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  • Hong Kong Protesters Use Mesh Networks To Organize

    wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: Hong Kong's mass protest is networked. Activists are relying on a free app that can send messages without any cellphone connection. Since the pro-democracy protests turned ugly over the weekend, many worry that the Chinese government would block local phone networks. In response, activists have turned to the FireChat app to send supportive messages and share the latest news. On Sunday alone, the app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Hong Kong, its developers said. FireChat relies on "mesh networking," a technique that allows data to zip directly from one phone to another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ordinarily, if two people want to communicate this way, they need to be fairly close together. But as more people join in, the network grows and messages can travel further. Mesh networks can be useful for people who are caught in natural disasters or, like those in Hong Kong, protesting under tricky conditions. FireChat came in handy for protesters in Taiwan and Iraq this year."

    56 comments | 6 hours ago

  • FCC Rejects Blackout Rules

    Today the Federal Communications Commission eliminated its sport blackout rules, which prevented cable and satellite television providers from showing sporting events that were blacked out on a local station. It's common practice in the NFL to black out football games locally if the stadium didn't sell enough tickets. The ruling now removes government protections for the NFL's policies (the NFL can continue to black out local broadcasts). The FCC's decision is based on "significant changes" to the industry over the 40 years since the rules were adopted. Television has replaced ticket sales as the primary source of revenue, and the NFL is incredibly popular. They also don't think there's any chance the NFL will move its games to pay-per-view.

    120 comments | 11 hours ago

  • Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

    HughPickens.com (3830033) writes The NYT reports that Thailand's former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra repeatedly encountered a distressing problem while traveling the world: bad Thai food. Too often, she found, the meals she sampled at Thai restaurants abroad were unworthy of the name, too bland to be called genuine Thai cooking. The problem bothered her enough to raise it at a cabinet meeting. Even though her political party has since been thrown out of office, in a May military coup, the Thai government is unveiling its project to standardize the art of Thai food using a robot. The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee, which oversaw the development of the machine, describes it as "an intelligent robot that measures smell and taste in food ingredients through sensor technology in order to measure taste like a food critic." Thailand's National Innovation Agency has spent about $100,000 to develop the e-delicious machine. The e-delicious machine has 10 sensors that measure smell and taste, generating a unique fingerprint (signature) for each sample of food that passes its digital maw. Generally with electronic tasting, there are electronic sensors that work just like the taste buds on your tongue, measuring the quantity of various taste-giving compounds, acidity, etc. While these electronic sensors can't actually tell you how something tastes — that's a very subjective, human thing — they are very good at comparing two foods scientifically. Meanwhile at a tiny food stall along one of Bangkok's traffic-clogged boulevards, Thaweekiat Nimmalairatana, questioned the necessity of a robatic taster. "I use my tongue to test if it's delicious or not," said Nimmalairatana. "I think the government should consider using a human to gauge authenticity."

    100 comments | yesterday

  • California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance

    schwit1 sends word that California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required warrants for surveillance using unmanned drones. In his veto message (PDF), Brown said, "This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances. There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

    The article notes that 10 other states already require a warrant for routine surveillance with a drone (Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). Further, Brown's claims about the bill's exceptions are overstated — according to Slate, "California's drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes — just not law enforcement."

    101 comments | yesterday

  • How Tech Is Transforming Teaching In a South African Township

    An anonymous reader writes: The founders of the African School for Excellence have an ambitious goal — nothing less than redefining low cost, scalable teaching that brings international standards to the poorest schools in Africa. Their first model school is off to a good start: in just 18 months, all grade 9 students are achieving scores higher than 50% on Cambridge Curriculum Checkpoint tests, and only one student scored less than 50% in math. The national average score in math is 13%. The school relies on a locally designed piece of marking software to function. Their teach-to-pupil ratios are not great, but the teachers are committed to using technology to stretch themselves as far as they can. What's most remarkable is that the school's running costs are already half the cost of a traditional government school, and the quality of education is much, much better. All this, and they're only a year and a half into the program.

