An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A municipal ISP that was on the verge of shutting off Internet service outside its city boundaries to comply with a state law has come up with a temporary fix: it will offer broadband for free. The free Internet service for existing customers outside Wilson, North Carolina, will be available for six months, giving users more time to switch to an alternative. But Wilson also hopes that six months will be enough time to convince elected officials to change the state law that prohibits the municipal ISP from selling Internet service to non-residents. As [Ars Technica] covered previously, the Federal Communications Commission voted in February 2015 to preempt laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories. Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson subsequently began offering service outside of Wilson. But officials in both states sued the FCC and in August won reinstatement of their laws that protect private ISPs from municipal competitors. In mid-September, the Wilson City Council reluctantly voted to turn off the fiber Internet service it provides to customers outside Wilson city limits. But that decision was reversed in a City Council vote last week, The Wilson Times reported. (The news came to our attention today via DSLReports.) A Wilson Times editorial reported: "City leaders are walking a tightrope as they balance their desire to keep Vick Family Farms in rural Nash County and 200 customers in the Edgecombe County town of Pinetops connected to Greenlight with their obligation to obey a federal court ruling that blocks the municipal broadband service from branching out beyond county lines. The council agreed Thursday night to provide six months of free internet access and phone service to Greenlight customers outside Wilson County while Wilson lobbies the General Assembly for permission to keep the town connected on a permanent basis."
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Writing for Nature journal, scientists and professors Tolu Oni, Fabio Sciarrino, Gerardo Adesso, and Rob Knight, discuss an issue researchers have been facing a lot lately. The scientific enterprise is stuck in a catch-22, they say. Researchers are charged with advancing promising new questions, but receive support and credit only for revisiting their past work. They say that often times while examining one thing researchers are able to uncover several other important things, but deviating from the path is something frowned upon for various reasons among the industry. From the article (condensed): Most striking are the barriers to achieving impact. Our research often led us to questions that had greater potential than our original focus, typically because these new directions encompassed the complexities of society. We realized that changing tack could lead to more important work, but the policies of research funders and institutions consistently discourage such pivots. When reviewers assess grants or academic performance, they focus largely on track records in a particular field. Young scientists, who must focus on developing their careers, are thus discouraged from exploration. Our own experiences provide a glimpse of the well-intentioned forces that can keep researchers from trying other paths. This challenge is not new. Physicist-turned-structural biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who is president of the Royal Society, worked for several years in a job with funding that was contingent on a steady stream of publications. This forced him to ask safe but incremental questions. To pursue what became his Nobel-prizewinning work (on the structure of the ribosome), he moved to another institution where he could ask the questions that interested him, irrespective of the chances for publication. As he describes in his Nobel biography, the decision required an international move and a large pay cut.
schwit1 quotes a report from ProPublica: Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That's basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls "Ethnic Affinities." Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment. You can view a screenshot of a housing advertisement that ProPublica's Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr. purchased from Facebook's self-service advertising portal here. The report adds: "The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an "affinity" for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here's the ad itself.) The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal "to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin." Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the "printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination" in employment recruitment. Facebook's business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups -- or, apparently to exclude specific groups -- using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook's micro-targeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change. Facebook says its policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.
For the third month in a row the share of worldwide desktop computer users running Linux has been above two percent -- up from one percent -- according to data from web analytics company Net Market Share. From a OMGUbuntu report: We reported back in July that Linux marketshare had passed two percent for the first time, and that figure remains the highest they've ever reported for Linux, at 2.33 percent. But the share for September 2016 was almost as good at 2.23 percent. It's the third consecutive month that Linux marketshare has been above 2 percent. Those of us who use Linux as our primary desktop computing platform can take a degree of pride in these figures. They do show a clear trend towards Linux, rather than away from it. But we should also remember that statistics, numbers and reporting methods vary between analytics companies and that all figures, however positive, remain open to interpretation and debate.
The FBI said Friday it is reviewing newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to determine whether she properly handled classified emails. The reopening of the investigation comes after the FBI recently "learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation," FBI director James Comey said. Comey added, however, that "FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant." It is also unclear "how ling it will take us to complete this additional work." FBI's announcement today is "certain" to become an issue in the final two weeks of the presidential campaign, however. Donald Trump is naturally pleased hearing the news, at New Hampshire, Trump said the new probe offered the FBI the chance to correct a "grave miscarriage of justice." He added, "We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office." Supporters responded with chants of "Lock her up!" Trump added that the email investigation is "bigger than Watergate."
