phrackthat writes "A UC Berkeley group, in a bid to drive down the costs of 3-D printing, has been focusing on more natural materials such as salt, wood, ceramics and concrete (the last two, while not naturally occurring, are made of naturally occurring components). The use of these materials create new avenues for architecture, such as printing buildings. Professor Ronald Rael, the head of the project, stated that these materials and the designs they enable will require new IP protections — 'This is going to require some IP protection for designs, so if you design architecture in the computer, you're protected, just as music and movies are.' I wonder if he's ever heard of design patents?"
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Nerval's Lobster writes "In the early days, Street View must have been a relatively easy project for Google to execute, considering the financial resources and employees at its disposal: strap a set of high-tech cameras to a fleet of vehicles and drive the latter around urban areas all over the world, recording every inch for viewers' clicking-and-dragging pleasure. But there's only so much of the world accessible via well-paved roads (or close to gas stations, for that matter), which meant Google had to regress a bit: instead of cars, it began strapping all that fancy camera equipment to human beings, who are a little bit maneuverable over rough terrain and narrow dirt paths than a four-door sedan. Google sent its Street View cyborgs into the Grand Canyon, where they recorded the craggy pathways and steep cliffs. Then it sent them to some of the world's highest peaks. Now comes the next exotic locale: the Galapagos Islands, land of giant tortoises and other unique species, where Charles Darwin researched his famous theory of evolution. 'It's critical that we share images with the world of this place in order to continue to study and preserve the islands' unique biodiversity,' read a May 23 note on the Google Lat Long blog. 'Today we're honored to announce, in partnership with Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), that we've collected panoramic imagery of the islands with the Street View Trekker.' That imagery will appear on Google Maps later in 2013. Nobody's asked the tortoises how they feel about it."
In the past few days, several readers have submitted word of a paper published on Arxiv allegedly confirming the efficacy of Andrea Rossi's "E-Cat," a device Rossi says transmutes nickel into copper, producing cheap energy in the process. (Mentioned before on Slashdot.) Ethan Siegel of ScienceBlogs takes a skeptical look at the buzz surrounding this paper, and asks some seemingly obvious questions, pointing out various ways in which the cold-fusion / cheap-energy claims could be either confirmed or debunked. First time accepted submitter CdXiminez writes with a capsule of Siegel's points: "What would it take to convince a reasonable observer that you've got a controlled nuclear reaction going on here? Things not shown in the earlier report: Show that nuclear transmutation has in fact taken place; Start the device operating by whatever means you want, then disconnect all external power to it, and allow it to run; Place a gamma-ray detector around the device; Accurately monitor the power drawn from all sources to the device at all times, while also monitoring the energy output from the device at all times."
walterbyrd writes "Late last year, a vigorous and secretive patent troll began sending out thousands of letters to small businesses all around the country, insisting that they owed between $900 and $1,200 per worker just for using scanners. The brazen patent-trolling scheme, carried out by a company called MPHJ technologies and dozens of shell companies with six-letter names, has caught the attention of politicians. MPHJ and its principals may have gone too far. They're now the subject of a government lawsuit targeting patent trolling—the first ever such case. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell has filed suit in his home state, saying that MPHJ is violating Vermont consumer-protection laws."
First time accepted submitter Bas_Wijnen writes "3D printing is being condemned in the media because of the potential for printing guns. Engineers at Michigan Tech believe there is far more potential for 3D printers to make our lives better rather than killing one another. To encourage thinking about constructive uses of 3D printing technology Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab and Type A Machines sponsor the first 3-D Printers for Peace Contest. Designers are encouraged to consider: If Mother Theresa of Ghandi had access to 3D printing what would they print? What kind of designs could help reduce military spending and conflict while making us all safer and more secure? Anyone in the United States may enter and there is no cost."
