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Updated: 10 hours 14 min ago

Internet Customers Surpass Cable Subscribers At Comcast

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 2:40pm
mpicpp notes that for the first time, the country's largest cable provider has more internet subscribers than cable subscribers. The Internet is taking over television. That shift is occurring at Comcast, where the number of people who subscribe to the company's Internet service surpassed its total video subscribers for the first time during the second quarter this year. Announced in an earnings call on Monday, the development signals a major turning point in the technological evolution sweeping across the media business, as the Internet becomes the gateway for information and entertainment. Comcast, the country's largest cable operator, abandoned its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable last month after the deal drew regulatory scrutiny regarding concerns that the combined company would have too much control over the Internet. Comcast is already the country's largest broadband provider, with more than 22 million high-speed Internet customers. Brian L. Roberts, Comcast's chief executive, said in the call that the company was disappointed about the collapse of the deal but had moved on. He said that Comcast's top priorities now were to advance its existing business and improve its poorly rated customer service.

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Researchers Detect Android Apps That Connect to User Tracking and Ad Sites

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 1:57pm
An anonymous reader writes: A group of European researchers has developed software that tracks the URLs to which cellphone apps connect. After downloading 2,000+ free apps from Google Play, they indexed all the sites those apps connected to, and compared them to a list of known advertising and user tracking sites. "In total, the apps connect to a mind-boggling 250,000 different URLs across almost 2,000 top level domains. And while most attempt to connect to just a handful of ad and tracking sites, some are much more prolific. Vigneri and co give as an example "Music Volume Eq," an app designed to control volume, a task that does not require a connection to any external urls. And yet the app makes many connections. 'We find the app Music Volume EQ connects to almost 2,000 distinct URLs,' they say. [Another major offender] is an app called Eurosport Player which connects to 810 different user tracking sites." The researchers plan to publish their software for users to try out on Google Play soon.

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No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 1:12pm
StartsWithABang writes: As Slashdot has previously reported, NASA Spaceflight has claimed to have vetted the EM Drive in a vacuum, and found there is still an anomalous thrust/acceleration on the order of 50 microNewtons for the device. While some are claiming this means things like warp drive and 70-day-trips-to-Mars are right on the horizon, it's important to view this from a scientist's point of view. Here's what it will take to turn this from a speculative claim into a robust one.

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Apple Watch's Hidden Diagnostic Port To Allow Battery Straps, Innovative Add-Ons

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 12:29pm
MojoKid writes: Apple's Watch launched two weeks ago to some unbelievable hype and coverage in the press. However, it appears one feature flew under the radar and Apple actually had just one more trick up its sleeve. You see, on one side of the watch face is a hidden door that exposes a 6-pin port. It's assumed that this could be used for diagnostic purposes, but with an Apple Watch in hand, a company by the name of Reserve Strap was able to verify that it could also be used for charging. This seems pretty huge and strange at the same time: why would Apple keep such a thing quiet, when the Apple Watch's battery-life isn't what most people would consider impressive? Even more interesting is the fact that Apple didn't make use of this port to release its own charging straps — watch straps that carry a charge themselves. Apple's lack of transparency here doesn't much matter, though, as the aforementioned Reserve Strap is planning to get such a product to market as soon as possible. The company says about its first offering: "The Reserve Strap will come in White, Gray and Black and will fit both the 38mm and 42mm case sizes. The first batch of straps will be shipped in the Fall.

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House Panel Holds Hearing On "Politically Driven Science" - Without Scientists

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:46am
sciencehabit writes: Representative Louie Gohmert (R–TX) is worried that scientists employed by the U.S. government have been running roughshod over the rights of Americans in pursuit of their personal political goals. So this week Gohmert, the chair of the oversight and investigations subpanel of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing to explore "the consequences of politically driven science." Notably absent, however, were any scientists, including those alleged to have gone astray.

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China Takes Its Already Strict Internet Regulations One Step Further

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:04am
New submitter DaveS7 writes with this story about new regulations from the Chinese government designed to further crack down on online media. Chinese authorities have released a new set of regulations for online media, raising concerns about tightening control over freedom of expression by the Communist regime. Contained in the ordinance, released on April 28 by the Cyberspace Administration of China, is a clause saying that persons responsible for managing flagged sites will be summoned by state personnel in case of violations. Internet censorship in China is mostly managed by individual websites, which are encouraged to toe the Party line before the Party steps in to rectify things for them. The new ordinance increases the number of conditions that, if met by online media, result in automatic state intervention.

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Microsoft Office 2016 Public Preview Released

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 10:21am
jones_supa writes: Back in March, Microsoft made Office 2016, the next release of the company's leading office suite, available to IT professionals to test and submit feedback on. At Microsoft's Ignite conference, CEO Satya Nadella announced that the public preview of Office 2016 has now been released as well. Office 2016 comes with a range of new features that build upon Office 2013. There is far more integration with cloud, allowing a user to access documents anywhere, and Outlook now syncs with OneDrive when sending large files. So called Smart Applications extend the functionality of Office, including Tell Me, a new search tool, and Clutter, which unclutters your inbox based on machine learning. Anyone can start testing the free Office 2016 Preview right now. Just as they have done with Windows 10, Microsoft is receiving open feedback on the product.

