MrSeb writes "Back in the olden days, when WiFi and Bluetooth were just a glimmer in the eye of IEEE, another short-range wireless communications technology ruled supreme: Infrared Data Association, or IrDA for short. IrDA was awful; early versions were only capable of kilobit-per-second speeds, and only over a distance of a few feet. Trying to get my laptop and mobile phone to link up via IrDA was, to date, one of the worst tech experiences I've ever had. There's a lot to be said for light-based communications, though. For a start, visible (and invisible) light has a frequency of between 400 and 800THz (800 and 375nm), which is unlicensed spectrum worldwide. Second, in cases where you really don't want radio interference, such as hospitals, airplanes, and other sensitive environments, visible light communication (VLC), or free-space optical communication, is really rather desirable. Now researchers at the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan have transmitted data using lasers — not high-powered, laboratory-dwelling lasers; handheld, AAA-battery laser pointers. A red and green laser pointer were used, each transmitting a stream of data at 500Mbps, which is then multiplexed at the receiver for a grand total of 1Gbps."
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Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Mozilla has taken a public stand against the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, saying that it has a 'broad and alarming reach' that 'infringes on our privacy.' That makes it the first major tech firm to speak out against CISPA. Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Oracle and Symantec are all included among the companies that support the bill, which passed the House late last month and is now being considered in the Senate. Google has so far declined to take a stand supporting or opposing the bill."
suraj.sun writes with more fallout from Comcast's bandwidth caps that give preference to their own video services. From the article: "An executive from Sony said Monday that concerns about Comcast's discriminatory data cap are giving the firm second thoughts about launching an Internet video service, that would compete with cable and satellite TV services. In March,Comcast announced that video streamed to the Xbox from Comcast's own video service would be exempted from the cable giant's 250 GB monthly bandwidth cap. 'These guys have the pipe and the bandwidth,' he said. 'If they start capping things, it gets difficult.' Sony isn't the first Comcast rival to complain about the bandwidth cap. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has also blasted Comcast's discriminatory bandwidth cap as a violation of network neutrality. Comcast controls more than 20 percent of the residential broadband market, which means that Comcast effectively controls access to one-fifth of any American Internet video service's potential customers."
angry tapir writes "The U.S. Department of the Interior has picked Google Apps to provide cloud-based email and collaboration applications to about 90,000 staffers, choosing Google's services over Microsoft's Office 365. Google had sued the U.S. agency in 2010, claiming its requirements for the contract tilted the scales unfairly toward Microsoft. Google eventually dropped its lawsuit last September."
An anonymous reader writes "MIT's The Tech published an article with technical details behind the Tetris hack they did on the Green Building earlier this year. The article includes photographs of the LED modules, as well as a link to some of the source code used in the hack. The hackers have released some of the source code on GitHub, and are looking for people to contribute code that could run on the system."
arcite writes "Research in Motion Ltd's new CEO, Thorsten Heins, unveiled BlackBerry 10 in Florida today. Will new features such as a virtual keyboard that learns from typing behavior and a camera that easily focuses on faces be enough to scrape back precious market share (which could possibly fall to 5%) from the likes of Apple and Android? With no physical device yet revealed and a release date ranging anywhere from August to October, it will be an uphill battle." Engadget had some brief hands-on time with a dev Alpha. It seems RIM is trying to jumpstart app development through its App Generator and financial incentives.
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1sockchuck writes "Apple's North Carolina data center will tap landfills for biogas, which will then be converted into electricity using fuel cells from Bloom Energy. The 24 'Bloom boxes' will have a capacity of 4.8 megawatts of power, and along with a large solar array, will provide Apple with a significant on-site generation of sustainable energy. Microsoft is also developing biogas-powered data plants where modular data centers will be housed near water treatment plants and landfills. GigaOm has a useful primer on biogas in data centers, as well as video of the new higher capacity Bloom boxes that will support Apple's server farm."
Harperdog writes "Noah Schactman has a great piece on the Airborne Laser, the ray gun-equipped 747 that became a symbol of wasteful Pentagon weaponeering. Despite sixteen years and billions of dollars in development, the jet could never reliably blast a missile in trials. Now the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces wants the Airborne Laser to be used to defend us against the threat of North Korea's failed missiles."
bonch writes "According to the FCC report, Google's collection of Street View data was not the unauthorized act of a rogue engineer, as Google had portrayed it, but an authorized program known to supervisors and at least seven other engineers. The original proposal contradicts Google's claim that there was no intent to gather payload data: 'We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.'"
An anonymous reader writes "More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans. From the story: 'Factory workers at a Foxconn plant in Jundiaí, Brazil are complaining of overcrowded buses, poor food and a lack of water and have threatened to strike unless the issues are resolved by May 3. According to a report by Brazil's Tech Guru (Google Translation), over 2,500 Foxconn employees have complained about conditions at the factory. Workers reportedly met last Monday to raise the concerns and have given the company 10 days to address them.'"
suraj.sun writes "According to The Hill, 'The Social Networking Online Protection Act, introduced by Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), would prohibit current or potential employers from demanding a username or password to a social networking account. "We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private," Engel said in a statement. "No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world."' Ars adds, 'The bill would apply the same prohibitions to colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. ... Facebook has already threatened legal action against organizations who require employees to reveal their Facebook passwords as policy.'" Maryland beat them to the punch, and other states are working on similar laws too. We'll have to hope the U.S. House doesn't kill this one like they did the last attempt. The difference this time is that the concept has its own bill, while its previous incarnation was an amendment to an existing bill about reforming FCC procedures.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at the NY Times explains the how the most profitable tech company in the world becomes even more profitable by finding ways to avoid or minimize taxes. Quoting: 'Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company's profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California's corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada's? Zero. ... As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world. ... Without such tactics, Apple's federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study (PDF) by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent."
An anonymous reader writes "In what may win awards for the silliest-sounding lawsuit of the year, a case about whether Facebook 'likes' qualify for free speech protection under the First Amendment has ended in a decisive 'no.' In the run-up to an election for Sheriff, some of the incumbent's employees made their support for the challenger known by 'liking' his page on Facebook. After the incumbent won re-election, the employees were terminated, supposedly because of budget concerns. The employees had taken a few other actions as well — bumper stickers and cookouts — but they couldn't prove the Sheriff was aware of them. The judge thus ruled that 'merely "liking" a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection. In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record.'"
techfun89 writes "There is a BOLD new plan for detecting signs of microbial life on Mars. The nickname is BOLD, which stands for Biological Oxidant and Life Detection Initiative, would be a follow-up to the 1976 Mars Viking life-detection experiments. 'We have much better technology that we could use,' says BOLD lead scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, with Washington State University. He elaborates, 'Our idea is to make a relatively cheap mission and go more directly to characterize and solve the big question about the soil properties on Mars and life detection.' To help figure out the life-detection mystery, Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues would fly a set of six pyramid-shaped probes that would crash land, pointy end down, so they embed themselves four to eight inches into the soil. One of the instruments includes a sensor that can detect a single molecule of DNA or other nucleotide."