Businesses

Valve Pulls the Plug On Paid Mods For Skyrim 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the entitled-wheel-gets-the-grease dept.
westlake writes: Valve has abandoned its attempt to introduce paid mods to Skyrim on Steamworks, following furious and unrelenting complaints by the gaming community that did not spare Gabe Newell. Valve said, "[O]ur main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid." Bethesda had similar goals, saying, "There are certainly other ways of supporting modders, through donations and other options. We are in favor of all of them. One doesn't replace another, and we want the choice to be the community’s. Yet, in just one day, a popular mod developer made more on the Skyrim paid workshop than he made in all the years he asked for donations."
Wikipedia

An Open Ranking of Wikipedia Pages 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
vigna writes: The Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Università degli studi di Milano did it again: after creating the first open ranking of the World Wide Web they have put together the first entirely open ranking of Wikipedia, using Wikidata to categorize pages. The ranking is based on classic and easily explainable centrality measures or page views, and it is entirely open — all data (Wikipedia and Wikidata dumps) and all software used is publicly available. Just in case you wonder, the most important food is chocolate, the most important band are the Beatles and the most important idea is atheism.
Education

Imagination To Release Open MIPS Design To Academia 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the some-strings-attached dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Imagination Technologies has developed a Linux-ready academic version of its 32-bit MIPS architecture MicroAptiv processor design, and is giving it away free to universities for use in computer research and education. As the MIPSfpga name suggests, the production-quality RTL (register transfer level) design abstraction is intended to run on industry standard FPGAs. Although MIPSfpga is available as a fully visible RTL design, MIPSfpga is not fully open source, according to the announcement from Robert Owen, Manager of Imagination's University Programme. Academic users can use and modify MIPSfpga as they wish, but cannot build it into silicon. "If you modify it, you must talk to us first if you wish to patent the changes," writes Owen.
The Almighty Buck

Supreme Court To Consider Data Aggregation Suit Against Spokeo 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-numbers-right dept.
BUL2294 writes: Consumerist and Associated Press are reporting that the Supreme Court has taken up the case of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins — a case where Spokeo, as a data aggregator, faces legal liability and Fair Credit Reporting Act violations for providing information on Thomas Robins, an individual who has not suffered "a specific harm" directly attributable to the inaccurate data Spokeo collected on him.

From SCOTUSblog: "Robins, who filed a class-action lawsuit, claimed that Spokeo had provided flawed information about him, including that he had more education than he actually did, that he is married although he remains single, and that he was financially better off than he actually was. He said he was unemployed and looking for work, and contended that the inaccurate information would make it more difficult for him to get a job and to get credit and insurance." So, while not suffering a specific harm, the potential for harm based on inaccurate data exists. Companies such as Facebook and Google are closely watching this case, given the potential of billions of dollars of liability for selling inaccurate information on their customers and other people.
Music

Pandora Paying Artists $0.0001 More Per Stream Than It Was Last Year 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-spend-it-all-at-once dept.
journovampire writes: Pandora has revealed that it's paying a 10,000th of a dollar more to music labels and artists than it was in 2014. From the article: "Pandora has revealed that its royalty payments to SoundExchange, the US licensing body which collects performance royalties on behalf of record labels and artists, have just increased by 8%. The news was confirmed in a call with investors following Pandora’s Q1 fiscal results announcement on Thursday (April 23), in which it posted a three-month net loss of $48.3m. In what Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews called a scheduled annual step-up, Pandora has from January 1 been paying out an average $0.0014 per ad-funded stream and $0.0024 per premium stream to SoundExchange."
Education

The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-need-no-education dept.
An anonymous reader writes: English teacher Michael Godsey writes in The Atlantic what he envisions the role of teachers to be in the future. In a nutshell, he sees virtual classrooms, less pay, and a drastic decrease in the number of educators, but thinks they will all be "super-teachers". From the article: "Whenever a college student asks me, a veteran high-school English educator, about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, I never think it's enough to say that the role is shifting from 'content expert' to 'curriculum facilitator.' Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation's most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The 'virtual class' will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country's best teachers (a.k.a. a "super-teacher"), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

I tell this college student that in each classroom, there will be a local teacher-facilitator (called a 'tech') to make sure that the equipment works and the students behave. Since the 'tech' won't require the extensive education and training of today's teachers, the teacher's union will fall apart, and that "tech" will earn about $15 an hour to facilitate a class of what could include over 50 students. This new progressive system will be justified and supported by the American public for several reasons: Each lesson will be among the most interesting and efficient lessons in the world; millions of dollars will be saved in reduced teacher salaries; the 'techs' can specialize in classroom management; performance data will be standardized and immediately produced (and therefore 'individualized'); and the country will finally achieve equity in its public school system."
United States

Officials Say Russian Hackers Read Obama's Unclassified Emails 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader points out that Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year. Some of President Obama's email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation. The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department's unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama's BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly. But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.
Google