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Recruiters Use 'Digital Native' As Code For 'No Old Folks'

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 9:38am
bizwriter writes: Companies are trying to get around Equal Employment Opportunity Commission restrictions on age-discriminatory language (like "recent college graduate") by saying that they want "digital natives." So far, no one has complained to the EEOC, but that could change. "Since the 1990s dotcom boom, many employers have openly sought to hire young, tech savvy talent, believing that was necessary to succeed in the new digital economy. At the same time, age discrimination complaints have spiraled upward, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with 15,785 claims filed in 1997 compared to 20,588 filed in 2014. Out of the 121 charges filed last year by the EEOC for alleged discriminatory advertising, 111 of them claimed the job postings discriminated against older applicants. The EEOC has said that using phrases like 'college student,' 'recent college graduate,' or 'young blood' violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1966. That federal law protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age."

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Accessibility In Linux Is Good (But Could Be Much Better)

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 8:56am
An anonymous reader sends this report from opensource.com: GNU/Linux distributions provide great advantages over proprietary alternatives for people with disabilities. All the accessibility tools included in Linux are open source, meaning their code is readily available if you want to examine or improve it, and cost nothing. Hardware devices, of course, are still going to cost money. Additionally, accessibility software on other platforms generally contain licensing constraints on the user. ... When it comes to accessibility, Linux is not without issues. ... The number of developers who specifically work on accessibility tools is quite small. For example, there is only one Orca developer, two AT-SPI developers, and a single GTK developer. ... Developers who do not depend on assistive technologies tend to forget—or don't know—that a disabled person might want to use their application, read their web page, and so on. ... The problem is not necessarily that developers do not care. Rather, it's is that accessibility is highly specialized and requires someone with knowledge in the area, regardless of platform.

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Why Scientists Love 'Lord of the Rings'

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 8:16am
HughPickens.com writes: Julie Beck writes in The Atlantic that though science and fantasy seem to be polar opposites, a Venn diagram of "scientists" and "Lord of the Rings fans" have a large overlap which could (lovingly!) be labeled "nerds." Several animal species have been named after characters from the books, including wasps, crocodiles, and even a dinosaur named after Sauron, "Given Tolkien's passion for nomenclature, his coinage, over decades, of enormous numbers of euphonious names—not to mention scientists' fondness for Tolkien—it is perhaps inevitable that Tolkien has been accorded formal taxonomic commemoration like no other author," writes Henry Gee. Other disciplines aren't left out of the fun—there's a geologically interesting region in Australia called the "Mordor Alkaline Igneous Complex," a pair of asteroids named "Tolkien" and "Bilbo," and a crater on Mercury also named "Tolkien." "It has been documented that Middle-Earth caught the attention of students and practitioners of science from the early days of Tolkien fandom. For example, in the 1960s, the Tolkien Society members were said to mainly consist of 'students, teachers, scientists, or psychologists,'" writes Kristine Larsen, an astronomy professor at Central Connecticut State University, in her paper "SAURON, Mount Doom, and Elvish Moths: The Influence of Tolkien on Modern Science." "When you have scientists who are fans of pop culture, they're going to see the science in it," says Larson. "It's just such an intricate universe. It's so geeky. You can delve into it. There's the languages of it, the geography of it, and the lineages. It's very detail oriented, and scientists in general like things that have depth and detail." Larson has also written papers on using Tolkien as a teaching tool, and discusses with her astronomy students, for example, the likelihood that the heavenly body Borgil, which appears in the first book of the trilogy, can be identified as the star Aldebaran. "I use this as a hook to get students interested in science," says Larson. "I'm also interested in recovering all the science that Tolkien quietly wove into Middle Earth because there's science in there that the casual reader has not recognized."

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AI Experts In High Demand

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 7:35am
An anonymous reader writes: The field of artificial intelligence is getting hotter by the moment as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies snap up experts and pour funding into university research. Commercial uses for AI are still limited. Predictive text and Siri, the iPhone's voice-recognition feature, are early manifestations. But AI's potential has exploded as the cost of computing power drops and as the ability to collect and process data soars. Big tech companies like Facebook and Google now vacuum up the huge amount of data that needs to be processed to help machines make "intelligent" decisions. The relationship between tech giants and academia can be difficult to navigate. Some faculty members complain tech companies aren't doing enough in the many collaborative efforts now under way. One big gripe: Companies aren't willing to share the vast data they are able to collect.

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Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Announces Bid For White House

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 6:53am
seven of five writes: According to Reuters, "Former Hewlett-Packard Co Chief Executive Carly Fiorina announced on Monday she is running for president, becoming the only woman in the pack of Republican candidates for the White House in 2016. ... Fiorina registers near the bottom of polls of the dozen or so Republican hopefuls and has never held public office. But she has already attracted warm receptions at events in the early voting state of Iowa where she is positioning herself as a conservative, pro-business Republican highly critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Fiorina was forced by HP to resign in 2005 as the tech company struggled to digest Compaq after a $19 billion merger." As part of her announcement, she said, "I think I'm the best person for the job because I understand how the economy actually works. I understand the world, who's in it, how the world works." I'm sure we'll soon begin hearing from all the HP employees, current and former, who have nothing but love for Carly F.

