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Why Car Salesmen Don't Want To Sell Electric Cars 26 writes: Matt Richtel writes in the NYT that one big reason there are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road is that car dealers show little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars. Industry insiders say that electric vehicles do not offer dealers the same profits as gas-powered cars, they take more time to sell because of the explaining required, and electric vehicles may require less maintenance, undermining the biggest source of dealer profits — their service departments. Some electric car buyers have said they felt as if they were the ones doing the selling. Chelsea Dell made an appointment to test-drive a used Volt but when she arrived, she said, a salesman told her that the car hadn't been washed, and that he had instead readied a less expensive, gas-powered car. "I was ready to pull the trigger, and they were trying to muscle me into a Chevy Sonic," says Dell. "The thing I was baffled at was that the Volt was a lot more expensive." Marc Deutsch, Nissan's business development manager for electric vehicles says some salespeople just can't rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson "can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf," Deutsch says. "It's a lot of work for a little pay."

Jared Allen says that service is crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn't want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service. Maybe that helps explains the experience of Robert Kast, who last year leased a Volkswagen e-Golf from a local dealer. He said the salesman offered him a $15-per-month maintenance package that included service for oil changes, belt repair and water pumps. "I said: 'You know it doesn't have any of those things,'" Mr. Kast recalled. He said the salesman excused himself to go confirm this with his manager. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kast, 61, said: "I knew a whole lot more about the car than anyone in the building." "Until selling a plug-in electric car is as quick and easy as selling any other vehicle that nets the dealer the same profit, many dealers will avoid them, for very logical and understandable reasons," says John Voelker. "That means that the appropriate question should be directed to makers of electric cars: What are you doing to make selling electric cars as profitable and painless for your dealers as selling gasoline or diesel vehicles?"
The Courts

Insurer Refuses To Cover Cox In Massive Piracy Lawsuit ( 48

An anonymous reader writes with news that Cox Communications' insurer, Lloyds Of London underwriter Beazley, is refusing to cover legal costs and any liabilities from the case brought against it by BMG and Round Hill Music. TorrentFreak reports: "Trouble continues for one of the largest Internet providers in the United States, with a Lloyds underwriter now suing Cox Communications over an insurance dispute. The insurer is refusing to cover legal fees and potential piracy damages in Cox's case against BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback."

This Gizmo Knows Your Amex Card Number Before You've Received It ( 42

itwbennett writes: A small device built by legendary hacker Samy Kamkar can predict what new American Express card numbers will be and trick point-of-sale devices into accepting cards without a security microchip. Because American Express appears to have used a weak algorithm to generate new card numbers, the device, called MagSpoof, can predict what a new American Express card number will be based on a canceled card's number. The new expiration date can also be predicted based on when the replacement card was requested.

What Is the Future of the Television? ( 168

An anonymous reader writes: Benedict Evans has an interesting post about where television hardware is headed. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the tech industry made a huge push to invade the living room, trying to make the internet mesh with traditional TV broadcasts. As we all know, their efforts failed. Now, we periodically see new waves of devices to attach to the TV, but none have been particularly ambitious. The most successful devices of the recent wave, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, are simply turning the TV into a dumb screen for streamed content. Meanwhile, consumption of all types of video content is growing on smaller screens — tablets, phones, etc. Even game consoles are starting to see their market eroded by boxes like the Steam Link, which acts as a pipe for a game being played elsewhere on a PC. It raises an intriguing question: where is the television headed? What uses and functions does one giant screen serve that can't be cleverly redistributed to smaller screens? Evans concludes, "The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway."
The Military

KGB Software Almost Triggered War In 1983 ( 129

An anonymous reader writes: Who here remembers WarGames? As it turns out, the film was a lot closer to reality than we knew. Newly-released documents show that the Soviet Union's KGB developed software to predict sneak attacks from the U.S. and other nations in the early 1980s. During a NATO wargame in November, 1983, that software met all conditions necessary to forecast the beginning of a nuclear war. "Many of these procedures and tactics were things the Soviets had never seen, and the whole exercise came after a series of feints by U.S. and NATO forces to size up Soviet defenses and the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. So as Soviet leaders monitored the exercise and considered the current climate, they put one and one together. Able Archer, according to Soviet leadership at least, must have been a cover for a genuine surprise attack planned by the U.S., then led by a president possibly insane enough to do it." Fortunately, when the military exercise ended, so did Soviet fears that an attack was imminent.

Engineers Nine Times More Likely Than Expected To Become Terrorists ( 412 writes: Henry Farrel writes in the Washington Post that there's a group of people who appear to be somewhat prone to violent extremism: Engineers. They are nine times more likely to be terrorists than you would expect by chance. In a forthcoming book, Engineers of Jihad, published by Princeton University Press, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog provide a new theory explaining why engineers seem unusually prone to become involved in terrorist organizations. They say it's caused by the way engineers think about the world. Survey data indicates engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious. They are seven times as likely to be both religious and conservative as social scientists. Gambetta and Hertog speculate that engineers combine these political predilections with a marked preference towards finding clearcut answers.