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla is currently working on a new browser engine called Quantum, which will take parts from the Servo project and create a new core for the Firefox browser. The new engine will replace the aging Gecko, Firefox' current engine. Mozilla hopes to finish the transition to Quantum (as in Quantum Leap) by the end of 2017. The first versions of Quantum will heavily rely on components from Servo, a browser engine that Mozilla has been sponsoring for the past years, and which shipped its first alpha version this June. In the upcoming year, Mozilla will slowly merge Gecko and Servo components with each new release, slowly removing Gecko's ancient code, and leaving Quantum's engine in place.
Comma.ai founder George Hotz, who has spent the good part of his past year criticizing competitors and their technologies, sent out a series of tweets Friday, saying that Comma.ai, a startup that aimed at offering semi-autonomous driving system, will be pulling out of the U.S. market in response to requests from federal regulators. From a Reuters report: The intervention, by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, came before Comma.ai began marketing its device. It is the latest signal that regulators want more control over the development and deployment of self-driving vehicle systems by vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, after a period in which they took a largely hands-off approach. The NHTSA on Friday disclosed an Oct. 27 letter to Comma.ai stating that the agency is investigating whether the company's device, called Comma One, complies with federal regulations. The letter and an accompanying special order demanded that Comma.ai provide the agency with information about the device and warned that the agency could prohibit the sale of the system if it were found to be defective.
In what is seen as a move that could help boost the spread of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency will be available to purchase from Swiss railway ticket machines starting next month. Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has more than 1,000 ticket machines and has partnered with regulated financial intermediary SweePay to distribute Bitcoin. Customers need to select mobile top up on the machines, scan the QR code on their Bitcoin digital wallet and enter the number of Swiss Francs, up to 500 CHF, in to the machine, confirm the offer of Bitcoins they receive then identify themselves using a mobile number and a security code sent to their smartphone. While the machine can pay out Bitcoin, for the time being, it will not accept payments made with the cryptocurrency. Furthermore, credit card cannot be used with the machines to buy Bitcoins, SBB is effectively providing a way to swap local currency for a digital version that can be used anywhere around the world, thereby bypassing unfavourable exchange rates"From 11 November 2016, customers will be able to obtain Bitcoin at all SBB ticket machines. Until now, there have only been limited opportunities to purchase Bitcoin in Switzerland," the company was quoted as saying.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Earlier on Thursday Twitter announced it was ending Vine's short run, and the adult site was quick to come to the rescue -- maybe. In a letter from Pornhub VP Corey Price to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that was shared with CNET, Price lays out the rationale: "We figure since Twitter has dropped (Vine) and is having significant layoffs, that you and your stakeholders could benefit from a cash infusion from the sale of Vine. Not to mention we would be saving Vine gems like 'Damn Daniel,' 'Awkward Puppets' and many more." Pornhub also promises to "restore Vine to Its NSFW glory," saying that clips "of porn in six seconds is more than enough time for most people to enjoy themselves." Unless pointing out a company's recent hardships in a letter and sharing it with a reporter is the latest Silicon Valley negotiating tactic, it seems pretty clear that the offer is a tongue-in-cheek jab at Twitter and its decision to shutter the video looping platform that has caused so much joy and often humiliation. But who knows, maybe Twitter will be willing to deal with Pornhub.
