by the agency said the efforts were 'outpacing our ability to ingest, process and store' data. In March 2013, some NSA analysts asked for permission to collect less data through a program called Muscular because the 'relatively small intelligence value it contains does not justify the sheer volume of collection,' another document shows. In response to questions about Mr. Binney's claims, an NSA spokeswoman says the agency is 'not collecting everything, but we do need the tools to collect intelligence on foreign adversaries who wish to do harm to the nation and its allies.'"
Kenseilon writes "The Verge reports that millions of Dogecoins — an alternative cryptocurrency — was stolen after the service DogeWallet was hacked. DogeWallet worked like a bank account for the currency, and the attackers modified it to make sure all transactions ended up in a wallet of their choice. This latest incident is just one in the long (and growing) list of problems that cryptocurrencies are currently facing. It brings to mind the incident where bitcoin exchange service GBL vanished and took a modest amount of Bitcoins with them. While not a similar case, it highlights the difficulties with trusting service provides in this market."
JoeyRox writes "The exponential growth of rooftop solar adoption has utilities concerned about their financial future. Efficiency gains and cost reductions has brought the price of solar energy to within parity of traditional power generation in states like California and Hawaii. HECO, an electric utility in Hawaii, has started notifying new solar adopters that they will not be allowed to connect to the utility's power grid, citing safety concerns of electric circuits becoming oversaturated from the rapid adoption of solar power on the island. Residents claim it's not about safety but about the utility fighting to protect its profits." We mentioned earlier the connection fee recently approved in Arizona. Do you have a solar system? If not (or if so, for that matter), does this make you think twice about it?
SpaceGhost writes "The Associated Press reports that the Houston (Texas) Police will be adding 180 surveillance cameras in the downtown area, bringing the total to close to 1000. While most cover public areas (stadiums, theater district) the police suggest that Houston also has more 'critical infrastructure' (energy companies) than other cities. Interestingly AP points out that 'Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.' Didn't London face the same issue?"
First time accepted submitter Stinky Cheese Man writes "An Antarctic climate research expedition, led by climate researcher Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales, has become trapped in heavy ice near the coast of Antarctica. The captain has issued a distress call and three nearby icebreaker ships are on their way to the rescue. According to Turney's web site, the purpose of the expedition is 'to discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.'"
theodp writes "In 1919, Nora Bayes sang, "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" In 2013, discussing User Culture Versus Programmer Culture, CS Prof Philip Guo poses a similar question: 'How ya gonna get 'em down on UNIX after they've seen Spotify?' Convincing students from user culture to toss aside decades of advances in graphical user interfaces for a UNIX command line is a tough sell, Guo notes, and one that's made even more difficult when the instructors feel the advantages are self-evident. 'Just waving their arms and shouting "because, because UNIX!!!" isn't going to cut it,' he advises. Guo's tips for success? 'You need to gently introduce students to why these tools will eventually make them more productive in the long run,' Guo suggests, 'even though there is a steep learning curve at the outset. Start slow, be supportive along the way, and don't disparage the GUI-based tools that they are accustomed to using, no matter how limited you think those tools are. Bridge the two cultures.'" Required reading.
zlives writes "Tesla Motors has maintained that the most recent fire involving one of its Model S electric vehicles isn't the result of a vehicle or battery malfunction, but the company is still addressing the situation with a software fix, according to Green Car Reports. The California-based automaker has added a software function that automatically reduces the charge current by about 25 percent when power from the charging source fluctuates outside of a certain range, Green Car Reports says, citing the Twitter feed from an Apple employee, @ddenboer, who owns a Model S. You can read the text of the update below."
cold fjord writes with an excerpt from The Atlantic's profile of Dr. Pat McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who has what sounds like a fascinating job: decoding ancient clues about what (and how) humans in the distant past were brewing and drinking. "'We always start with infrared spectrometry,' he says. 'That gives us an idea of what organic materials are preserved.' From there, it's on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The end result? A beer recipe. Starting with a few porous clay shards or tiny bits of resin-like residue from a bronze cup, McGovern is able to determine what some ancient Norseman or Etruscan or Shang dynast was drinking." The article points out that McGovern has collaborated with the Dogfish Head brewery to reproduce in modern form six of these ancient recipes.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that the high volume of online orders of holiday packages overwhelmed shipping and logistics company UPS delaying the arrival of Christmas presents around the globe and sending angry consumers to social media to vent. The company projected 132 million deliveries last week "and obviously we exceeded that," said UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black without disclosing how many packages had been sent. "For now, UPS is really focused on delivering the remaining packages. You might not see trucks, but people are working." Asked why the company underestimated the volume of air packages it would receive, Black noted that previous severe weather in the Dallas area had already created a backlog. Then came "excess holiday volume" during a compressed time frame, since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual this year. Amazon.com responded with an email to affected customers offering shipping refunds and $20 gift cards to compensate. Packages shipped via UPS for Amazon.com by Prime customers, who pay $79 a year for two-day shipping, may be eligible for additional refunds. Amazon's stated policy for missed deliveries is to offer a free one-month extension of Prime. Frustrated consumers took to social media, with some complaining that gifts purchased for their children would not arrive in time to make it under the tree by Christmas morning. '"A lot of these employees keep saying 'It's the weather' or 'It's some kind of a backlog,' said Barry Tesh. 'Well then why, all the way up until the 23rd, were they offering next-day delivery? That guaranteed delivery was 80% of my decision to buy the gift."' However, others on social media urged shoppers to be more appreciative of the delivery company's work during the holiday season. 'While others take vacation and time off in December, remember we aren't allowed ever to be off in December. Ever,' said a 20-year veteran UPS driver on the UPS Facebook page. 'So when you see your family and complain that your package is held up, everyone who moves your package is working and doesn't get the Xmas experience you get, Be thankful for that.'"
