eldavojohn writes "Not two weeks after Microsoft purchased 925 patents and patent applications plus licenses to AOL's portfolio for $1 billion, Facebook has now acquired 650 of said patents and patent applications for $550 million to which Microsoft retains a license. So, was Microsoft's $450 million worth it? According to their press release: 'Upon closing of this transaction with Facebook, Microsoft will retain ownership of approximately 275 AOL patents and applications; a license to the approximately 650 AOL patents and applications that will now be owned by Facebook; and a license to approximately 300 patents that AOL did not sell in its auction.' Will the patent-go-round continue, or has Facebook loaded up for a good old-fashion Mexican standoff?"
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vivIsel writes "This morning, President Obama is set to unveil a new executive order that will allow the U.S. to specifically target sanctions against individuals, companies or countries who use technology to enable human rights abuse. Especially as repressive regimes more effectively monitor their dissidents online (rather than simply blocking access), the sanctions focus on companies that help them do that."
Hugh Pickens writes "Ron Fournier and Sophie Quinton write in the National Journal that seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed, only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses "a great deal" of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion. 'We have lost our gods,' says Laura Hansen. 'We've lost it—that basic sense of trust and confidence—in everything.' Humans are coded to create communities, and communities beget institutions. What if, in the future, they don't? People could disconnect, refocus inward, and turn away from their social contract. Already, many are losing trust. If society can't promise benefits for joining it, its members may no longer feel bound to follow its rules. But history reminds us that America's leaders can draw the nation together to solve problems. At a moment of gaping income inequality, when the country was turbulently transitioning from a farm economy to a factory one, President Theodore Roosevelt reminded Americans, 'To us, as a people, it has been granted to lay the foundations of our national life.' At the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt chastised the business and political leaders who had led the country into ruin. 'These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men,' said FDR. 'Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.'"
stoolpigeon writes "With a large study showing software grades essays as well as humans, but much faster, it might seem that soon humans will be completely out of the loop when it comes to evaluating standardized tests. But Les Perelman, a writing teacher at MIT, has shown the limits of algorithms used for grading with an essay that got a top score from an automated system but contained no relevant information and many inaccuracies. Mr. Perelman outlined his approach for the NY Times after he was given a month to analyze E-Rater, one of the software packages that grades essays."
eldavojohn writes "The New York Review of Books has an article penned by Steven Weinberg lamenting the future of physics, cosmology and this era of 'big science' in which we find ourselves. A quote from Goldhaber sums up the problem nicely, 'The first to disintegrate a nucleus was Rutherford, and there is a picture of him holding the apparatus in his lap. I then always remember the later picture when one of the famous cyclotrons was built at Berkeley, and all of the people were sitting in the lap of the cyclotron.' The article is lengthy with a history of big physics projects (most painfully perhaps the SSC) but Weinberg's message ultimately comes across as pessimism laced with fatalism — easily understandable given his experiences with government funding. Unfortunately he notes, 'Big science has the special problem that it can't easily be scaled down. It does no good to build an accelerator tunnel that only goes halfway around the circle.' Apparently this article mirrors his talk given in January at the American Astronomical Society. If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?"
DustyShadow writes "The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments. Students at UF have already organized protests, and have created a website dedicated to saving the CS department. Several distinguished computer scientists have written to the president of UF to express their concerns, in very blunt terms. Prof. Zvi Galil, Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, is 'amazed, shocked, and angered.' Prof. S.N. Maheshwari, former Dean of Engineering at IIT Delhi, calls this move 'outrageously wrong.' Computer scientist Carl de Boor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of the 2003 National Medal of Science, asked the UF president 'What were you thinking?'"
fishmike writes with this news snipped from a Reuters story: "Britain may have enough offshore shale gas to catapult it into the top ranks of global producers, energy experts now believe, and while production costs are still very high, new U.S. technology should eventually make reserves commercially viable. UK offshore reserves of shale gas could exceed one thousand trillion cubic feet (tcf), compared to current rates of UK gas consumption of 3.5 tcf a year, or five times the latest estimate of onshore shale gas of 200 trillion cubic feet."
It's not just the TRS-80; new submitter sebt writes "ZX Spectrum, the microcomputer launched in 1982 by Sinclair Research (Cambridge, UK) turns 30 today. The launch of the machine is seen by many today as the inspiration for a generation of eager young programmers, software and game designers in the UK. The events surrounding its launch, notably Sinclair's well-known rivalry with Acorn, later helped to inspire the design of the ARM architecture and most recently the Raspberry PI (based on ARM), in an effort to reboot the idea of enthusiastic kid programmers first captured by the Spectrum and Acorn's BBC micro. Happy birthday Spec!"
CowboyRobot writes "Last year, a Nigerian man boarded a plane from N.Y. to L.A. using an invalid ID and a boarding pass issued to another person. A week later he was caught again with 10 expired boarding passes. In response to this and similar events, the Transportation Security Administration has begun testing a new system at Washington's Dulles International Airport that verifies an air traveler's identity by matching photo IDs to boarding passes and ensures that boarding passes are authentic. The test will soon be expanded to Houston and Puerto Rico."
mikejuk writes "How does the Apple App Store actually work? What is the best strategy to employ if you want to get some users and make some money? There are some pointers on how it all works from an unusual source — artificial life. A pair of researchers Soo Ling Lim and Peter Bentley from University College London, set up an artificial life simulation of the app store's ecosystem. They created app developers with strategies such as — innovate, copy other apps, create useless variations on a basic app or try and optimize the app you have. What they found, among other things, was that the CopyCat strategy was on average the best. When they allow the strategies to compete and developer agents to swap then the use of the CopyCat fell to only 10%. The reason — more than 10% CopyCats resulted in nothing new to copy!"
Jeremiah Cornelius writes "While conducting investigative reporting on civilian contractors in the Pentagon's "InfoOps" Internet propaganda operations, two reporters found themselves the subject of a highly targeted, professional media manipulation effort. Reporter Tom Vanden Brook and Editor Ray Locker found that Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names. Some postings merely copied Vanden Brook's and Locker's previous reporting. Others accused them of being sponsored by the Taliban. 'I find it creepy and cowardly that somebody would hide behind my name and presumably make up other names in an attempt to undermine my credibility,' Vanden Brook said. If these websites were created using federal funds, it could violate federal law prohibiting the production of propaganda for domestic consumption."
bonch writes "An analysis of software licenses shows usage of GPL and other copyleft licenses declining at an accelerating rate. In their place, developers are choosing permissive licenses such as BSD, MIT, and ASL. One theory for the decline is that GPL usage was primarily driven by vendor-led projects, and with the shift to community-led projects, permissive licenses are becoming more common."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "If early humans had been vegans we might all still be living in caves, Swedish researchers suggested in an article Thursday. When a mother eats meat, her breast-fed child's brain grows faster and she is able to wean the child at an earlier age, allowing her to have more children faster, the article explains. 'Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened,' said psychologist Elia Psouni of Lund University in Sweden. 'This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution.' She notes, however, that the results say nothing about what humans today should or should not eat."