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: A decade ago, a fossil hunter was combing the beach in southeastern England when he found a strange, brown pebble. The surface of it caught his eye: It was smooth and strangely undulating, and also slightly crinkly in some places. That oddly textured pebble, scientists report today, is actually an endocast -- an impression preserved in the rock -- that represents the first known evidence of fossilized brain tissue of a dinosaur (likely a close relative of Iguanodon, a large, herbivorous type of dinosaur that lived about 133 million years ago). Human brains and bird brains are packed tightly into the brain case, so that their convolutions leave an impression of the inside of the case. But dinosaur (and reptile) brains are more loosely fitted; they are surrounded within the brain case by membranes called meninges, tough sheaths that protect and support the brain. So an endocast of a dinosaur brain might be expected to show those structures -- and it did. But beneath them, remineralized in calcium phosphate, the researchers also spied a pattern of tiny capillaries and other cortical tissues -- the sort of fabric you'd expect for the cortex of a brain. That those textures were pressed up against the brain case doesn't necessarily mean that dinosaurs were bigger-brained and smarter than we thought, however: Instead, the dinosaur had likely simply toppled over and been preserved upside down, its brain tissue preserved by surrounding acidic, low-oxygen waters that pickled and hardened the membranes and tissues, providing a template for mineralization. The structure of the brain, studied with scanning electron microscopes, reveal similarities to both birds and crocodiles. The researchers reported their findings in a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Southern Spain will be reduced to desert by the end of the century if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, researchers have warned. Anything less than extremely ambitious and politically unlikely carbon emissions cuts will see ecosystems in the Mediterranean change to a state unprecedented in the past 10 millennia, they said. The study, published in the journal Science, modeled what would happen to vegetation in the Mediterranean basin under four different paths of future carbon emissions, from a business-as-usual scenario at the worst end to keeping temperature rises below the Paris climate deal target of 1.5C at the other. Temperatures would rise nearly 5C globally under the worst case scenario by 2100, causing deserts to expand northwards across southern Spain and Sicily, and Mediterranean vegetation to replace deciduous forests. Even if emissions are held to the level of pledges put forward ahead of the Paris deal, southern Europe would experience a "substantial" expansion of deserts. The level of change would be beyond anything the region's ecosystems had experienced during the holocene, the geological epoch that started more than 10,000 years ago. The real impact on Mediterranean ecosystems, which are considered a hotspot of biodiversity, could be worse because the study did not look at other human impacts, such as forests being turned over to grow food. The researchers fed a model with 10,000 years of pollen records to build a picture of vegetation in the region, and used that to infer previous temperatures in the Mediterranean. They then ran the model to see what would happen to the vegetation in the future, using four different scenarios of warming, three of them taken from the UN's climate science panel, the IPCC. Only the most stringent cut in emissions -- which is roughly equivalent to meeting the Paris aspiration of holding warming to 1.5C -- would see ecosystems remain within the limits they experienced in the Holocene.
BUL2294 writes: Following the arrests earlier this month in India of call center employees posing as IRS or immigration agents, USA Today and Consumerist are reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has charged 61 people in the U.S. and India of facilitating the scam, bilking millions from Americans thinking they were facing immediate arrest and prosecution. "According to the indictment (PDF) -- which covers 20 individuals in the U.S. and 32 people and five call centers in India -- since about 2012 the defendants used information obtained from data brokers and other sources to call potential victims impersonating officers from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," reports Consumerist. The report adds: "To give the calls an air of authenticity, the organization was able to 'spoof' phone numbers, making the calls appear to have really come from a federal agency. The callers would then allegedly threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines, or deportation if they did not pay supposed taxes or penalties to the government. In instances when the victims agreed to pay, the DOJ claims that the call centers would instruct them to go to banks or ATMs to withdraw money, use the funds to purchase prepaid stored value cards from retail stores, and then provide the unique serial number to the caller. At this point, the operations U.S.-based counterparts would use the serial numbers to transfer the funds to prepaid reloadable cards. The cards would then be used to purchase money orders that were transferred into U.S. bank accounts of individuals or businesses. To make matters worse, the indictment claims that the prepaid debit cards were often registered using personal information of thousands of identity theft victims, and the wire transfers were directed by the organizations using fake names and fraudulent identifications. The operation would then use 'hawalas' -- a system in which money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system -- to direct the pilfered funds to accounts belonging to U.S.-based individuals.
