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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Wikipedia

Wikipedia's "Complicated" Relationship With Net Neutrality 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the playing-favorites dept.
HughPickens.com writes Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post that Wikipedia has been a little hesitant to weigh in on net neutrality, the idea that all Web traffic should be treated equally by Internet service providers such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable. That's because the folks behind Wikipedia actually see a non-neutral Internet as one way to spread information cheaply to users in developing countries. With Wikipedia Zero, users in places like Pakistan and Malaysia can browse the site without it counting it counting against the data caps on their cellphones or tablets. This preferential treatment for Wikipedia's site helps those who can't afford to pay for pricey data — but it sets the precedent for deals that cut against the net neutrality principle. "We believe in net neutrality in America," says Gayle Karen Young adding that Wikipedia Zero requires a different perspective elsewhere. "Partnering with telecom companies in the near term, it blurs the net neutrality line in those areas. It fulfills our overall mission, though, which is providing free knowledge."

Facebook and Google also operate programs internationally that are exempted from users' data caps — a tactic known somewhat cryptically as "zero rating". Facebook in particular has made "Facebook Zero" not just a sales pitch in developing markets but also part of an Internet.org initiative to expand access "to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn't have it." But a surprising decision in Chile shows what happens when policies of neutrality are applied without nuance. Chile recently put an end to the practice, widespread in developing countries, of big companies "zero-rating" access to their services. "That might seem perverse," says Glyn Moody, "since it means that Chilean mobile users must now pay to access those services, but it is nonetheless exactly what governments that have mandated net neutrality need to do."
Education

UK Announces Hybrid Work/Study Undergraduate Program To Fill Digital Gap 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-a-job dept.
An anonymous reader writes The UK's Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey today revealed a new scheme where undergraduates will be able to avoid student fees and student loans by working for companies for three years whilst simultaneously undertaking academic studies with participating universities, resulting in a degree at the end of their successful involvement in the scheme. The British government will fund two-thirds of the cost of tuition and the host employer the remainder. The "Digital Apprenticeship" scheme will remunerate students at an unspecified level of pay, and though details are currently sketchy, is reported to obviate the need for student loans. The initiative is targeting the skills gap in the digital sector, particularly in the field of web-development and technical analysis.
The Almighty Buck

Was Microsoft Forced To Pay $136M In Back Taxes In China? 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
itwbennett writes China's state-controlled Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday that an unnamed international company was forced to pay 840 million yuan ($136 million) in back taxes, as part of a Chinese government crackdown on tax evasion. The Xinhua article simply referred to it as the "M company," describing it as a top 500 global firm headquartered in the U.S. that in 1995 set up a wholly owned foreign subsidiary in Beijing. The details match Microsoft's own background, and no other company obviously fits the bill. Xinhua added, that despite the company's strengths, its subsidiary in China had not been not making a profit, and posted a loss of over $2 billion during a six-year period.
Cloud

Clarificiation on the IP Address Security in Dropbox Case 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes A judge rules that a county has to turn over the IP addresses that were used to access a county mayor's Dropbox account, stating that there is no valid security-related reason why the IP addresses should be exempt from a public records request. I think the judge's conclusion about IP addresses was right, but the reasoning was flawed; here is a technically more correct argument that would have led to the same answer. Keep Reading to see what Bennett has to say about the case.
Medicine

Canada's Ebola Vaccine Nets Millions For Tiny US Biotech Firm 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-fun-and-games-until-somebody-loses-several-internal-organs dept.
Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes: Iowa-based NewLink Genetics has secured a US$50million deal with pharmaceutical giant Merck for the experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian government scientists. NewLink bought the exclusive commercial licensing rights to Canada's VSV-EBOV in 2010 with a milestone payment of just US$205,000. This is an interesting new twist in a story we've discussed previously, and which continues to draw media attention.
Sony

Sony To Offer Partial Refunds For PS Vita 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the step-up-for-your-slap-on-the-wrist dept.
mpicpp sends this report from the Houston Chronicle: "Hundreds of thousands of people who bought the handheld gaming console PlayStation Vita are in line for a partial refund from Sony because of questionable claims in its advertising. The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it had reached a settlement with Sony Computer Entertainment America, the U.S.-based arm of the PlayStation business, over advertising claims that the government contended were misleading.

