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Don't Bring Your Drone To New Zealand

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 11:30
NewtonsLaw writes: Personal drones are changing the way some people experience vacations. Instead of toting along a camcorder or a 35mm DSLR, people are starting pack a GoPro and, increasingly, a drone on which to mount it. This is fine if you're going to a drone-friendly country, but be warned that your drone will get you into big trouble in Thailand (where all use of drones by the public is banned outright) and now in New Zealand, where strict new laws regarding the operation of drones (and even tiny toys like the 20g Cheerson CX10) come into effect on August 1. Under these new rules, nobody can operate a drone or model aircraft without getting the prior consent of the owner over which property it is intended to fly — and (this is the kicker) also the permission of the occupiers of that property. So you can effectively forget about flying down at the local park, at scenic locations or just about any public place. Even if you could manage to get the prior permission of the land-owner, because we're talking "public place," you'd also have to get the permission of anyone and everyone who was also in the area where you intended to fly. Other countries have produced far more sane regulations — such as limiting drone and RC model operators to flying no closer than 30m from people or buildings — but New Zealand's CAA have gone right over the top and imposed what amounts to a virtual death-sentence on a hobby that has provided endless, safe fun for people of all ages for more than 50 years. Of course if you are prepared to pay a $600 fee to become "Certified" by CAA then the restrictions on where you can fly are lifted and you don't need those permissions.

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Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.4 Million Autos To Fix Remote Hack

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 10:48
swinferno writes: Fiat Chrysler announced today that it's recalling 1.4 million automobiles just days after researchers demonstrated a terrifying hack of a Jeep that was driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour. They are offering a software patch for some of their internet-connected vehicles. Cybersecurity experts Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller have publicly exposed a serious vulnerability that would allow hackers to take remote control of Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) cars that run its Uconnect internet-accessing software for connected car features. Despite this, the researchers say automakers are being slow to address security concerns, and are often approaching security in the wrong way.

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Malaria Vaccine Passes Key Regulatory Hurdle

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 10:05
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC reports that the European Medicines Agency has approved the world's first malaria vaccine for real-world use. The vaccine is far from perfect, and the World Health Organization still has to make a final decision on it, but it's a key victory for GlaxoSmithKline, who have been developing the vaccine for three decades. "The best protection was among children aged five to 17 months who received three doses of the vaccine a month apart, plus a booster dose at 20 months. In this group, cases of severe malaria were cut by a third over four years." Unfortunately, the boosters are quite necessary for protection, and it doesn't protect young babies from malaria. The disease "kills around 584,000 people a year worldwide, most of them children under five in sub-Saharan Africa."

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Criminal Inquiry Sought Over Hillary Clinton's Personal Email Server

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 09:23
cold fjord writes: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Inspectors General from the State Department and intelligence agencies have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server while she was U.S. Secretary of State. At issue is the possible mishandling of sensitive government information. Dozens of the emails provided by Hillary Clinton have been retroactively classified as part of the review of her emails as they are screened for public release. So far 3,000 of 55,000 emails have been released. The inspectors general found hundreds of potentially classified emails. "The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said. ... The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations."

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Four-legged Snake Fossil Stuns Scientists, Ignites Controversy

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 08:40
sciencehabit writes: Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional (abstract). Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature's overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren't so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.

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Pro Gamers To Be Tested For Doping

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 07:58
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Sports League is the biggest organization for running video game competitions. The league has now announced that they will begin testing professional video gamers for performance-enhancing drugs. The league is getting help in making policies from anti-doping agencies that help regulate athletes in traditional sports. They say, "[W]e will be administering the first PED skin tests at ESL One Cologne this August, with a view to performing these tests at every Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League event thereafter as soon as the official PED policy is established and tournament rules updated accordingly." This announcement comes after a high-profile Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player admitted last week that he and many other players used Adderall to gain an advantage in tournaments.

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Study: Push Notifications As Distracting As Taking a Call

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 07:15
itwbennett writes: Researchers at Florida State University have found that simply being aware of a missed call or text can have the same damaging effect on task performance as actually using a mobile phone. 'Although these notifications are short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind-wandering,' the researchers wrote in their paper. In further bad news for chronic multitaskers, a new study by researchers at the University of Connecticut finds that 'students who multitasked while doing homework had to study longer, and those who frequently multitasked in class had lower grades on average than their peers who multitasked less often.'

