DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
Australia

Australia Shelves Copyright Safe Harbor For Google, Facebook (torrentfreak.com) 25

In a surprise setback for companies such as Google and Facebook that leverage user-generated content, Australia has dropped plans to extend its copyright safe harbor provisions. From a report: In a blow to Google, Facebook and others, the government dropped the amendments before they were due to be introduced to parliament yesterday. That came as a big surprise, particularly as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had given the proposals his seal of approval just last week. "Provisions relating to safe harbor were removed from the bill before its introduction to enable the government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement. There can be little doubt that intense lobbying from entertainment industry groups played their part, with a series of articles published in News Corp-owned The Australian piling on the pressure in favor of rightsholders.
Businesses

Happiness is on the Wane in the US, UN Global Report Finds (theguardian.com) 380

From a report on The Guardian, shared by five anonymous readers: Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump's policies forecast to deepen the country's social crisis. The US has slipped to 15th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. The world's economic superpower is well behind top-ranked Norway, although it remains above Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world's happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The report's authors stress, however, that the top four are so close that changes are not statistically significant. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The world's "unhappiest" countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.
Education

Australia To Ban Unvaccinated Children From Preschool (newscientist.com) 281

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: No-jab, no play. So says the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has announced that unvaccinated children will be barred from attending preschools and daycare centers. Currently, 93 percent of Australian children receive the standard childhood vaccinations, including those for measles, mumps and rubella, but the government wants to lift this to 95 percent. This is the level required to stop the spread of infectious disease and to protect children who are too young to be immunized or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Childcare subsidies have been unavailable to the families of unvaccinated children since January 2016, and a version of the new "no jab, no play" policy is already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Other states and territories only exclude unvaccinated children from preschools during infectious disease outbreaks. The proposed policy is based on Victoria's model, which is the strictest. It requires all children attending childcare to be fully immunized, unless they have a medical exemption, such as a vaccine allergy.
Australia

Australia Copyright Safe Harbour Provision Backed By Prime Minister (torrentfreak.com) 30

Moves to introduce a copyright "safe harbor" provision for platforms such as Google and Facebook have received a boost in Australia after receiving backing from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. From a report on TorrentFreak: A report in The Australian indicates that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the safe harbor amendments his support. It won't be all plain sailing from here, however. The government is to set up a Senate committee into the copyright amendments to determine whether the amendments will promote piracy as the entertainment industries are warning. The inquiry will launch after the government introduces the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill into Parliament after March 20. The Australian suggests that under Schedule 2 of the bill, online platforms would receive immunity for infringing user-uploaded content. However, totally immunity is an unrealistic eventuality that would almost certainly have to be tempered by rules concerning takedowns. Those details will be examined in-depth as part of the committee inquiry, which will run its course in advance of parliamentary debate and voting.
Australia

Australian Farmers Switch To Diesel Power As Electricity Prices Soar (abc.net.au) 270

"As power prices rise, some farmers have been forced to turn off the pumps," reports the Australian Broadcast Corporation. Long-time Slashdot reader connect4 shared their report from the coast of Queensland, where the price of pumping water to sugarcane fields has doubled. Local irrigators council representative, Dale Hollis, says right now, irrigators have two options. "They have to switch off the pumps and go back to dryland [cropping], and that impacts upon the productivity of the region and impacts on jobs" he said. "The second option is to go off the grid and look at alternatives." Another option is solar and there are plenty of farmers installing panels, but many growers irrigate at night and can't afford the millions of dollars it could take to buy battery storage. That's pushing many of them back to a dirtier option. "Right now, diesel stacks up," Mr Hollis said.
The head of farm operations for a sugar producer says it's now 30% cheaper to pump water with diesel than electricity, even before you count the subsidy from the federal government, and they expect to save even more money as energy prices go up.
Power

Elon Musk: I Can Fix South Australia Power Network in 100 Days Or It's Free (theguardian.com) 274

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Guardian: Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of electric car giant Tesla, has thrown down a challenge to the South Australian and federal governments, saying he can solve the state's energy woes within 100 days -- or he'll deliver the 100MW battery storage system for free. On Thursday, Lyndon Rive, Tesla's vice-president for energy products, told the AFR the company could install the 100-300 megawatt hours of battery storage that would be required to prevent the power shortages that have been causing price spikes and blackouts in the state. Thanks to stepped-up production out of Tesla's new Gigafactory in Nevada, he said it could be achieved within 100 days. Mike Cannon-Brookes, the Australian co-founder of Silicon Valley startup Atlassian, on Friday tweeted Elon Musk, asking if Tesla was serious about being able to install the capacity. Musk replied that the company could do it in 100 days of the contract being signed, or else provide it free, adding: "That serious enough for you?"
Google

Google Assistant To Be Available On Older Versions of Android Soon (zdnet.com) 29

Matthew Miller, writing for ZDNet: Google has announced that Google Assistant is coming to smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, starting this week. The Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English users in the US, followed by English in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as German speakers in Germany. Google continue to add more languages in the future.
Piracy

