Government

Senate Passes Bill Making Internet Tax Ban Permanent (consumerist.com) 15

kheldan writes: Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed the first Internet Tax Freedom Act, establishing that — with a handful of grandfathered exceptions — local, state, and federal governments couldn't impose taxes on Internet access. Problem is, that law has had to be renewed over and over, each time with an expiration date. But today, the U.S. Senate finally passed a piece of legislation that would make the tax ban permanent.
United Kingdom

Google Settles Decade-Long Tax Dispute In UK (thestack.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes: Alphabet, Inc., parent company to Google, has agreed to pay $185 million to settle UK taxes going back to 2005. The company has also agreed to adopt a new approach to taxes in the UK going forward. While this is a sizeable figure, many believe it is too little, and constitutes a sweetheart deal between the government and Google. Matt Brittin, the President of EMEA Business and Operations for Google, was a participant in a televised hearing today in which UK lawmakers questioned the $185 million settlement. He stated, "We find ourselves in the position where we are paying the tax that the tax authorities told us to pay."
Biotech

Self-Propelling Microparticles Spot Ricin In Minutes (acs.org) 14

ckwu writes: Tiny rocketlike particles that move around on their own in a hydrogen peroxide solution can detect trace amounts of the lethal toxin ricin within minutes. The tube-shaped, microsized particles--made of graphene oxide lined with platinum--carry sensor molecules that glow when they bind to ricin. In a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution, the platinum catalyzes the breakdown of the peroxide into water and oxygen. The oxygen bubbles shoot out one end of the tube, propelling them in the liquid like little rockets. The swimming motors could actively seek out ricin in a sample and speed up detection, paving the way towards a quick, easy way to detect the bioterrorism agent in food and water samples (without having to bring them back to a lab).
Desktops (Apple)

Kim Jong-Un Found To Be Mac User 105

jones_supa writes: He might hate the United States, but he sure digs those designed-in-California computers. You probably wouldn't take Kim Jong-un as a Mac user. Usually, in photos of him checking out military computers, we see the North Korean dictator in front of a PC with a Dell monitor. However, a handful of photos of the supreme leader at his own desk show him with Macs, leading to the assumption that while the military may use PCs, his personal preference is Mac. Reuters correspondent James Pearson, who covers both Koreas, tweeted out a fresh image of little Kim using a MacBook Pro inside an aircraft. There are other images, including a 2013 image of Kim Jong-un at his desk with an iMac. That same year, the South Korean newspaper Chosun published a photo from North Korean Central News Agency, which features an Apple iMac. This might also explain why the country's home-grown Linux distribution Red Star imitates OS X.
Businesses

Time Inc. Buys MySpace Parent Company Viant (theverge.com) 32

Today, in a surprising turn of events, Time Inc. went back in time 10 years and bought MySpace. Just kidding - there was no time travel. But Time did announce today that they acquired Viant, a company that has a large ad tech business, but also owns other properties, including the old networking site MySpace. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Time described the acquisition as "game changing," most likely in regards to Viant's ad-tech business. It remains to be seen what this will do for the future of MySpace ...
Earth

Our Hidden Neanderthal DNA May Increase Risk of Allergies, Depression (sciencemag.org) 86

sciencehabit writes: Depressed? Your inner Neanderthal may be to blame. Modern humans met and mated with these archaic people in Europe or Asia about 50,000 years ago, and researchers have long suspected that genes picked up in these trysts might be shaping health and well-being today. Now, a study in the current issue of Science details their impact. It uses a powerful new method for scanning the electronic health records of 28,000 Americans to show that some Neanderthal gene variants today can raise the risk of depression, skin lesions, blood clots, and other disorders.
Businesses

Qualcomm Promises Gigabit LTE Speeds and New Chips to Power Smartwatches (google.com) 29

Qualcomm may have been losing steam (and jobs and sales), but it looks like the major telecommunications corporation is back in the lead when it comes to pushing out new LTE technologies. Qualcomm announced today the new Snapdragon X16 modem, which together with the WTR5975 transceiver, boasts Category 16 LTE download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Qualcomm also announced new chips that will power the next generation of wearables. Although you shouldn't hold your breath just yet, the implications could be huge!
Earth

