theodp writes "With all of the content that can be delivered electronically — e-books, music, apps, movies, e-gift cards, tickets — the percentage of Christmas gift giving that's digital is growing each year. However, the e-gift unwrapping user experience on Christmas morning leaves much to be desired. In addition to providing old-school mail delivery of gift cards, Amazon offers a variety of other options, including e-mailing a gift card on a specific day with or without a suggested gift, posting it on someone's Facebook Wall, or allowing you to print one for personal delivery. Another suggestion — using USB drives — harkens back to the days of burning CDs with custom playlists for last-minute gifts, but you'll be thwarted by DRM issues for lots of content. So, until Facebook introduces The Tree to save our e-gifts under until they're 'unwrapped' on Christmas morning with the other physical gifts, how do you plan on handling e-gift giving and getting?"
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dcblogs writes "China is on track to overtake the U.S. in spending on research and development in about 10 years, as federal R&D spending either declines or remains flat. The U.S. today maintains a large lead in spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase. By contrast, China's overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years. This finding is shared by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 'China's investment as a percentage of its GDP shows continuing, deliberate growth that, if it continues, should surpass the roughly flat United States investment within a decade,' it said in a report last month."
benrothke writes "When the IBM PC first came out 31 years ago, it supported a maximum of 256KB RAM. You can buy an equivalent computer today with substantially more CPU power at a fraction of the price. But in those 31 years, the information security functionality in which the PC operates has not progressed accordingly. In Burdens of Proof: Cryptographic Culture and Evidence Law in the Age of Electronic Documents, author Jean-François Blanchette observes that the move to a paperless society means that paper-based evidence needs to be recreated in the digital world. It also requires an underlying security functionality to flow seamlessly across organizations, government agencies and the like. While the computing power is there, the ability to create a seamless cryptographic culture is much slower in coming." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
New submitter wilbrod writes "A Quebec special effects artist charged with corrupting morals has been found not guilty in a case that tested the boundaries of creative expression and Canadian obscenity laws. He was charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene material. During the trial, Couture argued his gory works, roughly a thousand images and two short videos that appeared on Couture's website, Inner Depravity, should be considered art. The material in question depicts gruesome murders, torture, sexual abuse, assaults and necrophilia — all with young female victims."
The Internet Archive curates an astounding collection (actually, a collection of collections) of online resources, from historically significant to modern but obscure. Storing, serving and organizing more than 10 petabytes isn't cheap, despite their ongoing efforts to innovate on that front. An anonymous reader writes "An anonymous donor is matching $3 for every $1 given (up to $450,000) until December 31. One petabyte has been paid for so far and the archive is looking at getting three more. 'These massive servers are the backbone of the Archive, and critical to our continued growth. To all of you who've contributed to our fundraising drive, thanks from all of us here at the Internet Archive. '"
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have discovered four wooden water wells in the Greater Leipzig region, Germany, which are believed to be the oldest known timber constructions in the world. A team of experts led by Willy Tegel and Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg, Germany, uncovered the wells built during the early Neolithic period between the years 5206 and 5098 B.C." The (quite short) paper itself, and some cool pictures of the artifacts, are freely available.
SchrodingerZ writes "The Venus, Steve Jobs' custom-made mega yacht, (valued at 137.5 million dollars), has been impounded in Amsterdam. Philippe Starck, the boat's main designer, had The Venus impounded by debt collectors, after supposedly Starck and his company, Ubik, were paid only 6 million of the 9-million-euro commission. Roelant Klaassen, a lawyer for Ubik, released in a statement that 'These guys [Jobs and Starck] trusted each other, so there wasn't a very detailed contract.' 'The Venus is a floating ode to both Jobs and Starck's minimalist aesthetic. Made entirely out of aluminum, with 40-foot-long floor-to-ceiling windows lining the passenger compartment and seven 27-inch iMacs making up the command center.' The ship was unofficially unveiled in late October, a year after Jobs' death. It now sits dormant in the Port of Amsterdam, until the payment dispute is resolved."
