theodp writes "Explaining that it believes 'the most important questions are the ones that will come from the MIT community,' MIT announced that it won't be accepting questions from outsiders for its President-ordered 'review' of the events that preceded the suicide of Aaron Swartz. But if you feel the 25 questions asked thus far don't cover all the bases, how about posting additional ones in the comments where MIT'ers can see them and perhaps repost to the MIT site some that they feel deserve answers? Do it soon — MIT President Rafael Reif will be returning any day now from Davos, where he sat on a panel with Bill Gates, who coincidentally once found himself in hot water over unauthorized computer access. 'They weren't sure how mad they should be about it,' Gates explained in a 2010 interview, 'because we hadn't really caused any damage, but it wasn't a good thing. Computer hacking was literally just being invented at the time, and so fortunately we got off with a bit of a warning.'" Related: text has been published of public domain advocate Carl Malamud's remarks at Swartz's memorial. Quoting: "Aaron wasn't a lone wolf, he was part of an army, and I had the honor of serving with him for a decade. Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations."
Tyketto writes "Referencing a decision outlined in the Federal Register, Tech News Daily has published an article noting that the window to unlock your new mobile phone in the U.S. is closing. 'In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the library provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.' While this doesn't apply to phones purchased before the window closes, this means that after 1/26/13, for any new mobile phone you purchase, you'll have to fulfill your contract, or break the law to unlock it." It will still be perfectly legal to purchase an unlocked phone, which many carriers offer. This change removes the exemption for buying a new phone under contract (and thus, at a discount) and then unlocking it.
waderoush writes "Engineers and hackers don't think much about tax policy, but there's a bizarre development in California that they should know about, since it could reduce the pool of angel-investment money available for tech startups. Under a tax break available since the 1990s, startup founders and other investors in California were allowed to exclude or defer their gains when they sold stock in California-based small businesses. Last year, a California appeals court ruled that the tax break was unconstitutional, since it discriminated against investors in out-of-state companies. Now the Franchise Tax Board, California's version of the IRS, has issued a notice saying how it intends to implement the ruling — and it's a doozie. Not only is the tax break gone, but anyone who claimed an exclusion or deferral on the sale of small-business stock since 2008 is about to get a big retroactive tax bill. Investors, entrepreneurs, and even the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit are up in arms about the FTB's notice, saying that it goes beyond the court's intent and that it will drive investors out of the state. This Xconomy article takes an in-depth look at the history of the court case, the FTB's ruling, and the reaction in the technology and investing communities."
Orome1 writes "Barracuda Networks has released firmware updates that remove SSH backdoors in a number of their products and resolve a vulnerability in Barracuda SSL VPN that allows attackers to bypass access restrictions to download potentially insecure files, set new admins passwords, or even shut down the device. The backdoor accounts are present on in all available versions of Barracuda Spam and Virus Firewall, Web Filter, Message Archiver, Web Application Firewall, Link Balancer, Load Balancer, and SSL VPN appliances." Here's Barracuda's tech note about the exploitable holes.
Virtucon writes "Ars technica has an interesting article on how Google is handling requests from law enforcement for access to Gmail accounts. With the recent Petraeus scandal where no criminal conduct was found, it seems that they're re-enforcing their policies and standing up for their users. 'In order to compel us to produce content in Gmail we require an ECPA search warrant,' said Chris Gaither, Google spokesperson. 'If they come for registration information, that's one thing, but if they ask for content of email that's another thing.'"
Un pobre guey writes "'To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.' Their findings: Technology has consistently reduced the number of manufacturing jobs for 30 years; people with repetitive jobs have been easy to replace in the past, and task jugglers like managers and supervisors will be likely targets in the future; companies in the S&P 500 have expanded their business and increased profits, but reduced staffing, thanks to tech; and startups are launching much more easily these days. The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes. But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"
theodp writes "There's a funny thing about the estimated $1.7 trillion that American companies say they have indefinitely invested overseas,' reports the WSJ's Kate Linebaugh (reg. or the old Google trick). 'A lot of it is actually sitting right here at home.' And if tech companies like Google and Microsoft want to keep more than three-quarters of the cash owned by their foreign subsidiaries at U.S. banks, held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities, Linebaugh explains, this money is still overseas in the eyes of the IRS and isn't taxed as long as it doesn't flow back to the U.S. parent company. Helping corporations avoid the need to tap their foreign-held cash are low interest rates at home, which have allowed U.S. companies to borrow cheaply. Oracle, for instance, raised $5 billion last year, paying an interest rate roughly two-thirds of a percentage point above the low post-crash Treasury yield, about 2.5% at the time (by contrast, grad students and parents pay 6.8%-7.9% for Federal student loans). Were the funds it manages to keep in the hands of its foreign subsidiaries brought home and subjected to U.S. income tax, Oracle estimated it could owe Uncle Sam about $6.3 billion."
