An anonymous reader writes in with news about money and politics that is sure to shock no one."It's no surprise that Comcast donates money to members of Congress. Political connections come in handy for a company seeking government approval of mergers, like Comcast's 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal and its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC). But just how many politicians have accepted money from Comcast's political arm? In the case of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held the first congressional hearing on the Comcast/TWC merger yesterday, the answer is all of them."
curtwoodward (2147628) writes "Entrepreneurs in Massachusetts say the state's legal enforcement of non-competition agreements hurts innovation — if you're going to get sued by Big Company X, you're probably not going to leave for a startup in the same industry. But those contracts have powerful supporters, including EMC, which is by far the state's largest tech company. Gov. Deval Patrick is finally picking a side in the debate by introducing his own bill to outlaw non-competes and adopt trade-secrets protections instead. Just one catch: he's a lame duck, and will be out of office in January."
sandbagger (654585) writes "Stop Stealing Photos is a resource in the pro photographer community for protecting consumers. How? By identifying wannabes who use images in their portfolios that they did not create. In this case, one 'photographer' built a massive social media presence, in many platforms including Linked In where he includes System Architecture in his skills. However, such advocacy web sites are very manual and often run by non-programmers. How can the tech community help consumers in protecting them from phoney on-line presences? Or is this vigilantism?"
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under George W. Bush, and defender of Bush-era (and onward) policies about surveillance by wiretapping and other means, has landed at an interesting place: she's just become a part of the small board at Dropbox. TechDirt calls the appointment "tone deaf," and writes "At a time when people around the globe are increasingly worried about American tech firms having too close a connection to the intelligence community, a move like this seems like a huge public relations disaster. While Rice may be perfectly qualified to hold the role and to help Dropbox with the issues it needs help with, it's hard not to believe that there would be others with less baggage who could handle the job just as well." Some people are doing more than looking for an alternative for themselves, too, as a result.
An anonymous reader writes "This article makes the case that most gamers treat 'free-to-play' games with derision and scorn when they really shouldn't. The author refers to it as 'snobbery.' We've all either encountered or heard about a game company using shady business practices to squeeze every cent from their users through in-app purchases (a.k.a. microtransations, a.k.a. cash shops), or a simple pay-to-win format. But these stories don't represent all games — by a long shot. It's something endemic to shady developers and publishers, not the business model. Think about traditionally-sold games, and how often you've seen a trailer that horribly misrepresents gameplay. Or a $60 game that was an unfinished, buggy mess. Or a Kickstarted project that didn't deliver on its promises. The author says, 'When something is new, when it isn't aimed at you, when it is created by strange people in strange places, when it breaks established norms and when it is becoming hugely popular... it's scary for the establishment. The ethical critique is an easy way to fight these changes, a call to protect the children or protect the irrational people who obviously can't like these games on their own merits. We begin to sound as reactionary as the ban on pinball or the fears over jazz music corrupting the minds of our youth.'"
We recently had the chance to talk with internet rock star and former code monkey Jonathan Coulton. We asked him a number of your questions and a few of our own about music, technology, and copyright issues. Read below to see what he had to say.
theodp (442580) writes "While the rise and fall of Brendan Eich at Mozilla sparked a debate over how to properly strike a balance between an employee's political free speech and his employer's desire to communicate a particular corporate 'culture,' notes Brian Van Vleck at the California Workforce Resource Blog, the California Labor Code has already resolved this debate. 'Under California law,' Van Vleck explains, 'it is blatantly illegal to fire an employee because he has donated money to a political campaign. This rule is clearly set forth in Labor Code sections 1101-1102.' Section 1102 begins, 'No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.' Corporate Counsel's Marlisse Silver Sweeney adds, 'Mozilla is adamant that the board did not force Eich to resign, and asked him to stay on in another role. It also says that although some employees tweeted for his resignation, support for his leadership was expressed by a larger group of employees. And this is all a good thing for the company from a legal standpoint.' As Eich stepped down, Re/code reported that Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said Eich's ability to lead the company had been badly damaged by the continued scrutiny over the hot-button issue. 'It's clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,' Baker was quoted as saying. 'I think there has been pressure from all sides, of course, but this is Brendan's decision. Given the circumstances, this is not surprising.' Van Vleck offers these closing words of advice, 'To the extent employers want to follow in Mozilla's footsteps by policing their employees' politics in the interests of 'culture,' 'inclusiveness,' or corporate branding, they should be aware that their efforts will violate California law.'"
