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DroidJason1 writes The Chinese government is investigating Microsoft for possible breaches of anti-monopoly laws, following a series of surprise visits to Redmond's offices in cities across China on Monday. These surprise visits were part of China's ongoing investigation [warning: WSJ paywall], and were based on security complaints about Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office productivity suite. Results from an earlier inspection apparently were not enough to clear Microsoft of suspicion of anti-competitive behavior. Microsoft's alleged anti-monopoly behavior is a criminal matter, so if found guilty, the software giant could face steep fines as well as other sanctions.
rtoz writes with this excerpt from an IDG story about the creation of an Android fork made just for Google's modular cell-phone project : A special edition of Android had to be created for the unique customizable design of Project Ara, said George Grey, CEO of Linaro. ... Android can already plug and play SD cards. But Grey said additional OS functionality is needed for storage, cameras and other modules that are typically inside smartphones, but can now be externally added to Project Ara. A lot of work is also being done on UniPro transport drivers, which connect modules and components in Project Ara. UniPro protocol drivers in Android will function much like the USB protocol, where modules will be recognized based on different driver "classes," such as those for networking, sensor, imaging, input and others. Some attachable parts may not be recognized by Android. For those parts, separate drivers need to be developed by module makers through emulators. "That will be need to be done in a secure system so the device can't do damage to the system," Grey said. Project Ara is a very disruptive concept, and it turns around conventional thinking on how to build phones, Grey said.
schwit1 writes "The competition heats up: For the first time in six months SpaceShipTwo completed a test flight [Tuesday]." The article linked is from NBC, which also has a deal with Virgin Galactic to televise the first commercial flight. It is thus in their interest to promote the spacecraft and company. The following two sentences from the article however clearly confirm every rumor we have heard about the ship in the past year, that they needed to replace or completely refit the engine and that the resulting thrust might not be enough to get the ship to 100 kilometers or 62 miles: "In January, SpaceShipTwo blasted off for a powered test and sailed through a follow-up glide flight, but then it went into the shop for rocket refitting. It's expected to go through a series of glide flights and powered flights that eventually rise beyond the boundary of outer space (50 miles or 100 kilometers in altitude, depending on who's counting)." Hopefully this test flight indicates that they have installed the new engine and are now beginning flight tests with equipment that will actually get the ship into space.
kkleiner writes Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Microsoft Kinect, a camera, and a handful of electrical stimulators, a London student's virtual reality system is showing users what it's like to swap bodies. Looking down, they see someone else's arms and legs; looking out, it's someone else's point of view; and when they move their limbs, the body they see does the same (those electrical stimulators mildly shock muscles to force a friend to mirror the user's movements). It's an imperfect system, but a fascinating example of the power of virtual reality. What else might we use VR systems for? Perhaps they'll prove useful in training or therapeutic situations? Or what about with robots, which would be easier to inhabit and control than another human? The virtual body swap may never fully catch on, but generally, virtual reality will likely prove useful for more than just gaming and entertainment.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has waged a constantbattle with publishers over the price of ebooks. They've now publicly laid out their argument and the business math behind it. "We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000." They argue that capping most ebooks at $9.99 would be better for everyone, with the money split out 35% to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon.
Author John Scalzi says Amazon's reasoning and assumptions are a bit suspect. He disagrees that "books are interchangeable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to." Scalzi also points out that Amazon asserts itself as the only revenue stream for authors, which is not remotely true. "Amazon's assumptions don't include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon's competitors is good for Amazon; there's rather less of an argument that it's good for anyone else."
A recent post by Instapaper's Marco Arment suggests that design flaws in Apple's App Store are harming the app ecosystem, and users are suffering because of it. "The dominance and prominence of 'top lists' stratifies the top 0.02% so far above everyone else that the entire ecosystem is encouraged to design for a theoretical top-list placement that, by definition, won’t happen to 99.98% of them." Arment notes that many good app developers are finding continued development to be unsustainable, while scammy apps are encouraged to flood the market.
"As the economics get tighter, it becomes much harder to support the lavish treatment that developers have given apps in the past, such as full-time staffs, offices, pixel-perfect custom designs of every screen, frequent free updates, and completely different iPhone and iPad interfaces. Many will give up and leave for stable, better-paying jobs. (Many already have.)"
Brent Simmons points out the indie developers have largely given up the dream of being able to support themselves through iOS development. Yoni Heisler argues that their plight is simply a consequence of ever-increasing competition within the industry, though he acknowledges that more app curation would be a good thing. What strategies could Apple (and the operators of other mobile application stories) do to keep app quality high?
