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Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 9:15am
An anonymous reader writes Japan has now put 100 passengers on a Maglev train doing over 500kph. That's well over twice as fast as the fastest U.S. train can manage, and that only manages 240kph on small sections of its route. The Japanese Shinkansen is now running over 7 times times as fast as the average U.S. express passenger train. 500kph is moving towards the average speed of an airliner. Add the convenience of no boarding issues, and city-centre to city-centre travel, and the case for trains as mass-transport begins to look stronger.

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New Trial Brings Skype to (Some) Browsers

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 8:16am
Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has begun giving some users a taste of a new version of Skype, with a big difference compared to previous ones: the new one (tested by users on an invitation basis) is browser based. Rather than using the existing WebRTC standard, though (eschewed as too complex), Microsoft has developed a separate spec called ORTC (Object RTC), which is designed to offer similar capabilities but without mandating this same call setup system. Both Microsoft and Google are contributing to this spec, as are representatives from companies with video conferencing, telephony, and related products. ORTC isn't currently blessed as a W3C project, though the ORTC group has proposed integrating ORTC into WebRTC to create WebRTC 1.1 and including parts of ORTC into WebRTC 1.0. For now at least, video or audio chat therefore requires a plug-in, and requires Internet Explorer 10, or recent Firefox or Chrome browsers, and a current Safari on Mac OS X. Also at TechCrunch, among others, which notes that text chat (though as mentioned, not video or audio) will work with the new Skype under ChromeOS, too.

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R. A. Montgomery, Creator of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" Books, Dead At 78

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 7:19am
Dave Knott writes Raymond Almiran Montgomery, original publisher and author of the incredibly popular "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series for children, the 4th bestselling children's series of all time, has died at the age of 78. In 1975, Montgomery founded a small press and when, in 1977, Ed Packard submitted an innovative book for young readers, "Sugarcane Island", Montgomery immediately saw it for what it was: a role-playing game in book form. He leapt at the chance to publish it, and launched a series, writing the second book, "Journey Under The Sea", himself. When Montgomery went through a divorce and sold his stake in the press to his ex-wife, he took the series, renamed as "Choose Your Own Adventure", to Bantam. The books went on to sell more than 250 million copies across 230 titles in 40 languages. Montgomery's interests also extended to new technology, adapting the series to the Atari console in 1984. He was also responsible for the Comic Creator software on Apple's Macintosh computers. Montgomery died on November 9th. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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Comcast Kisses-Up To Obama, Publicly Agrees On Net Neutrality

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 6:28am
MojoKid writes Comcast is one of two companies to have earned Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" title on more than one occasion and it looks like they're lobbying for a third title. That is, unless there's another explanation as to how the cable giant can claim (with straight face) that it's in agreement with President Barack Obama for a free and open Internet. Comcast issued a statement of its own saying they back the exact same things, it just doesn't want to go the utility route. Comcast went on to list specific bullet points that they're supposedly in wholehearted agreement with, such as: Free and open Internet. We agree — and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree — and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree — and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree — and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree — and that is our practice. Really? Comcast conveniently fails to address the giant elephant in the room whose name is Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix begrudgingly inked a multi-year deal with Comcast in which the streaming service agreed to pay a toll to ensure faster delivery into the homes of Comcast subscribers, who prior to the deal had been complaining of frequent buffering and video degradation when watching content on Netflix. Comcast would undoubtedly argue that it's not a paid fast lane, but it's hard to see the deal as anything other than that.

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The Downside to Low Gas Prices

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 5:27am
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed. Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."

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Microsoft Aims To Offer Windows 10 Upgrades For All Windows Phone 8 Lumias

Recent /. Posts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 2:28am
An anonymous reader writes News suggesting that Microsoft plans to offer Windows 10 upgrades for all its Windows Phone 8 devices broke today. "It's our intention to enable a Windows 10 upgrade for Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones," a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat. "At this early stage in the development process, and given the vast portfolio of Windows devices worldwide, we can't predict that all devices will be upgradeable, but it is our intention that the Lumia smartphone line be upgradeable to Windows 10."

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Entrepreneur Injects Bitcoin Wallets Into Hands

Recent /. Posts - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:29pm
wiredmikey writes A Dutch entrepreneur has had two microchips containing Bitcoin injected into his hands to help him make contactless payments. The chips, enclosed in a 2mm by 12mm capsule of "biocompatible" glass, were injected using a special syringe and can communicate with devices such as Android smartphones or tablets via NFC. "What's stored on the microchips should be seen as a savings account rather than a current account," Martijn Wismeijer, co-founder of MrBitcoin said. "The payment device remains the smartphone, but you transfer funds from the chips." The chips are available on the Internet, sold with a syringe for $99, but Wismeijer suggested individuals should find a specialist to handle the injection to avoid infections.

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Philae's Batteries Have Drained; Comet Lander Sleeps

Recent /. Posts - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 8:23pm
astroengine (1577233) writes "In the final hours, Philae's science team hurried to squeeze as much science out of the small lander as possible. But the deep sleep was inevitable, Rosetta's lander has slipped into hibernation after running its batteries dry. This may be the end of Philae's short and trailblazing mission on the surface of Comet 67P, but a huge amount of data — including data from a drilling operation that, apparently, was carried out despite concerns that Philae wasn't positioned correctly — was streamed to Rosetta mission control. "Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager. "This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.""

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