Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
leathered writes "The BBC reports that some customers of UK retailer Marks and Spencer have reported that the store's contactless payment terminals have debited their cards despite being in their bags or pockets, sometimes paying twice when they have used another payment method. The cards are supposed to work only when the card comes within 4cm of the terminal. Customers of fast-food chain Pret a Manger have been reporting similar problems, and in both cases cited the customers weren't even aware they had been issued with NFC-enabled cards by their bank."
mcleland writes "The BBC reports that Nintendo is now using the content ID match feature in YouTube to identify screencap videos of people playing their games. They then take over the advertising that appears with the video, and thus the ad revenue. Nintendo gets it all, and the creators of these videos (which are like extended fan-made commercials for the games) get nothing. Corporate gibberish to justify this: 'In a statement, the firm said the move was part of an "on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media."'"
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek was wildly successful. It raked in hundreds of millions at the box office, and revitalized the Star Trek franchise, which had languished for 7 years without a new film and 4 years without a TV presence (after 18 consecutive years of new shows). It also did something no Trek movie had done before; it made Star Trek ‘cool’ in the public consciousness. Combined, those factors ensured Abrams would get another turn at the helm of a Trek movie, and sooner rather than later. With today's release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, that trend is very likely to continue. It's a movie with all the same strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor, and if it worked before, it'll work again. Read on for our review.
jones_supa writes "Bill Gates is once again the world's richest person. He recaptured the title from Mexican investor Carlos Slim, as Microsoft hit a five-year high. It is the first time Gates has held the mantle since 2007. His fortune is valued at $72.7 billion, up 16 percent year-to-date. At the same time, Mr. Slim's América Móvil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, has dropped 14 percent this year after Mexico's Congress passed a bill that could quash the billionaire's market dominance. That's helped erase more than $3 billion from the tycoon's net worth. What comes to Bill Gates, most of his fortune is held in Cascade Investment LLC, a holding entity through which he owns stakes in more than a dozen publicly traded companies and several closely held operations. He has donated $28 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
alphadogg writes "A data center in Sweden has cut its energy bills by a million dollars a year using seawater to cool its servers, though jellyfish are an occasional hazard. Interxion, a collocation company in the Netherlands that rents data center space in 11 countries, uses water pumped from the Baltic Sea to cool the IT equipment at its facilities in Stockholm. The energy used to cool IT equipment is one of the costliest areas of running a data center. Companies have traditionally used big, mechanical chillers, but some are turning to outside air and evaporative techniques as lower-cost alternatives."
New submitter zlives writes in with news that Florida's DOT changed some language in their yellow light timing regulations, leading to a decrease in the yellow delay. Especially at lights with red light cameras. "From the article: 'Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.' I wonder what the camera company cut is?" At least one area has promised to undo the reduction now that they have been caught.
wiredmikey tips this AFP report: "Russia on Tuesday said it had detained an alleged American CIA agent working undercover at the U.S. embassy who was discovered with a large stash of money as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) identified the man as Ryan C. Fogle — third secretary of the political section of Washington's embassy in Moscow — and said he had been handed back to the embassy after his detention. Photographs published show his alleged espionage equipment including wigs, a compass, torch and even a mundane atlas of Moscow as well as a somewhat old fashioned mobile phone. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Fogle was carrying 'special technical equipment, written instructions for recruiting a Russian citizen, a large sum of money and means for changing a person's appearance.' The FSB also said the U.S. intelligence service has made repeated attempts to recruit the staff of Russian law enforcement agencies and special services. The incident comes amid a new chill in Russian-U.S. relations sparked by the Syrian crisis and concern in Washington over what it sees as President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on human rights."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from BetaBeat: "The Department of Homeland Security appears to have shut down the ability to use Dwolla, a mobile payment service, to withdraw and deposit money into Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin trading platform. ... A representative for Dwolla told Betabeat that the company is 'not party' to this matter and encourages those with questions to reach out to Mt. Gox or the DHS. 'The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a 'Seizure Warrant' for the funds associated with Mutum Sigillium's Dwolla account (a.k.a. Mt. Gox),' he said. 'In light of the court order, procured by the Department of Homeland Security, Dwolla has ceased all account activities associated with Dwolla services for Mutum Sigillum while Dwolla's holding partner transferred Mutum Sigillium's balance, per the warrant.'"
anzha writes "Horst Simon, Deputy Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has stood up at conferences of late and said the unthinkable: supercomputing is hitting a wall and will not build an exaFLOPS HPC system by 2020. This is defined as one that passes linpack with a performance of one exaFLOPS sustained or better. He's even placed money on it. You can read the original presentation here."
This may be a coincidence, but according to MapLight, Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country. But it's a prime example of how money influences politics here in the good old USA, and it's far from the only one we've seen lately. In this video, MapLight Program Director Jay Costa shares a bunch more with us, along with tips on how to spot this sort of thing and some steps we voters can take to fight against both direct and indirect influence-buying. Note that all this is totally non-partisan; the politicians with the most influence -- whether local, state or federal -- get most of the available special interest money no matter what other agenda(s) they may have. And for those who want to learn more about who is spending their dollars to influence your representatives, Jay also suggests a look at these two money-in-politics resources: FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
A while ago you had the chance to ask mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson about his work in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear propulsion, and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of science. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
jfruh writes "Michael Dell's plan to take the company he founded private, with help from Microsoft, isn't going smoothly. Corporate raider and major Dell stockholder Carl Icahn has presented a rival plan that would shut Michael Dell out. Perhaps predictably, the Dell board isn't sold on Icahn's idea, saying it will leave the company short of cash, even though they haven't been able to fully evaluate it yet."
