The Almighty Buck

Valve's Economist Yanis Varoufakis Appointed Greece's Finance Minister 26

Posted by timothy
from the finger-on-all-the-buttons dept.
eldavojohn writes A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece. For the past three years Varoufakis has been working at Steam to analyze and improve the Steam Market but now has the opportunity to improve one of the most troubled economies in the world.
Businesses

Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers 344

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-is-no-entertainment-except-through-us dept.
RogueyWon writes: For the last several days, some users of Ubisoft's uPlay system have been complaining that copies of games they purchased have been removed from their libraries. According to a statement issued to a number of gaming websites, Ubisoft believes that the digital keys revoked have been "fraudulently obtained." What this means in practice is unclear; while some of the keys may have been obtained using stolen credit card details, others appear to have been purchased from unofficial third-party resellers, who often undercut official stores by purchasing cheaper boxed retail copies of games and selling their key-codes online, or by exploiting regional price differences, buying codes in regions where games are cheaper to sell them elsewhere in the world. The latest round of revocations appears to have triggered an overdue debate into the fragility of customer rights in respect of digital games stores.
Government

Comcast Ghost-Writes Politician's Letters To Support Time Warner Mega-Merger 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-the-money-lies dept.
WheezyJoe writes: As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation's foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger."

Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board.
Bitcoin

Winklevoss Twins Plan Regulated Bitcoin Exchange 79

Posted by timothy
from the trust-us-there-are-two-of-us dept.
itwbennett writes They of the square jaws and famous dispute with Mark Zuckerberg over the origins of Facebook, are also believed to be among the largest holders of Bitcoin in the world. Now they want to launch a regulated Bitcoin exchange—named Gemini, of course. To bolster confidence, they said they have formed a relationship with a chartered bank in the state of New York. "This means that your money will never leave the country," the twins wrote in a blog post. "It also means that U.S. dollars on Gemini will be eligible for FDIC insurance and held by a U.S.-regulated bank.
Programming

By the Numbers: The Highest-Paying States For Tech Professionals 135

Posted by timothy
from the where-are-you-now? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes The average technology professional made $89,450 in 2014, according to Dice's latest salary survey. When it comes to salaries, however, not all states and cities are created equal. Those tech pros living and working in Silicon Valley are the highest-paid in the country, with an average annual salary of $112,610—but that salary grew only 4 percent year-over-year, lagging behind cities such as Portland and Seattle. Dice has built an interactive map that shows where people are making the most (and least). As you click around, note how salary growth is particularly strong in parts of the West, the Northeast, and the South, while remaining stagnant (and even regressing) in some middle states. If anything, the map reinforces what many tech pros have known for years: that more cities and regions are becoming hubs of innovation.
Security

Made-In-Nigeria Smart Cards To Extend Financial Services To the Poor 40

Posted by timothy
from the all-you-need-is-this-card dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "A new factory producing smart cards opened in Lagos this week, promising to open up access to financial services to many poor Africans and other inhabitants of the Global South. The cards can be used by people without traditional bank accounts to access the worldwide credit card and smart phone infrastructure." From the article: Preliminary estimates indicate that there are currently about 150 million active SIM cards, 110 million biometric ID cards and 15 million credit and debit cards in Nigeria, [Nigerian president Goodluck] Jonathan said. As more financial-inclusion schemes, requiring more bank cards, are rolled out and different Nigerian states implement ID projects, the numbers of smart cards in use are expected to experience double-digit growth, he said.
Verizon

Verizon About To End Construction of Its Fiber Network 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the you're-stuck-with-comcast dept.
WheezyJoe writes: If you've been holding out hope that FiOS would rescue you from your local cable monopoly, it's probably time to give up. Making good on their statements five years ago, Verizon announced this week it is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.