First time accepted submitter hackajar1 (1700328) writes "Is it a crime of opportunity or another page in the current chapter of Anti-Tech movement in San Francisco? Either way, the new crime trending in San Francisco invloves tipping Smart Cars on their side. While they only take 3 — 4 people to tip, this could just be kids simply having "fun" at the very expensive cost of car owners. Alternatively it could be part of a larger movement in San Francisco against anyone associated with HiTech, which is largely being blamed for neighborhood gentrification and rent spikes in recent years." This sounds like a story that would catch the ears of veteran reporter Roland Hedley.
v3rgEz (125380) writes "It sounds like a scare from 1970s Cold War propaganda or a subplot from the popular TV series "The Americans," but the FBI says the threat is real: Russian investment firms may be looking to steal high-tech intelligence from Boston-area companies to give to their country's military. Many of the firms under scrutiny are in the Boston area, including those partnered with a number of area biotech companies and with ties to MIT." And while the FBI says this could be happening, as the article points out, this pronouncement seems to be based on plausibility rather than specific incidents of such theft. One relevant excerpt: "The FBI warning comes as the Obama administration has increased pressure on Russia for its annexation of the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea by levying sanctions on some business leaders close to President Vladimir Putin. In March, the US Commerce Department banned new licenses for the export to Russia of defense-related products and “dual-use” technologies that could have military applications."
An anonymous reader writes "On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's bulk acquisition and storage of phone record metadata. The petition (PDF) for a Supreme Court ruling was submitted as a result of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon staying his ruling (PDF), pending an appeal, in a suit in which he concluded that collection of phone metadata without probable cause violated the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiffs had bypassed the federal appeals court and applied directly to the high court, given Judge Leon's admission that the case had significant national security interests at stake. The Supreme Court's decision not to rule on the case means that an appeal will need to be submitted to the federal appeals court as per protocol, but there is speculation that the mass surveillance issue will likely be addressed in the legislative and executive branches of government before the judicial branch weighs in. The provision allowing the bulk collection, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, expires June 1, 2015.'"
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "When it comes to military tech, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) usually makes the headlines with its gadgets, gizmos, and kickass robots. It's a prolific supporter of robo-defence projects, from Boston Dynamics' Cheetah and its cousin Big Dog to autonomous hands and unsteady humanoids. But the latest piece of military robot news comes from across the Atlantic at the UK's Ministry of Defence, which has unveiled an animatronic man to test suits and equipment for the British armed forces. 'Porton Man' looks pretty impressively modern and human-like until you realise he's stuck to a clunky external frame that moves his limbs like a puppet. But hey, at least he's not stumbling through steps at a snail's pace before inevitably crashing to the ground, like DARPA's cyborg hopefuls. The frame lets Porton Man run, walk (sorry, 'march'), sit, and kneel in mid-air, to mimic the common movements of a human soldier. He can also hold his arms up as if sighting a weapon."
Bennett Haselton writes "What advice would you give someone who just bought a new laptop? What would you tell someone about how to secure their webserver against attacks? For that matter, how would you tell someone to prepare for their first year at Burning Man? I submit that the metric by which we usually judge tech advice, and advice in general, is fundamentally flawed, and has bred much of the unhelpful tech advice out there." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
An anonymous reader links to this editorial at Ars Technica which argues that "As chief executive, Obama has the power to reform the NSA on his own with the stroke of a pen. By not putting this initiative into an executive order, he punted to Congress on an issue that affects the civil liberties of most anybody who picks up a phone. Every day Congress waits on the issue is another day Americans' calling records are being collected by the government without suspicion that any crime was committed. 'He does not need congressional approval for this,' said Mark Jaycoxx, an Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney."
theodp (442580) writes "As Facebook and Google battle to bring the Internet to remote locations, Alicia Levine takes an interesting look at the dual strategy of Zero Rating and Consolidated Use employed by Google's FreeZone and Facebook's 0.facebook.com, websites which offer free access to certain Google and Facebook services via partnerships with mobile operators around the world. By reducing the cost to the user to zero, Levine explains, the tech giants not only get the chance to capture billions of new eyeballs to view ads in emerging markets, they also get the chance to effectively become "The Internet" in those markets. "If I told you that Facebook's strategy was to become the next Prodigy or AOL, you'd take me for crazy," writes Levine. "But, to a certain degree, that's exactly what they're trying to do. In places where zero-rating for Facebook or Google is the key to accessing the Internet, they are the Internet. And people have started to do every normal activity we would do on the Internet through those two portals because it costs them zero. This is consolidated use. If Facebook is my free pass to the Internet, I'm going to try to do every activity possible via Facebook so that it's free." The race to zero presents more than just a business opportunity, adds Levine — it also presents a chance for tech companies to improve lives. And if Google and Facebook fall short on that count, well, at least there's still Wikipedia Zero."
