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Power

Submission + - Bacteria converts carbon dioxide into liquid fuel (extremetech.com) 1

MrSeb writes: "A team at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have genetically engineered a microorganism that converts carbon dioxide into isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol, both of which could be used as a fuel source for cars, or other combustion engines. Called Ralstonia eutropha H16, the bacterium uses electricity to fixate carbon dioxide into alcohols (which are merely carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen arranged in a different order). In theory the hydrogen atoms could be produced by solar panels, but for safety reasons the team instead created formic acid using electricity, and then the bacteria feasts on the formic acid to produce alcohol. Ultimately, what the UCLA researchers have built is an electro-bioreactor that turns electricity into liquid fuel — which in a world that wants to use electricity instead of gasoline, but where the infrastructure just isn’t there yet, this bacterium could be the perfect stepping stone. Imagine a car that converts CO2 into fuel as it drives along, either as a hybrid setup or as the primary power source. It also opens up the possibility of near-infinite fuel cells that could replace lithium-ion batteries."
Crime

Submission + - Urban explorers: you can't talk to each other for a decade (guardian.co.uk) 1

Trapezium Artist writes: Four friends apprehended exploring the disused Aldwych station in London's Underground are faced with an "anti-social behaviour order" (ASBO) which would forbid them from talking to each other for a full 10 years. The so-called "Aldwych four", experienced urban explorers, were discovered in the tunnels under the UK's capital city a few days before last year's Royal Wedding and the greatly increased security measures in place led to their being interviewed by senior members of the British Transport Police. Nevertheless, once their benign intentions had been established, they were let off with a caution. However, following an accident caused by another, unrelated group of urban explorers in the tunnels a few months later, Transport for London applied to have ASBOs issued to the Aldwych four. These would forbid them from any further expeditions, from blogging or otherwise publicly discussing any exploits, and even from talking with each other for the 10 year duration of the order. One could argue about the ethics of urban exploration, but this nevertheless seems like an astonishingly heavy-handed over-reaction by TfL.
Canada

Submission + - How to Fix Canada's Internet Snooping Law (michaelgeist.ca)

An anonymous reader writes: The fight over Internet surveillance legislation has generated massive public attention in Canada with the government now indicating that it is "parking" the bill for now. While many believe the bill is beyond repair and should be scrapped, it is not going to die anytime soon. With that in mind, Michael Geist has posted 12 amendments that are needed to begin to address the massive public concern with the legislation.

Submission + - Popular eBook Site Shuts Doors For Good (bibliotik.org)

ve6ay writes: According to the homepage on Bibliotik.org — a popular site for ebooks and other digital reading materials, they are shutting down effective immediately, due to the risks involved.

From their homepage: "Bibliotik has shutdown all operations. We are no longer able to assume the risks involved. The staff would like to apologize for the sudden (but necessary) decision and thank everyone that participated and made Bibliotik such a great place for so long. We love you guys!"

Cellphones

Submission + - 3G vs. 4G: Difference Explained

adeelarshad82 writes: Despite the fact that terms '3G' and '4G' are used relentlessly to sell phones and tablets; to an average consumer they are the most mysterious terms in the mobile technology dictionary. In an attempt to explain these, PCMag's mobile analyst sheds some light on the history of the technology, discusses some misconceptions and explains when to go for 4G and when to buy 3G phones.
Science

Submission + - Multicellular life made in months (nature.com)

ananyo writes: The origin of multicellular life, one of the most important developments in Earth’s history, could have occurred with surprising speed, US researchers have shown. In the lab, a single-celled yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) took less than 60 days to evolve into many-celled clusters that behaved as individuals. The clusters even developed a primitive division of labour, with some cells dying so that others could grow and reproduce.

Multicellular life has evolved independently at least 25 times, but these transitions are so ancient that they have been hard to study.

The researchers wanted to see if they could evolve multicellularity in a single-celled organism, using gravity as the selective pressure. In a tube of liquid, clusters of yeast cells settle at the bottom more quickly than single cells. By culturing only the cells that sank, they selected for those that stick together. After many rounds of selection over 60 days, the yeast had evolved into 'snowflakes' comprising dozens of cells.

Many single-celled organisms, including yeast, often form clumps of genetically distinct cells. But Ratcliff’s snowflakes were made up of genetically identical cells that had budded off and stuck together. Many other multicellular organisms may well have evolved through a similar 'divide-and-stick' process.

Firefox

Submission + - Notes on Reducing Firefox's Memory Consumption (mozilla.com)

Skuto writes: At yesterdays linux.conf.au Browser miniconference in Ballarat, Australia, Mozilla engineer Nicholas Nethercote gave a detailed presentation about the history of Firefox's memory consumption. The 37 slides-with-notes explain in gritty detail what caused Firefox 4's memory usage to be higher than expected, how many leaks and accidental memory use bugs were tracked down with Valgrind plugins, as well as the pitfalls of common memory allocation strategies. Current work is now focused on reducing the memory usage of popular add-ons such as AdBlock, GreaseMonkey and Firebug.
Required reading for people working on large software projects, or those who missed that Firefox is now one of the most memory-efficient browsers in heavy usage.