The expense of replacing old copper lines with fiber has allegedly led Verizon to stop building in new regions and to complete wiring up the areas where it had already begun. The fiber network was profitable, but nowhere near as profitable as their wireless network. So, if Verizon hasn't started in your neighborhood by now, they never will, and you'd best ignore all those ads for FiOS.
Bitcoin

Jim Blasko Explains 'Unbreakable Coin' (Video 2 of 2) 39

Posted by timothy
from the is-it-cryptocurrency-or-cryptic-currency? dept.
Today, the conclusion of my talk with Jim Blasko (here's part 1), who encourages you to go start your own crypto currency, because it's a fun exercise and because every entrant adds new ideas to the mix. As you'd expect, he's bullish about both his own Unbreakable Coin and cryptocurrencies more generally; how any given given currency performs, though, is an open question: U.S. dollars, Euros, or Yen may not go experience any meteoric rises, but their stability, even with inflation, is a nice feature, and so is their worldwide convertibility.

Regulation, speculation, fraud, and cultural fashions all play a role in making new currencies risky; reader mbkennel yesterday asked an insightful question: "Are you up to loaning bitcoin or something less popular for 10 years?" Confidence in any given currency can be tested with the terms current holders are willing to accept to make loans payable in that same currency. (On the other hand, if large companies will accept it in payment, they've probably got an idea that a given currency will be around next month or next year.) If you've bought any form of crypto currency, what's been your experience, and what do you expect in 10 years? (Alternate Video Link)
Robotics

DARPA Wants Atlas Robot To Go Wireless 19

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-mobility-to-kill-all-humans dept.
mikejuk writes: Atlas is a humanoid robot, one of the most advanced in the world. But it's always had cables that provided it with power and made it look a little like a dog on a leash. It was designed to provide a hardware platform for teams competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge — a competition designed to encourage the construction of an effective disaster response robot. DARPA now says the finals of the challenge later in the year will require that the robots be completely wireless.

Power will be supplied by an onboard 3.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. That battery will drive a variable-pressure pump which operates all of the hydraulic systems. The pump makes ATLAS much quieter, but introduces a complication for the teams: it can be run at low pressure to save power and then switched to high pressure to get harder work done. Managing power consumption will be a very difficult task, but DARPA has also upped the prize money to $3.5 million in total.
Bitcoin

Jim Blasko Explains BitCoin Spinoff 'Unbreakable Coin' (Video 1 of 2) 55

Posted by timothy
from the yet-another-cryptocurrency dept.
Las Vegas seems an appropriate place for cryptocurrency businesses to emerge, both because the coins themselves are so volatile that some gambling instinct may be required, and because Vegas is a high-tech outpost with lower taxes and lower rents than many other West Coast hot-spots, well-suited to risky startups with ambition but without huge venture backing.Jim Blasko moved there to work on low-voltage engineering for Penn & Teller, and is a qualified Crestron programmer, too (useful in a town that looks from the air like one giant light-show), but has shifted to a quite different endeavor, or rather a complex of them — all related to cryptocurrency. I ran into Blasko during this month's CES, at a forum with several other cryptocoin startups, and the next day we met to talk about just how hard (or easy) it is to get into this world as an entrepreneur.

Blasko has some advice for anyone who'd like to try minting a new cryptocurrency. Making your own coin, he says, is the easy part: anyone can clone code from an existing entrant, like Bitcoin, and rename the result — and that's exactly what he did. The hard work is what comes after: making worthwhile changes, building trust, and making it tradeable. Blasko's done the legwork to get his own currency, which he's bravely called "Unbreakable Coin," listed on exchanges like Cryptsy, and is working on his own auction site as well. He's also got an interesting idea for cryptocoin trading cards, and had a few prototypes on hand. (Part 1 is below; Part 2 to follow.) Alternate Video Link
The Almighty Buck

