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Updated: 9 hours 11 min ago

Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free'

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 11:34am
An anonymous reader writes After a series of investigations, lawsuits, and fines over how in-app purchases are advertised and communicated to users, Google has agreed to stop labeling games that use in-app purchases as "Free." This change is the result of a request by the European Commission to stop misleading customers about the costs involved with using certain apps. "Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them; Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent." The EC notes that Apple has not yet done anything to address these concerns.

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Dell Starts Accepting Bitcoin

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:51am
An anonymous reader writes: Mainstream retail companies have been slow to adopt Bitcoin, perhaps skeptical of its long-term value or unwilling to expend the effort required to put a payment system into place. Today, Bitcoin adoption got a momentum boost with Dell's announcement that it will accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Dell is by far the biggest company to start accepting Bitcoin. It's interesting to note that Dell, like many of the larger companies interacting with Bitcoin right now, is doing so through a third-party payment processor. On one hand, it's good — we don't necessarily want each company building their own implementation and possibly screwing it up. On the other hand, it scales back slightly the decentralized and fee-less nature of Bitcoin, which are important features to many of its supporters.

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Point-of-Sale System Bought On eBay Yields Treasure Trove of Private Data

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:05am
jfruh writes: Point-of-sale systems aren't cheap, so it's not unusual for smaller merchants to buy used terminals second-hand. An HP security researcher bought one such unit on eBay to see what a used POS system will get you, and what he found was disturbing: default passwords, a security flaw, and names, addresses, and social security numbers of employees of the terminal's previous owner.

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CCP Games Explains Why Virtual Reality First Person Shooters Still Don't Work

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 9:14am
An anonymous reader writes Icelandic studio CCP is better known for EVE Online, but its first foray into virtual reality with space shooter Valkyrie has caused a stir, and is widely seen as a flagship game for the Oculus Rift headset. In a new interview, Valkyrie executive producer Owen O'Brien explains what advantages the game will have when played with a headset — and gives his view on why a dogfighter is better suited to VR than a first person shooter: "People have hacked it together, but it doesn't really work," he says. "The basic problem is Simulator Sickness. In Valkyrie or any cockpit game or driving game, what you're doing in the real world, assuming you're sitting down, more or less mimics what your brain is telling you you're doing in the game. So you don't get that disconnect, and it's that disconnect that causes sickness. So, the problem with first-person shooters is that you're running or crouching or jumping in the game but not in the real world, and because it's so realistic it can make some people (not everybody) feel nauseated if they start doing it for extended periods of time."

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Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 8:32am
rtoz writes: Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. This wrist-wearable robot adds two extra fingers that respond to movements in the wearer's hand. The robotic fingers are on either side of the hand — one outside the thumb, and the other outside the little finger. A control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer's fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. With the assistance of these extra fingers, the user can grasp objects that are usually too difficult to pick up and manipulate with a single hand.

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The New Science of Evolutionary Forecasting

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 7:39am
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists may not be able to predict what life will be like 100 million years from now, but they may be able to make short-term forecasts for the next few months or years. And if they're making predictions about viruses or other health threats, they might be able to save some lives in the process. "Biologists have found cases in which evolution has, in effect, run the same experiment several times over. And in some cases the results of those natural experiments have turned out very similar each time. In other words, evolution has been predictable. One of the most striking cases of repeated evolution has occurred in the Caribbean. ... Each time lizards colonized an island, they evolved into many of the same forms. On each island, some lizards adapted to living high in trees, evolving pads on their feet for gripping surfaces, along with long legs and a stocky body. Other lizards adapted to life among the thin branches lower down on the trees, evolving short legs that help them hug their narrow perches. Still other lizards adapted to living in grass and shrubs, evolving long tails and slender trunks. On island after island, the same kinds of lizards have evolved."

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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 6:57am
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)

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Preparing For Satellite Defense

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 6:13am
Taco Cowboy sends a report into China's development of anti-satellite technology, and efforts by the U.S. and Japan to build defenses for this new potential battleground. Last year, China launched what they said was a science space mission, but they did so at night and with a truck-based launch system, which are not generally used for science projects. Experts believe this was actually a missile test for targets in geostationary orbit. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. ... Besides testing missiles that can intercept and destroy satellites, the Chinese have developed jamming techniques to disrupt satellite communications. In addition, ... the Chinese have studied ground-based lasers that could take down a satellite's solar panels, and satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware. To defend themselves against China, the U.S. and Japan are in the early stages of integrating their space programs as part of negotiations to update their defense policy guidelines. ... Both countries have sunk billions of dollars into a sophisticated missile defense system that relies in part on data from U.S. spy satellites. That's why strategists working for China's People's Liberation Army have published numerous articles in defense journals about the strategic value of chipping away at U.S. domination in space.

