ferrisoxide.com writes "As reported on the Australian ABC news website, film-makers in the US are finally free to work on Sherlock Holmes stories without paying a licencing free to the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after a ruling by Judge Ruben Castillo. A quirk of U.S. copyright law kept 10 stories out of the public domain, on the basis that these stories were continuously developed. In his ruling Judge Castillo opined that only the "story elements" in the short stories published after 1923 were protected and that everything else in the Holmes canon was "free for public use" — including the characters of Holmes and Watson. Holmes scholar Leslie Klinger, who challenged the estate, celebrated the ruling. 'Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world,' Mr Klinger said in a statement posted on his Free Sherlock website. IANAL, but the ruling of Judge Castillo that "adopting Conan Doyle's position would be to extend impermissibly the copyright of certain character elements of Holmes and Watson beyond their statutory period," is surely going to have implications across U.S. copyright law. Mark Twain must be twisting and writhing in his grave."
An anonymous reader writes "A review of the top UX successes and failures of 2013 covers hot topics ranging from Snapchat to the Nest thermostat to David Pogue's departure from the New York Times. The author begins: 'In terms of UX milestones and missteps, 2013 failed to produce industry-altering innovations like 2007 with the introduction of the first iPhone or 2012 with the demise of Blackberry. Yet on another level, UX design in 2013 gave us a glimpse at the rapidly broadening definition of UX design as a structural concept and its role in the future of new media device design, content creation and even the status of product reviews created by leading tech journalists. In a critical way, I personally find this more interesting than blockbuster introductions that alter the technology landscape.'"
New submitter danlip writes "Target has confirmed that encrypted PIN data was taken during its recent credit card breach. Target doesn't think they can be unencrypted by whoever may have taken them, because the key was never on the breached system. The article has no details on exactly how the PINs were encrypted, but it doesn't seem like it would be hard to brute force them." Another article at Time takes Target to task for its PR doublespeak about the breach.
Velcroman1 writes "Fearing rapidly plummeting sales of traditional laptops and desktop computers — which fell by another 10 percent or so in 2013 — manufacturers are planning a revolt against Microsoft and the Windows operating system, analysts say. At the 2014 CES in Las Vegas, multiple computer makers will unveil systems that simultaneously run two different operating systems, both Windows and the Android OS that powers many of the world's tablets and smartphones, two different analysts said recently. The new devices will be called 'PC Plus' machines, explained analyst Tim Bajarin. 'A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well,' Bajarin wrote. Another analyst put the threat to Windows bluntly: 'This should scare the heck out of Microsoft.'"
lkcl writes "After the reports on SSD reliability and after experiencing a costly 50% failure rate on over 200 remote-deployed OCZ Vertex SSDs, a degree of paranoia set in where I work. I was asked to carry out SSD analysis with some very specific criteria: budget below £100, size greater than 16Gbytes and Power-loss protection mandatory. This was almost an impossible task: after months of searching the shortlist was very short indeed. There was only one drive that survived the torturing: the Intel S3500. After more than 6,500 power-cycles over several days of heavy sustained random writes, not a single byte of data was lost. Crucial M4: failed. Toshiba THNSNH060GCS: failed. Innodisk 3MP SATA Slim: failed. OCZ: failed hard. Only the end-of-lifed Intel 320 and its newer replacement, the S3500, survived unscathed. The conclusion: if you care about data even when power could be unreliable, only buy Intel SSDs." Relatedly, don't expect SSDs to become cheaper than HDDs any time soon.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at The Verge got me thinking. Parents and those of you who plan to become parents: will you introduce your kids to the games you played when you were younger? Those of us who grew up playing Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man have had a chance to see gaming software evolve into the enormously complex and graphically realistic beast it is today. I've begun to understand why my grandparents tried to get me to watch old movies. I'm also curious how you folks plan to teach your kids about computers and software in general. When teaching them Linux, do you just download the latest stable Mint or Ubuntu release and let them take it from there? Do you track down a 20-year-old version of Slackware and show them how things used to be? I can see how there would be value in that... the UIs we use every day have been abstracted so far away from their roots that we can't always expect new users to intuitively grasp the chain of logic. How do you think this should be handled?"