As part of the proposed settlement, Sony will provide refunds to those who bought the PS Vita console before June 1, 2012. They'll be eligible for either a $25 cash or credit refund — or a $50 merchandise voucher from Sony. ... Among the claims challenged by the FTC: That the pocket-sized console would revolutionize gaming mobility by allowing consumers to play their PlayStation 3 games via "remote play" on the console anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, [and] that people could engage in "cross-platform" play by starting a game on a PlayStation 3, pausing it, and continuing the game with the PS Vita from where they left off. Not really true, the FTC said.
Supercomputing

NSF Commits $16M To Build Cloud-Based and Data-Intensive Supercomputers 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the petaflops-for-megabucks dept.
aarondubrow writes: As supercomputing becomes central to the work and progress of researchers in all fields, new kinds of computing resources and more inclusive modes of interaction are required. The National Science Foundation announced $16M in awards to support two new supercomputing acquisitions for the open science community. The systems — "Bridges" at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and "Jetstream," co-located at the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center — respond to the needs of the scientific computing community for more high-end, large-scale computing resources while helping to create a more inclusive computing environment for science and engineering. Reader 1sockchuck adds this article about why funding for the development of supercomputers is more important than ever: America's high-performance computing (HPC) community faces funding challenges and growing competition from China and other countries. At last week's SC14 conference, leading researchers focused on outlining the societal benefits of their work, and how it touches the daily lives of Americans. "When we talk at these conferences, we tend to talk to ourselves," said Wilf Pinfold, director of research and advanced technology development at Intel Federal. "We don't do a good job communicating the importance of what we do to a broader community." Why the focus on messaging? Funding for American supercomputing has been driven by the U.S. government, which is in a transition with implications for HPC funding. As ComputerWorld notes, climate change skeptic Ted Cruz is rumored to be in line to chair a Senate committee that oversees NASA and the NSF.
United Kingdom

New Snowden Docs Show GCHQ Paid Telcos For Cable Taps 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the hands-in-the-cookie-jar dept.
Advocatus Diaboli sends word of a new release of documents made available by Edward Snowden. The documents show British intelligence agency GCHQ had a deep partnership with telecommunications company Cable & Wireless (acquired later by Vodafone). The company allowed GCHQ to tap submarine cables around the world, and was paid millions of British pounds as compensation. The relationship was so extensive that a GCHQ employee was assigned to work full time at Cable & Wireless (referred to by the code name “Gerontic” in NSA documents) to manage cable-tap projects in February of 2009. By July of 2009, Cable & Wireless provided access to 29 out of the 63 cables on the list, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the data capacity available to surveillance programs. ... As of July of 2009, relationships with three telecom companies provided access to 592 10-gigabit-per-second pipes on the cables collectively and 69 10-gbps “egress” pipes through which data could be pulled back. The July 2009 documents included a shopping list for additional cable access—GCHQ sought to more than triple its reach, upping access to 1,693 10-gigabit connections and increasing egress capacity to 390. The documents revealed a much shorter list of "cables we do not currently have good access [to]."
Crime

Kim Dotcom Regrets Not Taking Copyright Law and MPAA "More Seriously" 142

Posted by timothy
from the equal-treatment-under-law dept.
concertina226 writes Kim Dotcom has spoken out about his long battle over copyright with the U.S. government and his regrets about the events that have led to his arrest ahead of his bail breach hearing on Thursday that could see him return to jail in New Zealand. "Would I have done things differently? Of course. My biggest regret is I didn't take the threat of the copyright law and the MPAA seriously enough," Dotcom said via live video link from his mansion in Auckland, New Zealand at the Unbound Digital conference in London on Tuesday. ... "We never for a minute thought that anyone would bring any criminal actions against us. We had in-house legal counsel, we had three outside firms working for us who reviewed our sites, and not once had any of them mentioned any form of legal risk, so I wish I had known that there was a risk."
Businesses

Researchers Say the Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist 429

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-like-a-healthcare-system-that-everyone-enjoys dept.
Beeftopia sends this excerpt from an article at BusinessWeek: "There’s no evidence of any way, shape, or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense," says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. "They may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV." ... The real issue, say Salzman and others, is the industry’s desire for lower-wage, more-exploitable guest workers, not a lack of available American staff. "It seems pretty clear that the industry just wants lower-cost labor," Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote in an e-mail. A 2011 review (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the H-1B visa program, which is what industry groups are lobbying to expand, had "fragmented and restricted" oversight that weakened its ostensible labor standards. "Many in the tech industry are using it for cheaper, indentured labor," says Rochester Institute of Technology public policy associate professor Ron Hira, an EPI research associate and co-author of the book Outsourcing America.
The Courts

Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting 1083

Posted by Soulskill
from the completely-non-controversial-topics dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A grand jury in Missouri has decided there is no probable cause to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. "A grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence. At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges." Government officials and Brown's family are urging calm in Ferguson after the contentious protests that followed Brown's death.
United States

DHS Set To Destroy "Einstein" Surveillance Records 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
schwit1 sends word that The Department of Homeland Security plans on disposing of all the records from a 3-year-long surveillance program without letting the public have access to them. The Department of Homeland Security is poised to ditch all records from a controversial network monitoring system called "Einstein" that are at least three years old, but not for security reasons. DHS reasons the files — which include data about traffic to government websites, agency network intrusions and general vulnerabilities — have no research significance. But some security experts say, to the contrary, DHS would be deleting a treasure chest of historical threat data. And privacy experts, who wish the metadata wasn't collected at all, say destroying it could eliminate evidence that the government wide surveillance system does not perform as intended. The National Archives and Records Administration has tentatively approved the disposal plan, pending a public comment period.
Government