Submission + - In pictures: Nasa's next Mars rover (wired.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: In August 2012, the Nasa rover Curiosity is scheduled to touch down on the surface of Mars. The size of a small car, it's four times as heavy as predecessors Spirit and Opportunity, and comes with a large robot arm, a laser that can vaporise rocks at seven metres, a percussive drill and a weather station. Oh, and 4.8kg of plutonium-238. Wired has some high-resolution photographs from lab that is putting the next rover together.
Power

Submission + - Giant Fluid Batteries Store Energy for 2,000 Homes (inhabitat.com)

PeteRoss writes: A consortium of scientists is developing a new type of large fluid battery that will be able to store enough renewable energy to power 2,000 homes. One of the roadblocks to large-scale renewable energy adoption is that it is intermittent — if the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing power can’t be generated, so there is a tremendous need for systems that store excess power to be released as needed. These new batteries are based on redox flow technology — which converts chemical energy to electrical currents very quickly — and each one will be the size of a handball court.

Submission + - bank lost 5.5m due to security hole (www.rnw.nl)

An anonymous reader writes: Dutch police have arrested 13 people in connection with stealing of €5.5m from a Dutch bank by manipulating the bank's computer system. Police refused to say which bank was involved but said the money was taken directly from the bank rather than private accounts. Later on the dutch state owned ABN Amro declared to the press agency ANP they had an "open gate" in their trading system wich was quickly located and closed as a result of the breach. So far about 2 million of the stolen money has been traced back and police is still investigating the case.
Microsoft

Submission + - Microsoft: mules, not phishing victims, lose money (microsoft.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Our examination of mules has interesting implications. First, it suggests that it is not the victims of phishing and keylogging that lose money but money mules. Second, mule recruitment is the major bottleneck in the fraud pipeline: without them stolen credentials are worth little. Third, this explains why credentials sell for small fractions of their face value; i.e. there is an insufficient supply of mules to drain the number of compromised accounts. Finally, it shows there is no shortage of compromised accounts. Thus a reduction in the rate of account compromise will not reduce fraud at all, at least until account compromise is at a level small enough that it becomes the bottleneck. The only effective way to reduce online fraud is by making mule recruitment even harder.

Submission + - Aussie Internet Censorship Minister Censors Self (news.com.au)

An anonymous reader writes: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, the minister attempting to ram the great firewall of Oz down everyone's throat has been removing all traces of the unpopular legislation from his main website with a javascript filter.

From the article: "It was revealed today a script within the minister's homepage deliberately removes references to internet filtering from the list.In the function that creates the list, or "tag cloud", there is a condition that if the words "ISP filtering" appear they should be skipped and not displayed"

Bare in mind this is the same minister that tried to get the ISP of tech forum Whirlpool to pull the site after users there posted a response email from the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority). Time to move to Canda I guess....

The Internet

Submission + - Wireside Chat with Lawrence Lessig (openvideoalliance.org)

An anonymous reader writes: Lawrence Lessig, the foundational voice of the free culture movement, will deliver a talk on fair use, politics, and online video from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You'll be able to tune in to a live webcast at http://openvideoalliance.org/lessig. The lecture by Lawrence Lessig will last 45 minutes, and will be followed by a 30 minute interactive Q & A session. The event will be moderated by Elizabeth Stark of the Open Video Alliance. Questions can be submitted using the hashtag #wireside.

This is a talk about copyright in a digital age, and the role (and importance) of a doctrine like "fair use." Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, and is essential for commentary, criticism, news reporting, remix, research, teaching and scholarship with video.

As a medium, online video will be most powerful when it is fluid, like a conversation. Like the rest of the internet, online video must be designed to encourage participation, not just passive consumption. Tune in here on February 25th, 6:00pm US Eastern time (see more time zones), or check out our screening events in cities across the world.

Security

Net Shoppers Bullied Into "Verified By Visa" Program 302

bluefoxlucid writes "According to The Register, several banks are forcing users to opt-in to the Verified by Visa optional service by locking their cards if and when they encounter a Verified by Visa participating site and fail to opt-in. Register reader Steve says, 'This seems like a strange way to implement a voluntary system. On most of the retailers' websites there is no clue that you are about to be challenged by Verified by Visa until you attempt to complete the transaction. This means that you trigger the "fraud protection" unintentionally. And when you have located a retailer who doesn't require Verified by Visa to complete a purchase, you can't because your account is on hold.' Further, '[I]n some cases resetting the password is all too easy. Fraudsters know this and go after these credentials which, once obtained, make it harder for consumers to deny responsibility for a fraudulent transaction. Phishing scams posing as Verified by Visa sites have sprung up targeting these login credentials.'"
The Courts

Non-Compete Clauses Thrown Out In California 375

drfuchs writes "If you signed an employment agreement in California, any non-compete clause in it is null & (void*), says the state Supreme Court of California (ruling PDF). Better still, the San Francisco Chronicle opines that the US Federal courts are likely to fall in line with the decision in the way they interpret California law. (Most other states still have non-compete laws on the books and it's not clear this ruling will affect them.) Turns out it wasn't a high-tech case at all, but a CPA who had worked for the accounting firm Arthur Anderson (now disgraced due to their complicity in the Enron case)."

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