An anonymous reader writes "The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Amazon.com will soon start collecting sales tax from buyers in state of Texas. 'Seattle-based Amazon, which had $34 billion in sales in 2010, has long opposed collecting taxes. That has drawn fire from state governments facing budget shortfalls and from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, who say online sellers essentially give customers an automatic discount when they don’t collect taxes. Combs has estimated the state loses $600 million a year from untaxed online sales. However, Amazon has recently begun making deals with a number of states to collect sales tax. Those deals have usually included a one- to three-year window exempting Amazon from sales tax collection.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "If you are looking for small niche features such as interactive word count, bundled report designer, or command line filtering etc – LibreOffice beats OpenOffice hands down. 'Noting the important dates of June 1, 2011, which was when Oracle donated OOo to Apache; and Apache OpenOffice 3.4 is due probably sometime in May 2012; Meeks compared Apache OpenOffice 3.4 new features to popular new features from LibreOffice: 3.3, 3.4, 3.5. It wasn't surprising to find that LibreOffice has merged many features not found in Apache OO given their nearly year long head start.'"
zrbyte writes "Fusion research would get a major boost in a Department of Energy (DOE) spending bill approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. The panel rejected an Obama Administration proposal to cut funding for domestic fusion research in the 2013 fiscal year, which begins 1 October. It would also give more money than requested to an international collaboration building the ITER fusion reactor in France. This will allow the Alcator C-Mod fusion facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge to be kept open, which the Administration had proposed closing."
Ogi_UnixNut writes "The Skylon spaceplane is an ambitious project to develop a single-stage-to-orbit craft that can take off and land like a normal airplane. Part of this project requires an engine that can work both as a rocket engine and a normal air-breathing engine (a hybrid approach, essentially). This would reduce the amount of oxidizer required to send stuff into space, and thus greatly reduce the cost. Now, some key experimental parts of the engine have been built, and are to be tested in public at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK in July. The BBC has video of the cooling system being tested."
suraj.sun writes "Microsoft quietly fixed a flaw in Hotmail's password reset system that allowed anyone to reset the password of any Hotmail account last Friday. The company was notified of the flaw by researchers at Vulnerability Lab on April 20th and responded with a fix within hours — but not until after widespread attacks, with the bug apparently spreading 'like wild fire' in the hacking community. Hotmail's password reset system uses a token system to ensure that only the account holder can reset their password — a link with the token is sent to an account linked to the Hotmail account — and clicking the link lets the account owner reset their password. However, the validation of these tokens isn't handled properly by Hotmail, allowing attackers to reset passwords of any account. Initially hackers were offering to crack accounts for $20 a throw. However, the technique became publicly known and started to spread rapidly with Web and YouTube tutorials showing the technique popping up across the Arabic-speaking Internet."
judgecorp writes "The UK government's consultation about the use of open source in public sector IT has been sent back to square one, with discussion results scrapped because the facilitator, Andy Hopkirk, is involved with Microsoft. Hopkirk is well regarded, but the open source community feels the debate dismissed RF (royalty free) standards in favor of the FRAND definition, which is more favorable to proprietary vendors."
Hugh Pickens writes "Jacob Heilbrunn reports in The Atlantic that Germany is taking a new step toward what is often called 'normalization' as the state of Bavaria has announced that in 2015 it will publish Hitler's Mein Kampf, banned in Germany since World War II. In announcing the publication of the book, Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder says that he wants to contribute to the 'demystification' of it. In 2015, the Bavarian state's copyright to the book will expire and the idea is to publish a scholarly version that will help stem its appeal for commercial publishers. The book is not banned by law in Germany, but Bavaria has used ownership of the copyright to prevent publication of German editions since 1945. Copyright restrictions stop at the end of 2015, 70 years after Hitler's death. By publishing in 2015 before the expiry of the copyright, Bavaria hopes to make future German editions as 'commercially unattractive' as possible. 'We want to make clear what nonsense is in there,' says Soeder and to show 'what a worldwide catastrophe this dangerous body of thought led to.'"
judgecorp writes "Although ISPs protests failed to stop Britain's Digital Economy Act — which applies measures against illegal file sharing — they have succeeded in delaying it till 2014. As a result of the appeal a new impact assessment has to be carried out secondary legislation needs to be approved."