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The French Scrabble Champ Does Not Speak French

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 06:32
HughPickens.com writes: On July 20, Nigel Richards won the French-language world Scrabble championship. Richards does not speak a word of French. "He doesn't speak French at all, he just learnt the words," says Liz Fagerlund. "He won't know what they mean, wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn't think." Richards reportedly memorized an entire French dictionary in the two months leading up to the competition. For living-room players, Scrabble is a test of vocabularies but for world-class players, it's about cold memorization and mathematical probabilities which is why top player are often computer programmers or mathematicians, not poets or novelists. Think of the dictionary as a giant rulebook of valid text strings not as a compendium of the beauty and complexity of the English language. A good competitive player will have memorized a sizeable chunk of the 83,667 words that are two letters to eight letters long. Great players will know a lot of the 29,150 nine-letter words as well. To the uninitiated, a scrabble game played by top players looks like they had played in Martian. Here's a taste: In a single game in last year's Nationals, Richards played the following words: zarf (a metal holder for a coffee cup), waddy (to strike with a thick club), hulloed (to hallo, to shout), sajous (a capuchin, a monkey), qi (the vital force in Chinese thought), flyboats (a small, fast boat), trigo (wheat) and threaper (one that threaps, disputes). Richards has a photographic memory and is known for his uncanny gift for constructing impossible words by stringing his letters through tiles already on the board. "He is probably the best Scrabble player in the world at this point," says John D. Williams, Jr.. "He's got the entire dictionary memorized. He's pretty much a Scrabble machine, if such a thing exists." So, really, how does he do it? As Richards said in an interview posted on YouTube, "I'm not sure there is a secret. It's just a matter of learning the words." All 178,691 of them.

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Remote Control of a Car, With No Phone Or Network Connection Required

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 04:30
Albanach writes: Following on from this week's Wired report showing the remote control of a Jeep using a cell phone, security researchers claim to have achieved a similar result using just the car radio. Using off the shelf components to create a fake radio station, the researchers sent signals using the DAB digital radio standard used in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. After taking control of the car's entertainment system it was possible to gain control of vital car systems such as the brakes. In the wild, such an exploit could allow widespread simultaneous deployment of a hack affecting huge numbers of vehicles.

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Cell Service At US Airports Varies From 1st Class To Middle-seat Coach

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 02:04
alphadogg writes with this NetworkWorld story about the wide disparity in wireless coverage available at airports across the U.S.. Atlanta scores very high while Los Angeles International is less than mediocre. According to the story: You can download an episode of your favorite show in less than a minute and a half on Verizon Wireless at Atlanta's airport—or spend 13 hours doing the same over T-Mobile USA at Los Angeles International. The comparison of 45-minute HD video downloads illustrates the wide variation in cellular service at U.S. airports, which RootMetrics laid out in a report for the first half of 2015 that's being issued Thursday. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson is the best place to go mobile and Verizon covers airports best overall, but just like security lines and de-icing delays, it all depends.

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The Science and Politics Behind Colony Collapse Disorder; Is the Crisis Over?

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 23:33
iONiUM writes: An article at the Globe and Mail claims that there is no longer any Honeybee crises, and that the deaths of the Honeybees previously was a one-off, or possibly non-cyclical occurrence (caused by neonics or nature — the debate is still out). The data used is that from Stats Canada which claims "the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high [in Canada]." Globally, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says that "worldwide bee populations have rebounded to a record high." The story reports: "I have great news for honey lovers everywhere. The Canadian honeybee industry is thriving. Despite those headlines about mass die-offs and and killer pesticides, the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 700,000 honeybee colonies produced $200-million worth of honey. Bee survival rates have rebounded even in Ontario, which was hard hit by unusually high winter die-offs."

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MIT Stealth Startup Charges Up Wireless Power Competition

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 21:01
gthuang88 writes: Wireless charging of electronics is an old concept, but there's a new player in the competition between companies like WiTricity, Energous, and tech giants Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. A new spinout from Dina Katabi's lab at MIT, called Pi, may have a new take on how to charge mobile devices at a distance. The company isn't talking yet, but Katabi's research suggests the system uses an array of coils to produce a magnetic field and detect when a device is within range, like a Wi-Fi router. The array can then focus the magnetic field on a coil attached to a phone or mobile device and induce a current to charge the battery. But it's still very early, and the field of wireless charging needs to settle on technical standards and work out its commercial kinks.

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France To Reduce Reliance On Nuclear Power

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 19:19
AmiMoJo writes: French lawmakers have approved a bill to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. The policy was one of President Francois Hollande's campaign pledges. The legislation also includes a target of reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to the level in 1990. The new law aims to eventually halve France's energy consumption by 2050 from the 2012 level. The ambitious goal came in the lead-up to the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris later this year. France will chair the meeting.