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Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 5:31am
Barryke writes: Verizon has blamed Netflix for the streaming slowdowns their customers have been seeing. It seems the Verizon blog post defending this accusation has backfired in a spectacular way: The chief has clearly admitted that Verizon has capacity to spare, and is deliberately constraining throughput from network providers. Level3, a major ISP that interconnects with Verizon's networks, responded by showing a diagram that visualizes the underpowered interconnect problem and explaining why Verizon's own post indicates how it restricts data flow. Level3 also offered to pay for the necessary upgrades to Verizon hardware: "... these cards are very cheap, a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that's the case, we'll buy one for them. Maybe they can't afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that's the case, we'll provide it. Heck, we'll even install it." I'm curious to see Verizon's response to this straightforward accusation of throttling paying users (which tech-savvy readers were quick to confirm).

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New Mayhem Malware Targets Linux and UNIX-Like Servers

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 4:48am
Bismillah writes: Russian security researchers have spotted a new malware named Mayhem that has spread to 1,400 or so Linux and FreeBSD servers around the world, and continues to look for new machines to infect. And, it doesn't need root to operate. "The malware can have different functionality depending on the type of plug-in downloaded to it by the botmaster in control, and stashed away in a hidden file system on the compromised server. Some of the plug-ins provide brute force cracking of password functionality, while others crawl web pages to scrape information. According to the researchers, Mayhem appears to be the continuation of the Fort Disco brute-force password cracking attack campaign that began in May 2013."

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Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 4:06am
An anonymous reader writes The investigation of a Malaysian passenger jet shot down over Ukrainian rebel held territory is heating up. U.S. and U.K. news organizations are studiously trying to spread the blame, Russian ITAR, which, just earlier today was celebrating the downing of a large aircraft by rebel missiles in Torez (Google cache) is reporting that the rebels do not have access to the missiles needed for such attacks. The rebel commander who earlier today reported the downing of the aircraft has also issued a correction to earlier reports that they had captured BUK air defense systems with Russian sources now stating that the rebels do not posses such air defenses. The Ukrainian president has been attempting to frame the incident as a "terrorist attack". President Obama made contact with Vladimir Putin and has been instead treating it as an accident, calling it a "terrible tragedy" and saying that the priority is investigating whether U.S. citizens were involved. With control of the black box and its own internet propaganda army Russia may be in a good position to win the propaganda war.

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Lenovo Halts Sales of Small-Screen Windows 8.1 Tablets Due To "Lack of Interest"

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 1:37am
DroidJason1 writes Microsoft has attempted to compete in the small-screen tablet market with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT, but it looks like the growing adoption of small-screen Android tablets are just too much for Lenovo to handle. Lenovo has slammed the brakes on sales of small screen Windows tablets in the United States, citing a lack of interest from consumers. In fact, Lenovo has stopped selling the 8-inch ThinkPad 8 and the 8-inch Miix 2. Fortunately, these small-screen Windows tablets have seen some success in Brazil, China, and Japan, so Lenovo will focus on efforts there. Microsoft also recently scrapped plans for the rumored Surface Mini.

