An anonymous reader writes "Google on Friday announced it is shutting down a slew of features and services as part of its winter cleaning. Google Calendar will be losing a few features, Google Sync will be axed (on the consumer side), as will Google Calendar Sync, SyncML, the Issue Tracker Data API, and the Punchd app."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
skade88 writes "Worldwide, people are living longer. Their lives are starting to look more like the lives of Americans: too much food is a problem, death in childhood is becoming less common, and so on. Yet with a population that lives through what would once have killed us, disabilities are starting to become the norm. A research report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has a good glimpse into the new emerging world we find ourselves in." The Guardian has a nice visualization of the mortality data (but take note of shifting scales on the Y-axis).
dcblogs writes "Michigan lawmakers just approved a right-to-work law in an effort to dismantle union power, but unions are already becoming irrelevant. The problem with unions is they can't protect jobs. They can't stop a company from moving jobs overseas, closing offices, or replacing workers with machines. Indeed, improvements in automation is making the nation attractive again for manufacturing, according to U.S. intelligence Global Trends 2030 report. The trends are clear. Amazon spent $775 million this year to acquire a company, Kiva Systems that makes robots used in warehouses. Automation will replace warehouse workers, assembly-line and even retail workers. In time, Google's driverless cars will replace drivers in the trucking industry. Unions sometimes get blamed for creating uncompetitive environments and pushing jobs overseas. But the tech industry, which isn't unionized, is a counterpoint. Tech has been steadily moving jobs overseas to lower costs."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Are e-readers doomed? A research note earlier this week from IHS iSuppli suggested that, after years of solid growth, the e-book reader market was 'on an alarmingly precipitous decline' thanks to the rise of tablets. The firm suggested that e-reader sales had declined from 23.2 million units in 2011 to 14.9 million this year — around 36 percent, in other words. The note blames tablets: 'Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets.' Even Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the reigning champs of the e-reader marketplace, have increasingly embraced full-color tablets as the best medium for selling their digital products. Backed by enormous cloud-based libraries that offer far more than just e-books, these devices are altogether more versatile than grayscale e-readers, provided their users want to do more than just read plain text."
Several readers sent word of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. According to most reports, 27 people are dead, including 18 children. The alleged shooter is dead, a man in his 20s. He was armed with multiple weapons and may have worn a bulletproof vest. According to CBS, "It is unclear if there was more than one gunman at the school. Miller reports authorities have an individual in custody who investigators said may be a possible second shooter." (Investigators now say the person being questioned is not a suspect.) One student was quoted as saying, "I was in the gym and I heard a loud, like seven loud booms, and the gym teachers told us to go in the corner, so we all huddled. And I kept hearing these booming noises. And we all started crying." Another, 8 years old, said, "I saw some of the bullets going down the hall and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom."
clickclickdrone sends this news from the BBC: "Computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who is wanted in the U.S., will not face charges in the U.K., the Crown Prosecution Service has said. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said the chances of a successful conviction were 'not high.' He announced the decision some three months after Home Secretary Theresa May stopped the extradition. Mr. McKinnon, 46, admits accessing U.S. government computers but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs. The U.S. authorities tried to extradite him to face charges of causing $800,000 (£487,000) to military computer systems and he would have faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted."
Hugh Pickens writes "David Crane and Robert F.Kennedy Jr. write in the NY Times that with residents of New Jersey and New York living through three major storms in the past 16 months and suffering sustained blackouts, we need to ask whether it is really sensible to power the 21st century by using an antiquated and vulnerable system of copper wires and wooden poles. Some have taken matters into their own hands, purchasing portable gas-powered generators to give themselves varying degrees of grid independence. But these dirty, noisy and expensive devices have no value outside of a power failure and there is a better way to secure grid independence for our homes and businesses: electricity-producing photovoltaic panels installed on houses, warehouses and over parking lots, wired so that they deliver power when the grid fails. 'Solar panels have dropped in price by 80 percent in the past five years and can provide electricity at a cost that is at or below the current retail cost of grid power in 20 states, including many of the Northeast states,' write Crane and Kennedy. 'So why isn't there more of a push for this clean, affordable, safe and inexhaustible source of electricity?' First, the investor-owned utilities that depend on the existing system for their profits have little economic interest in promoting a technology that empowers customers to generate their own power. Second, state regulatory agencies and local governments impose burdensome permitting and siting requirements that unnecessarily raise installation costs. While it can take as little as eight days to license and install a solar system on a house in Germany, in the United States, depending on your state, the average ranges from 120 to 180 days."
