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posted by martyb on Saturday August 23, @11:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the best-things-that-don't-exist dept.

Hugo Awards 2014 announced.

The award for best graphic story goes to “Time” by Randall Munroe. - (this in case if you missed the story of time).

The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”), which is also responsible for administering them. The announcement was made on Sunday evening, August 17, at the ExCel Convention Centre in London, England. 3587 valid ballots were received and counted in the final ballot.

The lists of prior years' winners bring up a treasure trove of names and stories. What Hugo Award winning stories come to mind for you?

[UPDATE: Wikipedia has a list of winners for best novel available on a single page.]

posted by martyb on Saturday August 23, @10:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the model-plane-plans-panned dept.

Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency's ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.

The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Part of the agency's challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that's become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/lawsuits-challenge-faa-drone-model-aircraft-rules-25088965

posted by azrael on Saturday August 23, @08:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the some-pills-to-sell-you dept.

Sophie Curtis reports at the Telegraph that an ad-free internet would cost each user about £140 ($230) a year – a sum that the vast majority of UK web users say they would never pay. Ebuzzing calculated the average ‘value’ of each web user by dividing the amount of money spent on digital advertising in the UK in 2013 (£6.4 billion) by the number of UK web users (45 million).

However in a survey of more than 1,400 UK consumers, 98 per cent said they would not be willing to pay this amount to browse the internet without advertisements and although most consumers regard ads as a necessary trade-off to keep the internet free, they will go to great lengths to avoid advertising they do not wish to see.

"It’s clear the ad industry has a major role to play in keeping web content free, but we have to respond to what consumers are telling us," says Jeremy Arditi. "We need to get better at engaging, not better at interrupting. That means introducing new formats which consumers find less invasive, more creative ads that are better placed, and giving consumers a degree of choice and control."

The study also looked specifically at the mobile app sector and found that 77 per cent of consumers never upgrade to paid for versions of free mobile apps. "Publishers of mobile apps will remain heavily reliant on in-app advertising to fund their content creation," says Arditi. "That means the same rules apply – they must give consumers ads that offer choice, relevance, entertainment and brevity."

posted by azrael on Saturday August 23, @06:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the pushing-own-interests dept.

El Reg is among the first to report:

Microsoft successfully lobbied against a law that would have seen Chile's government adopt open-source software, says Elmostrador, a newspaper in the South American nation.

The publication's report tells the tale of Vlado Mirosevic, a left-leaning politician who is the leader of the Chilean Liberal Party and its only representative in the national parliament.

In April this year, Mirosevic proposed a bill[1] that would have compelled Chile's government agencies to at least consider open-source software. Buying proprietary software would still be possible, once an agency justified the decision.

Elmostrador writes that Mirosevic gathered a decent amount of support by lobbying members from other parties and the bill had prospects of becoming law.

But those members soon found themselves in contact with a Microsoft representative who, the [newspaper] says, lobbied against the bill. Mirosevic soon found his support waning and, when the bill hit the floor of parliament this week, it didn't pass.

He's now rather miffed, because one of his motives was saving Chile some cash. Chile's 2013 government spending was about US$58bn, and Mirosevic says a few hundred million of that goes into government software licenses each year.

There's no suggestion in the Elmostrador story that Microsoft did anything naughty and, like any business, it is entitled to lobby in a democracy.

[1] All content at that site appears to be behind scripts. I don't do scripts.

posted by LaminatorX on Saturday August 23, @05:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the na-na-na-I-can't-hear-you dept.

A Hollywood-affiliated studio in Australia has said that they will be boycotting a public discussion on copyright due to it being dominated by "crazies" with a piracy agenda.

The main thrust from the government and entertainment industry figures is that something pretty drastic needs to be done about the illegal downloading habits of many Australians.

Consumer groups and citizens, on the other hand, want any response to be measured and coupled with assurances from entertainment companies that Australians will stop being treated like second-class consumers. Local ISPs have varying opinions, depending on the depth of their Big Media affiliations.

