New submitter elphie007 writes "Australian consumers may finally see the end of being overcharged for software simply because they live outside the U.S. Minister for Communications Senator Stephen Conroy (champion of Australia's National Broadband Network) is reported to be finalizing the terms of reference for a parliamentary inquiry into software pricing in Australia. Last week, Adobe announced Australians would be charged up to $1,600 more for Adobe CS6. With the ongoing strength of the Aussie dollar against the U.S. dollar, Australians should really be paying less, not more for software & music purchased online."
An anonymous reader writes "An article at the NY Times explains the how the most profitable tech company in the world becomes even more profitable by finding ways to avoid or minimize taxes. Quoting: 'Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company's profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California's corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada's? Zero. ... As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world. ... Without such tactics, Apple's federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study (PDF) by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent."
An anonymous reader writes "In what may win awards for the silliest-sounding lawsuit of the year, a case about whether Facebook 'likes' qualify for free speech protection under the First Amendment has ended in a decisive 'no.' In the run-up to an election for Sheriff, some of the incumbent's employees made their support for the challenger known by 'liking' his page on Facebook. After the incumbent won re-election, the employees were terminated, supposedly because of budget concerns. The employees had taken a few other actions as well — bumper stickers and cookouts — but they couldn't prove the Sheriff was aware of them. The judge thus ruled that 'merely "liking" a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection. In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record.'"
An anonymous reader writes with news that Google has released the full report of the FCC investigation into the incident in which its Street View cars collected personal data while mapping Wi-Fi networks. They are putting responsibility for the data gathering on a 'rogue engineer' who wrote the code for it without direction from management. "Those working on Street View told the FCC they had no knowledge that the payload data was being collected. Managers of the Street View program said they did not read the October 2006 document [written by the engineer that detailed his work]. A different engineer remembered receiving the document but did not recall any reference to the collection of payload data. An engineer who worked closely with the engineer in question on the project in 2007, reviewing all of the codes line by line for bugs, says he did not notice that the software was designed to capture payload data. A senior manager said he preapproved the document before it was written."
mikejuk writes "Face recognition techniques usually come with a certain amount of controversy. A new application, however, is unlikely to trigger any privacy concerns — because all of the subjects are long dead. 'FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems' will attempt to apply face recognition software to portraits. Three University of California, Riverside researchers have just received funding to try and piece together the who's who in history. 'Almost every portrait painted before the 19th century was of a person of some importance. As families fell on hard times, many of these portraits were sold and the identities of these subjects were lost. The question we hope to answer is, can we restore these identities?' If the algorithm can be fine tuned we can look forward to the digitized collections of museums and art galleries around the world suddenly yielding a who-knew-who social network graph that could put more science, and computer science at that, into history."
New submitter DillyTonto writes "Amazon got shelled by analysts and the press after releasing a buggy first iteration of the Fire edition of the Kindle e-reader. Three weeks later the Kindle Fire owned 14 percent of the whole market for tablets. Three months later, more than half of all Android tablets sold in the U.S. are seven-inch Kindle Fires, despite a huge bias among buyers for 10-inch tablets. How could a heavily modded e-reader beat full-size tablets by major PC vendors? It's cheaper than any other tablet or e-reader on the market, for one thing. Also important is its focus on being an e-reader, 'because people buy hardware to have access to one app or function, then take the other things it can do as an additional benefit.'"
alphadogg writes "With its future up for grabs, Research in Motion at its annual BlackBerry World conference next week will focus on simplifying development for its soon-to-be-unveiled BlackBerry 10 operating system. HTML5 is one key technology in that strategy to create a viable ecosystem of applications for a new generation of mobile devices expected to ship by year-end. The simplicity is needed because BB10, based on a real time kernel acquired with RIM's buyout of QNX Software Systems in 2010, is a complete break with the software that runs on standard BlackBerry smartphones. 'It's a bit of a challenge,' says Tyler Lessard, formerly a RIM vice president in charge of the global developer program, and since October 2011 chief marketing officer at mobile security vendor Fixmo. 'There's very little or no compatibility between the old and new operating systems. Existing apps can't be carried forward to QNX and BB 10. The question is, once the BlackBerry 10 smartphones launch, can RIM have an adequate catalog of apps?'"
beaverdownunder writes "After winning an initial legal battle to continue its mobile 'TV Now' terrestrial-television re-broadcasting service, Optus has lost a second battle in Australian Federal court. The Optus system 'time-shifted' broadcast signals by two minutes, and then streamed them to customers' mobile phones. In the previous ruling, the judge sided with Optus' argument that since the customer requested the service, they were the ones recording the signal, and thus it was fair-use under Australian copyright law. However, the new ruling declared Optus to be the true entity recording and re-distributing the broadcasts, and thus in violation of the law. There has been no word yet on whether Optus will appeal the decision, but as they could be retroactively liable for a great deal of damages, it is almost certain that they will."
