vikingpower writes "A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa — the first such book mapping this key natural resource — to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use. A joint commission of the African Union and the European Union has produced a complete atlas of African soils, downloadable as 3 hefty PDFs ( Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. ) The initiative was announced four years ago, and is intended 'to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.' A digital, interactive series of maps is (still) in the making."
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Earlier this year we discussed a petition on the White House's 'We The People' site asking the administration to adopt the metric system as the standard system of measurement in the U.S. Today, the administration issued a disappointing response. Simply put: they're not going to do anything about it. They frame their response as a matter of preserving a citizen's choice to adopt whatever measurement system he wants. Quoting Patrick D. Gallagher of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "... contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation. ... Ultimately, the use of metric in this country is a choice and we would encourage Americans to continue to make the best choice for themselves and for the purpose at hand and to continue to learn how to move seamlessly between both systems. In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, "speak" metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers. ... So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on."
redletterdave writes "After AT&T unceremoniously canceled the HTC First after just one month on the market, Facebook announced the first phone running the Facebook Home operating system will not be launching in the U.K., as originally planned. From Facebook: 'Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision. Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.'"
Chewbacon writes "Details about the used-game policy on Microsoft's newly-announced Xbox One console have been leaked. The policy explains how used-game retailers can survive Xbox One destroying the used-game market as we know it: they have to agree to Microsoft's terms and conditions to do so. In summary, the used game retailer can still buy the game from the consumer, but they must report the consumer relinquishing their license to play the game to a Microsoft database. They must also sell it at a market price (35£ in the UK), but the publisher will get a cut of the price. The article goes on to explain how Xbox One will phone home periodically to verify a player hasn't sold the game according to the aforementioned database." A big downside is that we're likely going to see the end of cheap, used games. A potential upside pointed out by Ben Kuchera at the Penny Arcade Report is that this would unquestionably boost revenue for game publishers, giving the smart ones an opportunity to step away from the $60 business model and adopt pricing practices seen on Steam and iTunes (neither of which allow the purchase of "used" games/media). Also, it's worth noting that even if the policy leak is 100% correct, it could change before the console actually launches.
guttentag writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T Mobility, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., has added a new monthly administrative fee of 61 cents to the bills of all of its contract wireless lines as of May 1, a move that could bring in more than a half-billion dollars in annual revenue to the telecom giant. An AT&T spokeswoman said the fee covers 'certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance.' The increased cost to consumers comes even though AT&T's growth in wireless revenue last year outpaced the costs to operate and support its wireless business. The company has talked of continuing to improve wireless profitability. Citigroup analyst Michael Rollins noted that the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year. He said the fee should add 0.30 of a percentage point to AT&T's 2013 revenue growth; he predicts total top-line growth of about 1.5%. Normally, consumers could vote with their wallets by taking their business elsewhere. AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge,' effectively forcing millions of people to either pay more money per month or pay the ETF."
Falc0n writes "Many of us don't have to look too far back to recall the impact of a natural disaster: Sandy, Chelyabinsk, Lushan, and now Oklahoma. When they occur there is typically no shortage of assistance available, but coordination is always a major challenge. In a very open source way, about 60 open source developers, designers, and sys admins came together to build a scalable tool to help those affected by the tornado. If you're interested in helping the effort, join us in irc.freenode.net #drupal4ok"
jfruh writes "Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have long hoped that the information they've gathered about you will help them create better targeted and more lucrative advertising, even though advertisers never see your personal data directly. But now Twitter is upping the ante, creating a new kind of card that encourages you to give your contact information directly to people who want to sell you things. For instance, Priceline has a new card with a 'sign up and save' button that saves you 10% on a hotel — and, though it isn't made explicit, adds your Twitter handle and contact information to a Priceline mailing list. There's nothing to stop Twitter from handing this info — including your phone number, if you've registered it with the service — to salesmen."