Gambetta and Hertog suggest that this mindset combines with frustrated expectations in many Middle Eastern and North African countries (PDF), and among many migrant populations, where people with engineering backgrounds have difficulty in realizing their ambitions for good and socially valued jobs. This explains why there are relatively few radical Islamists with engineering backgrounds in Saudi Arabia (where they can easily find good employment) and why engineers were more prone to become left-wing radicals in Turkey and Iran.

Some people might argue that terrorist groups want to recruit engineers because engineers have valuable technical skills that might be helpful, such as in making bombs. This seems plausible – but it doesn't seem to be true. Terrorist organizations don't seem to recruit people because of their technical skills, but because they seem trustworthy and they don't actually need many people with engineering skills. "Bomb-making and the technical stuff that is done in most groups is performed by very few people (PDF), so you don't need, if you have a large group, 40 or 50 percent engineers," says Hertog. "You just need a few guys to put together the bombs. So the scale of the overrepresentation, especially in the larger groups is not easily explained."


Another Giant xkcd Comics Experiment ( 43

Dave Knott writes: XKCD creator Randall Munroe has decided to celebrate the release of his new book, Thing Explainer, by creating a "small game" called Hoverboard. In actuality, it is a gigantic scrolling comic in the same style as his previous Click And Drag. However, this time there is a game element as one navigates the comic. Explore giant starships and volcanoes, or search for hidden lairs, all in the name of finding as many hidden gold coins as possible.

On iFixit and the Right To Repair ( 217

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 101

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

Video High-Security, Open-Source Router is a Hit on Indiegogo (Video) 102

The device is called the Turris Omnia, and its Indiegogo page says it's a "hi-performance & open-source router." Their fundraising goal is $100,000. So far, 1,191 backers have pledged $248,446 (as of the moment this was typed), with 49 days left to go. They've shipped 2,000 pieces so far but, says interviewee Ondej Filip, "95% of them are in the Czech Republic."

This is not only an open-source project, but non-profit as well. A big motive for it is heightened security, as the interview (and transcript) make clear. It's also apparent that the hardware here is overkill for a router; it can run a complete Linux distro, no problem, so it can function as a server, not just as a router. Interested? You might want to put a reservation in soon. This isn't the cheapest router (or even server) out there, but a lot of people obviously think a Turris Omnia, with its crypto security, automatic updates, and server functions would be nice to have.
The Internet

One Family Suffering Through Years-Long Trolling Campaign ( 246

blottsie writes: Since 2010, the Straters have been under assault from an online campaign of ever-increasing harassment — prank deliveries, smear attacks, high-profile hacks, and threats of violence against schools and law enforcement officials in their name — and it's slowly torn them apart. Masterminding it all is a teenage Lizard Squad hacker from Finland, at war with their son, Blair, over a seemingly minor dispute. "When the family started getting notices about their utilities being disconnected, they realized things were escalating out of control. Utility provider Commonwealth Edison once called the house to iron out the details about a request to have the power turned off after a supposed move. Something similar happened with their trash service. On Halloween 2013, Comcast shut off their cable and Internet service."

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Are Losing Their Meaning ( 135 writes: Brad Tuttle reports at Money Magazine that while the terms "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" are more ubiquitous than ever, the importance of the can't-miss shopping days is undeniably fading. Retailers seem to want it both ways: They want shoppers to spend money long before these key shopping events, and yet they also want shoppers to turn out in full force to make purchases over the epic Black Friday weekend. When they use the "Cheap Stuff!" card day after day and week after week, the deals on any single day stop seeming special. Add to that the trend of manufacturers creating stripped-down versions of their electronics to sell on Black Friday, and consumers have less reason than ever to flood retail stores.

The true story behind Black Friday is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the "red to black" concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America's stores finally turned a profit.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 213

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
The Military

Turkey Downs Allegedly Intruding Russian Fighter Near Syria Border ( 550

jones_supa writes: Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter near the Syrian border on Tuesday after repeated warnings over airspace violations. Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space. Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. This is the first time a NATO member's armed forces have downed a Russian military aircraft since the 1950s. The Guardian is following the developments with live updates. Also covered by the BBC, which notes Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only "terrorists", but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups. Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria's president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft. Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea ( 62

Ewan Palmer writes: The BBC World service has announced it will expand to serve the worst countries for press freedom as part of a plan to reach a global audience of 500 million. The British government announced its "single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed" and promised to invest more than $128 million by 2017/18 to the service. Along with improvements in countries such as Thailand, Russia and Somalia, they will launch radio services in North Korea and Eritrea who, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom index, are the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.