Back in July a discussion paper leaked revealing government proposals that include measures such as the tweaking of ISP liability right through to ‘pirate’ website blocking. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull later indicated that a public Q&A would be held in September for representatives from the entertainment industries, ISPs, and consumer groups to air their thoughts on the proposals.

While the opportunity was welcomed by the majority of stakeholders, it’s now clear that not everyone will be there.

Village Roadshow is the company that mounted the most aggressive anti-piracy legal action ever against iiNet, one of Australia’s largest ISPs. They have a deep interest in how this debate pans out. This morning, however, co-CEO Graham Burke told ZDNet that his company wouldn’t be attending the discussions because he’ll be overseas at the time.

While that may be true, an email Burke sent to Turnbull and other participants shines rather more light on the topic.

“My company is not prepared to participate in the forum. As expressed to you previously these Q and A style formats are judged by the noise on the night and given the proposed venue I believe this will be weighted by the crazies,” Burke told the Minister.

posted by LaminatorX on Saturday August 23, @02:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the more-meta-than-meta-dept dept.

Mike Masnick over at TechDirt wonders: Can We Create A Public Internet Space Where The First Amendment, Not Private Terms Of Service, Rules?

Over a year ago, Tim Karr had an interesting and important post about openness on the internet. While much of it, quite reasonably, focuses on authoritarian governments trying to stomp out dissent online, he makes an important point towards the end about how the fact that content online is ruled by various "terms of service" from different private entities, rather than things like the First Amendment, can raise serious concerns:

And the threat isn't entirely at the hands of governments. In last week's New Republic, Jeffrey Rosen reported on a cadre of twentysomething "Deciders" employed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to determine what content is appropriate for those platforms -- and what content should get blocked.

While they seem earnest in their regard for free speech, they often make decisions on issues that are way beyond their depth, affecting people in parts of the world they've never been to.

And they're often just plain wrong, as Facebook demonstrated last week. They blocked a political ad from progressive group CREDO Action that criticized Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's support of the Keystone XL pipeline.

This case is just one of several instances where allegedly well-intentioned social media companies cross the line that separates Internet freedom from Internet repression.

In many ways, it may be even more complicated than Karr and the people he quotes describe. First off, even if you have a company that claims it will respect a right to free expression, it's not their decision alone to make. As we saw, for example, with Wikileaks, when there's strong pressure to silence a site, the downstream providers can get antsy and pull the plug. Upstream hosting firms, data centers and bandwidth providers can all be pressured or even threatened legally, and usually someone somewhere along the line will cave to such threats. In such cases, it doesn't matter how strongly the end service provider believes in free speech; if someone else along the chain can pull things down, then promises of supporting free speech are meaningless.

The other issue is that most sites are pretty much legally compelled to have such terms of use, which provide them greater flexibility in deciding to stifle forms of speech they don't appreciate. In many ways, you have to respect the way the First Amendment is structured so that, even if courts have conveniently chipped away at parts of it at times (while, at other times making it much stronger), there's a clear pillar that all of this is based around. Terms of service are nothing like the Constitution, and can be both inherently wishy-washy and ever-changeable as circumstances warrant.

With both service and hosting providers clearly uninterested in facing off against a government take down, or even a computer generated DCMA request — is there any hope for free speech ?

posted by janrinok on Saturday August 23, @12:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-use-it? dept.

According to Elan Morgan, the Facebook 'Like' button does more than acknowledge your friends' posts.

"On August 1st, I announced that I was going to quit liking things on Facebook. At the time, I simply stated that I no longer wanted to be as active a participant in teaching Facebook how to advertise to me as I had been in the past, but another and much larger issue was my real curiosity: how was my Facebook experience going to change once I stopped feeding its engine with likes?"

Morgan discovered that, amongst other things, once he stopped using the 'Like' button, he also stopped receiving most of the dross that had been spoiling his experience of FB. He also found that he started posting more intelligent comments regarding information that he received rather than just clicking 'Like'.

posted by janrinok on Friday August 22, @10:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the tracking-things-that-are-no-longer-there dept.

Throughout the western United States, a network of Global Positioning System (GPS) stations has been monitoring tiny movements in the Earth's crust, collecting data that can warn of developing earthquakes.