judgecorp writes "BT has demonstrated an 800Gbps 'superchannel' on a 410km fiber in its core network, which was not able to carry 10Gbps channels using older technology. The superchannel is an advanced dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) technique, created by combining multiple coherent optical signals into one channel, which had previously been shown in laboratory tests. BT ran the test on a fiber with optical characteristics (high polarization mode dispersion) that made it unsuitable for 10GBps using current techniques. That's a good result for BT, because it means its existing core fiber network can be upgraded to handle more data. It's also a good customer story for Ciena, which makes the optical switches used in the test."
holy_calamity writes "Digital currency Bitcoin is gaining acceptance with mainstream venture capitalists, reports Technology Review, but at the price of its famed anonymity and ability to operate without central authority. Technology investors have now ploughed millions of dollars into a handful of Bitcoin-based payments and financial companies that are careful to follow financial regulations and don't offer anonymity. That's causing tensions in the community of Bitcoin enthusiasts, some of whom feel their currency's success has involved abandoning its most important features."
An anonymous reader writes "Looks like those guys from Aeryon Labs are at it again. Today they announced the SkyRanger a bigger brother to their Scout drone (the one that the Libyan rebels used back in 2011). This one claims flight time of close to an hour, streaming 1080p30 HD video, a range of over 3 miles and a camera that can shoot 15 Megapixel stills and thermal video simultaneously. Not only that but it pops out of a backpack and is ready to fly instantly. It ain't cheap, but it can fly at 40 mph!"
New submitter c0d3g33k writes "Google Project Hosting announced changes to the Download service on Wednesday, offering only 'increasing misuse of the service and a desire to keep our community safe and secure' by way of explanation. Effective immediately, existing projects that offer no downloads and all new projects will no longer be able to create downloads. Existing projects which currently have downloads will lose the ability to create new downloads by January 2014, though existing downloads will remain available 'for the foreseeable future.' Google Drive is recommended as an alternative, but this will likely have to be done manually by project maintainers since the ability to create and manage downloads won't be part of the Project Hosting tools. This is a rather baffling move, since distributing project files via download is integral to FOSS culture."
First time accepted submitter Rebecka writes with bad news, quoting an IB Times report: "Just as the 2013 hurricane season is about to begin, one of the U.S.' main weather satellites failed this week. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, also known as GOES-13, reportedly ceased to operate as of Tuesday, making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast." A note at NOAA's page for the GOES family of satellites says "GOES-13 imaging and sounding operations suspended. Recovery efforts for GOES-13 continue and the spacecraft health and safety are nominal. GOES-14 is being activated." You can follow the progress on the agency's page of General Satellite Messages.
BStorm writes "The Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been making headlines around the world, for allegedly smoking crack. This story was first broken by gawker.com, which is now crowd-funding $200,000 to buy the video in question. What do you look for to determine if a video has been faked? Of course I am only interested in the technical details and not the tawdry details related to this case ;) I live in Toronto, so the video still frame posted on Gawker certainly does look like Rob Ford."
Kiera Wilmot, the Florida high school student who was expelled from her school after an unauthorized science experiment was misperceived as a weapon (at least for purposes of arrest and charging), won't be going to jail. She will, though, be going to Space Camp, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign started by author and former NASA engineer Homer Hickham. All charges against her have been dropped.
Nyder writes "Kim Dotcom posted via Twitter, with a link to Torrentfreak, that he owns a security patent US6078908, titled 'Method for authorizing in data transmission systems.'" Techdirt points out that Dotcom isn't just asking for financial help: Instead, he's asking companies which use two-factor authentication "to help fund his defense, in exchange for not getting sued for the patent. He points out that his actual funds are still frozen by the DOJ and (more importantly) that his case actually matters a great deal to Google, Facebook and Twitter, because the eventual ruling will likely set a precedent that may impact them -- especially around the DMCA." Update: 05/23 14:23 GMT by T : Why is this relevant to Twitter? If you're not an active Twitter user, you might not realize that (after some well publicized twitter-account hijackings), the company is trying to regain some ground on security. Nerval's Lobster writes "Twitter is now offering two-factor authentication, a feature that could help prevent embarrassing security breaches. Twitter users interested in activating two-factor authentication will need to head over to their account settings page and click the checkbox beside 'Require a verification code when I sign in.'"