An anonymous reader writes "A change from 'need' based financial aid to a 'merit' based system coupled with a 'high tuition, high aid,' model is making it harder for poor students to afford college. According to The Atlantic: 'Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. "After all," Burd writes, "it's more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student." The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.'"
New submitter lxrocks writes "Tax authorities in the U.S., Britain, and Australia have announced they are working with a gigantic cache of leaked data that may be the beginnings of one of the largest tax investigations in history. The secret records are believed to include those obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that lay bare the individuals behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Singapore and other offshore hideaways. The IRS said, 'There is nothing illegal about holding assets through offshore entities; however, such offshore arrangements are often used to avoid or evade tax liabilities on income represented by the principal or on the income generated by the underlying assets. In addition, advisors may be subject to civil penalties or criminal prosecution for promoting such arrangements as a means to avoid or evade tax liability or circumvent information reporting requirements.'"
theodp writes "Valleywag's Adrian Chen wasn't the only one troubled by the tactics of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us political lobbying group. Composed of a Who's Who of tech millionaires and billionaires, the group boasted its control of massive distribution channels, broad popularity with Americans, and money would make it a political force to be reckoned with. But the group came under fire for embracing decidedly old-school political tactics, forming both left-leaning and right-leaning subsidiaries, thus broadening its appeal to those who might help advance its agenda. Reports that FWD.us had funded ads praising Arctic oil drilling drew fire from critics, including Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who FWD.us listed as a 'Major Supporter.' Not anymore. Valleywag reports that Musk has quit Zuckerberg's lobbying cabal, apparently feeling that the group's ends did not justify their hit-both-sides-of-the-aisle-to-get-what-you-want means. 'I have spent a lot of time fighting far larger lobbying organizations in DC and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause,' Musk said. 'This statement may surprise some people, but my experience is that most (not all) politicians and their staffs want to do the right thing and eventually do.' By the way, didn't members of the Zuck PACk create, fund, and appear on Code.org, which lamented the sad state of U.S. CS education and featured a slick documentary showing technically clueless little kids, just weeks before launching their pro-techie immigration push? Hey, all's fair in love and lobbying!"
theodp writes "Big Bloomberg is watching you. CNN reports that was the unsettling realization Goldman Sachs execs came to a few weeks ago when a Bloomberg reporter inadvertently revealed that reporters from the news and financial data provider had surveillance capabilities over users of Bloomberg terminals. 'Limited customer relationship data has long been available to our journalists,' acknowledged a Bloomberg spokesman. 'In light of [Goldman's] concern as well as a general heightened sensitivity to data access, we decided to disable journalist access to this customer relationship information for all clients.' Business Insider is now reporting on allegations that Bloomberg reporters used terminals to spy on JPMorgan during the 'London Whale' disaster; Bloomberg bragged about its leadership on this story."
In the U.S., subsidized phones are the norm: for post-paid, long-term contract use, getting a low up-front price on a phone is one of the few upsides. New submitter Apptopia writes "After T Mobile mostly did away with subsidized phone plans, the other major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) are paying attention. Carriers lose money with phone subsidies for high-end smartphones (particularly Apple's iPhone). If they do away with the subsidy, you will have to pay full retail price for phones, but your monthly bill will be lower." If people had a better idea what they were paying for, though, manufacturers might fight harder on price. There are lots of well-reviewed, multi-band, unlocked phones on Amazon and DealExtreme from lesser-known companies, and Nokia's new Asha 501 (though limited in many ways, including availability, having just launched in India) shows that the "smartphone" label can apply even to a sub- $100 phone.
An anonymous reader writes "The Priceonomics blog has a post that looks into how so much of our scientific knowledge came to be gated by current publishing models. 'The most famous of these providers is Elsevier. It is a behemoth. Every year it publishes 250,000 articles in 2,000 journals. Its 2012 revenues reached $2.7 billion. Its profits of over $1 billion account for 45% of the Reed Elsevier Group — its parent company which is the 495th largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization. Companies like Elsevier developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They bought academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies that ran them, successfully betting that they could raise prices without losing customers. Today just three publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, account for roughly 42% of all articles published in the $19 billion plus academic publishing market for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. University libraries account for 80% of their customers.' The article also explain how moving to open access journals would help, but says it's just one step in a more significant transformation scientific research needs to undergo. It points to the open source software community as a place from which researchers should take their cues."
An anonymous reader sends this news from the Associated Press: "A worldwide gang of criminals stole a total of $45 million in a matter of hours by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards and then draining cash machines around the globe, federal prosecutors said Thursday. ... Here’s how it worked: Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on prepaid-debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe — an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as it carried the account data and correct access codes."