illtud writes "It appears that the Metropolitan Police in London have been recording the frequency of the mains supply for the past 7 years. With this, they claim to be able to pick up the hum from any digital recording and tell when the recording was made. From the article: 'Comparing the unique pattern of the frequencies on an audio recording with a database that has been logging these changes for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year provides a digital watermark: a date and time stamp on the recording.'"
alphadogg writes "Japanese police are looking for an individual who can code in C#, uses a 'Syberian Post Office' to make anonymous posts online, and knows how to surf the web without leaving any digital tracks — and they're willing to pay. It is the first time that Japan's National Police Agency has offered a monetary reward for a wanted hacker, or put so much technical detail into one of its wanted postings. The NPA will pay up to $36,000, the maximum allowed under its reward system. The case is an embarrassing one for the police, in which earlier this year 4 individuals were wrongly arrested after their PCs were hacked and used to post messages on public bulletin boards. The messages included warnings of plans for mass killings at an elementary school posted to a city website."
An anonymous reader writes "The FreeBSD Foundation has posted blog article article talking about the remarkable surge in donations they've received in the last three days following a recent Slashdot article reporting on weak fundraising this year. Deb Goodkin reports that the FreeBSD Foundation, as with many non-profits, receives more than 50% of its annual funds at the end of the US tax year, but that the Foundation has never seen this rate of donations before, and will hit a new record for unique donors this year. She comments that it was Slashdot readers that made the difference! She does, however, appeal for further donations noting that they have a long way to go on their full goal."
New submitter stonetony writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "A team of 12 scientists and engineers has begun work at remote Lake Ellsworth. They are using a high-pressure hose and sterilised water at near boiling point to blast a passage through more than two miles of ice. The aim is to analyse ice waters isolated for up to 500,000 years. The team of 12 scientists and engineers is using sterilised water at near boiling point to blast a passage through the ice to waters isolated for up to half a million years. The process of opening a bore-hole is expected to last five days and will be followed by a rapid sampling operation before the ice refreezes."
ananyo writes "A controversial paper published in Nature argues that enigmatic fossils regarded as ancient sea creatures were actually land-dwelling lichen. If true, that would suggest life on land began 65 million years earlier than researchers now estimate. The nature of fossils from the Ediacaran period, some 635 million–542 million years ago, has been fiercely debated by palaeontologists. But where others envisage Ediacaran sea beds crawling with archaic animals, Gregory Retallack, a geologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, sees these sites in southern Australia as dry, terrestrial landscapes dotted with lichens. He proposes that rock in the Ediacara Member in South Australia — where palaeontologist Reginald Sprigg first discovered Ediacaran fossils in 1947 — represents ancient soils, and presents new geological data. Among other lines of evidence, Retallack argues that the rock's red colour and weathering pattern indicate that the deposits were formed in terrestrial — not marine — environments (abstract). Others strongly disagree."
tsamsoniw writes "PNC, Bank of America, SunTrust, and other major financial institutions have experienced a wave of DDoS attacks and site outages over the past couple of days, and Islamic extremist hacker group Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters is claiming responsibility. The group, which launched similar attacks earlier this year, reiterated its demands: that a controversial YouTube video mocking the prophet Mohammed "be eliminated from the Internet.""
An anonymous reader writes "Shocking Kickstarter news this morning, not only did I actually I receive my Brydge this morning, but a Kickstarter software project shipped on time! Connectify Dispatch, the load balancing software for Windows, was released today as well. Perhaps the Kickstarter model of funding technology is not nearly as doomed as some naysayers here would have it. Why are so many here hostile to crowdsourcing? Shouldn't we be glad to have Venture Capitalists cut out of the loop so that companies actually listen to us?"
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have found conclusive evidence for the first time that humans have been making cheese since the 6th millennium BC."