Via the H comes a report that the Simon Phipps, current President of the Open Source Initiative, thinks that the VP8 patent Cross-license agreeement Google brokered with the MPEG-LA is incompatible with the Open Source definition. The primary problems are that the license is not sub-licensable and only covers certain uses, leading to conflict with OSD clauses five, six, and seven. Phipps concludes: "As a consequence, I suggest the license is flawed when considered in relation to open source projects and is likely to be negatively received by many communities that value software freedom. Doubtless a case can be made that the patent license is optional, but I suspect the community issues may remain. Once again we're left with our fingers crossed. Google's making the right noises, but this draft agreement seems like a particularly unworkable approach for free and open source software. Its failure to allow sublicensing seems like a major flaw. Even if this doesn't result in a requirement for all end-users to sign the agreement, the discrepancies between this document and the OSD leave it disruptive to open source adoption of VP8."
gbrumfiel writes "Last week, Google and NASA announced a partnership to buy a new quantum computer from Canadian firm D-Wave Systems. But NPR news reports that many scientists are still questioning whether new machine really is quantum. Long-time critic and computer scientist Scott Aaronson has a long post detailing the current state of affairs. At issue is whether the 512 quantum bits at the processor's core are 'entangled' together. Measuring that entanglement directly destroys it, so D-Wave has had a hard time convincing skeptics. As with all things quantum mechanical, the devil is in the details. Still it may not matter: D-Wave's machine appears to be far faster at solving certain kinds of problems (PDF), regardless of how it works."
kkleiner writes "A startup called Matternet is building a network of quadcopter drones to deliver vital goods to remote areas and emergency supplies to disaster-stricken areas. The installation of solar-powered fueling station and an operating system to allow for communications with local aviation authorities will allow the network to be available around the clock and in the farthest reaches of the world. 'Matternet’s drone network has three key components. First, the drones—custom-built autonomous electric quadcopters with GPS and sensors, capable of carrying a few kilos up to 10 kilometers (and more as the tech advances). Next, the firm will set up a network of solar-powered charging stations where drones autonomously drop off dead batteries and pick up charged ones. A drone battery that can travel 10 km need not limit the drone itself to 10 km — rather, these drones can theoretically travel the whole network by swapping out batteries. The final component will be an operating system to orchestrate the drone web, share information with aviation authorities, and fly missions 24/7/365.'"
Wired reports on a cluster of mini-satellites that will soon be launched into orbit that will assist U.S. special forces personnel during manhunts. "SOCOM is putting eight miniature communications satellites, each about the size of a water jug, on top of the Minotaur rocket that's getting ready to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. They’ll sit more than 300 miles above the earth and provide a new way for the beacons to call back to their masters." When special forces are able to tag their target, the target can be tracked and located through the use of satellites and cell towers, but coverage is poor in many areas of the world. The satellites going up in September will help to fill in some gaps. "This array of configurable 'cubesats' is designed to stay aloft for three years or more. Yes, it will serve as further research project. But 'operators are going to use it,' Richardson promised an industry conference in Tampa last week."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Fresh off purchasing Tumblr for $1.1 billion, Yahoo has moved to the next stage of what's becoming a company-wide reboot: fixing Flickr, the photo-sharing service that it acquired in 2005 and subsequently allowed to languish. Yahoo boosted Flickr accounts' individual storage capacity to one free terabyte, revamped the Website's overall look, and launched a new Flickr app for Google Android, among other tweaks. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer clearly wants her company to fight toe-to-toe on features with Google and Facebook, but she faces a long road ahead of her: not only does she need to streamline Yahoo's cumbersome corporate structure and product portfolio into something that resembles fighting shape, but she needs to reverse the general perception that Yahoo is teetering on the edge of history's trash-bin, with an aging customer base and unexciting features. The question is, could anyone actually pull it off? Is Yahoo capable of an Apple-style turnaround, or are its current actions merely delaying the inevitable?"
Lucas123 writes "U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include 'personalization technology' in their weapons. Tierney said he got the idea for The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes his fingerprints, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up. 'This technology, however, isn't just for the movies — it's a reality,' Tierney said. Tierney pointed to a myriad of cases where the smart gun tech could prevent children from being harmed or killed in firearms accidents. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the NRA, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons. Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processor technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power."
