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  • School Installs Biometric Fingerprint System For Cafeteria

    An anonymous reader writes with news about a school in England that has introduced a cashless cafeteria system that is raising some privacy concerns among some. Stourbridge students will soon be able to pay for their lunch without searching their pockets for change. Redhill School has spent £20,000 updating its dining facilities and introducing a cashless catering system. The system will allow parents to deposit funds into students catering accounts, to be debited by the pupil's biometric fingerprint scan at the point of sale. Headteacher Stephen Dunster said: "The benefits are that pupils are less likely to lose cash, parents know their children are using their dinner money to buy nutritious food and there will also be a system to alert staff if students are purchasing food that they may be allergic to."

    172 comments | 12 hours ago

  • Amazon Is Killing Off Its Free P2P Money-Transfer Service WebPay On October 13

    An anonymous reader writes: Amazon WebPay, a free online money-transfer service, is shutting down October 13, 2014. This means you'll no longer be able to send, receive, or request money using just your email address and the Amazon Payments webpage. There were hints back in June that the service would be going away soon. Amazon sent out an email this week to active Amazon Payments account users notifying them it is pulling the plug.

    34 comments | 2 days ago

  • Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

    An anonymous reader writes with this piece about Digital Knights, the studio behind the Kickstarter campaign project Sienna Storm, which was cancelled this week after the team raised only 10% of their $180,000 target, despite a compelling concept (a card based espionage game) and a reputable team including the writer of the original Deus Ex, Sheldon Pacotti. The team is now seeking alternative funding before reaching out to publishers, but in an interview given this week, Knights CEO Sergei Filipov highlights what he sees as a recent and growing problem with crowdfunding games: an expectation to see a working prototype. "It seems at least 50 or 60 percent of the game needs to be completed before one launches a campaign on Kickstarter," he says. It's a chicken and egg cycle some indie developers will struggle to break out of, and shows just how far we've come since Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter burst the doors open two years ago.

    210 comments | 2 days ago

  • Windows Tax Shot Down In Italy

    An anonymous reader writes Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency." It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not. "This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."

    407 comments | 2 days ago

  • Hewlett-Packard Pleads Guilty To Bribing Officials in Russia, Poland, and Mexico

    Charliemopps writes Hewlett-Packard and three subsidiaries pleaded guilty Thursday to paying bribes to foreign officials in Russia, Mexico and Poland and agreed to pay $108 million in criminal and regulatory penalties. For over 10 years Hewlett-Packard kept 2 sets of books to track slush-funds they used to bribe government officials for favorable contracts. From the article: According to the Justice Department, HP Poland paid more than $600,000 in cash bribes and gifts, travel and entertainment to the the police agency's director of information and communications technology. HP Poland gave the government official bags filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash, provided the official with HP desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices and other products and took the official on a leisure trip to Las Vegas, which included a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon, the Justice Department said. The foreign officials probably weren't reporting the income on their taxes, either.

    107 comments | 2 days ago

  • CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program"

    jfbilodeau writes The CBC is warning Canadians about a U.S. program where America law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public's cash as they can through seizure laws. "So, for any law-abiding Canadian thinking about an American road trip, here’s some non-official advice: Avoid long chats if you’re pulled over. Answer questions politely and concisely, then persistently ask if you are free to go. Don’t leave litter on the vehicle floor, especially energy drink cans. Don’t use air or breath fresheners; they could be interpreted as an attempt to mask the smell of drugs. Don’t be too talkative. Don’t be too quiet. Try not to wear expensive designer clothes. Don’t have tinted windows. And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

    458 comments | 3 days ago

  • Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

    First time accepted submitter ltorvalds11 writes Cuba says its economy is suffering a "systematic worsening" due to a US embargo, the consequences of which Havana places at $1.1 trillion since Washington imposed the sanctions in 1960, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against gold. "There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorizing and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba for 55 years," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno told reporters. He also blamed the embargo for the difficulties in accessing internet on the island, saying that the United States creates an obstacle for companies providing broadband services in Cuba. Additionally, he said that the area is one of the "most sensitive" to the embargo, with economic losses estimated at $34.2 million. It is also the sector that has fallen "victim of all kinds of attacks" by the US, as violations of the Cuban radio or electronic space "promote destabilization" of Cuban society, the report notes. The damage to Cuban foreign trade between April 2013 and June 2014 amounted to $3.9 billion, the report said. Without the embargo, Cuba could have earned $205.8 million selling products such as rum and cigars to US consumers. Barack Obama last week signed the one-year extension of the embargo on Cuba, based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, created to restrict trade with countries hostile to the U.S..

    522 comments | 3 days ago

  • When Scientists Give Up

    New submitter ferespo sends a report from All Things Considered about the struggle for scientific funding in today's political and economic environment. "Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them." It's a tough situation for new scientists trying to set up labs. In addition to all of the scientific work they do, it's essentially a full-time job in addition to that to maintain funding. The reviewers who decide which projects receive funding are risk-averse to the point where innovative research is all but off the table. The consequences of this are two-fold: not only are we giving up on the types of research that led to so many of today's marvels, but many promising young scientists are giving up on the field altogether.