    26 comments | yesterday

  • Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

    An anonymous reader writes: Incremental improvements have been slowly but surely pushing solar power toward mainstream viability for a few decades now. It's getting to the point where the established utilities are worried about the financial hit they're likely to take — and they're working to prevent it. "These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that this trend could put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent." The utilities are throwing their weight behind political groups seeking to end subsidies for solar and make "net metering" policies go away. Studies suggest that if solar adoption continues growing at its current rate, incumbents will be forced to raise their prices, which will only persuade more people to switch to solar (PDF).

    450 comments | yesterday

  • Apple Faces Large Penalties In EU Tax Probe

    First time accepted submitter chasm22 writes EU Regulators are apparently set to accuse Apple and the Irish government of entering into several sweetheart deals that left Apple with lower taxes than what it legally owed. If the ruling is upheld, Apple could owe billions in back taxes. Interestingly, it seems that the Irish government would actually get the extra money and suffer little for its part in the scheme.

    120 comments | 2 days ago

  • Piracy Police Chief Calls For State Interference To Stop Internet "Anarchy"

    An anonymous reader writes The City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is determined to continue its anti-piracy efforts in the years to come. However, the unit's head, Andy Fyfe, also believes that the government may have to tighten the rules on the Internet to stop people from breaking the law. PIPCU's chief believes the public has to be protected from criminals, including pirate site operators who take advantage of their trust. If that doesn't happen, then the Internet may descend into anarchy, he says, suggesting that the government may have to intervene to prevent this. The Police chief believes tighter rules may be needed to prevent people from breaking the law in the future. This could mean not everyone is allowed to launch a website, but that a license would be required, for example.

    296 comments | 2 days ago

  • Exxon and Russian Operation Discovers Oil Field Larger Than the Gulf of Mexico

    An anonymous reader writes The state-run OAO Rosneft has discovered a vast pool of crude in the Kara Sea region of the Arctic Ocean, arguably bigger than the Gulf of Mexico. From the article: "The discovery sharpens the dispute between Russia and the U.S. over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The well was drilled before the Oct. 10 deadline Exxon was granted by the U.S. government under sanctions barring American companies from working in Russia’s Arctic offshore. Rosneft and Exxon won’t be able to do more drilling, putting the exploration and development of the area on hold despite the find announced today."

    199 comments | 2 days ago

  • Sierra Nevada Corp. Files Legal Challenge Against NASA Commercial Contracts

    New submitter Raymondware sends an update to last week's news that NASA had awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to provide rockets for future manned spaceflight. Now, one of their competitors, Sierra Nevada Corp, has announced it will launch a legal challenge to the contracts. The company claims the government is spending $900 million more than it needs to for equivalent fulfillment, and they're demanding a review. They add, Importantly, the official NASA solicitation for the CCtCap contract prioritized price as the primary evaluation criteria for the proposals, setting it equal to the combined value of the other two primary evaluation criteria: mission suitability and past performance. SNC’s Dream Chaser proposal was the second lowest priced proposal in the CCtCap competition. SNC’s proposal also achieved mission suitability scores comparable to the other two proposals. In fact, out of a possible 1,000 total points, the highest ranked and lowest ranked offerors were separated by a minor amount of total points and other factors were equally comparable.

    125 comments | 3 days ago

  • State of Iowa Tells Tesla To Cancel Its Scheduled Test Drives

    puddingebola writes: Conflict continues between state governments and Tesla. From the article: "Iowa joined a growing list of states tussling with Tesla Motors' business model when it told the company to cut short three days of test drives earlier this month in West Des Moines. The Iowa Department of Transportation said the test drives were illegal for two reasons: Tesla isn't licensed as an auto dealer in Iowa and state law prohibits carmakers from selling directly to the public." While the article touches on the legal restrictions on selling cars in Iowa, it seems that Tesla was only providing test drives.

    331 comments | 3 days ago

  • The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

    An anonymous reader writes: The radio program "This American Life" has published an extraordinary investigative report on how the U.S. government regulators in charge of keeping an eye on the banks actually interact with powerful financial institutions (podcast here). Financial journalist Michael Lewis describes the report thus: "The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them. The report quotes Fed employees saying things like, 'until I know what my boss thinks I don't want to tell you,' and 'no one feels individually accountable for financial crisis mistakes because management is through consensus.'"