An anonymous reader writes with more news about the no-poach agreements that seemed to plague tech companies. From the article: "Steve Jobs threatened patent litigation if Palm wouldn't agree to stop hiring Apple employees, says former Palm CEO Edward Colligan in a statement dated August 7th, 2012. The allegation is backed up by a trove of recently-released evidence that shows just how deeply Silicon Valley's no-hire agreements pervaded in the mid-2000s. Apple, Google, Intel, and others are the focus of a civil lawsuit into the 'gentleman's agreements,' in which affected employees are fighting for class action status and damages from resulting lost wages, potentially reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars."
Velcroman1 writes "At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Netflix announced Super HD, an immersive theatrical video format that looks more lifelike than any Web stream, even competing with Blu-Ray discs. But there's a costly catch. To watch the high-definition, 1080p movies when they debut later this year, you'll need a specific Internet Service Provider. Those on Cablevision or Google Fiber are in; those served by Time Warner or a host of smaller providers will be out of luck. But regardless of whether you subscribe to Netflix, you may end up paying for it, said Fred Campbell, a former FCC legal adviser who now heads The Communications Liberty & Innovation Project think tank. 'Instead of raising the price of its own service to cover the additional costs, Netflix wants to offload its additional costs onto all Internet consumers,' Campbell said. 'That's good for Netflix and bad for everyone else in the Internet economy.'"
An anonymous reader writes "There's a battle brewing amongst Obama's election team. The political folks want to keep the get out the vote code closed source so republicans never get access to it, but the programmers want it open sourced so it can be improved upon. 'In this sense, the decision to mothball the tech would be a violation of the developers’ ethical principles. But the argument is about more than whether putting the tech back in the hands of the public is the right thing to do. "The biggest issue we saw with all of the commercial election software we used was that it’s only updated every four years," says Ryan. It was these outdated options that convinced team Obama to build all the campaign tech in-house. If the code OFA built was put on ice at the DNC until 2016, it would become effectively worthless. "None of that will be useful in four years, technology moves too fast," said Ryan. "But if our work was open and people were forking it and improving it all the time, then it keeps up with changes as we go."'"
Bennett Haselton writes "Here are three hacks that I adopted in the last few weeks, each of which solved a minor problem that I had lived with for so long that I no longer thought of it as a problem — until a solution came along, which was like a small weight off my shoulders. None of these hacks will help impress anyone with your technical prowess; I'm just putting them here because they made my life easier." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
CowboyRobot writes "In 25 years, an odd thing will happen to some of the no doubt very large number of computing devices in our world: an old, well-known and well-understood bug will cause their calculation of time to fail. The problem springs from the use of a 32-bit signed integer to store a time value, as a number of seconds since 00:00:00 UTC on Thursday, 1 January 1970, a practice begun in early UNIX systems with the standard C library data structure time_t. On January 19, 2038, at 03:14:08 UTC that integer will overflow. It's not difficult to come up with cases where the problem could be real today. Imagine a mortgage amortization program projecting payments out into the future for a 30-year mortgage. Or imagine those phony programs politicians use to project government expenditures, or demographic software, and so on. It's too early for panic, but those of us in the early parts of their careers will be the ones who have to deal with the problem."
elashish14 writes "A new survey commissioned by Google suggests that music listeners who utilize P2P filesharing services buy 30% more music than non-sharers. The survey also probed users' opinions on enforcement practices. Users were strongly against either throttling or disconnecting users' internet services, but the majority suggested also that search engines should block access. 52% of Americans also said that downloading infringing content should be a punishable offense."
First time accepted submitter ggrocca writes "Using human mucus as a testbed for how well influenza virus thrives in different humidity conditions, researchers at Virginia Tech found that the virus survived best if humidity is below 50%, a typical indoor situation during the winter in temperate climates due to artificial heating. The virus begins to find itself at home again only when humidity reaches almost 100%. Unsurprisingly, the latter finding explains flu spikes during rainy season in tropical climates. Full paper on PLOS ONE."
An anonymous reader writes "Several groups are currently working on specifications for plugin-free, real-time audio and video communication. The World Wide Web Consortium has one called WebRTC, rudimentary support for which is found in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Back in August, Microsoft announced its own specification, CU-RTC-Web, because it thought WebRTC wasn't worthwhile. W3C carried out a vote to choose between the two specs, which came out strongly in favor of WebRTC. Microsoft went ahead anyway, and it has now published a prototype for the proposed specification. 'So what's Microsoft playing at, persevering with its own spec in spite of its rejection by the WebRTC group? The company's argument is twofold. First, WebRTC simply isn't complete yet, and Microsoft believes that working on its proposal can shed light on how to solve certain problems such as handling changes in network bandwidth or keeping cellular and Wi-Fi connections open in parallel to allow easy failover from one to the other. Even if Redmond's spec isn't adopted wholesale, portions of it may still be useful. Second, the company believes that WebRTC may not be as close to real standardization as its proponents might argue.'"