New submitter elphie007 writes "Australian consumers may finally see the end of being overcharged for software simply because they live outside the U.S. Minister for Communications Senator Stephen Conroy (champion of Australia's National Broadband Network) is reported to be finalizing the terms of reference for a parliamentary inquiry into software pricing in Australia. Last week, Adobe announced Australians would be charged up to $1,600 more for Adobe CS6. With the ongoing strength of the Aussie dollar against the U.S. dollar, Australians should really be paying less, not more for software & music purchased online."
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An anonymous reader writes "An article at the NY Times explains the how the most profitable tech company in the world becomes even more profitable by finding ways to avoid or minimize taxes. Quoting: 'Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company's profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California's corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada's? Zero. ... As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world. ... Without such tactics, Apple's federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study (PDF) by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent."
mikejuk writes "Face recognition techniques usually come with a certain amount of controversy. A new application, however, is unlikely to trigger any privacy concerns — because all of the subjects are long dead. 'FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems' will attempt to apply face recognition software to portraits. Three University of California, Riverside researchers have just received funding to try and piece together the who's who in history. 'Almost every portrait painted before the 19th century was of a person of some importance. As families fell on hard times, many of these portraits were sold and the identities of these subjects were lost. The question we hope to answer is, can we restore these identities?' If the algorithm can be fine tuned we can look forward to the digitized collections of museums and art galleries around the world suddenly yielding a who-knew-who social network graph that could put more science, and computer science at that, into history."
suraj.sun writes "CISPA, the hotly-contested cybersecurity bill making its way through Congress, has been supported by Microsoft since it was introduced. However, the company now tells CNET that any such legislation must 'honor the privacy and security promises we make to our customers,' while also 'protecting consumer privacy.' As you may recall, the U.S. House passed CISPA on Thursday. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill. Quoting CNET: 'That's a noticeable change — albeit not a complete reversal — from Microsoft's position when CISPA was introduced in November 2011. To be sure, Microsoft's initial reaction to CISPA came before many of the privacy concerns had been raised. An anti-CISPA coalition letter (PDF) wasn't sent out until April 16, and a petition that garnered nearly 800,000 signatures wasn't set up until April 5. What makes CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word "notwithstanding," CISPA's drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.'"
New submitter jools33 writes "The BBC has a fascinating story about how a mathematical formula revolutionized the world of finance — and ultimately could have been responsible for its downfall. The Black-Scholes mathematical model, introduced in the '70s, opened up the world of options, futures, and derivatives trading in a way that nothing before or since has accomplished. Its phenomenal success and widespread adoption lead to Myron Scholes winning a Nobel prize in economics. Yet the widespread adoption of the model may have been responsible for the financial crisis of the past few years. It's interesting to ponder how algorithms and formulas that we work on today could fundamentally influence humanity's future."
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt that sounds like a good Neal Stephenson plot point: "Like a treasure chest stuffed with priceless booty, as many as 20 World War II-era Spitfire planes are perfectly preserved, buried in crates beneath Burma — and after 67 years underground, they're set to be uncovered. The planes were shipped in standard fashion in 1945 from their manufacturer in England to the Far East country: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements. They were then buried in the crates they were shipped in, rather than let them fall into enemy hands, said David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast who has spent 15 years and about $200,000 in his efforts to reveal the lost planes."
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.'"
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."