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Robotics

Voltron-Like Modular Robot Demonstrated 84

MattSparkes writes "The 'Superbot', a modular robot that transforms itself into different shapes in order to walk, crawl and clamber up inclines, has been demonstrated in at the University of Southern California. Each bot module is effectively a robot in its own right, and can move independently, flip over and rotate like wheels. They also have 3D accelerometers that let them know their precise orientation. The six sides of each module can dock with any other module. Once connected, the modules can communicate, coordinate shape changes and even transmit power. The bot's creators hope it will make a great working companion for places like, say, the Moon. Or Mars."
The Courts

Couple Who Catch Cop Speeding Could Face Charges 876

a_nonamiss writes "A Georgia couple, apparently tired of people speeding past their house, installed a camera and radar gun on their property. After it was installed, they caught a police office going 17MPH over the posted limit. They brought this to the attention of the local police department, and are now being forced to appear in front of a judge to answer to charges of stalking."
Microsoft

Submission + - Microsoft Outlaws 3rd Party IM Clients

An anonymous reader writes: With the latest update to the MSN Instant Messenger client, now called Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft has required all users to sign a new contract which among other things forbids the use of 3rd party instant messenger clients to connect to the MSN messenger service, such as the AJAX Meebo client, Gaim, and Trillian among others. Worth noting, they do provide a list of authorized 3rd party clients, such as Yahoo Messenger, that are allowed access to the service.

Excerpt: "In using the service, you may not use any unauthorized third party software or service to access the Microsoft instant messaging network currently known as the .NET Messenger service."
Censorship

Teens Prosecuted For Racy Photos 740

An anonymous reader writes with a story on CNet about two teens who were prosecuted under anti-child-porn laws in Florida for having made and emailed racy photos of each other. Both were under 18 years old, so the resulting pictures are clearly illegal; but the teens' intent was not to share the pictures with anyone else. An appeals court majority opinion found that emailing the photos from one of the kids to the other was a careless act that should, it seems, bring down the full weight of the law. A minority opinion argued that the laws were intended to protect children from exploitative adults, not from other children.
Music

RIAA Says CDs Should Cost More 540

EatingSteak writes "The folks over at Techdirt just put up a great story today, with the RIAA claiming the cost of a CD has gone down significantly relative to the consumer price index. The RIAA 'Key Facts' page claims that based on the 1983 price of CDs, the 1996 price should have been $33.86. So naturally, you should feel like you're getting a bargain. Sounds an awful lot like the cable companies saying cable prices are really going down even though they're going up."
Graphics

Nvidia Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Vista Drivers 445

Cocoshimmy writes "Nvidia is facing a class action lawsuit for false advertising by not providing stable working drivers for Vista. Nvidia has been accused of closing threads on Nvidia's forum and banning users that request a response from Nvidia, post that their Nvidia hardware does not work under Vista, post that Nvidia software does not work under Vista, post that Nvidia is guilty of false advertising, or threaten to sue Nvidia. Several disgruntled users have set up their own site for discussing their legal options."
Databases

Jim Gray Is Missing 283

K-Man writes "Jim Gray, Turing Award winner and developer of many fundamental database technologies, was reported missing at sea after a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. Gray is manager of Microsoft's eScience group. The Coast Guard is searching for his vessel over 4,000 square miles of ocean, and there have been no distress calls or signals of any kind. Gray is 63 and a sailor with 10 years' experience."
Censorship

Science Journal Publishers Wary of Free Information 293

Billosaur writes "Nature.com is reporting that the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which includes the companies that publish scientific journals, is becoming concerned with the free-information movement. A meeting was arranged with PR professional Eric Dezenhall to discuss the problem. Dezenhall's firm has worked with the likes of ExxonMobil 'to criticize the environmental group Greenpeace', among other campaigns. The publishers are worried that the free exchange of scientific information may be bad for the bottom line, as it might cause the money from subscriptions to their journals to dry up. Among the recommendations: 'The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as "Public access equals government censorship". He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and "paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles.' The AAP is trying to counter messages from groups such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS), an open-access publisher and prominent advocate of free access to information, or the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) PubMed Central."

Bill Gates on Robots 198

mstaj noted that Bill Gates has an article in January edition of Scientific American A Robot in Every Home."Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for business use and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche products. But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare. In fact, for all the excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when — or even if — this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though, it may well change the world."
Upgrades

Vista Security The 'Longest Suicide Note in History'? 467

rar42 writes "The Inquirer is reporting on an analysis of Vista by Peter Gutmann — a medical imaging specialist. This isn't the usual anti-Microsoft story — just a professional looking at what is going to happen to his computer if it is upgraded to Microsoft Vista. From the article: 'Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called "premium content", typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost,' says Gutmann."
Christmas Cheer

America's Worst Christmas Parties 406

Ant writes "Slate Magazine asked its readers to submit reports of horrible office Christmas parties, gifts, and bonuses. Of nearly 200 submissions, they've chosen quite a few tales for The Corporate Scrooge Contest Results ... and they're not pretty. From the article: 'A contract consultant sends word that the company to which he is currently assigned recently sent out an e-mail to some 2,000-odd consultants. The company would give away two $100 gift cards--to two of the brave souls who would commit to work 80 hours between Dec. 18 and Dec. 31. As our correspondent noted: "Hey, if you work Christmas, we'll put you in a pool of 2,000 other folks to maybe win a hundred bucks."'"

Robots Could Some Day Demand Legal Rights 473

Karrde712 writes "According to a study by the British government, as reported by the BBC, robots may some day improve to a level of intelligence where they might be able to demand rights, even 'robo-healthcare'." From the article: "The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre. The 246 summary papers, called the Sigma and Delta scans, were complied by futures researchers, Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future (IFTF) ... The paper which addresses Robo-rights, titled Utopian dream or rise of the machines? examines the developments in artificial intelligence and how this may impact on law and politics." I'd better get started on my RoboAmerican studies degree.
The Internet

HR 5252 Bill Dies 121

Oronar writes to mention a post on the 'Save the Internet' site applauding the death of Ted Stevens' bill. From the post: "The fate of Net Neutrality has now been passed to what appears to be a more Web-friendly Congress ... The end of this Congress -- and death of Sen. Ted Stevens' bad bill -- gives us the chance to have a long overdue public conversation about what the future of the Internet should look like. This will not only include ensuring Net Neutrality, but making the Internet faster, more affordable and accessible."

Former Spy Poisoned By Radiation In UK 432

An anonymous reader writes "BBC new is reporting the death of the ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko with a major dose of radioactive polonium-210. But nobody knows how it got there. Suspicions have fallen upon the Russian security services (who deny involvement). The task of the pathologists now is to unpick what really killed him and how it was administered. Quite what techniques they will use to solve this puzzle is unclear." From the article: "A post-mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko has not been held yet. The delay is believed to be over concerns about the health implications for those present at the examination. But Roger Cox from the HPA said a large quantity of alpha radiation emitted from polonium-210 had been detected in Mr Litvinenko's urine."

Laser Turns All Metals Black 333

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the University of Rochester have found a way to change the properties of almost any metal by using a femtosecond laser pulse. This ultra-intense laser blast creates true 'black metal' from copper, gold or zinc by forming nanostructures at the surface of the metal. As these nanostructures capture radiation, the metals turn black. And as the process needs surprisingly low power, it could soon be used for a variety of applications, such as stealth planes, black jewels or car paintings. But read more for additional references and a picture of this femtosecond laser system."

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