Drivers Need To Forget Their GPS 363

HughPickens.com writes: Greg Milner writes in the NYT that an American tourist in Iceland directed the GPS unit in his rental car to guide him from Keflavik International Airport to a hotel in nearby Reykjavik, and ended up 250 icy miles away in Siglufjordur, a fishing village on the outskirts of the Arctic Circle. Mr. Santillan apparently explained that he was very tired after his flight and had "put his faith in the GPS." In another incident, a woman in Belgium asked GPS to take her to a destination less than two hours away and two days later, she turned up in Croatia. Finally disastrous incidents involving drivers following disused roads and disappearing into remote areas of Death Valley in California have became so common that park rangers gave them a name: "death by GPS." "If we're being honest, it's not that hard to imagine doing something similar ourselves" says Milner. "Most of us use GPS as a crutch while driving through unfamiliar terrain, tuning out and letting that soothing voice do the dirty work of navigating."

Could society's embrace of GPS be eroding our cognitive maps? Julia Frankenstein, a psychologist at the University of Freiburg's Center for Cognitive Science, says the danger of GPS is that "we are not forced to remember or process the information — as it is permanently 'at hand,' we need not think or decide for ourselves." "Next time you're in a new place, forget the GPS device. Study a map to get your bearings, then try to focus on your memory of it to find your way around. City maps do not tell you each step, but they provide a wealth of abstract survey knowledge. Fill in these memories with your own navigational experience, and give your brain the chance to live up to its abilities."
Desktops (Apple)

Htop 2.0 Released, Runs Natively On BSDs and Mac OSX 26

An anonymous reader writes: The popular Linux process viewer htop got a new major revision, and now runs natively on FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Mac OS X. The author discussed the process of making the tool cross-platform earlier this year at FOSDEM. Htop also got some new features, including mouse wheel support via ncurses 6 and listing process environment variables.
Education

Interviews: Ask Author and Programmer Andy Nicholls About R 97

Andy Nicholls has been an R programmer and consultant for Mango Solutions since 2011 (where he currently manages the R consultancy team), after a long stint as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. He has a serious background in mathematics, too, with a Masters in math and another in Statistics with Applications in Medicine. Andy has taught more than 50 on-site R training courses and has been involved in the development of more than 30 R packages; he's also a regular contributor to events at LondonR, the largest R user group in the UK. But since not everyone can get to London for a user group meeting, you can get some of the insights he's gained as an R expert in Sams Teach Yourself R In 24 Hours (available in print or at Safari), of which he is the lead author. Today, though, you can ask Andy about the much-lauded statistics-oriented free software (GPL) language directly -- Why to use it, how to get started, how to get things done, and where those intriguing release names come from. (The about page is helpful, too.) As usual, please ask as many questions as you'd like, but one question at a time, please.
United States

New Air Force Satellites Launched To Improve GPS (techcrunch.com) 62

AmiMoJo writes: This morning, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched a Boeing-built satellite into orbit as part of the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS). This $131 million satellite was the final addition to the Air Force's most recent 12-satellite GPS series, known as the Block IIF satellites. The GPS Block IIF satellites were launched to improve the accuracy of GPS. Before the Block IIF series, the accuracy of GPS could be off by 1 meter. With the new Block IIF satellites in place that error is down to 42 centimeters.
AI

Why Sarcasm Is Such a Problem In Artificial Intelligence (thestack.com) 113

An anonymous reader writes: A new paper from researchers in India and Australia, "Automatic Sarcasm Detection: A Survey," highlights one of the strangest and ironically most humorous facets of the problems in machine learning and humour. The paper outlines ten years of research efforts from groups interested in detecting sarcasm in online sources. It details the ways that academia has approached the sarcasm problem, including flagging authors and ring-fencing sarcastic data. However, the report concludes that the solution to the problem is not necessarily one of pattern recognition [PDF], but rather a more sophisticated matrix that has some ability to understand context.
Microsoft

Microsoft's 'Replacement' Surface Pro Charger Cable Is an Off-Brand, and Short (theinquirer.net) 67

Carly Page writes with a story from The Inquirer, where: As part of its Surface Pro charger recall, Microsoft has chosen to replace the sleek, shapely matt[e] plastic original with a cable approximately half the length and ordered from an off-brand manufacturer, in our case China's I-Sheng Electric Wire and Cable Company. Writer Peter Gothard points out a plausible reason for the length, though: "The extraordinarily short length of the cord is presumably to discourage behaviour that resulted in the "tightly wrapped" or "repeatedly bent" cables catching fire in at least 56 separate incidents."
Security