theodp (442580) writes "Over the years, Mozilla's reliance on Google has continued to grow. Indeed, in its report on Brendan Eich's promotion to CEO of Mozilla, the WSJ noted that "Google accounted for nearly 90% of Mozilla's $311 million in revenue." So, with its Sugar Daddy having also gone on record as being virulently opposed to Proposition 8, to think that that Google's support didn't enter into discussions of whether Prop 8 backer Eich should stay or go seems, well, pretty much unthinkable. "It is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8," explained Google co-founder Sergey Brin in 2008. "We should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love." Interestingly, breaking the news of Eich's resignation was journalist Kara Swisher, whose right to marry a top Google exec in 2008 was nearly eliminated by Prop 8. "In an interview this morning," wrote Swisher, "Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said that Eich's ability to lead the company that makes the Firefox Web browser had been badly damaged by the continued scrutiny over the hot-button issue, which had actually been known since 2012 inside the Mozilla community." Swisher, whose article was cited by the NY Times in The Campaign Against Mozilla's Brendan Eich, added that "it was not hard to get the sense that Eich really wanted to stick strongly by his views about gay marriage, which run counter to much of the tech industry and, increasingly, the general population in the U.S. For example, he repeatedly declined to answer when asked if he would donate to a similar initiative today." So, was keeping Eich aboard viewed by Mozilla — perhaps even by Eich himself — as a possible threat to the reported $1 billion minimum revenue guarantee the organization enjoys for delivering search queries for Google?"
An anonymous reader writes: "Android has a huge market share advantage over iOS these days, but it hasn't had as much success at following the money. iOS continues to win over many app developers and businesses who want to maximize their earnings. Now, an article at Slate goes over some of the statistics demonstrating this trend. A map of geo-located Tweets show that in Manhattan, a generally affluent area, most of the Tweets come from iPhones. Meanwhile, in nearby Newark, which is a poorer area, most Tweets come from Android devices. In other tests, traffic data shows 87% of visits to e-commerce websites from tablets come from iPads, and the average value of an order from an iPad is $155, compared to $110 from Android tablets. (Android fairs a bit better on phones). Android shows a huge market share advantage in poorer countries, as well. Not all devs and business are just chasing the money, though. Twitter developer Cennydd Bowles said, 'I do hope, given tech's rhetoric about changing the world and disrupting outdated hierarchies, that we don't really think only those with revenue potential are worth our attention. A designer has a duty to be empathetic; to understand and embrace people not like him/herself. A group owning different devices to the design elite is not a valid reason to neglect their needs.'"
PaisteUser (810863) writes with news about a new, hyper-accurate atomic clock unveiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "A new atomic clock, so accurate it will lose or gain only one second every 300 million years, was unveiled Thursday by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NIST-F2 had been in development for about a decade and is three times more accurate than the F1, which has been in use since 1999. The institute will continue operating both clocks for now at its campus in Boulder, Colorado."
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Just the other day we read about how the Department of Transportation will require all manufacturers to include rearview cameras on all new cars produced after May 1, 2018. But there's something else auto manufacturers are pushing for, the ability to replace sideview mirrors with cameras in 2018. Tesla in particular is pushing for this to happen as traditional mirrors are bulky, and not very aerodynamic. That lump of plastic can cause surprising amounts of drag on an otherwise smooth car body. Camera units are much smaller and can be made streamlined, or even mounted nearly flush with the body, thus reducing aerodynamic drag. The idea has been around since the 1990s, and many concept cars have used cameras instead of sideview mirrors for years. But how will NHTSA respond? Is it finally time to ditch the sideview mirror?"
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Hitting that red light sucks. We've all been there, and you know what I'm talking about. But what if your car could tell you the ideal speed to maintain to hit the next green light? That's exactly what's going to happen in the near future thanks to car-to-car technology. Many automakers are already working on this new tech, and Honda's the latest to trial such systems. This is all part of what's known as Universal Traffic Management System which will eventually provide feedback on car-to-car and infrastructure systems before they go into practical use. The system will also be able to tell the driver if a red light is likely to show before reaching an intersection so the driver can slow down, or notify the driver when that red light will turn green. All of this may seem like something that's supposed to benefit the driver's temper, but in reality it's to help save fuel and lower emissions without any physical changes to the car. This is the future, and your vehicle will talk to other vehicles whether you like it or not."
theodp writes: "On the day the U.S. began accepting H-1B visa applications for FY2015, Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC stepped up its lobbying efforts for more tech visas even as ComputerWorld reported that the major share of H-1B visas go to offshore outsourcing firms that use visa holders to displace U.S. workers. 'The two largest H-1B users,' notes ComputerWorld, 'are Indian-based, Infosys, with 6,298 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with 6,258.' ComputerWorld adds that food and agricultural company Cargill is outsourcing IT jobs to TCS, including 300 in Minnesota, the home of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, sponsor of the I-Squared Act of 2013, which would allow H-1B visa caps to rise to 300,000 annually."