An anonymous reader writes "Toyota is on track to launch the first consumer fuel-cell car in Japan next year, and the country's Prime Minister says the government wants to assist the new alternative to gas-driven vehicles. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will offer subsidies of almost $20,000 for fuel cell cars, which will decrease the Toyota model's cost by about 28%. He said, "This is the car of a new era because it doesn't emit any carbon dioxide and it's environmentally friendly. The government needs to support this. Honda is also planning to release a fuel-cell car next year, but experts expect widespread adoption to take decades, since hydrogen fuel station infrastructure is still in its infancy."
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An anonymous reader writes: If digital currencies are fundamentally different than physical ones, why do they work in the same way? That's a question being asked by Couchbase co-founder J. Chris Anderson, who's building a currency and transaction system where reputation is the fundamental unit of value. "Unlike with bitcoin—which keeps its currency scarce by rewarding it only to those who participate in what amounts to a race to solve complex cryptographic puzzles—anyone will be able to create a new Document Coin anytime they want. The value of each coin will be completely subjective, depending on who creates the coin and why. 'For example, the coin my disco singer friend created and gave me at my barbeque might be what gets me past the rope at the club,' Anderson says. A coin minted by tech pundit Tim O'Reilly might be highly prized in Silicon Valley circles, but of little interest to musicians. 'It's a bit like a combination of a social network with baseball trading.'" Anderson isn't aiming to supplant Bitcoin, or even challenge the money-exchange model that drives society. But he's hoping it will change the way people think about currency, and open up new possibilities for how we interact with each other.
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news of a notoriously abused (basically "method of displaying images on a machine") software patent being declared invalid. From the article: The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. ... The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. ... In the opinion, a three-judge panel found that the device profile described in the patent is a "collection of intangible color and spatial information," not a machine or manufactured object. "Data in its ethereal, non-physical form is simply information that does not fall under any of the categories of eligible subject matter under section 101," wrote Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna on behalf of the panel.
savuporo sends word that a $10,000 bounty placed on hacking a Tesla Model S has been claimed by a team from Zhejiang University in China. The bounty itself was not issued by Tesla, but by Qihoo 360, a Chinese security company. "[The researchers] were able to gain remote control of the car's door locks, headlights, wipers, sunroof, and horn, Qihoo 360 said on its social networking Sina Weibo account. The security firm declined to reveal details at this point about how the hack was accomplished, although one report indicated that the hackers cracked the six-digit code for the Model S's mobile app.
mpicpp points out a report in the Chicago Tribune saying that thousands of the city's drivers have been wrongfully ticketed for red light violations because of "faulty equipment, human tinkering, or both." The Tribune's investigation uncovered the bogus tickets by analyzing the data from over 4 million tickets issued in the past seven years. Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal. Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets — 560 of them for rolling rights. Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued — downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records.
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).
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.
samzenpus (5) writes "Dr. Andy Chun is the CIO for the City University of Hong Kong, and is instrumental in transforming the school to be one of the most technology-progressive in the region. He serves as an adviser on many government boards including the Digital 21 Strategy Advisory Committee, which oversees Hong Kong's long-term information technology strategies. His research work on the use of Artificial Intelligence has been honored with numerous awards, and his AI system keeps the subway in Hong Kong running and repaired with an amazing 99.9% uptime. Dr. Chun has agreed to give us some of his time in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post."
An anonymous reader writes The much anticipated Xorg Server 1.16 release is now available. The X.Org "Marionberry Pie" release features XWayland integration, GLAMOR support, systemd support, and many other features. XWayland support allows for legacy X11 support in Wayland environments via GL acceleration, GLAMOR provides generic 2D acceleration, non-PCI GPU device improvements, and countless other changes. The systemd integration finally allows the X server to run without root privileges, something in the works for a very long time. The non-PCI device improvements mean System-on-a-Chip graphics will work more smoothly, auto-enumerating just like PCI graphics devices do. As covered previously, GLAMOR (the pure OpenGL acceleration backend) has seen quite a bit of improvement, and now works with Xephyr and XWayland.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes The idea of negative mass has fascinated scientists since it was first used in the 16th century to explain why metals gain weight when they are oxidized. Since then, theoretical physicists have shown how it could be used to create exotic objects such as wormholes and the Alcubierre warp drive. But cosmologists' attempts to include negative matter in any reasonable model of the cosmos have always run into trouble because negative mass violates the energy conditions required to make realistic universes with Einstein's theory of general relativity. Now a pair of cosmologists have found a way around this. By treating negative mass as a perfect fluid rather than a solid point-like object, they've shown that negative mass does not violate the energy conditions as had been thought, and so it must be allowed in our universe. That has important consequences. If positive and negative mass particles were created in the early universe, they would form a kind of plasma that absorbs gravitational waves. Having built a number of gravitational wave observatories that have to see a single gravitational wave, astronomers might soon need to explain the absence of observations. Negative mass would then come in extremely handy.
ectoman writes: Opensource.com is running an interview with Jennifer Davidson of ChickTech, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create communities of support for women and girls pursuing (or interested in pursuing) careers in tech. "In the United States, many girls are brought up to believe that 'girls can't do math' and that science and other 'geeky' topics are for boys," Davidson said. "We break down that idea." Portland, OR-based ChickTech is quickly expanding throughout the United States—to cities like Corvallis and San Francisco—thanks to the "ChickTech: High School" initiative, which gathers hundreds of young women for two-day workshops featuring open source technologies. "We fill a university engineering department with 100 high school girls—more girls than many engineering departments have ever seen," Davidson said. "The participants can look around the building and see that girls from all backgrounds are just as excited about tech as they are."