    347 comments | 4 days ago

  • Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

    dotarray (1747900) writes "A surprising story has emerged today that suggests Microsoft is looking to buy Minecraft developer Mojang. The reported price tag is "more than US$2 billion." The original report is at the WSJ (possibly behind a paywall). Quoting: "For Microsoft, "Minecraft" could reinvigorate the company's 13-year-old Xbox videogame business by giving it a cult hit with a legion of young fans. Mojang has sold more than 50 million copies of "Minecraft" since it was initially released in 2009 and earned more than $100 million in profits last year from the game and merchandise. "Minecraft" is already available on the Xbox, as well as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, PCs and smartphones."

    367 comments | 5 days ago

  • Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

    Today at Apple's September press conference, they announced the new iPhone 6 models. There are two of them — the iPhone 6 is 4.7" at 1334x750, and the iPhone 6 Plus is 5.5" at 1920x1080. Both phones are thinner than earlier models: 5S: 7.6mm, 6: 6.9mm, 6 Plus: 7.1mm. The phones have a new-generation chip, the 64-bit A8. Apple says the new phones have a 25% faster CPU, 50% faster GPU, and they're 50% more energy efficient (though they were careful to say the phones have "equal or better" battery life to the 5S). Apple upgrade the phones' wireless capabilities, moving voice calls to LTE and also enabling voice calls over Wi-Fi. The phones ship on September 19th, preceded by the release of iOS 8 on September 17th.

    Apple also announced its entry into the payments market with "Apple Pay." They're trying to replace traditional credit card payments with holding an iPhone up to a scanner instead. It uses NFC and the iPhone's TouchID fingerprint scanner. Users can take a picture of their credit cards, and Apple Pay will gather payment information, encrypt it, and store it. (Apple won't have any of the information about users' credit cards or their purchases, and users will be able to disable the payment option through Find My iPhone if they lose the device.) Apple Pay will work with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards to start. 220,000 stores that support contactless payment will accept Apple Pay, and many apps are building direct shopping support for it. It will launch in October as an update for iOS 8, and work only on the new phones.

    Apple capped off the conference with the announcement of the long-anticipated "Apple Watch." Their approach to UI is different from most smartwatch makers: Apple has preserved the dial often found on the side of analog watches, using it as a button and an input wheel. This "digital crown" enables features like zoom without obscuring the small screen with fingers. The screen is touch-sensitive and pressure sensitive, so software can respond to a light tap differently than a hard tap. The watch runs on a new, custom-designed chip called the S1, it has sensors to detect your pulse, and it has a microphone to receive and respond to voice commands. It's powered by a connector that has no exposed contacts — it magnetically seals to watch and charges inductively. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone of the following models to work: 6, 6Plus, 5s, 5c, 5. It will be available in early 2015, and will cost $349 for a base model.

    729 comments | 5 days ago

  • Paypal Jumps Into Bitcoin With Both Feet

    retroworks (652802) writes The BBC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes and several other business sites are buzzing with Paypal's incorporation of Bitcoin transactions. According to Wired, Paypal will be "the best thing ever to happen to Bitcoin." Paypal-owned Braintree not only brings 150 million active users in close contact with Bitcoin, it signals "mainstreaming" similar to cell phone app banking, perceived as experimental just a few years ago.

    130 comments | 5 days ago

  • Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

    Nerval's Lobster writes In theory, learning less-popular programming languages could end up paying off big—provided the programmers who pursue them play their proverbial cards right. And as with any good card game, there's a considerable element of chance involved: In order to land a great job, you need to become an expert in a language, which involves a considerable amount of work with no guarantee of a payoff. With that in mind, do you think it's worth learning R, Scala, Haskell, Clojure, or even COBOL (the lattermost is still in use among companies with decades-old infrastructure, and they reportedly have trouble filling jobs that rely on it)? Or is it better to devote your precious hours and memory to popular, much-used languages that have a lot of use out there?

    380 comments | 5 days ago

  • European Commission Reopens Google Antitrust Investigation

    An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, European Commission regulators finally agreed to a settlement in the organization's long-running antitrust investigation of Google's search and advertising business. Unfortunately for Google, it didn't stick. The EC said today they're reopening the investigation after a large number of "very negative" complaints about the settlement. "The key objection to the proposed settlement, which would have allowed rival services to buy spaces at the top of search results pages, was that it would not prevent Google from favoring its own services, and would divert money from the rivals to Google even if they received clickthroughs from the adverts — rather than the zero-cost solution if they were ranked highly in 'organic' search results, and Google was prevented from putting its own commercial services above those." The Commission is also looking into other parts of Google's business, including its influence over mobile devices through Android.