To their surprise, researchers have discovered that the GPS network has also been recording an entirely different phenomenon: the massive drying of the landscape caused by the drought that has intensified over much of the region since last year.

From the article:

Geophysicist Adrian Borsa of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and his colleagues report in this week's Science that, based on the GPS measurements, the loss of water from lakes, streams, snowpack, and groundwater totals some 240 billion metric tons—equivalent, they say, to a four-inch-deep layer of water covering the entire western U.S. from the Rockies to the Pacific."

The principle behind the new measurements is simple. The weight of surface water and groundwater deforms Earth's elastic crust, much as a sleeper's body deforms a mattress. Remove the water, and the crust rebounds.

posted by janrinok on Friday August 22, @08:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the now-that's-a-good-idea dept.

Paper (PDF): http://www.enck.org/pubs/heuser-sec14.pdf

Computer Security Researchers have developed a modification to the core Android operating system that will allow developers and users to plug in security enhancements, without the need to change the firmware on the device.

"In the ongoing arms race between white hats and black hats, researchers and developers are constantly coming up with new security extensions," says Dr. William Enck, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and a senior author of a paper describing the new framework. "But these new tools aren't getting into the hands of users because every new extension requires users to change their device's firmware, or operating system (OS).

"The ASM framework allows users to implement these new extensions without overhauling their firmware," Enck says. "The framework is available now for security enthusiasts. But for widespread adoption, either Google or one of the Android phone manufacturers will need to adopt the framework and incorporate it into the OS."

The ASM framework allows the creation of custom security control modules that better protect phones owned by consumers and businesses. The custom security modules receive "callbacks" for every security-sensitive operation in the Android OS. In this context, a callback means that Android is contacting the security module to determine whether an operation should proceed.

"Our ASM framework can be used in various personal and enterprise scenarios. For instance, security modules can implement dual persona: i.e., enable users to securely use their smartphones and tablets at home and at work while strictly separating private and enterprise data," says Enck.

"Security modules can also enhance consumer privacy. The framework provides callbacks that can filter, modify, or anonymize data before it is shared with third-party apps, in order to protect personal information," Enck says. "For instance consider an app like Whatsapp, which usually copies all your contacts to its server – which is not needed for it to function." With ASM, the user can make sure Whatsapp only gets the information it really needs.

posted by janrinok on Friday August 22, @07:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-start-of-another-bun-fight dept.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is going to have a fight on his hands if he tries to pre-empt state laws that limit the growth of municipal broadband networks.

Matthew Berry, chief of staff to Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai, argued today that the FCC has no authority to invalidate state laws governing local broadband networks. In a speech in front of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Berry endorsed states' rights when it comes to either banning municipal broadband networks or preventing their growth. He also argued that the current commission, with its Democratic majority, should not do something that future Republican-led commissions might disagree with.

[Section 706 of The Telecommunications Act] http://www.psc.state.fl.us/publications/telecomm/trilogy/universa/706.aspx

posted by n1 on Friday August 22, @05:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the more-butter dept.

For decades, butter has been the most vilified nutrient in the American diet but Time Magazine's cover story says that new science reveals that fat isn’t what’s hurting our health (paywalled). According to Time, scientists were wrong to label saturated fats the enemy — that carbs, sugar and processed foods are mainly to blame for obesity, diabetes and other weight-related diseases, according to a growing body of research and that Americans should reconsider the role saturated fats play in our diets.

Some of the confusion comes from the decades-long war on trans fats, the artificially produced artery-clogging ingredient found in baked goods and desserts. Science has shown that trans fats are harmful because they increase risk of heart disease because they both raise level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Last year, the Food and Drug Administration said it would require food makers to phase out trans fats. "I do agree butter, along with other saturated fats like poultry skin, coconut oil, full fat dairy and certain cuts of red meat, are no longer the enemy," says TODAY diet expert Joy Bauer. "Unfortunately when fat was vilified back in the 1970s, we replaced those fats with…you guessed it…refined carbohydrates. That’s why we’re in trouble now."