    195 comments | 4 days ago

  • NASA Expands Commercial Space Program

    An anonymous reader writes: Just 10 days after NASA awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for future manned rocket launches, the agency announced today it is expanding its commercial space program to include contracts for delivery missions to the International Space Station. "Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 RFP, NASA intends to award contracts with one or more companies for six or more flights per contract. As with current resupply flights, these missions would launch from U.S. spaceports, and the contracted services would include logistical and research cargo delivery and return to and from the space station through fiscal year 2020, with the option to purchase additional launches through 2024."

    24 comments | 4 days ago

  • Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

    CowboyRobot writes: HTTPS has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to signal that a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online. At the same time, widely reported security incidents (such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed) have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations (notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale) have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.

    185 comments | 4 days ago

  • Forest Service Wants To Require Permits For Photography

    An anonymous reader points out this story about new regulations for media who wish to take pictures or video in federally designated wilderness areas. "The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country's wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas. Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone. Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don't get a permit could face fines up to $1,000. First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they'd allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

    299 comments | 5 days ago

  • FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

    An anonymous reader writes The FBI is concerned about moves by Apple and Google to include encryption on smartphones. "I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the contents," FBI Director James Comey told reporters. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law." From the article: "Comey cited child-kidnapping and terrorism cases as two examples of situations where quick access by authorities to information on cellphones can save lives. Comey did not cite specific past cases that would have been more difficult for the FBI to investigate under the new policies, which only involve physical access to a suspect's or victim's phone when the owner is unable or unwilling to unlock it for authorities."

    353 comments | 5 days ago

  • FAA Clears Movie and TV Drones For Takeoff

    alphadogg (971356) writes "The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking its first major step toward opening up the skies for commercial drone use, allowing six TV and movie production companies to use drones to shoot video. Commercial flight of drones has been effectively banned by the FAA as it grapples with how to integrate drone traffic into controlled airspace while not compromising the safety of existing air traffic. But as the months have passed, it has come under increasing pressure from U.S. companies to make a ruling."

    50 comments | 5 days ago

  • Drones Reveal Widespread Tax Evasion In Argentina

    Tailhook (98486) writes "The Argentine government has used drones to reveal 200 homes and 100 pools in an upper class area about ten miles south of Buenos Aires that had not been detailed on tax returns. Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty. The evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been warned they now face large fines."

    208 comments | 5 days ago

  • Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap

    schwit1 (797399) writes "Alan Boyle has some interesting thoughts on why it cost India so little, less than the budget of the movie Gravity, to build and send its probe Mangalyaan to Mars: 'The $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, also known by the acronym MOM or the Hindi word Mangalyaan ("Mars-Craft"), didn't just cost less than the $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Sandra Bullock. The price tag is a mere one-ninth of the cost of NASA's $671 million Maven mission, which also put its spacecraft into Mars orbit this week. The differential definitely hints at a new paradigm for space exploration — one that's taking hold not only in Bangalore, but around the world. At the same time, it hints at the dramatically different objectives for MOM and Maven, and the dramatically different environments in which those missions took shape.' Read it all. It gives us a hint at the future of space exploration.

    200 comments | 5 days ago

  • Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

    theodp writes Even as it cuts about 14% of its workforce, Microsoft is complaining that the company might be denied some of the "roughly" 1,000 H-1B visas for foreign workers it intends to seek, and made it clear that the company could shift some work to Canada or overseas if it can't get talent on its terms. "If I need to move 400 people to Canada or Northern Ireland or Hyderabad or Shanghai, we can do that," said William Kamela, a senior federal policy lead at Microsoft, who later explained that about 60% of Microsoft's workforce is in the U.S., yet it makes 68% of its profits overseas (where it also stashes its cash out of IRS reach). Kamela made the statements on a panel at a two-day conference on high-skilled immigration policy, where he sat next to Felicia Escobar, special assistant to President Barack Obama on immigration. The day before the conference, Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC — which counts Bill Gates as a Founder and Steve Ballmer and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith as Major Contributors — posted its "MythBusters" video on H-1B visas.

    363 comments | 5 days ago

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