Seven Film Studios Want 41 Web Sites Blocked By Australian ISPs (computerworld.com.au) 43

angry tapir writes: A group of film studios is undertaking what is set to be the most significant use so far of Australia's anti-piracy laws, which allow rights holders to apply for court orders that can compel ISPs to block their customers from accessing certain piracy-linked sites. A pair of rights holders last year successfully obtained court orders forcing Australia's most popular ISPs to block a handful of sites including The Pirate Bay. Now Village Roadshow wants to have 41 more sites blocked.
Village Roadshow joined six other studios in requesting an injunction Friday in federal court, reports Computerworld. And meanwhile, "a separate site-blocking application has been launched by Australian music labels, which are seeking to have Telstra, Optus, TPG and Foxtel's broadband arm block access to Kickass Torrents."
Google

With No Fair Use, It's More Difficult to Innovate, Says Google (torrentfreak.com) 65

Unlike the United States where 'fair use' exemptions are entrenched in law, Australia has only a limited "fair dealing" arrangement. This led head of copyright at Google to conclude that Australia wouldn't be a safe place for his company to store certain data, a clear hindrance to innovation and productivity. From a report on TorrentFreak: The legal freedom offered by fair use is a cornerstone of criticism, research, teaching and news reporting, one that enables the activities of thousands of good causes and enriches the minds of millions. However, not all countries fully embrace the concept. Perhaps surprisingly, Australia is currently behind the times on this front, a point not lost on Google's Senior Copyright Counsel, William Patry. Speaking with The Australian, Patry describes local copyright law as both arcane and not fit for purpose, while acting as a hindrance to innovation and productivity. "We think Australians are just as innovative as Americans, but the laws are different. And those laws dictate that commercially we act in a different way," Patry told the publication. "Our search function, which is the basis of the entire company, is authorized in the US by fair use. You don't have anything like that here." Australia currently employs a more restrictive "fair dealing" approach, but itâ(TM)s certainly possible that fair use could be introduced in the near future.
Microsoft

Microsoft Confirms Another 2017 Update After Windows 10 Creators Update (betanews.com) 74

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: Windows 10 Creators Update is due to arrive in the spring, and at Microsoft Ignite in Australia, the company confirmed that a second major update is on the way later in the year. We don't know a great deal about this update, but it's likely to incorporate Project NEON design elements. While it is not a new revelation that a second big update is coming to Windows 10 in 2017, until now there has only been a passing reference to the second one from Microsoft.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
Businesses

Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses (fortune.com) 47

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.
Space

Space Junk-Fighting Cable Fails To Deploy (newscientist.com) 55

New Scientist reports: It's a rubbish start for the world's first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft... A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated... However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth's atmosphere this morning... "Releasing a cable may seem simple, but nothing in space is simple," says Sean Tuttle at the University of New South Wales in Australia... The test's failure should be seen as a setback rather than a nail in the coffin for junk-removing cables, Tuttle says.
rickyslashdot writes: Because of the simplicity of this system, it is bound to be tested again -- hopefully sooner than later... This process is inherently safer than using rocket engines (to be attached to the junk), and is much less of a 'mass-to-orbit' cost, since it only requires a grappling system, and a spool of wire/cable. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up / re-try in the near future for this orbital debris clean-up process.
Australia

Australia's Retailers Join the Local Giant Banks in Their Battle With Apple Pay (nfcworld.com) 68

More trouble for Apple in Down Under. The $300 billion retail sector has hit back at Apple, saying the global tech giant is trying to freeload on the payments infrastructure built by banks and retailers and restricting iPhone access to payments terminals will hinder loyalty schemes. From a report: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the group of four Australian banks seeking stronger negotiation powers with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country, saying they believe access to the NFC functionality in the iPhone would allow retailers to provide "a richer and more convenient customer experience." The ARA, which represents 5,000 independent and national retailers, says access to the NFC functionality will allow retailers to "develop or participate in mobile wallets that provided a consistent and fully integrated experience to all users regardless of their choice of smartphones" while also allowing loyalty programs, coupons and rewards to be "more effectively integrated into these mobile wallets." "In our view -- for as long as Apple Pay remains the only app that can use the iPhone's NFC functionality -- the potential for innovation in mobile wallets and mobile payments will be limited," the ARA says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Moon

A Guide To Friday's Comet-Eclipse-Full-Moon Triple Feature (cnet.com) 28

SonicSpike quotes a report from CNET: Even if you aren't a space nerd whose idea of a good time is craning your neck to stare into the vast nothingness of space on a frigid evening, this Friday the heavens will put on a show worth heading outdoors for. A penumbral lunar eclipse, a full "snow moon" and a comet will be spicing up the night sky February 10 in a rare convergence of such celestial happenings. We'll start with our nearest neighbor. February brings the full moon known as the "snow moon" because this month in North America tends to see a lot of the white fluffy stuff. This snow moon will be special though because, well... we'll all get in its way in a sense when the penumbral lunar eclipse takes place Friday. The eclipse will be at least partly visible from most but not all places on Earth (sorry Australia and Japan). The moment of greatest eclipse is at 4:43 p.m. PT and the eclipse will then dissipate until it completes a little over two hours later, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Next up, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova has actually been visible with binoculars and telescopes for several weeks already, but it will be at its closest approach to Earth on the morning of February 11 as it passes by at a distance of 7.4 million miles (11.9 million kilometers) or 30 times further away than the moon.
Earth