Apache is behind a huge percentage of the world's websites, and the Apache Software Foundation is the umbrella organization that provides licensing and stucture for open source projects ranging from the Apache Web server to Apache OpenOffice to small utilities that aren't household names but are often important to a surprising number of people and companies. Most of us never get to meet the people behind groups like the Apache Software Foundation -- except today we tag along with Tim Lord at OSCON and chat with Apache Software Foundation Executive Vice President Rich Bowen -- who is also Red Hat's OpenStack Community Liason. (Alternate Video Link) Update: 07/30 22:23 GMT by T: Note that Bowen formerly served as Slashdot sister site SourceForge's Community Manager, too.
Dupple sends word of new quantum mechanical research in which a neutron is sent along a different path from one of its characteristics.
First, a neutron beam is split into two parts in a neutron interferometer. Then the spins of the two beams are shifted into different directions: The upper neutron beam has a spin parallel to the neutrons’ trajectory, the spin of the lower beam points into the opposite direction. After the two beams have been recombined, only those neutrons are chosen which have a spin parallel to their direction of motion. All the others are just ignored. ... These neutrons, which are found to have a spin parallel to its direction of motion, must clearly have travelled along the upper path — only there do the neutrons have this spin state. This can be shown in the experiment. If the lower beam is sent through a filter which absorbs some of the neutrons, then the number of the neutrons with spin parallel to their trajectory stays the same. If the upper beam is sent through a filter, than the number of these neutrons is reduced.
Things get tricky when the system is used to measure where the neutron spin is located: the spin can be slightly changed using a magnetic field. When the two beams are recombined appropriately, they can amplify or cancel each other. This is exactly what can be seen in the measurement, if the magnetic field is applied at the lower beam – but that is the path which the neutrons considered in the experiment are actually never supposed to take. A magnetic field applied to the upper beam, on the other hand, does not have any effect.
Zothecula writes: The Silent Power PC is claimed to be the first high-end PC able to ditch noisy electric fans in favor of fully passive cooling. In place of a conventional fan, the unit uses an open-air metal foam heatsink that boasts an enormous surface area thanks to the open-weave copper filaments of which it's composed. The Silent Power creators claim that the circulation of air through the foam is so efficient in dissipating heat that the exterior surface temperature never rises above 50 C (122 F) in normal use.
rtoz sends this news from the BBC: The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads starting in January next year. It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK's road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. ... The debate now is whether to allow cars, like the prototype unveiled by Google in May, to abandon controls including a steering wheel and pedals and rely on the vehicle's computer. Or whether, instead, to allow the machine to drive, but insist a passenger be ready to wrest back control at a moment's notice.
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, we discussed news that a presentation had been canceled for the upcoming Black Hat security conference that involved the Tor Project. The researchers involved hadn't made much of an effort to disclose the vulnerability, and the Tor Project was scrambling to implement a fix. Now, the project says it's likely these researchers were actively attacking Tor users and trying to deanonymize them. "On July 4 2014 we found a group of relays that we assume were trying to deanonymize users. They appear to have been targeting people who operate or access Tor hidden services. The attack involved modifying Tor protocol headers to do traffic confirmation attacks. ...We know the attack looked for users who fetched hidden service descriptors, but the attackers likely were not able to see any application-level traffic (e.g. what pages were loaded or even whether users visited the hidden service they looked up). The attack probably also tried to learn who published hidden service descriptors, which would allow the attackers to learn the location of that hidden service." They also provide a technical description of the attack, and the steps they're taking to block such attacks in the future.
An anonymous reader writes: I do some contract work on the side, and am helping a client set up a new point-of-sale system. For the time being, it's pretty simple: selling products, keeping track of employee time, managing inventory and the like. However, it requires a small network because there are two clients, and one of the clients feeds off of a small SQL Express database from the first. During the setup, the vendor disabled the local firewall, and in a number of emails back and forth since (with me getting more and more aggravated) they went from suggesting that there's no need for a firewall, to outright telling me that's just how they do it and the contract dictates that's how we need to run it. This isn't a tremendous deal today, but with how things are going, odds are there will be e-Commerce worked into it, and probably credit card transactions... which worries the bejesus out of me.
So my question to the Slashdot masses: is this common? In my admittedly limited networking experience, it's been drilled into my head fairly well that not running a firewall is lazy (if not simply negligent), and to open the appropriate ports and call it a day. However, I've seen forum posts here and there with people admitting they run their clients without firewalls, believing that the firewall on their incoming internet connection is good enough, and that their client security will pick up the pieces. I'm curious how many real professionals do this, or if the forum posts I'm seeing (along with the vendor in question) are just a bunch of clowns.
schwit1 writes: New research by astronomers suggests that the Milky Way is about half as massive as previously estimated. It was thought to be roughly the same mass as Andromeda, weighing in at approximately 1.26 x 10^12 solar masses (PDF). This new research indicates its mass is around half the mass of Andromeda. "Galaxies in the Local Group are bound together by their collective gravity. As a result, while most galaxies, including those on the outskirts of the Local Group, are moving farther apart due to expansion, the galaxies in the Local Group are moving closer together because of gravity. For the first time, researchers were able to combine the available information about gravity and expansion to complete precise calculations of the masses of both the Milky Way and Andromeda. ... Andromeda had twice as much mass as the Milky Way, and in both galaxies 90 percent of the mass was made up of dark matter."