Star Trek Continues Kickstarter 2.0 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-boldly-make-some-more-episodes dept.
The Real Dr John writes Vic Mignogna and crew have launched their second Kickstarter campaign to produce 2 or more additional episodes of Star Trek Continues, a fan-based web series finishing up the 5 year mission of the original Star Trek television series. The first Kickstarter campaign raised enough money for 4 episodes, 3 of which have already been aired. Depending on how much funding they get this time, they plan to produce up to 4 additional episodes.
Programming

Interviews: Alexander Stepanov and Daniel E. Rose Answer Your Questions 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
samzenpus (5) writes "Alexander Stepanov is an award winning programmer who designed the C++ Standard Template Library. Daniel E. Rose is a programmer, research scientist, and is the Chief Scientist for Search at A9.com. In addition to working together, the duo have recently written a new book titled, From Mathematics to Generic Programming. Earlier this month you had a chance to ask the pair about their book, their work, or programming in general. Below you'll find the answers to those questions."
Government

NSA Prepares For Future Techno-Battles By Plotting Network Takedowns 81

Posted by timothy
from the your-friends-and-mine dept.
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes According to top secret documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seen exclusively by SPIEGEL, they are planning for wars of the future in which the Internet will play a critical role, with the aim of being able to use the net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control, including power and water supplies, factories, airports or the flow of money. Also check out — New Snowden documents show that the NSA and its allies are laughing at the rest of the world.
Censorship

Cuba's Pending Tech Revolution 122

Posted by timothy
from the are-we-supposed-to-be-grateful? dept.
dcblogs writes The White House order last week lifting economic sanctions against Cuba specifically singles out technology, from telecommunication networks to consumer tech. There's much potential and many obstacles. Cuba has an educated population craving technology, but it has little income for new tech. The Cuban government wants to trade with the U.S., but is paranoid about the outside world and has limited Internet access to 5% to 10% of the population, at best. "The government has been very reluctant to have open Internet access," said Harley Shaiken, chairman of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. But "there is real hunger for technology," and with the easing of the embargo, the government "will be facing new pressures," he said. The country needs a complete technology upgrade, including to its electric grid, and the money to finance these improvements. "Markets like Cuba, which will require a wholesale construction of new infrastructure, don't come along often, if ever," said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, a tech industry trade group. "The flood of companies lining up to get in should be quite substantial," he said. Cuba has a population of about 11 million, about the same size as the Dominican Republic, which spends about $1 billion annually on technology and related services, according to IDC. But capital spending today on IT in Cuba may be no more than $200 million annually.
Crime

What Africa Really Needs To Fight Ebola 83

Posted by timothy
from the infrastructure-matters dept.
Lasrick writes Laura Kahn, a physician on the research staff of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security, writes that the high tech solutions being promoted to help fight Ebola in Africa will make no difference. What Africa really needs is anti-corruption efforts, now. "A case in point is Liberia, which has received billions of dollars in international aid for over a decade, with little to show for it. The country ranks near the bottom of the United Nation's Human Development Index and near the bottom of Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. And while international aid groups and non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps provide important humanitarian assistance and medical care, they also inadvertently absolve African political leaders from developing medical and public health infrastructures."
Communications

FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number 217

Posted by timothy
from the all-numbers-will-be-wrong-numbers dept.
An anonymous reader writes There have been plenty of false rumors about cell phones being opened up to telemarketers, but now the FCC is actually considering it. From the article: "Consumers have long had the support of government to try to control these calls, chiefly through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which actually allows consumers to file lawsuits and collect penalties from companies that pepper them with robocalls or text messages they didn't agree to receive. But now the Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing a key rule and allowing businesses to call or text your cellphones without authorization if they say they called a wrong number. The banking industry and collections industry are pushing for the change." In one case recently, AT&T called one person 53 times after he told them they had a wrong number...and ended up paying $45 million to settle the case. Around 40 million phone numbers are "recycled" each year in the U.S. Twice, I've had to dump a number and get a new one because I was getting so many debt collection calls looking for someone else. Apparently the FCC commissioners may not be aware of the magnitude of the "wrong number" debt collection calls and aren't aware that lots of people still have per-minute phone plans. Anyone can file comments on this proposal with the FCC.
Software