redletterdave writes "On Thursday, researchers at MIT announced a breakthrough in glass-making technology, which basically involves a new way to create surface textures on glass to eliminate all of the drawbacks of glass, including unwanted reflections and glare. The research team wanted to build glass that could be adaptable to any environment: Their 'multifunctional' glass is not only crystal clear, but it also causes water droplets to bounce right off its surface, 'like tiny rubber balls.' The glass is self-cleaning, anti-reflective, and superhydrophobic. The invention has countless applications, including TV screens, as well as smartphone and tablet displays that benefit from the self-cleaning ability of the glass by resisting moisture and contamination by sweat."
scibri writes "A comprehensive analysis published in Nature (abstract) suggests that organic farming could supply needs in some circumstances. But yields are lower than in conventional farming, so producing the bulk of the globe's diet will still require chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The meta-analysis reviewed 66 studies comparing the yields of 34 different crop species in organic and conventional farming systems. The researchers included only studies that assessed the total land area used, allowing them to compare crop yields per unit area. Many previous studies that have showed large yields for organic farming ignore the size of the area planted — which is often bigger than in conventional farming. Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34% lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices, though in some cases, notably with strawberries and soybeans, the gap is as small as 3%."
First time accepted submitter ian_po writes "The U.S. Attorney's office has filed indictments against 7 people, including two Transportation Security Administration Screeners and two former TSA employees, after federal agents set up several smuggling sting operations. The alleged smuggling scheme was revealed after a suspected drug courier went to Terminal 5, where his flight was departing, instead of going through the Terminal 6 checkpoint his written instructions directed him to. Court documents indicate the plan was to return to Terminal 5 through a secure tunnel after being allowed through security by the accused Screener. The courier was caught with 10 pounds of cocaine at the other checkpoint by a different TSA agent. If convicted, the four TSA employees face a minimum of 10 years in Federal prison." If ten pounds of anything can get onto a plane by the simple expedient of bribery, please explain again why adult travelers, but not children, must remove their shoes as they stand massed in an unsecured part of a typical U.S. airport.
MojoKid writes "At present, the government's ability to share data on its citizens is fairly restricted, insomuch as the various agencies must demonstrate cause and need. This has created a somewhat byzantine network of guidelines and laws that must be followed — a morass of red tape that CISPA is intended to cut through. One of the bill's key passages is a provision that gives private companies the right to share cybersecurity data with each other and with the government 'notwithstanding any other provision of law.' The problem with this sort of blank check clause is that, even if the people who write the law have only good intentions, it provides substantial legal cover to others who might not. Further, the core problem with most of the proposed amendments to the bill thus far isn't that they don't provide necessary protections, it's that they seek to bind the length of time the government can keep the data it gathers, or the sorts of people it can't collect data on, rather than protecting citizens as a whole. One proposed amendment, for example, would make it illegal to monitor protesters — but not other groups. It's not hard to see how those seeking to abuse the law could find a workaround — a 'protester' is just a quick arrest away from being considered a 'possible criminal risk.'"
First time accepted submitter cos(0) writes "Between O'Reilly, Wrox, Addison-Wesley, The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and many others, software developers have a wide variety of literature about languages, patterns, practices, and tools. Many publishers even offer subscriptions to online reading of the whole collection, exposing you to things you didn't even know you don't know — and many of us learn more from these publishers than from a Comp Sci curriculum. But what about publishers and books specializing in tech underneath software — like VHDL, Verilog, design tools, and wire protocols? In particular, best practices, modeling techniques, and other skills that separate a novice from an expert?"
An anonymous reader writes with this enthusiastic review of the latest from Canonical: "So how does Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) fare? I will say exceptionally well. Unity is not the same ugly duckling it was made out to be. In Ubuntu 12.04, it has transformed into a beautiful swan. As Ubuntu 12.04 is a long term release, the Ubuntu team has pulled all stops to make sure the user experience is positive. Ubuntu 12.04 aka Precise Pangolin is definitely worthy of running on your machine."
First time accepted submitter FBeans writes "'Science fiction publisher Tor UK is dropping digital rights management from its e-books alongside a similar move by its U.S. partners. ... Tor UK, Tor Books and Forge are divisions of Pan Macmillan, which said it viewed the move as an "experiment."' With experiments, come results. Now users can finally read their books across multiple devices such as Amazon's Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo eReader and Apple's iBooks. Perhaps we will see the *increase* of sales, because the new unrestricted format outweighs the decrease caused by piracy?"