Bidding In Government Auction of Airwaves Reaches $34 Billion 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-money-more-spectrums dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that the 2014 wireless spectrum license auction has surpassed $34 billion. "A government auction of airwaves for use in mobile broadband has blown through presale estimates, becoming the biggest auction in the Federal Communications Commission's history and signaling that wireless companies expect demand for Internet access by smartphones to continue to soar. And it's not over yet. Companies bid more than $34 billion as of Friday afternoon for six blocks of airwaves, totaling 65 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum, being sold by the F.C.C. That total is more than three times the $10.5 billion reserve price that the commission put on the sale, the first offering of previously unavailable airwaves in six years."
Earth

Prospects Rise For a 2015 UN Climate Deal, But Likely To Be Weak 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-little dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that a global climate deal seems to be on the horizon. "A global deal to combat climate change in 2015 looks more likely after promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures. Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12 to work on the accord due in Paris in a year's time, also spurred by new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas. After failure to agree a sweeping U.N. treaty at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the easier but less ambitious aim now is a deal made up of 'nationally determined' plans to help reverse a 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990."
Space

Spaceport America Loses $1.7 Million Due To Virgin Galactic Delays 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-the-bleeding dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Officials of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority were grilled by lawmakers about the now vacant Spaceport America following the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The spaceport was built as a hub for commercial space flights. Its immediate future is uncertain since Virgin Galactic has indefinitely pushed back the launch date of its space tourism flights. From the article: "Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned last week that she might have to do so one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs. Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. 'It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework,' Anderson said. 'That's not the case whatsoever.'"
Privacy

Judge Unseals 500+ Stingray Records 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Ars Technica: A judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, has unsealed a set of 529 court documents in hundreds of criminal cases detailing the use of a stingray, or cell-site simulator, by local police. This move, which took place earlier this week, marks a rare example of a court opening up a vast trove of applications made by police to a judge, who authorized each use of the powerful and potentially invasive device

According to the Charlotte Observer, the records seem to suggest that judges likely did not fully understand what they were authorizing. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have taken extraordinary steps to preserve stingray secrecy. As recently as this week, prosecutors in a Baltimore robbery case dropped key evidence that stemmed from stingray use rather than fully disclose how the device was used.
Encryption

Another Hint For Kryptos 50

Posted by timothy
from the it's-about-where-to-get-local-donuts dept.
rastos1 writes Four years ago Jim Sanborn, the sculptor who created the wavy metal pane called Kryptos that sits in front of the CIA in Langley revealed a clue for breaking the last remaining part of the encrypted message on Kryptos. The clue was: BERLIN. But the puzzle resisted all all decryption efforts and is still unsolved. To honor the 25th anniversary of the Wall's demise and the artist's 69th birthday this year, Sanborn has decided to reveal a new clue to help solve his iconic and enigmatic artwork. It's only the second hint he's released since the sculpture was unveiled in 1990 and may finally help unlock the fourth and final section of the encrypted sculpture, which frustrated sleuths have been struggling to crack for more than two decades. The next word in the sequence is: "clock."
EU

The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google 330

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-get-on-that-don't-be-evil-stuff-quick dept.
An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."
Privacy

Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-listened dept.
An anonymous reader sends this report from the Associated Press: "Dissenters within the National Security Agency, led by a senior agency executive, warned in 2009 that the program to secretly collect American phone records wasn't providing enough intelligence to justify the backlash it would cause if revealed, current and former intelligence officials say.

The NSA took the concerns seriously, and many senior officials shared them. But after an internal debate that has not been previously reported, NSA leaders, White House officials and key lawmakers opted to continue the collection and storage of American calling records, a domestic surveillance program without parallel in the agency's recent history.
Government

Obama's Immigration Order To Give Tech Industry Some, Leave 'Em Wanting More 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-gets-something-and-nobody-gets-everything dept.
theodp writes: "The high-tech industry," reports the Washington Post's Nancy Scola, "will have at least two things to be happy about in President Obama's speech outlining executive actions he'll take on immigration. The president plans to grant the tech industry some, but not nearly all, of what it has been after in the immigration debate. The first is aimed at increasing the opportunity for foreign students and recent graduates from U.S. schools to work in high-tech jobs in the United States. And the second is aimed at making it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States. According to the White House, Obama will direct the Department of Homeland Security to help students in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by proposing, per a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, to "expand and extend" the controversial Optional Practical Training program that now allows foreign-born STEM students and recent graduates remain in the United States for up to 29 months. The exact details of that expansion will be worked out by the Department of Homeland Security as it goes through a rulemaking process."

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