According to Dr. Fred Kummerow, the 99-year old pioneer of trans-fat research and one of the first scientists to assert a link between heart disease and processed foods, the saturated fat in butter, cheese and meats does not contribute to the clogging of arteries — and in fact is beneficial in moderate amounts in the context of a healthy diet. “What I really want is to see trans fats gone finally,” says Kummerow, “and for people to eat better and have a more accurate understanding of what really causes heart disease.”

posted by n1 on Friday August 22, @04:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the government-killing-business dept.

RT reports China is quite serious in ending its own GMO programs amid public concerns on GM crops:

China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to continue with a program which developed genetically-modified rice and corn. Some environmentalists say public concerns about GM crops played a key role in the decision.

On August 17, when these permits were up for renewal, the Ministry of Agriculture decided not to extend them. In 2009, the ministry's Biosafety Committee issued approval certificates to develop the two crops, rice and corn.

According to the South China Morning Post, state television commissioned tests on five packets of rice, which were picked at random, and found three contained genetically-modified rice. It is illegal to sell or commercially grow GM rice in mainland China. The safety certificates issued in 2009 only allowed the rice to be planted for research purposes, but never for sale on the open market.

The strain, which was found, was one of two developed by Dr. Zhang Oifa, who is a professor at the Huazhong Agricultural University. He said, "it was not impossible" for the seeds to be put on to the open market. "You can't say [the seeds] were leaked on purpose. It's possible the seed companies have taken away the seeds and reproduced them illegally," he said, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

The move comes after a (relatively) recent ban on the importation of GMO crops in China: as early as Nov 2013, China started to reject shipload of GMO corn from US with specific restrictions put in place later, affecting also livestock feed concentrates and even GMO lucerne hay.

posted by n1 on Friday August 22, @02:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-bits-from-you dept.

TorrentFreak reports:

New research reveals that BitTorrent swarms can be slowed down significantly by malicious peers. Depending on the number of seeders and the clients they use, download times can be increased by 1000%. The attacks are possible through an exploit of the BitTorrent protocol for which the researchers present a fix.

[...] In an article published in "Computers & Security", Adamsky and his colleagues reveal an exploit which allows attackers to get a higher download rate from seeders than other people.

In technical terms, the exploit misuses BitTorrent's choking mechanism of clients that use the "Allowed Fast" extension. Attackers can use this to keep a permanent connection with seeders, requesting the same pieces over and over.

posted by n1 on Friday August 22, @01:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the suggestions-are-being-monitored-for-quality-assurance-purposes dept.

PC World reports:

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a guide for testing third-party apps to ensure that they are secure and don’t introduce any vulnerabilities.

The government agency has prepared a draft of its recommendations, “Technical Considerations for Vetting 3rd Party Mobile Applications,” and is seeking industry feedback by Sept. 18. The aim is to help enterprises make full use of commercial mobile programs.

Would you like to contribute to the NIST effort?

posted by n1 on Friday August 22, @11:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the casual-friday dept.

Robert McMillan writes that when it comes to computers, the federal government has a nasty reputation for prizing ISO standards and regulatory checkboxes above working code but now Mikey Dickerson, the former Google engineer who flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous Healthcare.gov website, says that's changing and the feds want all the techies out there to know Dickerson wasn’t forced to do his amazing job in a suit and tie.

If you do take a job at the White House, you may want to bring your own snacks, expect to work at a desk, not a couch, and hold off on bringing your skateboard to work. Still, the feds are trying to do tech in a clueful fashion. The Obama administration has opened the door to open-source software and collaborative coding. And, hey, even the CIA is using Amazon’s web services.

In a White House video, Dickerson, the new head of the US Digital Service, says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They “want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” In the video, there’s a shot of a staff meeting where President Obama gives Dickerson and his fellow tech “hot-shots” a shout out. “They’re starting to look official now, aren’t they? They’ve got suits and everything,” Obama quips, a nod to the black jacket and yellow tie Dickerson has worn to the meeting. Dickerson tells the president this isn’t the norm. “This is literally only because you’re here,” he replies.

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