Andy Wolber Explores Online Word Processors' ODF Support 70

Posted by timothy
from the export-friendly dept.
TechCurmudgeon writes with a look at how well Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online are at dealing with documents that start (or are exported) in Open Document Format. Does using proprietary document formats make any more sense than buying a coffee maker that uses only one type of coffee, or an ebook you can only read on one device, or a nail that you can only hit with one type of hammer? Why do we use document formats that lock us into only one specific piece of software? Why are we limiting ourselves to only one type of tool? "Control of a format or distribution channel can make it harder to use a competitive solution. That's one problem of proprietary formats: a switch costs you time and/or money. You don't want to buy a new coffee maker to try different coffee, a new e-reader to read a different book, or new software to edit a new document. Open formats or distribution channels make it easier for people to choose a different solution. ... Fortunately, Google re-enabled support for ODF in December 2014. That means you can leverage the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, then export your completed work to a file in an open, non-proprietary format." Spoiler alert: On balance, both Google Docs and Word Online handle ODT files reasonably well.
Government

Eric Holder Severely Limits Civil Forfeiture 311

Posted by Soulskill
from the what's-yours-is-mine dept.
gurps_npc writes: As most people know, the US has for quite some time let police seize pretty much anything they wanted to, forcing you to go to court to get back your stuff (at significant expense). Most of the problems came about because the Federal government let the local cops keep most of what they took.

Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has changed the rules of that program, making it more difficult for the police to do it under the federal program. They can still use local state programs, but that accounts for only about 57% of the cash taken. Holder did not end the program entirely — he left in some exceptions for things like explosives, weapons, and items related to child pornography, which all together amount to about 1% of the current federal program. Still, with this action he will have struck a serious blow to a despicable practice that serious newspapers and comedy TV shows decried as nothing more than legalized theft.
The Internet

The 'Radio Network of Things' Can Cut Electric Bills (Video) 172

Posted by Roblimo
from the trying-to-bring-the-electric-power-grid-into-the-21st-century dept.
We all love 'The Internet of Things.' Now imagine appliances, such as your refrigerator and hot water heater, getting radio messages from the power grid telling them when they should turn on and off to get the best electricity prices. Now kick that up to the electric company level, and give them a radio network that tells them which electric provider to get electricity from at what time to get the best (wholesale) price. This is what e-Radio is doing. They make this claim: "Using pre-existing and near ubiquitous radio signals can save billions of dollars, reduce environmental impact, add remote addressability and reap additional significant societal benefits."

Timothy noticed these people at CES. They were one of the least flashy and least "consumer-y" exhibitors. But saving electricity by using it efficiently, while not glamorous, is at least as important as a $6000 Android phone. Note that the guy e-Radio had at CES speaking to Timothy was Scott Cuthbertson, their Chief Financial Officer. It's a technology-driven company, from Founder and CEO Jackson Wang on down, but in the end, saving money is what they sell. (Alternate Video Link)
Earth

Why We Have To Kiss Off Big Carbon Now 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-oil-for-you dept.
mdsolar writes When the fossil-fuel divestment movement first stirred on college campuses three years ago, you could almost hear Big Oil and Wall Street laughing. Crude prices were flirting with $100 a barrel, and domestic oil production, from Texas to North Dakota, was in the midst of a historic boom. But the quixotic campus campaign suddenly has the smell of smart money.

One of the biggest names in the history of Big Oil – the Rockefellers – announced last September that they would be purging the portfolio of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of 'risky' oil investments. And that risk has been underscored by the sudden collapse of the oil market. After cresting at more than $107 in mid-June, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate dipped below $50 a barrel in early January. The crash carries big costs: Goldman Sachs warned that nearly $1 trillion in planned oil-field investments would be unprofitable – even if oil were to stabilize at $70 per barrel.