An anonymous reader writes: My niece, who is graduating from high school, has asked me for some career advice. Since I work in data processing, my first thought was to recommend a degree course in computer science or computer engineering. However, after reading books by Jeremy Rifkin (The Third Industrial Revolution) and Ray Kurzweil (How to Create a Mind), I now wonder whether a career in information technology is actually better than, say, becoming a lawyer or a construction worker. While the two authors differ in their political persuasions (Rifkin is a Green leftist and Kurzweil is a Libertarian transhumanist), both foresee an increasingly automated future where most of humanity would become either jobless or underemployed by the middle of the century. While robots take over the production of consumer hardware, Big Data algorithms like the ones used by Google and IBM appear to be displacing even white collar tech workers. How long before the only ones left on the payroll are the few "rockstar" programmers and administrators needed to maintain the system? Besides politics and drug dealing, what jobs are really future-proof? Would it be better if my niece took a course in the Arts, since creativity is looking to be one of humanity's final frontiers against the inevitable Rise of the Machines?
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Germany may be joining Russia in a paranoid switch from computers to typewriters for sensitive documents. From the article: Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliament's National Security Agency investigative committee, now says he's considering expanding the use of manual typewriters to carry out his group's work. ... Sensburg said that the committee is taking its operational security very seriously. "In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it's even a non-electronic typewriter," he said. If Sensburg's suggestion takes flight, the country would be taking a page out of the Russian playbook. Last year, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin announced that it wanted to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters as a way to avoid digital leaks.
An anonymous reader points out this story about the U.S. Justice Department's claim that companies served with valid warrants for data must produce that data even if the data is not stored in the U.S. Global governments, the tech sector, and scholars are closely following a legal flap in which the US Justice Department claims that Microsoft must hand over e-mail stored in Dublin, Ireland. In essence, President Barack Obama's administration claims that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas. It's a position Microsoft and companies like Apple say is wrong, arguing that the enforcement of US law stops at the border. A magistrate judge has already sided with the government's position, ruling in April that "the basic principle that an entity lawfully obligated to produce information must do so regardless of the location of that information." Microsoft appealed to a federal judge, and the case is set to be heard on July 31.
samzenpus (5) writes "The deadline for the FCC's public comment period on their proposed net neutrality rule is coming up fast. The final day to let the FCC know what you think is tomorrow, July 15. A total of 647,000 comments have already been sent. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and other tech companies are making a final push for net neutrality saying that the FCC decision, "shifts the balance from the consumers' freedom of choice to the broadband Internet access providers' gatekeeping decisions." The Consumerist has a guide to help you through the comment process, so make sure your voice is heard."
Last week you had a chance to ask the Associate Chair of Research in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida, Juan Gilbert, about the Human Centered Computing Lab, accessibility issues in technology, and electronic voting. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
mpicpp Points out this story about Seattle City Light's anger over negative search results and its inability to get them removed. Seattle's publicly-owned electrical utility, City Light, is now demanding a refund for the $17,500 that it paid to Brand.com in a botched effort to boost the online reputation of its highly-paid chief executive, Jorge Carrasco. Brand.com "enhances online branding and clears negatives by blanketing search results with positive content" in an attempt to counteract unwanted search engine results. City Light signed a contract with the company in October 2013 and extended it in February 2014. The contracts authorized payments of up to $47,500. Hamilton said that he first raised the issue of the utility's online reputation when he was interviewing for the chief of staff job in early 2013. "All I saw were negative stories about storms, outages and pay increases and I raised it as a concern during that interview," he said. "And then after I started, [CEO Jorge Carrasco] and I discussed what we could do to more accurately represent the utility and what the utility is all about, because we didn't feel it was well represented online." Thus, the Brand.com contract. City Light says that it only ever thought Brand.com would help it place legitimate material in legitimate outlets—talking up some of the positive changes that have taken place at City Light during Carrasco's tenure. Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts.
Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.
Watches that do more than tell the time have been around for a long time. (And in fiction, James Bond, Dick Tracey, and Michael Knight all had notably high-tech watches.) The new smart watches from Samsung and LG, without a phone connected via Bluetooth as backhaul, can still serve to show the time and to serve as alarms (and Samsung's can measure your pulse, too), but all the magic features (like searching by voice via the watch) do require a connection. They can't play MP3s or take pictures on their own, and they don't have built-in GPS. Even so, compared to the polarizing Google Glass, the new breed of smart watches are wearables that probably are an easier sell, even if this far the trend has been to replace watches with smart phones. (Android Wear has gotten a lot of attention, but Microsoft has their own upcoming, and Apple almost certainly does, too.) Are you interested in a smart watch, and if so, what uses do you want it for? If they have no appeal to you now, are there functions that would make you change your mind on that front?
Forbes reports that Lyft's planned expansion into the New York market has been delayed by a restraining order. The article explains that State officials had asked Lyft to delay its launch. When Lyft refused, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office filed a temporary restraining order against the startup Friday morning to prevent its launch. Other statements said that the restraining order had been granted, though Simpson said that was untrue. Lyft and officials will reconvene in court Monday for a hearing. Lyft will not launch until it has reached an agreement with the city, Simpson said. Since Monday, when Lyft announced it was planning to launch in the two boroughs [of Queens and Brooklyn], the app has faced criticism from city officials. The taxi and limousine commission declared the app 'unauthorized' and said its riders were at risk and its drivers could be cited and fined if they were caught using it. Lyft seems to have left riders mostly unscathed in Boston, where it's been operating since early last year, and in numerous other cities. Also at Ars Technica.