New submitter mni12 writes "I have been working on a Bayesian Morse decoder for a while. My goal is to have a CW decoder that adapts well to different ham radio operators' rhythm, sudden speed changes, signal fluctuations, interference, and noise — and has the ability to decode Morse code accurately. While this problem is not as complex as speaker-independent speech recognition, there is still a lot of human variation where machine learning algorithms such as Bayesian probabilistic methods can help. I posted a first alpha release yesterday, and despite all the bugs one first brave ham reported success. I would like to collect thousands of audio samples (WAV files) of real world CW traffic captured by hams via some sort of online system that would allow hams not only to upload captured files but also provide relevant details such as their callsign, date & time, frequency, radio / antenna used, software version, comments etc. I would then use these audio files to build a test library for automated tests to improve the Bayesian decoder performance. Since my focus is on improving the decoder and not starting to build a digital audio archive service I would like to get suggestions of any open source (free) software packages, online services, or any other ideas on how to effectively collect large number of audio files and without putting much burden on alpha / beta testers to submit their audio captures. Many available services require registration and don't support metadata or aggregation of submissions. Thanks in advance for your suggestions."
Ars Technica takes a look at two sides of the world of internet service, as it's available to customers in the U.S., and especially at changes that are in the works for the next year. Thanks to Google, AT&T and other providers (including municipal networks), the number of Americans with access to very high speed household connections is rising dramatically — good news, for those in range of fiber-to-the-home rollouts, and this means at least some pressure on competitors. But as Ars writer Jon Brodkin points out, there are also developments that may dismay many customers, specifically the possibility that the Federal Communication Commission's 2010 Open Internet Order ("a network neutrality law that forbids ISPs from blocking services or charging content providers for access to their networks") may be overturned or weakened. That could come about either through lawsuit (Verizon's suit is mentioned), or through a more market-oriented approach from the FCC. Writes Brodkin: "If the law were overturned, ISPs could more easily steer customers to their own services and away from those of their rivals. They could charge companies like Netflix for the right to have their videos prioritized over other types of Internet traffic, perhaps indirectly raising the price consumers pay for streaming video and making it more difficult for startups to compete against established players who can afford the 'Internet fast lane' fees."
Frankie70 writes "Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission has hit Apple with a small fine and warned the company that it may face a more substantial penalty if it doesn't stop interfering with carriers' iPhone pricing and the prices of the plans carriers sell alongside the iPhone. 'Through the email correspondence between Apple and these three telecom companies we discovered the companies submit their pricing plans to Apple to be approved or confirmed before the products hit the market,' Taiwan's FTC said in a statement."
Taco Cowboy writes "Perhaps it's not much, but China has released a panoramic view of the moonscape where their lander has landed. They 'stitched' up some 60 photos taken by 3 cameras on the Chang'e 3 lander, taken from 3 different angles — Vertical, 15 degrees up, and 15 degrees down. From the picture, there is a significant sized crater is seen, several meters wide, off to the left of Yutu, the (jade rabbit) moon rover, and located only about 10 meters away from the Chang'e-3 lander."
An anonymous reader writes "The Maui OS Project has made their first stable release of the Hawaii Desktop. Hawaii is still catching up with GNOME, Xfce, and KDE in terms of features, but it's written from scratch atop next-generation open-source technologies. In particular, Hawaii 0.2.0 is powered by the brand new Qt 5.2 tool-kit and runs natively on Wayland's Weston 1.3 compositor. Hawaii 0.2.0 carries all standard Linux desktop features but more advanced desktop functionality is planned while focusing around a Wayland design and eventually their own Green Island Compositor."
hypnosec writes "The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cautioned users of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin on the risks associated with them and said that it is looking at the use and trading of these currencies. They noted that there are quite a few risks including: theft of digital wallets that are used to store the digital currency, absence of any frameworks to tackle customer problems, disputes and charge backs; exposure to potential losses because of high volatility in value of the virtual currencies, legal and financial risks, and breach of anti-money laundering laws because of lack of complete information on counterparts in a peer-to-peer anonymous / pseudonymous systems."
sciencehabit writes "Earth's orbital variations—the wobbling and nodding of the planet on its rotational axis and the rhythmic elongation of the shape of its orbit—can affect the shape of the sea floor, according to new research. Scientists already knew that orbital variations, which are driven by gravitational interactions among solar system bodies, pace the comings and goings of the ice ages by shifting where sunlight falls on Earth. Now, researchers have shown in a computer model that those pressure variations should vary the amount of mantle rock that melts kilometers beneath midocean ridges. That, in turn, would vary the amount of ocean crust that solidifies from the melted rock, changing the thickness of new crust by as much as a kilometer as it slides down either side of a midocean ridge. And the group found that indeed, on the Juan de Fuca Ridge offshore of the Pacific Northwest, the ocean floor is grooved like a vinyl LP record in time with Earth's orbital variations of the past million years."
MacRonin writes "Communications news in 2013 was dominated by serial revelations of the National Security Agency's mass collection of data from major Internet companies and mobile carriers, leading to widespread cries of governmental overreach. But those revelations, based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, were accompanied by remarkable advances in wireless communications. The Snowden documents also galvanized new efforts at making the Internet more secure and private. The folks at MIT Technology Review have their year-end rundown."