    95 comments | 5 days ago

  • Private Police Intelligence Network Shares Data and Targets Cash

    Advocatus Diaboli writes Operating in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal entities, Black Asphalt members exchanged tens of thousands of reports about American motorists, many of whom had not been charged with any crimes, according to a company official and hundreds of internal documents obtained by The Post. For years, it received no oversight by government, even though its reports contained law enforcement sensitive information about traffic stops and seizures, along with hunches and personal data about drivers, including Social Security numbers and identifying tattoos. Black Asphalt also has served as a social hub for a new brand of highway interdictors, a group that one Desert Snow official has called 'a brotherhood.' Among other things, the site hosts an annual competition to honor police who seize the most contraband and cash on the highways. As part of the contest, Desert Snow encouraged state and local patrol officers to post seizure data along with photos of themselves with stacks of currency and drugs. Some of the photos appear in a rousing hard-rock video that the Guthrie, Okla.-based Desert Snow uses to promote its training courses.

    142 comments | about a week ago

  • Facebook's Auto-Play Videos Chew Up Expensive Data Plans

    Another good reason to be annoyed by autoplaying videos online: it eats up dataplan allowances, making for some rude surprises. I'm always nervous about data allowances, and sites should be cautious about what they shove at you; turning off the autoplay feature isn't hard (and it's explained in the second article linked above), but I sure wish it was the default setting, or at least caught and handled by a browser extension. (Perhaps this is a job for Social Fixer's next iteration.) Is Facebook the worst offender on this front?

    108 comments | about a week ago

  • 3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

    The AP reports that American airplane passengers, squeezed by increasingly tight seating aboard planes, are lashing out, actually getting into in-flight fights over knee room: Three U.S. flights have made unscheduled landings in the past eight days after passengers got into fights over the ability to recline their seats. Disputes over a tiny bit of personal space might seem petty, but for passengers whose knees are already banging into tray tables, every bit counts. ... Southwest and United both took away 1 inch from each row on certain jets to make room for six more seats. American is increasing the number of seats on its Boeing 737-800s from 150 to 160. Delta installed new, smaller toilets in its 737-900s, enabling it to squeeze in an extra four seats. And to make room for a first-class cabin with lie-flat beds on transcontinental flights, JetBlue cut the distance between coach seats by one inch.

    811 comments | about a week ago

  • Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks

    reifman (786887) writes "A thousand unionized healthcare workers protested outside Microsoft's Seattle offices over its Nevada tax dodge on Friday. Microsoft shareholders have pocketed more than $5.34 billion in tax savings as Washington State social services and schools have taken huge cuts. In a hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested it may hold the Legislature in contempt and order it to repeal all tax breaks to restore proper funding to K-12 schools and universities." I suspect Microsoft's lawyers are careful to engage in legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion. Geekwire notes "The South Lake Union satellite facility is not a major office for Microsoft, compared to its presence in Redmond. It’s not clear why the workers didn’t protest at Microsoft headquarters."

    246 comments | about a week ago

  • Getting Into College the Old Fashioned Way: With Money

    Businessweek (in a story spotted via Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution) profiles ThinkTank Learning, a college-admission consultancy founded by Steven Ma, and largely catering to ambitious Asian immigrants like Ma, and their offspring — kids who'd like to go to elite schools, and can afford to have Ma's firm help them navigate the path to getting in. It's a statistics driven system, and backed by a money-back guarantee, so long as the applicant meets certain requirements: ThinkTank will refund their tens of thousands of dollars in fees if they don't make it into the sort of school that the ThinkTank algorithms say they will. Basically, they've reverse engineered the admissions policies at schools, particularly elite schools like MIT, Stanford, and the Ivies, and done so well enough to know which factors in a student's portfolio can be tweaked to increase their odds of getting into the big-name schools. A slice: [Ma's] proprietary algorithm assigns varying weights to different parameters, derived from his analysis of the successes and failures of thousands of students he's coached over the years. Ma's algorithm, for example, predicts that a U.S.-born high school senior with a 3.8 GPA, an SAT score of 2,000 (out of 2,400), moderate leadership credentials, and 800 hours of extracurricular activities, has a 20.4 percent chance of admission to New York University and a 28.1 percent shot at the University of Southern California. Those odds determine the fee ThinkTank charges that student for its guaranteed consulting package: $25,931 to apply to NYU and $18,826 for USC.

    161 comments | about a week ago

  • Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

    theodp (442580) writes With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."

    362 comments | about a week ago

  • IT Job Hiring Slumps

    snydeq writes The IT job hiring bump earlier this year wasn't sustained in July and August, when numbers slumped considerably, InfoWorld reports. 'So much for the light at the end of the IT jobs tunnel. According to job data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as analyzed by Janco Associates, the IT professional job market has all but lost the head of steam it built up earlier this year. A mere 3,400 IT jobs were added in August, down from 4,600 added for July and way down from the 13,800 added in April of this year. Overall, IT hiring in 2014 got off to a weak start, then surged, only to stumble again.' Anybody out there finding the IT job market discouraging of late and care to share their experiences?

    249 comments | about a week ago

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