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum reports on a rover design being developed at NASA Ames Research Center: Super Ball Bot. The premise is that the rover's brain and scientific equipment would be suspended in the center of a structure made of rigid rods and elastic cables. The rods and cables would be deformable, allowing the rover to roll over complex terrain without damage. This design would be ideal for exploring a place like Saturn's moon Titan. Its atmosphere is thick enough that a probe could drop the rover from 100km above the surface, and it would survive the fall without a parachute. 'In a scenario studied by the team (PDF), the robot could be collapsed to a very compact configuration for launch. Once it reaches the moon, it would pop open and drop to the surface, flexing and absorbing the force of impact. By shortening and lengthening the cables that connect its rigid components, the ball bot could then roll about the surface. These same cables could be used to pull back parts of the robot, so that science instruments at the center could be exposed and used.'"
New submitter CheezburgerBrown . tips this AP report: "A federal judge on Friday found that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records is legal and a valuable part of the nation's arsenal to counter the threat of terrorism. U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a written opinion (PDF) that the program 'represents the government's counter-punch' to eliminate al-Qaeda's terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications. In ruling, the judge noted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the attacks occurred. 'The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data,' he said."
An anonymous reader notes that Apple has renewed its patent attack against Samsung, asking U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh to prohibit Samsung from selling over 20 different phones and tablets. Apple made a similar request after it won a $1 billion judgment in 2012, but Koh did not allow it. An Appeals court later ruled that Apple could resubmit its request if it focused on the specific features at the center of the 2012 verdict, and that's what we're seeing today. Apple's filing said, "Samsung’s claim that it has discontinued selling the particular models found to infringe or design around Apple's patents in no way diminishes Apple’s need for injunctive relief. ... Because Samsung frequently brings new products to market, an injunction is important to providing Apple the relief it needs to combat any future infringement by Samsung through products not more than colorably different from those already found to infringe."
hypnosec writes "The Chinese government has officially banned Battlefield 4, stating that Electronic Arts has developed a game that not only threatens national security of the country, but is also a form of cultural invasion. The country's Ministry of Culture has issued a notice banning all material retailed to the game in any form, including the game itself, related downloads, demos, patches and even news reports. According to PCGames.com.cn [Chinese language], Battlefield 4 has been characterized as illegal game on the grounds that the game endangers national security and cultural aggression."
KentuckyFC writes "A curious thing about video games is that computers have never been very good at playing them like humans by simply looking at a monitor and judging actions accordingly. Sure, they're pretty good if they have direct access to the program itself, but 'hand-to-eye-co-ordination' has never been their thing. Now our superiority in this area is coming to an end. A team of AI specialists in London have created a neural network that learns to play games simply by looking at the RGB output from the console. They've tested it successfully on a number of games from the legendary Atari 2600 system from the 1980s. The method is relatively straightforward. To simplify the visual part of the problem, the system down-samples the Atari's 128-colour, 210x160 pixel image to create an 84x84 grayscale version. Then it simply practices repeatedly to learn what to do. That's time-consuming, but fairly simple since at any instant in time during a game, a player can choose from a finite set actions that the game allows: move to the left, move to the right, fire and so on. So the task for any player — human or otherwise — is to choose an action at each point in the game that maximizes the eventual score. The researchers say that after learning Atari classics such as Breakout and Pong, the neural net can then thrash expert human players. However, the neural net still struggles to match average human performance in games such as Seaquest, Q*bert and, most importantly, Space Invaders. So there's hope for us yet... just not for very much longer."