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Actress Grace Lee Whitney, Star Trek's Yeoman Janice Rand, Has Died

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 6:32am
SternisheFan writes: Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who played Yeoman Janice Rand on "Star Trek: The Original Series," reportedly died Friday in her home in Coarsegold, California. No cause of death has been reported. She was 85. The versatile actress and vocalist was born Mary Ann Chase in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1930. She was adopted by the Whitney family, and as a teenager, began her career in entertainment as a singer and dancer. She eventually became interested in acting and in 1966, clinched a role as Yeoman Janice Rand, a personal assistant to William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk in the first season of the original "Star Trek" TV series.

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Facebook Launches Internet.org Platform and Opens Up To More Developers

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 6:11am
Mark Wilson writes: The aim behind Facebook's Internet.org program is to bring internet access to the wider world. While an undeniably praise-worthy venture, it came in for criticism for going against the principles of net neutrality. Now, the company is launching the Internet.org Platform with a view to countering this criticism. The platform opens up Internet.org to more developers, giving them the chance to bring 'free basic services' to people around the world. There's also the promise of greater transparency.

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Ubuntu 15.04 Received Well By Linux Community

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 5:29am
jones_supa writes: Canonical released Ubuntu 15.04 a couple of weeks ago, and it seems that this release has been a success. The community is mostly reporting a nice experience, which is important since this is the first Ubuntu release that uses systemd instead of upstart. At Slashdot, people have been very nervous about systemd, and last year it was even asked to say something nice about it. To be fair, Ubuntu 15.04 hasn't changed all that much. Some minor visual changes have been implemented, along with a couple of new features, but the operating system has remained pretty much the same. Most importantly it is stable, fast, and it lacks the usual problems accompanied by new releases.

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Two Gunman Killed Outside "Draw the Prophet" Event In Texas

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 10:10pm
cosm writes: ABC news reports that two armed gunman were shot and killed outside a "Draw the Prophet" event hosted in Garland Texas. From the article: "The event, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, featured cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and scheduled speakers included Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who has campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands. The winner of the contest was to receive $10,000." In light of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, the Lars Vilks Muhammad drawing controversies, and the American show South Park's satirical depiction of the state of Muhammad phobia in the US and elsewhere, is there an end in sight to the madness associated with the representation of this religious figure?

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VA Tech Student Arrested For Posting Perceived Threat Via Yik Yak

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 7:18pm
ememisya writes: I wonder if I posted, "There will be another 12/7 tomorrow, just a warning." around December, would people associate it with Pearl Harbor and I would find myself arrested, or has enough time passed for people to not look at the numbers 12 and 7 and take a knee jerk reaction? A student was arrested for "Harassment by Computer" (a class 1 misdemeanor in the state of Virginia) due to his post on an "anonymous" website [Yik Yak]. Although the post in and of itself doesn't mean anything to most people in the nation, it managed to scare enough people locally for law enforcement agencies to issue a warrant for his arrest. "Moon, a 21-year-old senior majoring in business information technology, is being charged with Harassment by Computer, which is a class one misdemeanor. Tuesday night, April 28, a threat to the Virginia Tech community was posted on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak. Around 11:15 p.m., an unknown user posted 'Another 4.16 moment is going to happen tomorrow. Just a warning (sic).' The Virginia Tech Police Department released a crime alert statement Wednesday morning via email informing students that VTPD was conducting an investigation throughout the night in conjunction with the Blacksburg Police Department."

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Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 4:27pm
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.

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Facebook Wants to Skip the Off-Site Links, Host News Content Directly

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 3:22pm
The Wall Street Journal, in a report also cited by The Next Web and others, reports that Facebook is to soon begin acting not just as a conduit for news links pasted onto users' timelines (and leading to articles hosted elsewhere) but also as a host for the articles themselves. From the WSJ article: To woo publishers, Facebook is offering to change its traditional revenue-sharing model. In one of the models under consideration, publishers would keep all of the revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites, the people familiar with the matter said. If Facebook sells the advertisement, it would keep roughly 30% of the revenue, as it does in many other cases. Another motivation for Facebook to give up some revenue: It hopes the faster-loading content will encourage users to spend more time on its network. It is unclear what format the ads might take, or if publishers will be able to place or measure the ads they sell within Facebook. It seems likely Facebook would want publishers to use its own advertising-technology products, such as Atlas and LiveRail, as opposed to those offered by rivals such as Google Inc.

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4.0 Earthquake Near Concord, California

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 3:05pm
craighansen writes: Just felt a small earthquake, which I confirmed at USGS was a magnitude 4.0 at 2015-05-03 22:13:19 UTC, followed by a magnitude 2.7 a minute later, both located near Concord, California.

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