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HP: Smartwatches Are a Major Security Risk

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 18:35
Mickeycaskill writes: Researchers at HP Security discovered "significant vulnerabilities" in every single smartwatch they tested, claiming they pose a major security risk for users. The team is concerned by an apparent lack of authorization and authentication provisions, encrypted firmware updates and protection for personal data. When coupled with poor password choices, HP says wearables are as much a target for cyber criminals as muggers on the street. "As the adoption of smartwatches accelerates, the platform will become vastly more attractive to those who would abuse that access, making it critical that we take precautions when transmitting personal data or connecting smartwatches into corporate networks," said HP's Jason Schmitt.

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Uber Faces $410 Million Canadian Class Action Suit

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 17:52
farrellj writes: A class action suit has been filed by the Taxi and Limo drivers and owners in the Province of Ontario in Canada against Uber, demanding CAN$400 million in compensatory damages, $10 million in punitive damages. They claim Uber is violating the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that covers taxis and limos, and has caused them to lose money. They also seek an injunction against Uber operating in Ontario. "This protectionist suit is without merit," Uber said in a statement. "As we saw from a recent court ruling in Ontario, Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services."

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Uber Faces $410 Million Dollar Canadian Class Action Suit

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 17:52
farrellj writes: A class action suite has been filed by the Taxi and Limo drivers and owners in the Province of Ontario in Canada against Uber, claiming $400 Million Canadian dollars in compensatory damages, $10 million in punitive damages. They claim that Uber is violation the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that covers taxis and limos, and have caused them to lost money. They also seek an injunction against Uber operating in Ontario. "This protectionist suit is without merit," Uber said in a statement. "As we saw from a recent court ruling in Ontario, Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services."

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NY Mayor Commits To Reduce Emissions 40% By 2030

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 17:09
dkatana writes: New York mayor Bill de Blasio pledged this week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. He made the announcement at the start of a two-day conference on climate change at the Vatican. He was in Rome by invitation of Pope Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor. "I believe fundamentally in the notion of giving our private sector friends an opportunity to come along peacefully. And if that's not going to work, to put strong mandates and clear mandates on. And I believe, but the way, that that has tremendous public support." de Blasio said. Nearly three quarters of New York City's greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used to heat, cool, and power buildings, making building retrofits a central component of any plan to dramatically reduce emissions.

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Google Staffers Share Salary Info With Each Other; Management Freaks

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 16:26
Nerval's Lobster writes: Imagine a couple of employees at your company create a spreadsheet that lists their salaries. They place the spreadsheet on an internal network, where other employees soon add their own financial information. Within a day, the project has caught on like wildfire, with people not only listing their salaries but also their bonuses and other compensation-related info. While that might sound a little far-fetched, that's exactly the scenario that recently played out at Google, according to an employee, Erica Baker, who detailed the whole incident on Twitter. While management frowned upon employees sharing salary data, she wrote, "the world didn't end everything didn't go up in flames because salaries got shared." For years, employees and employers have debated the merits (and drawbacks) of revealing salaries. While most workplaces keep employee pay a tightly guarded secret, others have begun fiddling with varying degrees of transparency, taking inspiration from studies that have shown a higher degree of salary-related openness translates into happier workers. (Other studies (PDF) haven't suggested the same effect.) Baker claims the spreadsheet compelled more Google employees to ask and receive "equitable pay based on data in the sheet."

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Meet OpenDaylight Project Executive Director Neela Jacques (Video)

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 15:43
The OpenDaylight Project works on Software Defined Networking. Their website says, "Software Defined Networking (SDN) separates the control plane from the data plane within the network, allowing the intelligence and state of the network to be managed centrally while abstracting the complexity of the underlying physical network." Another quote: it's the "largest software-defined networking Open Source project to date." The project started in 2013. It now has an impressive group of corporate networking heavyweights as sponsors and about 460 developers working on it. Their latest release, Lithium, came out earlier this month, and development efforts are accelerating, not slowing down, because as cloud use becomes more prevalent, so does SDN, which is an obvious "hand-in-glove" fit for virtualized computing. Today's interview is with OpenDaylight Project Executive Director Nicolas "Neela" Jacques, who has held this position since the project was not much more than a gleam in (parent) Linux Foundation's eye. This is one of the more important Linux Foundation collaborative software projects, even if it's not as well known to the public as some of the foundation's other efforts, including -- of course -- GNU/Linux itself.

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"Breaking Bad" At the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 15:00
sciencehabit writes: Police are investigating whether an explosion inside a Maryland federal laboratory was the result of an effort to make drugs. Authorities who responded to the explosion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion and if a security guard injured in the blast might have been involved. Sciencemag reports: "Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, got involved today, expressing grave concern over the incident in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. NIST is part of the Commerce Department. 'I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities,' wrote Smith in an accompanying press release. He has requested a briefing with NIST no later than 29 July."

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