Google Executive Dan Fredinburg Among Victims of Everest Avalanche 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
alphadogg writes: Dan Fredinburg, privacy director for the company's Google X team, and an engineer who worked on many of Google's most exciting projects during his 8 years with the company, died over the weekend in an avalanche on Mount Everest. The 33-year-old worked on projects such as Google Loon, the company's balloon-based Internet access effort and self-driving car. He also was involved in Google Street View Everest, leading expeditions to gather imagery of the Khumbu region around Mt. Everest. Fredinburg's career began in a much less glamorous fashion as a "dock rat" and as a farm hand in Arkansas.
Earth

Seeing Buildings Shake With Software 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the whole-lot-of-shaking-going-on dept.
mikejuk writes: In 2012 a team from MIT CSAIL discovered that you could get motion magnification by applying filtering algorithms to the color changes of individual pixels. The method didn't track movement directly, but instead used the color changes that result from the movement. Now another MIT team has attempted to put the technique to use in monitoring structures — to directly see the vibrations in buildings, bridges and other constructions. Currently such monitoring involves instrumenting the building with accelerometers. This is expensive and doesn't generally give a complete "picture" of what is happening to the building. It would be much simpler to point a video camera at the building and use motion magnification software to really see the vibrations and this is exactly what the team is trying out. Yes you can see the building move — in real time — and it seems to be a good match to what traditional monitoring methods say is happening. The next stage is to use the method to monitor MIT's Green Building, the Zakim Bridge and the John Hancock Tower in Boston.
Government

Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead 473

Posted by samzenpus
from the trying-to-silence-the-future dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist, has been shot dead. The progressive activist and organizer who ran Pakistan's first-ever hackathon and led a human rights and a peace-focused nonprofit known as The Second Floor (T2F) was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi. Sabeen Mahmud was leaving the T2F offices with her mother some time after 9pm on Friday evening, reports the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. She was on her way home when she was shot, the paper reports. Her mother also sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.
United States

Declassified Report From 2009 Questions Effectiveness of NSA Spying 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the moving-at-the-speed-of-government dept.
schwit1 writes: With debate gearing up over the coming expiration of the Patriot Act surveillance law, the Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program code-named Stellarwind, which collected information on Americans' calls and emails. The report was from the inspectors general of various intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

They found that while many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap by increasing access to international communications, others including FBI agents, CIA analysts and managers "had difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the [the surveillance system] to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available analytic and intelligence-gathering tools in these efforts."

"The report said that the secrecy surrounding the program made it less useful. Very few working-level C.I.A. analysts were told about it. ... Another part of the newly disclosed report provides an explanation for a change in F.B.I. rules during the Bush administration. Previously, F.B.I. agents had only two types of cases: "preliminary" and "full" investigations. But the Bush administration created a third, lower-level type called an "assessment." This development, it turns out, was a result of Stellarwind.
Government

Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the daily-dose-of-cynicism dept.
theodp writes: The NY Times' Eric Lipton was just awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks. So, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy (PDF) to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas — which is on the verge of being codified into laws — was hatched at an influential Microsoft and Gates Foundation-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda after earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created.
Earth

Giant Survival Ball Will Help Explorer Survive a Year On an Iceberg 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the rolling-the-seven-seas dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Ben Yeager reports in Outside Magazine that Italian explorer Alex Bellini plans to travel to Greenland's west coast, pick an iceberg, and live on it for a year as it melts out in the Atlantic. It's a precarious idea. Bellini will be completely isolated, and his adopted dwelling is liable to roll or fall apart at any moment, thrusting him into the icy sea or crushing him under hundreds of tons of ice. His solution: an indestructible survival capsule built by an aeronautics company that specializes in tsunami-proof escape pods. "I knew since the beginning I needed to minimize the risk. An iceberg can flip over, and those events can be catastrophic." Bellini plans to use a lightweight, indestructible floating capsules, or "personal safety systems" made from aircraft-grade aluminum in what's called a continuous monocoque structure, an interlocking frame of aluminum spars that evenly distribute force, underneath a brightly painted and highly visible aluminum shell. The inner frame can be stationary or mounted on roller balls so it rotates, allowing the passengers to remain upright at all times.

Aeronautical engineer Julian Sharpe, founder of Survival Capsule, got the idea for his capsules after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. He believes fewer people would have died had some sort of escape pod existed. Sharpe hopes the products will be universal—in schools, retirement homes, and private residences, anywhere there is severe weather. The product appeals to Bellini because it's strong enough to survive a storm at sea or getting crushed between two icebergs. Bellini will spend almost all of his time in the capsule with the hatch closed, which will pose major challenges because he'll have to stay active without venturing out onto a slippery, unstable iceberg. If it flips, he'll have no time to react. "Any step away from [the iceberg] will be in unknown territory," says Bellini. "You want to stretch your body. But then you risk your life."
Earth

7.8 Earthquake Rocks Nepal, Hundreds Dead 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nepal was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 today, with an epicenter 80 km east of the country's second biggest city, Pokhara. Its effects were also strongly felt in the capital, Kathmandu. Casualty reports conflict, but authorities have indicated at least 500 are dead and many more are feared to be trapped. Nepal has declared a state of emergency for the affected areas, and asked for international humanitarian assistance. India and Pakistan have both offered help. Some Indian cities were affected by the earthquake as well, and there are reports of avalanches on Mt. Everest, which has many climbers at any given time.
Piracy