You have have the right to vote, but should you have the right to take a selfie at a ballot? According to ABC News, a federal lawsuit is challenging a New York state law that makes it a misdemeanor to show a marked election ballot to others: The lawsuit filed late Wednesday in Manhattan federal court seeks to have the law banning so-called "ballot selfies" declared unconstitutional. The lawsuit says publishing a voted ballot on social media can be a powerful form of political expression. It says that someone claiming they voted without photographic proof reduces the credibility of the individual. Attorney Leo Glickman, who filed the suit on behalf of three voters, says the lawsuit is consistent with claims made in Michigan, Indiana and New Hampshire, where similar laws have been struck down. In a separate report, Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained the reasoning behind why a law against "ballot selfies" would exist in the first place: Just for the record, then, there is a reason for selfie bans in voting booths: it prevents vote buying. After all, the only way it makes sense to pay people for their votes is if you have proof that they voted the way you told them to. Back in the day that was no problem, but ever since secret ballots became the norm vote buying has died out. Selfies change all that. If I give you ten bucks to vote for my favorite candidate for mayor, I can withhold payment until you show me a selfie proving that you voted for my guy.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The massive Oracle v. Google litigation has entered a new phase, as Oracle filed papers (PDF) yesterday saying it will appeal its loss on "fair use" grounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For a brief recap of the case: after Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems and acquired the rights to Java, it sued Google in 2010, saying that Google infringed copyrights and patents related to Java. The case went to trial in 2012. Oracle initially lost but had part of its case revived on appeal. The sole issue in the second trial was whether Google infringed the APIs in Java, which the appeals court held are copyrighted. In May, a jury found in Google's favor after a second trial, stating that Google's use of the APIs was protected by "fair use." Oracle's appeal is no surprise, but it will be a long shot. The four-factor "fair use" test is a fairly subjective one, and Oracle lawyers will have to argue that the jury's unanimous finding must be overturned. There are various ways a jury could arrive at the conclusion that Google was protected by fair use. The case will go back to the Federal Circuit, the same appeals court that decided APIs could be copyrighted in the first place. That decision overruled U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the lower court judge, and was extremely controversial in the developer community. However, the same decision that insisted APIs can be copyrighted clearly held the door open to the idea that "fair use" might apply. Unless Oracle pulls off a stunning move on appeal, its massive legal expenditures in this case will be for naught.
At a media event on Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Touch ID on the new MacBook Pros will make it incredibly easy for people to do online money transactions. After the event, speaking to reporters Cook made a bold statement about how he sees Apple Pay. CNET reports: "We're going to kill cash," he said. "Nobody likes to carry around cash." He makes most of his purchases with Apple Pay (which is not surprising).Cook's comment comes days after Australia's top banks refused to support Apple Pay, saying that the company has been 'intransigent, closed and controlling'.
An anonymous reader writes: Jason Koebler via Motherboard has interviewed James Busch -- a radiologist and owner of "the first 10 Gbps residential connection in the United States" -- at a coffee shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Motherboard reports: "For reference, the Federal Communications Commission officially classifies 'broadband' as 25 Mbps. His connection is 400 times faster than that. Busch found a way to make good use of his 1 Gbps connection, and now he's found a use for 10 Gbps, too. 'An X-ray averages around 200 megabytes, then you have PET scans and mammograms -- 3D mammograms are 10 gig files, so they're enormous,' Busch said. 'We go through terabytes a year in storage. We've calculated out that we save about 7 seconds an exam, which might seem like, 'Who cares,' but when you read 20,000 or 30,000 exams every year, it turns out to be something like 10 days of productivity you're saving just from a bandwidth upgrade.' While 10 gig connections sound excessive at the moment, Busch says his family quickly started using all of its 1 gig bandwidth. 'We ballooned into that gig within eight or nine months. With my kids watching Netflix instead of TV, with me working, we did utilize that bandwidth,' he said. 'There were situations where my daughter would be FaceTiming and the others would be streaming on the 4K TVs and they'd start screaming at each other about hogging the bandwidth. We don't see that at 10 gigs.' So why does Busch have a 10 Gbps and the rest of us don't? For one, 10 Gbps offerings are rare and scattered in mostly rural communities that have decided to build their own internet networks. Most companies that have the technology offer gigabit connections (a still cutting-edge technology only available in a handful of cities) at affordable prices and 10 Gbps connections at comparatively exorbitant ones. In Chattanooga, 1 gig connections are $69.99 per month; 10 gig connections are $299. Thus far, 10 Gbps connections are available in Chattanooga; parts of southern Vermont; Salisbury, North Carolina; and parts of Detroit and Minneapolis. But besides Busch, I couldn't find any other people in the United States who have signed up for one. EPB, the Chattanooga government-owned power utility that runs the network, confirmed that Busch is the city's only 10 Gbps residential customer. Rocket Fiber, which recently began offering 10 Gbps in Detroit, told me that it has 'no customers set in stone,' but that it's in talks with prospective ones. Representatives for U.S. Internet in Minneapolis and Fibrant in Salisbury did not respond to my requests for comment. Michel Guite, president of the Vermont Telephone Company, told me his network has no 10 Gbps customers, either."