Cbs228 writes "During last week's Google I/O conference, the company announced a replacement for its aging Talk instant messenger: Google Hangouts. Hangouts, which is only available for Android, iOS, and Chrome, offers closer integration with Google+. Unfortunately, the new product drops support for the XMPP instant messaging protocol, which has been an integral part of Talk for over ten years. XMPP delivers instant messages to desktop clients, like Pidgin, and enables communication between users on different instant messaging networks. Hangouts users attempting to communicate with contacts on non-Google servers, such as jabber.org, have found that all communications have been suddenly and inexplicably severed. A Google account is now required to communicate with Hangouts users. Google Hangouts joins the ranks of an already-crowded ecosystem of closed, incompatible chat products like Skype." Interesting, because Google Wave was based on XMPP and Google was integral to the creation of the Jingle extension that enabled video chatting over XMPP. Note that no end date has been set for Talk yet, but the end must surely be nigh given Google's recent history of axing products like Reader and CalDAV support from their calendar app without much notice.
rudy_wayne writes with news that the Prenda lawyers recently sanctioned by a federal judge are starting to face consequences. From the article: "On Friday, Paul Hansmeier, a Minnesota attorney who has been pointed to as one of the masterminds of the Prenda copyright-trolling scheme, filed an emergency motion to stay the $81,000 sanctions order while he and his colleagues could mount an appeal. Today the appeals court flatly denied his motion. Two appellate judges signed this order, and it gives Hansmeier the option to make a plea for delay with the district court judge. That would be U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, the judge who sanctioned Hansmeier in the first place. Hansmeier is also getting kicked off a case he was working on that was totally unrelated to Prenda's scheme of making copyright accusations over alleged pornography downloads. On Friday, the 9th Circuit Commissioner ordered Hansmeier, in no uncertain terms, to withdraw from a case involving Groupon since he has been referred to the Minnesota State Bar for investigation. The commissioner has delayed Hansmeier's admission to the 9th Circuit because of Wright's order, which refers to Wright's finding of 'moral turpitude.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Yahoo has agreed to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion. As you know, Yahoo is a major corporation with a need to monetize its assets in a way that makes its shareholders happy, leaving open the question of whether it'll alter Tumblr's DNA in order to make the latter more of a significant cash generator. But at least for the moment, Yahoo seems content to leave its new property alone. 'Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up, Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business,' read the company's press release. 'The product, service and brand will continue to be defined and developed separately with the same Tumblr irreverence, wit, and commitment to empower creators.' Tumblr CEO David Karp, who has been known to make some very anti-advertising comments in the past, will remain in place. Even so, anyone who likes Tumblr may have some cause for concern, because Yahoo has a history of making high-profile acquisitions that subsequently implode. Back in 1999, for example, it paid over $3 billion for GeoCities, another blogging network that it eventually shut down after years of failing the update the property. In 2005, it acquired popular photo-sharing Website Flickr, which it likewise allowed to languish and die. That same year it bought Delicious, a popular Webpage-bookmarking site, and did exactly nothing with it. So when Yahoo starts off its Tumblr press release with a promise not to screw things up, it's a self-deprecating nod toward all that history. New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been on a bit of a buying spree of late, snatching up startups such as Summly in an attempt to make her company 'cool' and relevant."
Pirate Bay Founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg is to be tried starting tomorrow in Sweden, after his indictment last month for computer hacking and fraud. Wikileaks has released several documents related to his detention and the associated charges. From the summary of this material: "This material includes inter alia the interrogations with GSW and his co-accused, internal correspondence from the Swedish Foreign Minister and the Swedish embassy in Cambodia, damage assessment reports by the companies and the authorities concerned, and correspondence between GSW and Kristina Svartholm and the Swedish prison authorities. The material is formally public, but the Swedish prosecution authority has refused to provide the documents in digital format. Photocopying this volume of paper costs around £350." Notable is the refusal of Warg's request to obtain a graphing calculator while in prison.