suraj.sun writes "CISPA, the hotly-contested cybersecurity bill making its way through Congress, has been supported by Microsoft since it was introduced. However, the company now tells CNET that any such legislation must 'honor the privacy and security promises we make to our customers,' while also 'protecting consumer privacy.' As you may recall, the U.S. House passed CISPA on Thursday. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill. Quoting CNET: 'That's a noticeable change — albeit not a complete reversal — from Microsoft's position when CISPA was introduced in November 2011. To be sure, Microsoft's initial reaction to CISPA came before many of the privacy concerns had been raised. An anti-CISPA coalition letter (PDF) wasn't sent out until April 16, and a petition that garnered nearly 800,000 signatures wasn't set up until April 5. What makes CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word "notwithstanding," CISPA's drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.'"
crookedvulture writes "The launch of Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs made headlines earlier this week, but the next-gen processor's story is still being told. When overclocked, Ivy Bridge runs as much as 20C hotter than its Sandy Bridge predecessor at the same speed, despite the fact that the two chips have comparable power consumption. There are several reasons for these toasty tendencies. The new 22-nm process used to fabricate the CPU produces a smaller die with less surface area to dissipate heat. Intel has changed the thermal interface material between the CPU die and its heat spreader. Ivy also requires a much bigger step up in voltage to hit the same speeds as Sandy Bridge."
New submitter jools33 writes "The BBC has a fascinating story about how a mathematical formula revolutionized the world of finance — and ultimately could have been responsible for its downfall. The Black-Scholes mathematical model, introduced in the '70s, opened up the world of options, futures, and derivatives trading in a way that nothing before or since has accomplished. Its phenomenal success and widespread adoption lead to Myron Scholes winning a Nobel prize in economics. Yet the widespread adoption of the model may have been responsible for the financial crisis of the past few years. It's interesting to ponder how algorithms and formulas that we work on today could fundamentally influence humanity's future."
New submitter ph4cr writes with news that a new particle has been discovered at CERN that confirms theoretical predictions. A pre-print of the academic paper is available at the arXiv (PDF). From the article: "Physicists from the University of Zurich have discovered a previously unknown particle composed of three quarks in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator. A new baryon could thus be detected for the first time at the LHC. The baryon known as Xi_b^* confirms fundamental assumptions of physics regarding the binding of quarks. ... In the course of proton collisions in the LHC at CERN, physicists Claude Amsler, Vincenzo Chiochia and Ernest Aguiló from the University of Zurich's Physics Institute managed to detect a baryon with one light and two heavy quarks. The particle Xi_b^* comprises one 'up,' one 'strange' and one 'bottom' quark (usb), is electrically neutral and has a spin of 3/2 (1.5). Its mass is comparable to that of a lithium atom. The new discovery means that two of the three baryons predicted in the usb composition by theory have now been observed."
Hugh Pickens writes "AP reports that when a Delta Airlines flight touched down at Midway International Airport in Chicago, the passengers looked out the window to see the jet surrounded by fire trucks, police cars and ambulances. Health officials came through the door wearing facemasks and other protective gear. As it turns out the bedbugs that infest hotels appear to be the source of red marks on a 50-year old Minnesota woman that prompted health officials to quarantine the jet for fear they were dealing with something much more serious: monkeypox. Lise Sievers called her mother during a layover in Detroit and told her that one of the children she visited and is trying to adopt in Uganda had some pus-filled red bumps and also mentioned she had some small bumps of her own, a rash that she suspected was the handiwork of bedbugs. Those two very different bumps — one with pus, one without — got jumbled up in Siever's mother's mind, and she called a hospital near her Indiana home to ask about treatment for her daughter. 'She told them her daughter is on a flight back from Uganda and has some red bumps which are pussing and what should she do to treat them,' says Roger Sievers. 'She was looking for some general advice.' Health officials feared they were looking for monkeypox, a rare and sometimes fatal disease mostly in found in central and western Africa. After the passengers waited on the plane for a couple of hours, officials brought good news. 'They came back down and told my mom it was bed bug bites and they started releasing people.'"
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt that sounds like a good Neal Stephenson plot point: "Like a treasure chest stuffed with priceless booty, as many as 20 World War II-era Spitfire planes are perfectly preserved, buried in crates beneath Burma — and after 67 years underground, they're set to be uncovered. The planes were shipped in standard fashion in 1945 from their manufacturer in England to the Far East country: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements. They were then buried in the crates they were shipped in, rather than let them fall into enemy hands, said David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast who has spent 15 years and about $200,000 in his efforts to reveal the lost planes."
LilaG writes "To develop new materials for robotics, scientists have developed graphene-based actuators that convert electricity into motion. In robots, actuators act like muscles, driving the movement of mechanical arms and fins. Most actuator materials, such as ceramics and conductive polymers, respond slowly, require a lot of power, or provide very little force. To make speedy, strong actuators, Chinese researchers coated graphene paper with the polymer polydiacetylene. Graphene provides a highly conductive, flexible backing for the fragile polymer crystals, which deform in response to electrical current. The actuators can bend 200 times per second and generate more force than most current materials. Using a sheet of the material, the scientists built a simple inchworm robot that arches and relaxes to crawl forward."