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Christmas Cheer

Goodbye, Alek's Internet-Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research 11

Posted by timothy
from the ho-ho-ho-and-a-merry-old-hoax-except-it's-real-these-days dept.
Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.

Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.
The Courts

Judge: It's OK For Cops To Create Fake Instagram Accounts 198

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-ip-address dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a ruling that seems obvious in a case about police making a fake Instagram account. A federal judge in New Jersey has signed off on the practice of law enforcement using a fake Instagram account in order to become "friends" with a suspect — thus obtaining photos and other information that a person posts to their account. "No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information," United States District Judge William Martini wrote in an opinion published last Tuesday. In other news, an undercover officer still doesn't need to tell you that he or she is a member of law enforcement if you ask.
Crime

Bitcoin Exec To Spend Two Years Behind Bars For Silk Road Transactions 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
mrspoonsi writes Charlie Shrem, former Bitcoin Foundation board member and CEO of the now-defunct exchange BitInstant, has been sentenced to two years in prison for helping Silk Road users anonymously swap cash for digital currency. Silk Road, as you know, was the online marketplace infamous for hosting anonymous drug and gun sales that was busted by the FBI back in 2013. A version 2.0 went up shortly after that, but it suffered the same fate as its predecessor this November. Based on evidence gathered during the crackdown, Shrem agreed to partner with Robert M. Faiella to trade over $1 million in cash from buyers. Faiella was the one with direct contact to buyers, hiding behind the name BTCKing to post ads promoting his dollar-to-Bitcoin business on the marketplace.
ISS

NASA 'Emails' a Socket Wrench To the ISS 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the hardware-as-a-service dept.
HughPickens.com writes: "Sarah LeTrent reports at CNN that NASA just emailed the design of a socket wrench to astronauts so that they could print it out in the orbit. The ratcheting socket wrench was the first "uplink tool" printed in space, according to Grant Lowery, marketing and communications manager for Made In Space, which built the printer in partnership with NASA. The tool was designed on the ground, emailed to the space station and then manufactured where it took four hours to print out the finished product. The space agency hopes to one day use the technology to make parts for broken equipment in space and long-term missions would benefit greatly from onboard manufacturing capabilities. "I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission," recalls NASA astronaut TJ Creamer, who flew aboard the space station during Expedition 22/23 from December 2009 to June 2010. "I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one. Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it."
Transportation

Study: Red Light Cameras Don't Improve Safety 262

Posted by Soulskill
from the automated-law-enforcement dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica summaries a study by the Chicago Tribune (paywalled) that found red light cameras do not improve driver safety. "[W]hile right angle crash incidents have been reduced, rear-end crashes that resulted in injuries went up 22 percent." Chicago officials recently claimed that the cameras led to a 47% reduction "T-bone" injury crashes, using that statistic as evidence that the program is worthwhile. But the study's authors, who "accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent."

They also noted that the city chose to install many cameras at intersections where crashes were rare to begin with. Chicago has raised roughly $500 million from red light camera tickets since 2002. "[O]fficials recently admitted to the city inspector general that they had quietly dropped the threshold for what constitutes a red light camera ticket, allowing the tickets even when cameras showed a yellow light time just under the three-second federal minimum standard. That shift earlier this year snared 77,000 more drivers and $7.7 million in ticket revenue before the city agreed to change the threshold back.
Crime

65,000 Complaints Later, Microsoft Files Suit Against Tech Support Scammers 238

Posted by timothy
from the not-enough-acid-in-the-world dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Tech support scammers have been around for a long time and are familiar to most Slashdot readers. But last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had issued lawsuits against several culprits responsible for tech support scams. Now Microsoft has announced that it too is going after tech support scammers. According to the company, more than 65,000 complaints have been made about tech support scams since May of this year alone. Bogus technicians, pretending to represent Microsoft, call the house offering fake tech support and trick people into paying hundreds of dollars to solve a non-existent issue. If successful in their ruse, the scammer then gains access to a person's computer, which lets them steal personal and financial information and even install malware. I managed to keep one of these guys on the phone for about 20 minutes while I stumbled through his directions, over and over, "rebooting," pretending to be using Windows, etc; the next one caught on my quickly. Have they called you? If so, how did the call go?
Transportation

Tesla About To Start Battery-Swap Pilot Program 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-free-of-charge dept.
cartechboy writes: Remember 18 months ago when Tesla promised it was going to launch battery-swap stations? Well, it's finally happening, sort of. It seems Tesla's about to announce a battery-swap pilot program that will launch next week. The swap site will be located across the street from a Tesla Supercharger site in Harris Ranch, California — 184 miles south of San Francisco and about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. The pilot program will involve an unspecified number of Model S electric-car owners, who will be invited to take part in the test. For now, the battery-swap service will be offered by appointment only, at a cost of roughly a tank of gas in a premium sedan. Tesla's using words to describe this pilot program like "exploratory work" and "intended to test technology and assess demand" for a swapping service. While originally pitched that the battery swap would take less time than it would to take to refill the gas tank of a comparable luxury sedan, the company says now that "for this specific iteration" the swap process will take "approximately 3 minutes" — though it adds Tesla has "the ability to improve that time with future iterations." Is this test going to show that battery swapping is or isn't a realistic initiative?
Piracy

Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version of the Pirate Bay 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-all-spartacus dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.
Space

India Successfully Test Fires Its Heaviest Rocket 56

Posted by timothy
from the might-roar dept.
vasanth (908280) writes India on Thursday moved forward in rocket technology with the successful flight testing of its heaviest next generation rocket and the crew module . The 630-tonne three-stage rocket, Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, carried active solid boosters, liquid core stage and a passive cryo stage and a crew module to test its re-entry characteristics. This rocket is capable of doubling the capacity of payloads India can carry into space and it can deposit up to four tonne class of communication satellites into space. India also plans to use this rocket for ferrying Indian astronauts into space. For India, ISRO (the Indian space agency) perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial as India can save precious foreign exchange by launching heavy duty communication satellites by itself.
Crime

Councilmen Introduce Bills Strongly Regulating UAV Use in NYC 68

Posted by timothy
from the man-vs-the-state dept.
SternisheFan passes on this excerpt from an Ars Technica article: On Wednesday Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced a bill to the New York City council seeking to ban all use of drones except those operated by police officers who obtain warrants. A second, parallel bill introduced by councilman Paul Vallone would place more stringent restrictions on drone use but stop short of banning drones for hobbyists and companies altogether. Both bills have been passed to the city's committee on public safety. An all-out ban on drones within the metropolis would be a quite wide-reaching step, especially as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) seems poised to adopt more permissive rules, with respect to commercial interests in particular. Earlier this year, the FAA formally granted six Hollywood companies exemptions to drone ban rules. A couple of months later, the FAA granted similar exemptions for construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections. The article explains that Vallone's bill is less restrictive, and rather than propose an outright ban "lists 10 instances where operating a UAV would be illegal, including at night, out of the operator's eyesight, or above 400 ft high. Outside of those conditions, hobbyists and commercial interests would be free to fly drones."
The Military

Navy Develops a Shark Drone For Surveillance 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the head-lasers-not-included dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Navy is testing a new underwater drone called GhostSwimmer, which is designed to a look like a shark and conduct surveillance work. It is being adapted by the chief of naval operations' Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) project, Silent NEMO, in Norfolk, Va.. GhostSwimmer is 5 feet long and weighs almost 100 pounds. It can operate in water depths from 10 inches to 300 feet, and is designed to operate autonomously for long periods of time, according to the Navy.
Privacy

Microsoft Gets Industry Support Against US Search Of Data In Ireland 137

Posted by timothy
from the encrypt-what-you-must dept.
An anonymous reader writes Tech giants such as Apple and eBay have given their support in Microsoft's legal battle against the U.S. government regarding the handing over of data stored in an Irish datacenter. In connection with a 2014 drugs investigation, U.S. prosecutors issued a warrant for emails stored by Microsoft in Ireland. The firm refused to hand over the information, but in July was ordered by a judge to comply with the investigation. Microsoft has today filed a collection of letters from industry supporters, such as Apple, eBay, Cisco, Amazon, HP, and Verizon. Trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Digital Rights Ireland have also expressed their support.
Communications

Skype Unveils Preview of Live English-To-Spanish Translator 99

Posted by timothy
from the stick-this-in-your-ear dept.
mpicpp writes that Microsoft, after demoing the technology back in May, is giving some real-world exposure to its Skype-based translation. The Skype preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device. Skype asked two schools to try Skype Translator – Peterson School in Mexico City, and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, USA – playing a game of 'Mystery Skype' in which the children ask questions to determine the location of the other school. One classroom of children speaking Spanish and the other speaking English, Skype Translator removed this language barrier and enabled them to communicate.
Transportation

Jaguar and Land Rover Just Created Transparent Pillars For Cars 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the wide-angle-view dept.
cartechboy writes We've all been there, driving down a city street and we miss that pedestrian or bicycle because they are in our blind spot. Not the blind spot behind us, but covered up by the A-pillar on your vehicle. This is a growing concern as pillars and cars in general bulk up to meet new, ever stricter safety standards. Now Jaguar and Land Rover might have come up with a solution that eliminates the risk: transparent pillars. Imagine having zero blinds spots as you pull up to that intersection. No concerns about not seeing something or someone that's hidden by that large A-pillar. The technology is called 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen and it provides a 360-degree view out of the vehicle. How does it work? Essentially, a screen embedded in the surface of each pillar inside the car relays a live video feed from cameras covering the angles outside the car. To avoid overloading the driver the screens are off in default mode, and are only activated automatically when the driver uses a turn signal or checks over their head to switch lanes. While there's zero mention of when this tech will go into production, it's clear, this is the future and it's crazy.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon UK Glitch Sells Thousands of Products For a Penny 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-discount-ever dept.
An anonymous reader writes For about an hour on Friday a few lucky Amazon UK shoppers were able to take advantage of a price glitch which discounted thousands of marketplace products to the price of 1p. An Amazon spokesman said: "We are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrect prices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on Amazon.co.uk. We responded quickly and were able to cancel the vast majority of orders placed on these affected items immediately and no costs or fees will be incurred by sellers for these cancelled orders. We are now reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers directly."

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