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Heinz Zemanek Passes At 94

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:01pm
Knuckles writes Austrian computer pioneer Heinz Zemanek, the first person to build a fully transistorized computer on the European mainland, died in Vienna, aged 94 (link in German). Officially named Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat (binary-decimal fully transistorized computing automaton), but known as "Mailüfterl", the computer was built in 1955 and in 1958 calculated 5073548261 to be a prime number in 66 minutes. Its power was comparable to a small tube computer of the time, and it measured 4 by 2.5 by 0.5 meters. "Mailüfterl" means "may breeze" in Viennese German and was a play on US computers of the time, like MIT's Whirlwind. 'Even if it cannot match the rapid calculation speed of American models called "Whirlwind" or "Typhoon", it will be enough for a "Wiener Mailüfterl"' (Viennese may breeze), said Zemanek. Mailüfterl contained 3,000 transistors, 5,000 diodes, 1,000 assembly platelets, 100,000 solder joints, 15,000 resistors, 5,000 capacitors and 20,000 meters switching wire. It was built as an underground project at and without financial support from the technical university of Vienna, were Zemanek was an assistant professor at the time. In 1961, Zemanek and his team moved to IBM, who built them their own lab in Vienna. In 1976, Zemanek became an IBM Fellow and stayed at IBM until his retirement in 1985. He was crucial in the creation of the formal definition of the programming language PL/I. The definition language used was VDL (Vienna Definition Language), a direct predecessor of VDM Specification Language (VDM-SL). He remained a professor in Vienna and held regular lectures until 2006.

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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 8:32pm
multicsfan writes Researchers have found that an injection of protein FGF1 stops weight induced diabetes in mice, with no apparent side effects. However, the cure only lasts 2 days at a time. Future research and human trials are needed to better understand and create a working drug. From the story: "The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn't merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn't result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments."

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Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 6:09pm
schwit1 notes that the Australian government has repealed a controversial carbon tax. After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. In a vote that could highlight the difficulty in implementing additional measures to reduce carbon emissions ahead of global climate talks next year in Paris, Australia's Senate on Wednesday voted 39-32 to repeal a politically divisive carbon emissions price that contributed to the fall from power of three Australian leaders since it was first suggested in 2007.

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New Map Fingers Future Hot Spots For U.S. Earthquakes

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 4:08pm
sciencehabit writes Earthquake risk assessments can seem pretty abstract at first glance, with their "percent probabilities" and "peak ground accelerations." But the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS's) national hazard maps, updated periodically, pack a powerful punch: Insurance companies and city planners rely heavily on the maps, which influence billions of dollars in construction every year. Today, USGS scientists released the most recent earthquake hazard assessments for the country. Although the picture hasn't changed much on a national scale since the last report in 2008, the devil is in the details, the report's authors say—and some areas in the country are now considered to be at higher risk for powerful quakes than once thought.

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New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader writes On Thursday, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of financial services, announced proposed regulations for virtual currency companies operating in New York. The "BitLicense" plan, which includes rules on consumer protection, the prevention of money laundering and cybersecurity, is the first proposal by a state to create guidelines specifically for virtual currency. "We have sought to strike an appropriate balance that helps protect consumers and root out illegal activity—without stifling beneficial innovation," he said in a statement.

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Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 2:36pm
New submitter gthuang88 (3752041) writes In the 1990s, Microsoft was in position to own the software and devices market. Here is Nathan Myhrvold's previously unpublished 1997 memo on expanding Microsoft Research to tackle problems in software testing, operating systems, artificial intelligence, and applications. Those fields would become crucial in the company's competition with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Oracle. But research didn't do enough to make the company broaden its businesses. While Microsoft Research was originally founded to ensure the company's future, the organization only mapped out some possible futures. And now Microsoft is undergoing the biggest restructuring in its history. At least F# and LINQ saw the light of day.

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MIT May Have Just Solved All Your Data Center Network Lag Issues

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 1:53pm
alphadogg (971356) writes A group of MIT researchers say they've invented a new technology that should all but eliminate queue length in data center networking. The technology will be fully described in a paper presented at the annual conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication. According to MIT, the paper will detail a system — dubbed Fastpass — that uses a centralized arbiter to analyze network traffic holistically and make routing decisions based on that analysis, in contrast to the more decentralized protocols common today. Experimentation done in Facebook data centers shows that a Fastpass arbiter with just eight cores can be used to manage a network transmitting 2.2 terabits of data per second, according to the researchers.

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Taking Great Ideas From the Lab To the Fab

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 1:12pm
aarondubrow (1866212) writes The "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs — the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science Foundation created a new program called InTrans to extend the life of the most high-impact NSF-funded research and help great ideas transition from lab to practice. Today, in partnership with Intel, NSF announced the first InTrans award of $3 million to a team of researchers who are designing customizable, domain-specific computing technologies for use in healthcare. The work could lead to less exposure to dangerous radiation during x-rays by speeding up the computing side of medicine. It also could result in patient-specific cancer treatments.

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