ZDNet Writer Downplays Windows 10's Phoning-Home Habits 207

jones_supa writes: Gordon F. Kelly of Forbes whipped up a frenzy over Windows 10 when a Voat user found out in a little experiment that the operating system phones home thousands of times a day. ZDNet's Ed Bott has written a follow-up where he points out how the experiment should not be taken too dramatically. 602 connection attempts were to 192.168.1.255 using UDP port 137, which means local NetBIOS broadcasts. Another 630 were DNS requests. Next up was 1,619 dropped connection attempts to address 94.245.121.253, which is a Microsoft Teredo server. The list goes on with NTP, random HTTP requests, and various cloud hosts which probably are reached by UWP apps. He summarizes by saying that a lot of connections are not at all about telemetry. However, what kind of telemetry and data-mined information Windows specifically sends still remains largely a mystery; hopefully curious people will do analysis on the operating system and network traffic sent by it.
Businesses

The Way VCs Think About Open Source: Mostly Wrong (infoworld.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: In an epic smack-down, Simon Phipps examines a recent article by some VCs with an apparently strong track record in open source startups and finds the way they see the world makes them plain wrong about Red Hat, OSI licenses, Apache and probably everything else they talk about.
Censorship

As Elections Approach, Iran Uses "Far More Advanced" Internet Censorship (dailydot.com) 39

Patrick O'Neill writes: Election time in Iran means increased censorship for the country's tens of millions of Internet users. But this months parliamentary election, experts say, comes with a new level of aggressive censorship from a government notorious for authoritarianism in cyberspace. "What's happening [right now] is far more advanced than anything we've seen before," said Karl Kathuria, CEO of Psiphon Inc., the company behind the widely popular encryption and circumvention tool Psiphon. "It's a lot more concentrated attempt to stop these services from working."
Security

Cisco ASA Firewall Has a Wormable Problem — And a Million Installs (csoonline.com) 67

itwbennett writes: Cisco has published an advisory for a vulnerability with a CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) score of 10 that was discovered by researchers from Exodus Intelligence. According to the advisory, 'a vulnerability in the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) version 1 (v1) and IKE version 2 (v2) code of Cisco ASA Software could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause a reload of the affected system or to remotely execute code.' As CSO's Dave Lewis points out, 'the part of this that is most pressing is that Cisco claims that there are over a million of these deployed.'
And attackers have not been sitting on their thumbs.
IBM

IBM Bequeaths the Express Framework To the Node.js Foundation (thenewstack.io) 43

campuscodi writes: The Node.js Foundation has taken the Express Node.js framework under its wing. Express will be a new incubation project for the Foundation. IBM, which purchased Express maintainer StrongLoop last September, is contributing the code. Part of the reason for allowing the foundation to oversee Express is to build a diverse contributor base, which is important given the framework's popularity.
Space

It's Official: LIGO Scientists Make First-Ever Observation of Gravity Waves (economist.com) 317

A few days ago, we posted reports that a major finding -- the discovery of the long-predicted gravity waves -- was expected to be formally announced today, and reader universe520 is the first to note this coverage in the Economist : It is 1.3 billion years after two black holes merged and sent out gravitational waves. On Earth in September 2015, the faintest slice of those waves was caught. That slice, called GW150914 and announced to the world on February 11th, is the first gravitational wave to be detected directly by human scientists. It is a triumph that has been a century in the making, opening a new window onto the universe and giving researchers a means to peer at hitherto inaccessible happenings, perhaps as far back in time as the Big Bang. Reader DudeTheMath adds: NPR has a nice write-up of the newly-published results: "[R]esearchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist. ... The signal in the detector matches well with what's predicted by Einstein's original theory, according to [Saul] Teukolsky [of Cornell], who was briefed on the results." Update: 02/11 18:08 GMT by T : Worth reading: this letter, inspirational and informative, from MIT president L. Rafael Reif, about the discovery. (Hat tip to Brian Kulak.)
Japan

Scientists In Japan Build 100Gbps Wireless Network Using Terahertz Transmitter 43

Mark.JUK writes: A group of Japanese scientists working on a project managed by Hiroshima University claim to have successfully built a Terahertz (THz) transmitter, which is implemented as a silicon CMOS integrated circuit and can transmit a signal running at 10Gbps per data channel over multiple channels in the 275-305GHz band for a top speed of 100Gbps (Gigabits per second). But crucially nobody has mentioned the distance at which this speed could be achieved, particularly since the THz band isn't likely to have much of a reach. It also sits very close to the region used by lasers.

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