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today imposed new privacy rules on Internet service providers, and the Commission said it has begun working on rules that could limit the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in the contracts customers sign with ISPs. The new privacy rules require ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The rules apply both to home Internet service providers like Comcast and mobile data carriers like Verizon Wireless. The commission's Democratic majority ensured the rules' passage in a 3-2 vote, with Republicans dissenting. Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was disappointed that the rules passed today did not include any action on mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from suing ISPs. But Chairman Tom Wheeler said that issue will be addressed in a separate rule-making. In the case of privacy rules, the FCC passed the NPRM in March and the final rules today. Clyburn argued that the FCC could have imposed mandatory arbitration restrictions today, because the privacy NPRM sought public comment about whether to ban mandatory arbitration. Under the FCC rules, ISPs that want to share consumer data with third parties such as advertisers must obtain opt-in consent for the most sensitive information and give customers the ability to opt out of sharing less sensitive information. Here's how the FCC describes the new opt-in and opt-out requirements: "Opt-in: ISPs are required to obtain affirmative 'opt-in' consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information. The rules specify categories of information that are considered sensitive, which include precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children's information, Social Security numbers, Web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications. Opt-out: ISPs would be allowed to use and share non-sensitive information unless a customer 'opts-out.' All other individually identifiable customer information -- for example, e-mail address or service tier information -- would be considered non-sensitive, and the use and sharing of that information would be subject to opt-out consent, consistent with consumer expectations. Exceptions to consent requirements: Customer consent is inferred for certain purposes specified in the statute, including the provision of broadband service or billing and collection. For the use of this information, no additional customer consent is required beyond the creation of the customer-ISP relationship." ISPs must clearly notify customers about the types of information they collect, specify how they use and share the information, and identify the types of entities they share the information with.
More than one million formerly broken links in the English Wikipedia have been updated to archived versions from the Wayback Machine, thanks to a partnership between the Internet Archive, and volunteers from the Wikipedia community, and the Wikimedia Foundation. From a blog post: The Internet Archive, the Wikimedia Foundation, and volunteers from the Wikipedia community have now fixed more than one million broken outbound web links on English Wikipedia. This has been done by the Internet Archive's monitoring for all new, and edited, outbound links from English Wikipedia for three years and archiving them soon after changes are made to articles. This combined with the other web archiving projects, means that as pages on the Web become inaccessible, links to archived versions in the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine can take their place. This has now been done for the English Wikipedia and more than one million links are now pointing to preserved copies of missing web content. What do you do when good web links go bad? If you are a volunteer editor on Wikipedia, you start by writing software to examine every outbound link in English Wikipedia to make sure it is still available via the "live web." If, for whatever reason, it is no longer good (e.g. if it returns a "404" error code or "Page Not Found") you check to see if an archived copy of the page is available via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. If it is, you instruct your software to edit the Wikipedia page to point to the archived version, taking care to let users of the link know they will be visiting a version via the Wayback Machine.
Twitter's plan to refocus on its core business consists of laying off 9 percent of its staff, and also killing off Vine. The company announced today that it will shut down Vine's video app in the coming months. From a Recode report: Vine has been struggling for some time, so Thursday's move is surprising but not unbelievable. The app was never a revenue driver for the company, and it was no longer growing. Many of its top executives left over the spring and early summer. What's interesting is that Twitter is shutting the app down instead of trying to sell it off. Or perhaps it did try and simply couldn't find a buyer (like a buyer for itself). Either way, Vine will soon shut down. The company says that users will be able to download their Vine videos before that happens, but there has been no specific timetable announced. Vine general manager Hannah Davis, who just joined the company this spring, will stay on to oversee the transition, according to a spokesperson.
Twitter is planning to lay off 9 percent of its global workforce, as the ailing San Francisco tech giant struggles to please Wall Street despite beating earnings expectations. The company officially announced the cuts today in its third-quarter earnings, days after reports began to surface of the impending cuts. AdWeek reports: According to Twitter, the majority of the reductions will take place in its sales, partnerships and marketing divisions in order to "continue to fully fund our highest priorities," according to a letter to shareholders. However, the earnings also came with some good news. Total monthly active users grew for the second consecutive quarter to 317 million users, gaining 4 million over the past three months since its second-quarter results. Daily active users also increased, rising 7 percent year over year. Twitter's revenue totaled $616 million -- an 8 percent increase year over year. Earnings per share totaled 13 cents, beating expectations of 9 cents per share and $606 million in total revenue. However, the company reported profit fell by $103 million.