An article from the Associated Press makes the case that internet commenting is slowly but surely transitioning away from widespread anonymity. More and more sites are finding that the prevalence of vitriolic comments is driving away new readers, not to mention other, more reasonable commenters. Sites like YouTube and the Huffington Post are leading the charge, requiring users to log in via Google+ and Facebook respectively in order to establish a real-world identity. The Post's managing editor, Jimmy Soni, said, 'We are reaching a place where the Internet is growing up. These changes represent a maturing (online) environment.' "Nearly three-quarters of teens and young adults think people are more likely to use discriminatory language online or in text messages than in face to face conversations, according to a recent poll ... Newspapers are also turning toward regulated comments. Of the largest 137 U.S. newspapers — those with daily circulation above 50,000 — nearly 49 percent ban anonymous commenting, according to Arthur Santana, assistant communications professor at the University of Houston. Nearly 42 percent allow anonymity, while 9 percent do not have comments at all.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "USA Today reports that Ford's next F-150 pickup truck will be made mostly of aluminum, instead of steel, in a bid to save weight. It will likely either be hailed as a breakthrough product to buyers who've made F-150 the bedrock of its business or one that draws comparisons to a 'rolling beer can.' The automaker has asked Alcoa, which makes aluminum blast shields for battlefield-bound vehicles, to lend some of its military-grade metal for the automaker's display, according to people familiar with Ford's plans. Ford's sales job will be considerable: The company is eager to demonstrate the toughness of aluminum, which is lighter than steel, to pickup buyers at next month's Detroit auto show. 'This is already the most significant debut at the auto show,' says Joe Langley. 'Everybody's going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.' As a transformative product with a potentially troublesome introduction, the new F-150 has drawn comparisons with Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner — an aircraft developed under the company's commercial airplane chief at the time, Alan Mulally, who in 2006 became Ford's chief executive officer. Because of the complicated switch to aluminum from steel in the F-150's body, IHS Automotive estimates Ford will need to take about six weeks of downtime at each of its two U.S. truck plants to retool and swap out robots and machinery. Ford is apparently trying to squeeze more than 700 pounds out of its next generation of pickup trucks. Using aluminum to cut weight would help meet rising fuel economy standards in the United States, which is requiring a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025."
jones_supa writes "Gaming for Good, a charity established and fronted by celebrity gamer Bachir 'Athene' Boumaaza, has this week passed the significant milestone. At time of writing the group's tally stands at a tame $10 million. It works like this: game publishers donate games to the charity, without asking for profit. Regular folks buy points, which can then be exchanged to games on the website. Finally the money used to buy the points goes to charity. So in one way they're really just buying games, but instead of the money going to publishers, it's going to a good cause. Money raised is going to the international charity Save The Children, where it can be used on health programs in Malawi, Indonesia and Bangladesh."
Lucas123 writes "After 3D printing has produced ears, skin grafts and even retina cells that could be built up and eventually used to replace defective eye tissue, researchers expect to be able to produce the first functioning organ next year. The organ, a liver, would not be for the purpose of human implant — that will take years to complete clinical trials and pass FDA review. Instead, the liver would initially be for development and testing of pharmaceuticals. The field of 3D printing known as organs on a chip, will greatly increase the accuracy and speed of drug development and testing, researchers say. The company producing the liver, Organovo, has overcome a major stumbling block that faces the creation of any organ: printing the vascular system needed to provide it with life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients. Typically, 3D printed tissue dies in the petri dish before it can even be used because of that. 'We have achieved thicknesses of greater than 500 microns, and have maintained liver tissue in a fully functional state with native phenotypic behavior for at least 40 days,' said Mike Renard, Organovo's executive vice president of commercial operations."
cold fjord writes in with this story about some new possible applications for metamaterials. "A new way of assembling things, called metamaterials, may in the not too distant future help to protect a building from earthquakes by bending seismic waves around it. Similarly, tsunami waves could be bent around towns, and sound waves bent around a room to make it soundproof. ... Metamaterials are simply materials that exhibit properties not found in nature, such as the way they absorb or reflect light. The key is in how they're made. By assembling the material — from photonic crystals to wire and foam — at a scale smaller than the length of the wave you're seeking to manipulate, the wave can, in theory, be bent to will. ... Ong and others say ... they could be used to redirect other kinds of waves, including mechanical waves such as sound and ocean waves. French researchers earlier this year, for example, diverted seismic waves around specially placed holes in the ground, reflecting the waves backward. Ong points to the possibility of using what has been learned in reconfiguring the geometry of materials to divert tsunamis from strategic buildings.'"