Scientists Discover Evidence of a 'Lost Continent' Under the Indian Ocean (earthsky.org) 78

Scientists at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa say they've discovered evidence of a "lost continent" beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to EarthSky, the evidence of the "lost continent" may be leftover from the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which started to break up around 200 million years ago. The evidence itself "takes the form of ancient zircon minerals found in much-younger rocks." From the report: Geologist Lewis Ashwal of Wit University led a group studying the mineral zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions. Zircon minerals contain trace amounts of radioactive uranium, which decays to lead and can thus be accurately dated. Ashwal and his colleagues say they've found remnants of this mineral far too old to have originated on the relatively young island of Mauritius. They believe their work shows the existence of an ancient continent, which may have broken off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. Ashwal explained in a statement: "Earth is made up of two parts -- continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young." On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed. Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years. The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent." The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Australia

'Australia Is Stubbing Out Smoking' (bbc.com) 532

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce mandatory plain packaging for tobacco products. Now it is taking another strong stand, but will other countries follow suit? From an article on BBC, shared by an anonymous reader: It's not easy being a smoker in Australia. The smoking bans started inside -- in workplaces, bars and restaurants -- and moved out. "Now, smoking is prohibited within 10m (33ft) of a playground, within 4m (13ft) of the entrance to a public building, at rail platforms, taxi ranks and bus stops," said Mark Driver, Sydney's Park and Recreation Planner. Those are the rules in New South Wales, but they are mirrored in many other states. Smoking is banned on many beaches, and most Australian states have now banned cigarettes in jail. All states ban smoking in vehicles if children are present. Fines vary, but in some places you may be fined AUD$2,000 (USD$1,515) if you smoke in the wrong place. And even if you don't, you'll be paying more than that each year by 2020, if you smoke just one AUD$40 pack a week. [...] These days, smoking is often taken up by people who are on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder, Simone Dennis, an associate professor at Australian National University, points out, "and that adds a burden of shame to people who might already be marginalised." If it's the poor who are now the most likely to smoke, it's hard to see how they will ever afford the AUD$40 (USD$30) pack of cigarettes.
The Internet

New Zealand To Bring Ultrafast Internet To 85 Percent Of Population (stuff.co.nz) 147

Ultrafast broadband is coming to more than another 200,000 homes, but doubts are already being expressed that the expansion of the network isn't quite ambitious enough. From a report: Another 423,000 people will be able get ultrafast broadband (UFB) by the end of 2024 as a result of a long-awaited decision to expand the network. Prime Minister Bill English said UFB would be extended to more than 151 additional towns, on top of the 33 cities that are already getting the service. The expansion will mean UFB will be available to "up to 85 per cent" of the population, up from the 75 per cent coverage that is planned to be delivered by 2020.
Privacy

Viruses, Spyware Found in 'Alarming' Number of Android VPN Apps (abc.net.au) 52

When the Federal Court blocked access to file-sharing websites like The Pirate Bay last December, VPN (Virtual Private Network) providers reported a surge in subscription rates. Australian company Vanished VPN said its subscription rates had doubled in the past six months and VPN Unlimited said it had seen a 12.5 percent monthly jump since the court's decision. People were using VPN services to access the blocked sites because they masked their location -- allowing users to get around any website blocks or restrictions. But if you're one of those people, you might want to take a closer look at the service you're using -- especially if you've got an Android device. From a report: A team from CSIRO's Data 61, University of NSW and UC Berkley in the US found a whole bunch of Android VPN apps contain viruses, spyware and other adware. Researchers analyzed the apps available for Android to look for nasties like trojans, spyware and adware -- giving each an "anti-virus rank (AV)" based on what they found. The lower the rank, the better. They found of the 283 apps they analyzed, 38 percent contained malware or malvertising (malicious advertising containing viruses).
Australia

Australia Plans Biometric Border Control (bbc.com) 94

The Australian government is planning to allow 90% of travellers to pass through passport control without human help by 2020. From a report: With a $100m budget, it has begun the search for technology companies that could provide biometric systems, such as facial, iris and fingerprint recognition. Head of border security John Coyne said it could be a "world first." But critics have questioned the privacy implications of such a system. "Biometrics are now going in leaps and bounds, and our ability to harness the power of big data is increasing exponentially," Mr Coyne told the Sydney Morning Herald. The department of border security hopes to pilot the "Seamless Traveller" project in Canberra this summer, with rollout to larger airports scheduled to be completed by spring 2019.

Slashdot Top Deals