Andreas Kolbe writes: The Daily Dot's EJ Dickson reports how she accidentally discovered that a hoax factoid she added over five years ago as a stoned sophomore to the Wikipedia article on "Amelia Bedelia, the protagonist of the eponymous children's book series about a 'literal-minded housekeeper' who misunderstands her employer's orders," had not just remained on Wikipedia all this time, but come to be cited by a Taiwanese English professor, in "innumerable blog posts and book reports", as well as a book on Jews and Jesus. It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia. And as Wikipedia ages, more and more such stories are coming to light.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, just over half of the military officers put in charge of U.S. nuclear launch facilities were implicated in an exam cheating scandal. The Air Force conducted regular exams to keep officers current on the protocols and skills required to operate some of the world's most dangerous weapons. But the way they graded the test caused problems. Anything below a 90% score was a fail, but the remaining 10% often dictated how a launch officer's career progressed. There might not be much functional difference between a 93% and a 95%, but the person scoring higher will get promoted disproportionately quicker. This inspired a ring of officers to cheat in order to meet the unrealistic expectations of the Air Force. Now, in an effort to clean up that Missile Wing, the Air Force is making the exams pass/fail. The officers still need to score 90% or higher (since it's important work with severe consequences for failure), but scores won't be recorded and used to compete for promotions anymore. The Air Force is also making an effort to replace or refurbish the aging equipment that runs these facilities.
Lucas123 writes: The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies is suing Ford and General Motors for millions of dollars over alleged copyrights infringement violations because their vehicles' CD players can rip music to infotainment center hard drives. The AARC claims in its filing (PDF) that the CD player's ability to copy music violates the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. The Act protects against distributing digital audio recording devices whose primary purpose is to rip copyrighted material. For example, Ford's owner's manual explains, "Your mobile media navigation system has a Jukebox which allows you to save desired tracks or CDs to the hard drive for later access. The hard drive can store up to 10GB (164 hours; approximately 2,472 tracks) of music." The AARC wants $2,500 for each digital audio recording device installed in a vehicle, the amount it says should have been paid in royalties.
An anonymous reader writes: We heard a couple weeks ago about an incredibly pushy Comcast customer service representative who turned a quick cancellation into an ordeal you wouldn't wish on your enemies. To try and find out what could cause such behavior, The Verge reached out to Comcast employees, hoping a few of them would explain training practices and management directives. They got more than they bargained for — over 100 employees responded, and they painted a picture of a corporation overrun by the neverending quest for greater profit. From the article: 'These employees told us the same stories over and over again: customer service has been replaced by an obsession with sales, technicians are understaffed and tech support is poorly trained, and the massive company is hobbled by internal fragmentation. ... Brian Van Horn, a billing specialist who worked at Comcast for 10 years, says the sales pitch gradually got more aggressive. "They were starting off with, 'just ask," he says. "Then instead of 'just ask,' it was 'just ask again,' then 'engage the customer in a conversation,' then 'overcome their objections.'" He was even pressured to pitch new services to a customer who was 55 days late on her bill, he says.'
jrepin writes: Today, a child without access to a computer (and the Internet) at home is at a disadvantage before he or she ever sets foot in a classroom. The unfortunate reality is that in an age where computer skills are no longer optional, far too many families don't possess the resources to have a computer at home. Linux Journal recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Starks about his organization, Reglue (Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education) and its efforts to bridge this digital divide.
An anonymous reader writes: Every time a city- or state-wide disaster strikes, services to help the victims slowly crop up over the following days and weeks. Sometimes they work well, sometimes they don't. Today, city officials in San Francisco and Portland announced a partnership with peer-to-peer lodging service Airbnb to work out some disaster-preparedness plans ahead of time. Airbnb will locate hosts in these cities who will commit to providing a place to stay for people who are displaced in a disaster, and then set up alerts and notifications to help people find these hosts during a crisis. The idea is that if wildfires or an earthquake forces thousands of people to evacuate their homes, they can easily be absorbed into an organized, distributed group of willing hosts, rather than being shunted to one area and forced to live in a school gymnasium or something similar.