dryriver writes "The BBC reports that cosmetic products using bee venom as an ingredient are a new 'hot seller' in the cosmetics market. Bee venom is said to have an effect on female skin similar to Botox injections, tightening the skin and making wrinkles and other signs of aging appear less pronounced than before. Unlike Botox, however, bee venom does not need to be injected, and can be absorbed through the skin naturally as an ingredient of cosmetic skin creme. Now comes the kicker: A special electrified device that causes bees to sting a synthetic membrane and release their venom can harvest about one gram of bee venom from 20 bee hives. That one gram of bee venom is worth a whopping 350 dollars. This makes bee venom almost seven times more valuable than gold, which, in comparison, is worth only about 53 dollars per gram."
An anonymous reader writes "Google on Friday announced that it is changing its stance for silently installing extensions in its browser. As of Chrome 25, external extension deployment options on Windows will be disabled by default and all extensions previously installed using them will be automatically disabled."
New submitter dgrobinson writes "NY Times reports that West Antarctica has warmed more over the last half century than was first thought. A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience (abstract) found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth."
An anonymous reader writes "A Metro version of VLC, the popular free and open-source media player, is coming to Windows 8. On Sunday, the VideoLAN organization reached its funding goal on Kickstarter for its Windows 8-specific app. There are also plans to port it afterwards to Windows Phone 8. The project has now been funded by over 2,500 backers, who have pledged more than the £40,000 ($65,000) goal."
The NSA was originally supposed to handle foreign intelligence, and leave the domestic spying to other agencies, but Presto Vivace writes with this bit from CNET: "'The National Security Agency's Perfect Citizen program hunts for vulnerabilities in 'large-scale' utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show.' 'Perfect Citizen?' Who thinks up these names?" "The program is scheduled to continue through at least September 2014," says the article.
In a scathing rant posted to a GNU project mailing list, the maintainer of grep and sed announced that he was quitting the GNU project over technical and administrative disagreements. Chief among them: He believes RMS is detrimental to the project by slowing down technical innovation (the example used was RMS's distaste for C++, not exactly a strong point against RMS). Additionally, he noted that the FSF is not doing enough to help GNU "Projects such as gnash are bound to have constant funding problems despite being (and having been for years) in the FSF's list of high priority projects.". Finally: "Attaching the GNU label to one's program has absolutely no attractiveness anymore. People expect GNU to be as slow as an elephant, rather than as slick as a gazelle, and perhaps they are right. Projects such as LLVM achieve a great momentum by building on the slowness of GNU's decision processes, and companies such as Apple get praise even if they are only embracing these projects to avoid problems with GPLv3." The author is quick to note that he has no philosophical disagreements with GNU or the FSF.
Techmeology writes "Just days after the UK Pirate Party was forced to kill its proxy service Pirate Parties in Argentina and Luxembourg have created their own proxies. In a statement, the Pirate Party in Argentina said: 'We wish the UK Pirate Party best of luck in their continued fight for free access to culture and knowledge. We have put up our own Pirate Bay proxy which is accessible from anywhere in the world, including the UK and other places where it has been censored.'"
SternisheFan writes with a snippet from Science Recorder: "Reporting in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, researchers at Brigham Young University say that the Hawaiian Islands are slowly dissolving. Eventually, Oahu's Koolau and Waianae mountains will dwindle to little more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway. While erosion is certainly a guilty party, researchers contend that the mountains of Oahu are, in fact, dissolving from within. Researchers spent several months collecting samples of groundwater and stream water to determine which source removed more mineral material. They also put to use surface water estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey to calculate the quantity of mass that vanished from the island each year. Researchers point out that Oahu is actually rising in elevation at a slow but steady rate due to plate tectonics. [BYU geologist Steve Nelson] and colleagues believe that Oahu will continue to grow for as long as 1.5 million years. Beyond that, the force of groundwater will eventually win and Oahu will begin its transformation to a flat, low-lying island like Midway." (If you have journal access, or don't mind forking over $40, you can read the original paper.)