Pirate Bay Blockade Censors CloudFlare Customers 152

Posted by timothy
from the broad-brush-swung-wildly dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The blockade of the Pirate Bay by UK ISPs is causing trouble for CloudFlare customers. Several websites have been inadvertently blocked by Sky because a Pirate Bay proxy is hosted behind the same IP-addresses. In a response, CloudFlare threatened to disconnect the proxy site from its network. Like any form of censorship web blockades can sometime lead to overblocking, targeting perfectly legitimate websites by mistake. This is also happening in the UK where Sky's blocking technology is inadvertently blocking sites that have nothing to do with piracy.
Windows

Buggy Win 95 Code Almost Wrecked Stuxnet Campaign 92

Posted by timothy
from the when-governments-attack dept.
mask.of.sanity writes: Super-worm Stuxnet could have blown its cover and failed its sabotage mission due to a bug that allowed it to spread to ancient Windows boxes, malware analysts say. Stuxnet was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code allowing it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.
Earth

Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-know-those-things'll-kill-ya dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Neonicotinoids kill insects by overwhelming and short-circuiting their central nervous systems (PDF). Shell and Bayer started the development of neonicotinoids back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since this new group of pesticides came to market, the bee population has been devastated in regions where they have been widely used. Studies from 2012 linked neonicotinoid use to crashing bee populations.

New studies, however, have discovered that bees prefer nectar laced with neonicotinoids over nectar free of any trace of neonicotinoids. According to researchers at Newcastle University, the bees may "get a buzz" from the nicotine-like chemicals in the same way smokers crave cigarettes.
Government

German Intelligence Helped NSA Spy On EU Politicians and Companies 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the der-rubberschtampen dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've known for some time already that intelligence agencies operate beyond rules, laws, and regulations. Now, we learn that the NSA and the German intelligence service, BND, lied and withheld information about misuse from the German Chancellor's Office.

"The BND realized as early as 2008 that some of the selectors were not permitted according to its internal rules, or covered by a 2002 US-Germany anti-terrorism "Memorandum of Agreement" on intelligence cooperation. And yet it did nothing to check the NSA's requests systematically. It was only in the summer of 2013, after Edward Snowden's revelations of massive NSA and GCHQ surveillance, that the BND finally started an inquiry into all the selectors that had been processed. According to Der Spiegel, investigators found that the BND had provided information on around 2,000 selectors that were clearly against European and German interests. Not only were European businesses such as the giant aerospace and defense company EADS, best-known as the manufacturer of the Airbus planes, targeted, so were European politicians—including German ones.

However, the BND did not inform the German Chancellor's office, which only found out about the misuse of the selector request system in March 2015. Instead, the BND simply asked the NSA to make requests that were fully covered by the anti-terrorism agreement between the two countries. According to Die Zeit, this was because the BND was worried that the NSA might curtail the flow of its own intelligence data to the German secret services if the selector scheme became embroiled in controversy.
Cloud

Amazon's Profits Are Floating On a Cloud (Computing) 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the they're-hoping-the-weather-holds dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that Amazon unveiled the financial performance of its powerful growth engine for the first time on Thursday, and the numbers looked good, energized primarily by renting processing power to start-ups and, increasingly, established businesses. Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. Even though the company often reports losses, the cloud business is generating substantial profits. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million.

Amazon helped popularize the field starting in 2006 and largely had commercial cloud computing to itself for years, an enormous advantage in an industry where rivals usually watch one another closely. At the moment, there is no contest: Amazon is dominant and might even be extending its lead. Microsoft ranks a distant No. 2 in cloud computing but hopes to pick up the slack with infrastructure-related services it sells through Azure, the name of its cloud service. Amazon executives have said they expect AWS to eventually rival the company's other businesses in size. The cloud business has been growing at about 40 percent a year, more than twice the rate of the overall company and many Wall Street analysts have been hoping for a spinoff.

As for Google, the cloud was barely mentioned in Google's earnings call. Nor did the search giant offer any cloud numbers, making it impossible to gauge how well it is doing. But the enthusiasm of Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, was manifest when he spoke at an event for cloud software developers this week. "The entire world will be defined by smartphones, Android or Apple, a very fast network, and cloud computing," said Schmidt. "The space is very large, very vast, and no one is covering all of it."
Security

Pentagon Discloses Network Breach By Russian Hackers 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-diplomatic-incident dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon has disclosed that Russian hackers were able to breach one of its secure networks earlier this year, and referred to the attack as a "worrisome" incident. "Earlier this year, the sensors that guard DOD's unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks," said defense secretary Ash Carter yesterday during a speech at Stanford University. Carter warned Russia that the U.S. Department of Defense would retaliate with cyber campaigns should it see fit. "Adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and our defensive posture don't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary," said Carter. He added in a prepared statement that the Russian hackers had been able to gain access to an "unclassified network" but had been "quickly identified" by a team of cyberattack experts who managed to block the hackers "within 24 hours." The cybersecurity response team had quickly analyzed the hack patterns and code and identified the intruders as Russian, before "kicking them off the network."